updated 12/29/2004 12:26:44 PM ET 2004-12-29T17:26:44

Guest: Stephen Battaglio, Mort Zuckerman, Paul Watson, Peter Beinart, John O‘Sullivan, Patrick McCrummen

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Death and destruction continue to tighten their grip on Southeast Asia.  The stories of unprecedented suffering and stranded supermodels hit the front pages of America‘s newspapers.  With the death toll now at more than 59,000, authorities fear that many more may die from disease. 

Meanwhile, a top U.N. bureaucrat says much of the suffering is the fault of Americans, who refuse to pay higher taxes that would support relief aid for that region.  Are Americans responsible? 

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

A red state revolution transforms Washington.  Will the party of FDR be left out in the cold? 

And then, a top U.N. official calls America stingy.  Hours later, he back pedals, but I am going to be asking our experts if the U.S. bears blame for suffering in Southeast Asia. 

Janet Jackson, Dan Rather, and CBS are TV‘s big losers of 2004, but Les Moonves‘ network is also beating up network competition.  We are going to be taking a look at the long list of TV‘s winners and losers and truly desperate in 2004.  

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 our show. 

The world has been rocked by almost apocalyptic news reports flooding out of Southeast Asia tonight.  As that region copes with aftereffects of a tsunami that caused the death toll to rise to 60,000, humanitarian workers fear that worst may yet be to come.  Starvation, malaria, and other communicable diseases are expected to push the death toll well over 100,000, according to some reports, as the rest of the world looks on helplessly, trying in vain to stem the suffering of this brutal act of nature that began with an earthquake that was so powerful that its effects were actually felt as far away as Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

With over 20,000 dead, Sri Lanka was one of the worst hit.  And officials are reportedly using megaphones to call for residents to bring out their dead. 

Harry Smith of ITN has this report from Sri Lanka. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRY SMITH, ITN REPORTER:  Tonight, apart from the dead, there are more than a million people now across Sri Lanka who are homeless.  Many are living in the open.  Many are staying in refugee centers which have been opened.  And as they ponder their future tonight, a more startling picture has emerged of the day that shattered their lives. 

(voice-over):  This video shot by a British tourist captures the moments the beachside resort was engulfed by the waves.  There‘s a crash of glass as the hotel windows give way and water floods in. 

From their balcony, the holiday makers realize that, amid the sun chairs and debris, there are people trapped.  They may be drowned.  A short distance away, it‘s the railway system that‘s collapsed, this one of many places where the line was simply washed away. 

(on camera):  Before the wave struck, this railway line was carried on an embankment parallel to this road.  As you can see, the force of the water has demolished that embankment, pushed the railway line away and flipped the whole thing on its back. 

(voice-over):  On another stretch of line, one train was thrown from the track by the impact of the waves.  A thousand passengers were on board.  All are either dead or missing; 200 bodies have already been removed.  The town of Galle has suffered more than most on this tortured stretch of coastline.  The wave crashed into the town, killing more than 1,000 people. 

There is not a low-lying building which wasn‘t damaged.  When we visited Galle today, a team of volunteers was still touring the town, collecting unidentified bodies pulled from the rubble.  The sea tore through the town‘s bus station, where buses were tossed around like toys.  The seafront market has been flattened and dozens of businesses ruined. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It will take another 10 years time to build all this back to normal, I think.  So all the people in—I mean, business keepers and industries, they have start it again as a fresh business. 

SMITH:  But the town can be thankful for one thing.  The disaster happened on a Sunday morning, when many shops were closed.  On a busy market day, the death toll could have been 10 times higher. 

Harry Smith, ITV News, Galle, Sri Lanka. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, what remarkable images.  And a death toll 10 times higher, it‘s hard to imagine. 

Well, you know, ITN correspondent John Irvine was the first journalist to reach the famous Thai island of Ko Phi Phi.  The resort was packed with tourists when the giant waves struck.  Irvine and his cameraman traveled to the island by speedboat.  And, as you would expect, their report contains distressing images.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN IRVINE, ITN REPORTER (voice-over):  For many holiday-makers who go looking for a piece of heaven on earth, the search is here on Ko Phi Phi.  But just look at the island today.  The developed part has been obliterated, the view is one of destruction and the smell is one of death. 

The hotels, bars and shops are on a narrow strip of sand a mile long but only 100 yards wide.  The sea is on both sides.  This became meat in a sandwich. 

