updated 1/4/2005 2:11:50 PM ET 2005-01-04T19:11:50

Guest: Bob Jensen, Bob Kohn, Paul Waldman, Michael Smerconish, Jack Burkman

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headlines:  The tsunami death toll nears 150,000 lives lost.  Now, we‘re going to take you to Sri Lanka for the very latest on the worst natural disaster of our lifetime.  And I‘m going to give you the “Real Deal” on America‘s response. 

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

President Bush taps two former presidents to lead fund-raising efforts for the tsunami relief, this on top of the $350 million already pledged and more than 15,000 U.S. service members on the ground.  So is America really the Scrooge that old Europe is making us out to be? 

Plus, they‘ve used cars, planes, and buildings.  Could laser beams be the next phase in al Qaeda‘s terror plan against America? 

And CBS heads to Washington, D.C., to try to clean up the mess Dan Rather left behind.  It may work on Capitol Hill, but will it fly in flyover country? 

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to the show.  Hope you had a great Christmas and a wonderful new year. 

And I‘ll tell you what.  There‘s some people obviously on the other side of the globe that didn‘t have a wonderful new year, but that‘s the subject of our debate in tonight‘s “Real Deal.”  You know, America remains a beacon of hope for all, regardless of what the United Nations thinks.  That‘s the subject of tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, tonight, we‘re going to show you heartbreaking images of disaster in Southeast Asia.  And you‘re going to continue to hear remarkable stories of those who somehow managed to survive the onslaught of the tsunami tidal wave that rocked the world Christmas morning. 

Now, across the world, many have found new and interesting ways to blame the United States of America for the death and destruction.  As one of Australia‘s top newspapers wrote earlier this week, in the dark ages, those horrendous acts of nature were often blamed on God‘s wrath.  But now that blame falls on America. 

You know, President Bush also faced laughable charges by “The New York Times” last week that he was missing in action in the first days after the tsunami.  You know, it‘s very interesting that the same newspaper praised the corrupt leader of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, for standing ready to provide relief, and yet Annan stayed away on a ski vacation in Colorado while George Bush was working. 

You know, America gives $350 million to this relief effort and nobody bats an eye.  And yet the European Union comes in at a measly $35 million, despite the fact they have as many citizens as the United States of America.  Heck, even Sandra Bullock gave one-thirty-fifth of what the entire E.U. gave.  But it‘s just more hypocrisy and second-guessing from the usual suspects. 

You know, it seems “The New York Times,” the United Nations and the E.U. never figured out what immigrants have known for over 200 years, that America is the last great hope for a dying world.  That was true in 1776.  It was true in World War II, and it‘s true today, whether the liberal elites on both sides of the Atlantic like it or not.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.”

Now, we‘re going to be going over to NBC‘s James Hattori.  He‘s going to be bringing us the latest about the tsunami relief effort—James.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES HATTORI, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  As international relief aid continues to pour into the region, the logjam at airports and distribution points seems to easing a bit. 

In Indonesia, hundreds of tons of supplies are already on the ground.  The biggest obstacle now, the physical devastation on Sumatra, Aceh Province.  Washed-out roads and broken bridges and flooding have kept some villages virtually inaccessible.  And the fear is that they may not be reached for weeks.  One official calls it absolute chaos. 

Up to 175 refugee camps are set up near Banda Aceh.  And to give you an idea of conditions, in one camp, there are 4,000 people and just eight latrines, so health concerns are growing there.  U.S. helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln continue dropping supplies, like biscuits, instant noodles and energy drinks.

Australia is setting up a hospital unit.  Singapore has military personnel and military equipment.  Even a new cell phone system is going in.  Here in Sri Lanka, individual villages are also getting some aid in isolated areas dropped by air, but many more villages remain cut off, especially in eastern Sri Lanka, where torrential rains over the weekend have let up some, but still some areas are flooded anew and some refugee camps had to be abandoned for a time. 

And word today of yet another amazing survival story, this time, four Indonesian fishermen picked up on a remote island.  They had been fishing when their boat broke down prior to the earthquake striking.  They were picked up this weekend by the Coast Guard after being at sea for almost nine days. 

That‘s the latest here—Joe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you, James. 

And as the aid reaches the South Asian region, President Bush makes a historic move, calling on the service of two former presidents, his father and former President Bill Clinton, the reason, to lead a nationwide private fund-raising campaign to help victims of the Asian tsunami. 

Now, President Clinton chimed in on the United Nations representative who called America stingy.  This is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t think we should even waste time talking about that.  Look at this.  We‘ve got, what, 150,000 people dead, potentially, maybe even more, tens of billions of dollars of immediate needs. 

And America‘s got a good record, and the president‘s doing a good job, and he asked us to help.  We‘re just trying to help. 

But I don‘t think we should waste any time doing it. 

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘ve only heard it once, this stingy argument, and it was picked up in the press a little bit.  But you don‘t hear it anymore, because they see a lot going on, not only in this eleemosynary way, the private philanthropies, but you see the government responding with helicopters and a lot of other ways, too. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  With me now, we have Mike Barnicle.  He‘s MSNBC contributor and “Boston Herald” columnist.  We have Jack Burkman, Republican strategist.  And Paul Waldman.  He‘s the author of “Fraud: The Strategy Behind the Bush Lies and Why the Media Didn‘t Tell You.”