(on camera):  This island and in particular this part of the island was absolutely crammed with holiday-makers.  There were so many, some were actually sleeping on the beach. 

You can imagine they would have partied pretty late into the night.  And on the morning of Boxing Day, when the tsunami smacked in from both sides, much of Phi Phi was still asleep. 

(voice-over):  Most of the tourists who survived have now been taken off the island by the Thai authorities who are here in force at last.  Their primary task is to retrieve the bodies of the perished.  How many died here they simply don‘t know yet.  They‘ve recovered 400 bodies already, but in our brief tour of the island, we found several more of the unlucky ones. 

In recent years, Ko Phi Phi has been a magnet for pleasure seekers.  Where Mother Nature has bestowed so much bounty, she turned violent for just an instant.  What a terrible thing has happened to this beautiful and gentle place. 

John Irvine, ITV News, Ko Phi Phi. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  As the areas worst hit begin the process of cleaning up and burying their dead and finding homes for the hundreds of thousands of homeless, a new fear is out there, disease.  Poor sanitation and lack of clean water could lead to devastating outbreaks of typhoid and malaria and even cholera, but help is on the way.  We just have to hope it will be fast enough. 

The Red Cross already has people on the ground in the affected areas.

And with me right now is Patrick McCrummen.  He‘s the director of response communication for the American Red Cross.

Patrick, tell me, what has the Red Cross been able to do so far in this region that is so vast? 

PATRICK MCCRUMMEN, AMERICAN RED CROSS:  Well, that‘s one of the challenges.  And, as you saw from the images, we have a lot of work to do, which is what the Red Cross is here to do, is here to help. 

We are assessing all of the geographies that were hit by this.  We are trying to, working through the federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world, are assessing what are the hardest hit areas, who needs the help right now.  We are getting supplies and people in as quickly as we can. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Patrick, in Northwest Florida, after Hurricane Ivan hit this past fall, we would see transport airplanes coming in 24 hours a day.  I-10, the interstate that connected Pensacola with the rest of the country, was filled with the relief workers coming in day and night. 

And yet here we have a region that has almost no infrastructure.  How does the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and other relief organizations move in and out of that area? 

MCCRUMMEN:  Well, that‘s a challenge. 

With the infrastructure gone, communications are next to impossible in a lot of areas.  Roads and bridges have been wiped out.  So, the Red Cross looks at all of its available means to get supplies into the affected areas.  And that‘s what we are coordinating now with the federation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Is this one of the more devastating natural disasters in recent world history? 

MCCRUMMEN:  Oh, certainly.  It‘s the fifth largest earthquake since 1900.  And the resulting tsunamis have—as you have seen from the images, have caused a lot of death and destruction and desperate situations.

So, the Red Cross is trying to get basic supplies into people, food, water, shelter, first aid, and medications.  And that‘s what the American Red Cross participates in with all of its other sister societies right now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Patrick, if Americans want to reach into their pockets and help you, help the people of that affected area, how do they do it? 

MCCRUMMEN:  Well, that‘s the best way to help, is through financial contributions.  You can log on to Red Cross.org, or call 1-800-HELP-NOW and provide money to the international response fund to help us do the critical work that we need to do in those areas. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Patrick McCrummen, thanks so much for being with us tonight.  We greatly appreciate it. 

A massive relief effort is under way in Southeast Asia, as you just heard, but one U.N. official says the United States has been stingy in providing aid.  Is a $35 million initial contribution stingy?  That story is coming up next when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The world is responding to Asia‘s tsunami catastrophe with one of the biggest relief efforts in history.  We‘re going to bring you the very latest on that coming up when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s the biggest international aid effort in history.  The United States alone has provided $15 million to begin the process and has pledged another $20 million today. 

But, yesterday, this from the head of the humanitarian aid at the United Nations. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAN EGELAND, U.N. EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR:  It is beyond me why we are—why are we so stingy, really, when we are—and even Christmastime should remind many Western countries, at least, how rich we have become. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And Secretary of State Colin Powell fired back this morning on “The Today Show,” saying this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”) 

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Clearly, the United States will be a major contributor to this international effort.  And, yes, it will run into the billions of dollars. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Powell, who toured every morning show this morning, bashed the United Nations, pointing out the United States has given the most aid of any single country in this effort, in fact, more than all other countries combined.  So, what gives? 

With us now is John O‘Sullivan of National Interest. 

John, you heard the complaints and the criticism from the United Nations.  Is it a fair criticism?  Do we Americans need to pay higher taxes so we can pay an even larger share of these relief efforts? 

JOHN O‘SULLIVAN, NATIONAL INTEREST:  Well, the answer is, of course, no.  It was a very silly comment. 

First of all, as you said and as Secretary Powell said, America has given—the American government has given more than any other country so far, and, incidentally, is going to give more when we know exactly what the needs are.  Any old soldier will tell you, time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted.  And they will be more generous. 

But he has retracted the comment since.  But what‘s significant about it is, first of all, that he doesn‘t seem to realize that it‘s not just governments which give aid.  Individuals with their charitable donations give aid.  I will bet that all over America in the last two days, people have been writing checks to organizations like America‘s, which are very experienced in disaster relief and do first-class work.

But I think the official from the U.N. is a Scandinavian.  And Scandinavian countries, very often, being socialists, have discouraged private charity, believing that all of these things should be done by governments.  I don‘t want to disparage what governments do or what official aid agencies do.  They‘re taking terrible pains at the moment to help people in need, but the fact is that private agencies, private charitable agencies, do excellent work as well. 

And, in this country, people give—are unprecedentedly generous in giving money to those agencies. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, obviously, this gentleman did backtrack today with his comments, because he was forced to.  But could you put some perspective on government giving in the United States, not only regarding this humanitarian effort, but also the percentage that we give the United Nations and other food aid efforts across the world and other disaster relief efforts such as this one? 

O‘SULLIVAN:  Well, you know, you are absolutely right there. 

The Americans are the biggest funders of the United Nations.  The U.S.  government gives more money to charitable agencies than any other government.  And, in particular, of course, what people forget is that the great bulk of military work done by the U.N. is financed unassisted by the United States.  There is a slightly more sinister aspect to this little spat.

The man has retracted it.  I don‘t want to be too hard on him.  But the fact is, there is bad blood between the U.N. and the U.S., and I think that this was a reflection of the fact that he was looking to find faults with the U.S. government.  Now, no doubt we make our mistakes and no doubt George Bush makes his mistakes.  But the fact is that the U.N. at the moment has looked far worse through the oil-for-food scandal than the United States.

And the—it‘s not always the United States‘ fault that there are bad relations with international agencies.  They are staffed by people who tend to be anti-capitalists.  They often have an anti-Western mind-set, and who resent the role of the U.S. as the world‘s leading power.  They would like to replace it with a kind of transnational elite, namely themselves.

And , consequently, they are often looking for ways to find fault with what the U.S. does.  And this was an example of that.  As I say, I don‘t want to be too hard on the guy.  Basically, he said he was sorry.  But it tells you about what people think at the U.N., what their emotions are. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, John O‘Sullivan, it sounds like you are saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  This sounds like the United Nations during the Cold War. 

O‘SULLIVAN:  Well, actually, I think they have got a bit worse, because, during the Cold War, the U.N. was very important in a sense preventing, ameliorating, brokering disputes between the superpowers. 

Now that there‘s only one superpower, I think people like Kofi Annan and others have seen the role of the U.N. as to be the opposition in the world, to the United States.  The United States, it‘s this vast power.  It is able to—it has more military power, more economic power, more cultural power than any power in history.  And people at the U.N. have seen themselves as restraining influences on the use of this power and, indeed, attempting to replace it with themselves, ruled by transnational elites. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It sounds like France. 

Well, John O‘Sullivan, thank you so much for being with us tonight. 

We greatly appreciate it. 

O‘SULLIVAN:  Not at all. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, we have got Paul Watson.  We have got Paul Watson of “The Los Angeles Times” on the phone, who is in Madras, India. 

Paul, if you could, please tell our viewers right now what you are seeing. 

PAUL WATSON, “THE LOS ANGELES TIMES”:  ... south of India in a city called Nagapattinam, which is a port city.

And the awesome force of the tsunami waves was evident there.  They had picked up dozens of ocean-going fishing trawlers, most of them up to about 48 feet long, and tossed these things about, some of them several hundred yards.  They landed on people‘s houses, in their backyards. 

One of them was turned completely over and was sitting on top of a pedestrian walkway, so people moving back and forth through the city had to crawl through an upside-down fishing trawler through the tangled cables and drifting engine oil. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Paul, this past year has been obviously the year of hurricanes, in Florida especially, but looking at these pictures that we see coming out of the region, it looks like the hurricanes that we have been suffering through in Florida are spring showers compared to the devastation that‘s being endured by people in India and across the region over there. 

Talk about it. 

WATSON:  It‘s true that the pictures are compelling.

But one thing needs to be clear.  When people are looking at these images, at least in India—I can‘t speak, obviously, for Sri Lanka, where the devastation is, it seems, truly widespread.  In India, what happened is that these waves struck very hard in the immediate area of the beachfront and ran maybe a half-mile inland. 

So, the destruction is severe in a band of about half-a-mile wide running hundreds of miles up the coast.  So you can look at houses that are flattened as if a sledgehammer came down on them, and then walk only 20 yards further inland, and you see a house that‘s relatively unscathed, except it‘s got a lot of water damage.  Now, that‘s not to say that people were not washed out to sea and such. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Paul.  Thank you so much.  I think we may have lost Paul on the phone.  Paul, thanks so much for being with us.  And be safe. 

We will be right back in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to our show.  I‘m Joe Scarborough. 

Now, the Democrats are lost and fighting each other and trying to find the road map back to civilization.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

I learned a long time ago that, when it came to the world of politics, whom the Gods would destroy, they first curse with ultimate power.  Think Bill Clinton and the Democratic Congress of 1992.  The Democrats‘ unchecked dominance back then led to tax hikes and Hillary health care, which of course ushered in the era of Newt Gingrich and my freshman class of 1994, whose arrogance and overreaching resurrected Bill Clinton in 1996, which, of course, led to impeachment in 1998, which, of course, led to George W.  Bush in 2000. 

But, after the 2000 election, the cycle seemed to be broken.  Bush and Republicans dominated Washington that year, made surprising gains in 2002, and this year, stunned the political world by actually gaining seats in the House and the Senate, while their supposedly unpopular president did what most believed just couldn‘t be done.  He got himself reelected. 

Now the Democratic Party seems more suited to guest star on the new ABC drama “Lost” than to regain power anytime soon.  As “The New Republic”‘s Peter Beinart noted in one of the most important essays of 2004, Democrats refuse to engage in a meaningful way in the war on terror, despite the fact that we Americans find ourselves trapped in the middle of an age of terror.

But national defense is far from being the only issue that divides the Democratic Party.  Today‘s “New York Times” is filled with letters to the editor from Democrats who are debating the party‘s future as it relates to the issue of abortion.  Some party leaders have finally figured out, to the chagrin of abortion activists, that the best way to beat Republicans in red state America may just be by running strong pro-life candidates for Congress. 

Now, that approach absolutely scares the hell out of GOP strategists.  But, fortunately, for Republicans, it also terrifies the abortion-on-demand extremists that pull the Democratic Party too far to the left.  With viability and 3-D technology changing abortion debate in a way that was never conceived by Blackmun and the Roe v. Wade court in 1973, and also, with apologies to Gary Wills and the Dark Ages crowd, this issue of abortion is one issue where science and technology seems to be on the side of Republicans. 

And then, of course, there‘s the gun control debate, once an issue that made Republicans scurry for cover and apologize for the $5,000 donations from the NRA, but no longer.  You know, I remember sitting in Congress watching a debate in 1988, where you could actually see the political earth shifting between the Democrats‘ feet. 

Republicans went into the debate with their usual dread, but halfway through the discussion, Democrat heavyweights Jack Murtha and John Dingell rose to mock and rebuke their own party. 

And, a few years later, Al Gore refused to broach the subject out of fear of losing rural voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Now, of course, John Kerry was similarly tongue-tied in 2004, even donning camos to prove that, hell, yes, he too was man enough to shoot dead animals and birds. 

So, where does this leave the Democratic Party in 2005?  Should they elect pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-war presidential candidates?  Not necessarily.  But they may consider doing something very radical.  And that is supporting candidates in middle America, in red state America, that represent the viewpoints of, well, red state America.  They know that Zell Miller is right.  The Democratic Party is not a national party anymore. 

But give me or Ed Gillespie or Ken Mehlman the keys to the Democratic National Committee for four years, and I would bet the Democrats once again own the House and Senate.  That‘s because Republicans understand middle America.  National Democrats don‘t.  And maybe if they listened more to Peter Beinart or Bill Clinton and less to Michael Moore and MoveOn.org, they would once again find themselves chairing committees and planning inaugural balls. 

But, as it is for now, they are out of luck.  They are out of touch. 

And they are out of power.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

With us now to discuss the dysfunction that has come to define the Democratic Party is “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman.  We have Peter Beinart.  He‘s the editor of “The New Republic,” and Mort Zuckerman of “U.S. News & World Report.”

Peter, let‘s begin with you.  You wrote a very controversial article earlier this year, one that many consider to be one of the most important of the year, regarding the Democrats and their stand on defense.  Explain how you believe the Democratic Party needs to move in the future to regain votes not only in middle America, but on both coasts. 

PETER BEINART, EDITOR, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  There was a time when fighting a totalitarian enemy was absolutely at the center of what it meant to be a Democrat and what it meant to be a liberal, in the years particularly at the beginning of the Cold War. 

It has not come to define what the Democratic Party stands for in the years since September 11 in the way it needs to.  The Democrats need to say, it seems to me, that we are going to throw our heart and soul into defeating this new totalitarian enemy.  The Bush administration is not doing it.  It‘s not increasing size of military.  It‘s not funding homeland security, and it‘s not funding the Marshall Plan we need for education in the Muslim world. 

And they won‘t do it because their tax cuts are leaving our government without the resources to fight the war.  That‘s I think what the Democratic Party‘s message should be. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, when a Democrat, though, said that of Stalin and the Soviet Union in 1947, it was a little bit easier because Harry Truman was in the Oval Office.  Right now, when you have the Democrats out of power on the executive branch and the legislative branch also, what Democrat is strong enough to step forward, follow your advice and tell the Democrats, hey, we have actually got to be tougher on this war on terror than George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney? 

BEINART:  I actually think there are a lot.

If you look at the people who advise Democratic Party on foreign policy, the people who advised John Kerry, people like Joe Biden, Richard Holbrooke, I think you will find they are very tough about fighting this war and putting the resources into it they need to.

I think the party—the problem is more at the party‘s grassroots, where it‘s still a domestic-oriented party that has gotten so alienated by Iraq, partly understandably, that it has stopped focusing on the larger threat of the war on terrorism.  I think the party needs to change at its grassroots.  And then the leaders will be there, I think. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Howard Fineman, I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago talking about Peter‘s editorial.  And I said, I can‘t tell you what the grassroots are going to do, but I can tell you that the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination in 2008, Hillary Rodham Clinton, will be following his advice. 

Hasn‘t she actually been moving to the right on defense issues since she first entered the United States Senate? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  She sure has.  She has been to Fort Drum in New York more times than the she‘s been to the West Side of Manhattan, I can assure you. 

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  Yes, I facetiously suggest that she is going to end up being Golda Meir in a few years. 

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  But, yes, I think Hillary knows which way the wind is blowing in terms of defense policy and in terms of where the Democrats have to be if they want to win the White House again.  I think Peter is right about that.  They have got to be in the ball game on defense issues and seen as every bit as strong as the Republicans in fighting the war against terrorism globally if they are going to have a chance to get elected. 

As Peter also said in his terrific article, John Kerry ended up sort of being neither here nor there.  He was trying to satisfy the elites in the party, who I think in many cases agree with Peter, while at the same time win the nomination.  And you have to go through Iowa to do that.  I think if the party is going to follow Peter‘s advice, one thing they are going to have to do is not begin and end the process in Iowa, which is what happened this time. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Howard, let‘s talk about another issue right now that seems to be not tearing the Democratic Party apart, but there certainly is a lot of hand-wringing.  You certainly know about the Christmas Eve story in “The New York Times” about abortion and how many people are concerned about it. 

Donna Brazile, who actually ran the Gore campaign in 2000, told “The New York Times” in that story—quote—“All these issues that put us into the extreme and not the mainstream really hurt us with the heartland of the country.  Even I have trouble explaining to my family that we are not about killing babies.”

Now, Howard, if you would have considered a few years ago the abortion issue to be an issue debated in “The New York Times,” not only on the front page, but also in letters to the editor, as it was today, about whether they need to be more inclusive, on the pro-life, pro-choice issue, talk about how that issue also seems to be dividing Democrats right now and what Democratic leaders think they need to do to move beyond the divisions. 

FINEMAN:  It isn‘t really dividing them at the top, which is one reason why they are in trouble, because Donna Brazile knows, being from Louisiana and helping Mary Landrieu get reelected down there, when she was expected not to win again, you can‘t shut yourself off from every conservative Catholic and all other pro-lifers in America and have a chance of winning. 

The Republicans made a big run at Pennsylvania.  They didn‘t win it, but Karl Rove‘s long-term game plan is to attack in the Midwest and Upper Midwest states with big pro-life populations.  But, interestingly, the most popular Democrat arguably in Pennsylvania today is State Treasurer Bob Casey, a huge vote getter who is pro-life. 

And you remember—may remember that his late father was denied or ended up not being able to speak at a Democratic Convention because of his pro-life position.  That has got to end if the Democrats are going to hold their own in those Midwest states that I can assure you Karl Rove is going to be attacking furiously the next few years. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mort Zuckerman, another issue that again seems to be dividing Democrats and is causing them trouble is the issue of gun control.  As I said before, back in 1995, ‘96, every time the Democrats tried to bring a bill onto the floor to debate gun control, we all flinched, because we knew it was a weakness.

But here you have Al Gore in 2000 running around trying not to offend gun owners.  In 2004, John Kerry is in his camos, shooting ducks, shooting at ducks to try to prove he is a real man.  What is going on with the Democratic Party?  What is going on in middle America, that these issues that have been reliable vote getters for Democrats in the past seem to be trending the way of the Republican Party? 

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  Well, I mean, I think the Democrats have a longstanding problem on several levels, just to tie them all together. 

One is that they did appear to be soft on communism.  They did appear to be soft on crime, and, to some extent, they did appear to be soft on terrorism.  And so, they have just got to deal with this issue.  And I think, in a sense, gun control is a part of it.  John Kerry, when he was walking around with that hunting rifle looked as if the clothes he were wearing still had the price tag on them.  He looked about as natural in that as he looked in windsurfing. 

I do think it is a serious problem for the Democrats.  I think gun control is an issue, at least in terms of hunting rifles, on the basis of which most of them have given up, because they realize how powerful it is.  Where they draw a line with gun control I think is on assault weapons and things of that sort and trying to get some control over how these weapons will get into the hands of the wrong people. 

They have got to frame that issue, it seems to me, very differently.  They are not going to be against guns, because they realize it‘s a really losing issue politically.  And I think you are going to see every Democrat who runs in a national campaign, maybe even Hillary Clinton, going out hunting.  I would be very interested to see what she wears when she goes hunting.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I want to go on that trip, Mort.  I want to cover that trip. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

Yes, it reminds me of a Republican moderate that I ran against in 1994 who actually went out with a gun.  And the press followed her into the back woods of Northwest Florida.  It‘s sort of frightening in the back woods of Northwest Florida. 

I would like to also go on that trip with Hillary Clinton, when it happens.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, you know, Mort, it appears to me—let‘s talk about Peter‘s point regarding the grassroots. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It appears to me that the Democrats are having some of the same problems with the extremes on their left, the Michael Moores, the Moveon.orgs, the NARALs, the handgun-control types, that Republicans had with their far right back in the 1990s. 

I mean, how does this party reach out to middle America without leaving their base behind? 

BEINART:  Well, I mean, I think it becomes an issue of how politically adept the people who are trying to lead the party turn out to be.  There are ways of appealing to both wings of the party, and that is to say, the moderate-center wing of the party.  There‘s a center-left and a left-left.

And what I think Howard Dean tried to do was to capture the left-left, and then hope that the center-left followed along with him.  But the center-left got scared of him and showed how weak that particular position was.  So, I don‘t think that that is a winning strategy for the Democrats on any level.  I don‘t even think they need that or can do that to win the primaries.

And I think Howard Dean showed what could happen, even in Iowa.  And I think this is going to be something the Democrats are going to have to cope with as they go forward.  If they get associated with that far-left policy, there is no chance that they will rise to the level of national politics. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Peter, I want to ask you, do you believe that the Democratic Party is going to move forward, follow your advice and follow the advice of other hawks, if we can call them that, and get tough on this war on terror, or are they going to continue down the Howard Dean path and down the path of Michael Moore and MoveOn.org? 

BEINART:  I think—first of all, I think it‘s unfair to lump Howard Dean with MoveOn.org and Michael Moore.  Howard Dean supported the Gulf War.  He supported the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo.  He didn‘t tell anybody that. 

But, in fact, his record on national security is pretty different from MoveOn and Michael Moore, who opposed the war in Afghanistan and Kosovo.  I do think there is an understanding in the Democratic Party that the base was about as energized as it possibly could have been in 2004, and it still wasn‘t enough.  So, this is not a hard-left country.  This is a country that will go with a Democratic candidate if they believe, if they are entirely reassured that that Democrat is going to be not only every bit as tough as the Republicans on the war on terrorism, but, in fact, is going to do more. 

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART:  This is what John F. Kennedy did when he ran in 1960.  He ran from the right, saying that the Eisenhower administration was too soft, was not being aggressive enough in fighting the Soviet Union. 

There are lots of opportunities to do that today.  The Bush administration, the money they are putting into education in the Muslim world, into homeland security, is pitiful.  They are not increasing the size of the military.  They have been very soft on the Saudis.  They failed when they had a great opportunity in Afghanistan to round up al Qaeda.  There are opportunities to go after these guys from a hawkish point of view, but the party has got to want to do it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Howard Fineman, who is going to be the Democrat talking about the missile gap in 2008? 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Well, you ask the right question, because I think Peter is right in his diagnosis.

But in presidential politics especially, it takes a person to do it.  It took John F. Kennedy to make tough look cool, to make anti-communism cool in the early 1960s.  He loved Ian Fleming.  That was all about fighting the bad guys, the Russians.  I am not joking here.  This is serious.  It requires somebody with charisma who has war experience that‘s unalloyed and uncomplicated.

It requires somebody who knows how to go about it, and, yes, speak tough about things like the Saudi power.  I mean, if we are, as Peter says, facing a fanatical form of Islam, the Saudis need to be called to account for, if not rooting it out in their own country, at least looking the other way.  Those are tough questions that need to be asked.  I don‘t know who that person is. 

I have no idea who on the Democratic side it will be, but they have to be someone who can override Iowa.  I hate to return to the particulars of the primaries, but it matters.  It‘s got to be somebody who can win despite Iowa. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Howard Fineman, thanks a lot.  We appreciate it. 

Peter Beinart, also greatly appreciate you being with us.

And, Mort Zuckerman, as always, thank you for being in SCARBOROUGH

COUNTRY. 

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERMAN:  Be well, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And still ahead—all right.

And still ahead, “Desperate Housewives” may have turned a lot of heads this year, but is it on the top of our TV show losers list for 2004?  I will tell you which ones are the winners, which ones are the losers coming up next in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  In a year that‘s mercifully seen the slow demise of reality TV and the meteoric rise of “Desperate Housewives,” TV viewers continue sending mixed signals to network programmers. 

TV‘s clear losers in 2004 were CBS‘ Janet Jackson Super Bowl scandal, CBS‘s Reagan miniseries scandal that wound up getting dumped on Showtime in 2004.  And then, of course, there was the CBS News scandal of the year, starring Dan Rather. 

So, who was the big network winner in 2004?  CBS, of course, wiping out all competition in total viewers and also finally in the coveted 18-to-49 demo age bracket.  Now, that being said, CBS still seems too old and crusty for me, outside, of course, late-night god David Letterman, who still seems to be in top form after all these years. 

Now, HBO continued domination of cable TV in 2004 with what I consider to be a dramatic rebound of the mob series “The Sopranos” and the worthy edition of “Entourage.”  The top moments of 2004 included Ali G‘s interview with his main man Patrick Buchanan, and his Kazakhstani character, Borat, reporting on an Oklahoma candidate‘s run for Congress.  Talk about must-see TV.  You‘ve got to see that. 

But the best TV had to offer in 2004, in my opinion, was Larry David‘s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”  The show and its neurotic characters delivered consistently neurotic performers, climaxing in Larry David‘s debut on Broadway in “The Producers.”  Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer added color, while the cast and writing was better than ever. 

Now, when watching “Curb,” either you get it or you don‘t.  And if you don‘t, that‘s probably because neurosis aren‘t your thing.  But for the rest of us, Larry David remains the most talented man in broadcast or cable TV. 

Now, you‘ve heard what I think.  Let‘s hear the opinion of an expert, “TV Guide” senior correspondent Stephen Battaglio. 

Stephen, thanks a lot for being with us tonight.

And let‘s talk about your winners and losers for 2004.  And let‘s start with ABC.  “Desperate Housewives,” “Boston Legal,” talk about a shot across the bow at NBC and CBS.  That is a remarkable turnaround, isn‘t it? 

STEPHEN BATTAGLIO, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, “TV GUIDE”:  It really is. 

ABC has been sinking for several years now.  They were deep in fourth place, and it just shows you how a couple of hit shows can turn things around.  Actually, ABC has two big hits with “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost,” two new hits, which really should be enough to make a network No.  1, but they were down so low that this has just merely made them competitive.

But “Desperate Housewives” is the type of out-of-the-box hits that the broadcast networks rarely see anymore. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it‘s interesting.  My wife said something to me while we were watching “Desperate Housewives” the first week.  We had no -- we had seen no hype, had no idea what we were looking at.  She turned it on.  We were watching it.  And she left the room about halfway through, came running back in five minutes later and said, what did I miss? 

Now, I haven‘t heard her or practically anybody say that about a TV show on broadcast TV in quite some time.  What is it about that hit that has seemed to grab the attention of so many people, not only blue state America, but also in middle America?              

BATTAGLIO:  I think it‘s a really great formula of good-looking people getting into trouble and humiliating themselves. 

(LAUGHTER)

BATTAGLIO:  I think people like that.  And it‘s a good story.  There‘s

·         people thought, well, when we first saw the show back in the spring, before it came on the air, there were questions about, well, will men watch this?  And the answer is, yes, because it has a mystery.  It has a story.  There‘s enough to draw them there.  There are certainly enough skimpy outfits to keep guys in front of the set. 

So, it‘s one of those shows where they just did everything just right.  The casting, the writing, the humor, it works on several levels.  It‘s funny.  But it‘s also—there‘s a darkness to it, too.  And I think it speaks to people. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Give us your biggest loser of 2004 in TV. 

BATTAGLIO:  I think a big loser was NBC‘s animated show “Father of the Pride.”  They made a big deal about getting DreamWorks and these computer-generated animation of Siegfried & Roy.  And NBC committed to this show a couple of years ago. 

In the meantime, Roy Horn, as we know, was injured by one of the tigers and has made a very slow recovery.  And I think that probably diminished that show‘s chances greatly.  And, in fact, I believe NBC ran off some of the episodes tonight, making it a very expensive night of television for them. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, we have talked about CBS.  We have talked about ABC, NBC.  Fox seemed to be, a few years back, a network that was on the ascendancy, was overtaking ABC.  And it relied heavily on reality TV shows.  But it seems, this year, that‘s backfired on them, hasn‘t it? 

BATTAGLIO:  Well, reality TV is—people thought that that was taking over prime time. 

And the fact is, there was just too much of it on the air.  And young people are the ones who really drive the ratings for a reality show.  But they are also the group who get tired of stuff before everyone else.  And so they feel like they have seen a lot of these shows, these dating shows or these makeover shows that—and Fox has put on a lot of them.  They seem to throw one on after another.  None of them have worked. 

The big test will be in January.  They have their—another edition of “American Idol” coming on.  Will viewers come back to that again in the numbers that they have in the last couple years?  And, really, their whole competitive status depends on that show‘s success. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Stephen, stay with us.  We‘ll be right back with more of your picks and the best and worst shows for 2004 when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, make sure to read my editorial every day on JoeBlog.MSNBC.com.  And send me your comments.  I want to hear what you think. 

We‘ll be right back in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re back with “TV Guide”‘s Stephen Battaglio. 

Stephen, who are the big winners in cable TV this past year? 

BATTAGLIO:  Well, I think aside from the shows you mentioned on HBO, we saw a couple of really interesting new shows this year.  “Rescue Me,” the show about New York City firefighters that was created by Denis Leary, he and stars in it, I think it‘s the first real, honest show that we have seen about life as a firefighter.  And I think that viewers responded to that.  It felt very real to them.  And it was successful. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Any others in cable?  You know, I talked about “Entourage.”  A lot of people are hyping that.  I know “The New York Times” said it was one of the best new shows of the year.  You really weren‘t as excited about it. 

BATTAGLIO:  No, I actually like it a lot.  I think it‘s terrific.

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, do you?  OK.

BATTAGLIO:  Even though it‘s not as—not quite as big a hit as some of the HBO shows, but I think it could catch on. 

(CROSSTALK)

BATTAGLIO:  You can‘t—you also—you have to acknowledge Dave Chappelle, a very funny show, great raunchy comedy that people I think also find very truthful.  And I think that‘s why they like it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I will tell you what.  Chappelle is a comic genius.  And the guy touches on taboo subjects, a lot like Richard Pryor did back in the ‘70s and Chris Rock did back in the 1990s. 

(CROSSTALK)

BATTAGLIO:  I‘m sorry.  “TV Guide” called him the funniest man in television.  And I think it‘s true. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I think he may be. 

Well, Stephen, thanks a lot for being with us.  We greatly appreciate it. 

And we will see all of you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

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

END   

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