Let‘s begin with you, Mike Barnicle. 

We had complaints not only from the United Nations, also from “The New York Times” over the past week, that America and the president are stingy in efforts such as this.  Is that a fair charge? 

MIKE BARNICLE, NBC ANALYST:  No, it‘s not a fair charge, Joe. 

You know, mark me down with former President Bill Clinton on this one.  I spent most of the afternoon, this afternoon, with a couple of very young relief workers working for Oxfam America.  They are headquartered in Boston.  One young fellow, 27 years of age, had just returned two days prior to Christmas for his Christmas break from Ethiopia, where he‘d been working for Oxfam feeding hungry people, providing water purification systems. 

He‘s on his way now to Sri Lanka tomorrow morning, as we speak.  Oxfam America has already provided in last five days 27 million tons of equipment to Sri Lanka and Indonesia, hopefully to purify their water systems.  When the world dials 911, Joe, we respond.  And, quite often, it‘s private organizations that respond, other than the government. 

And I would just add one more thing on this charge.  I have never been anywhere in this world, where you‘re surrounded by trouble or difficulty of all sorts, either by weather or by war—and I‘m about Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam—where you don‘t bump into Americans, Maryknoll missionaries, Catholic Relief workers, United States Marine Corps helicopters delivering supplies, water, fuel to help people live.  It‘s an obscene charge. 

(CROSSTALK)

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Joe, I would ditto everything Mike said. 

I would just add, this is a perfect—and I agree with Mr. Clinton in part, but disagree in part.  We should be talking about this and we should be talking about the U.N.  This is a perfect scenario for why the U.N. has outlived its usefulness.  What did Kofi Annan do?  Was his first concern to help the victims? 

No, his first concern was to play political football with his largest and most important member.  His concern was a public relations jockeying with the president of the United States.  If he wanted quick cash, yes, go to the United States in part, but also go to China.  The Chinese economic minister just dumped $30 million -- $30 billion, that is, with a B—in investment in Latin America.  Nobody‘s talking about China. 

Whatever happened to Asia for the Asians?  Kofi Annan has talked about that.  The Chinese talk about that.  The Southeast Asians talk about that.  All of a sudden, when there‘s a problem, it‘s no longer Asia for the Asians.  It‘s bring in the United States and write a check. 

Paul Waldman, let‘s bring you in. 

A government official last week told “The New York Times” that America funds disaster relief alone at $2.4 billion a year.  That was last year, 40 percent of the worldwide contributions for this purpose.  However, on the same day, “The New York Times” editorial page accused the United States and George Bush of—quote—being “stingy.”  How can that be? 

PAUL WALDMAN, AUTHOR, “FRAUD”:  Well, there‘s no question that American citizens have opened up their hearts and their wallets.  They‘ve been incredibly generous. 

But the Bush administration really missed a terrific opportunity here.  They thought that, in the first couple of days, it was enough to have some deputy press secretary issue a press release saying—expressing our sympathy.  What they should have done is gotten President Bush out there in front of the cameras so the people of the world could see him, not three days later, but the first day.  It wouldn‘t have been that hard.  All he would have had to says was that we‘re expressing our sympathy and we‘re going to do all we can to help.  That was all that was necessary. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  Why?  Is it a public relations game?

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second, Paul. 

You know, it‘s amazing that “The New York Times” would attack George W. Bush for coming out on the 27th, and yet Kofi Annan was skiing in Colorado—I believe it was Aspen—until the 29th and they‘re writing glowing articles.  Isn‘t this just another example of a double standard? 

WALDMAN:  Well, I don‘t really care about what Kofi Annan was doing. 

I‘m more interested in what our government was doing. 

And the fact is that, yes, there is a political element to this, because, really, since 9/11, this administration‘s attitude toward the opinion of America around the world has been one of, who cares what they think about us? And it‘s very important what they think about us.  That has consequences for all of us. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  What are you saying, a press conference?  I mean, what, what, what?  The second there‘s a disaster, you want the president to come out and do a press conference? 

WALDMAN:  It wouldn‘t have been that hard. 

This administration is very good when they have a plan and they‘ve got everybody reading off the same script.  When events take them by surprise, they tend to stumble a little bit.  And that‘s all it would have taken.  It wouldn‘t have been very much, but they didn‘t realize...

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  What‘s the goal here?  The goal here is to help people.  The goal is not to stage a public relations charade. 

WALDMAN:  Absolutely. 

BURKMAN:  And that‘s what the president did.  The president moved assiduously to get something done.

He‘s not a public relations consultant.  And I‘ll tell you something else.  I do care about Kofi Annan, because my tax dollars pay his salary and pay for the United Nations.  And we have just as much right to review his actions and the actions of the United Nations as we do our president.  That is...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Paul Waldman, isn‘t it important, Paul Waldman, for the president of the United States and all the president‘s men and women to get their facts together before the president comes out and says I feel your pain? 

WALDMAN:  There‘s nothing that would stop him from doing that. 

You know, he was on the ranch clearing brush or whatever it was that he was doing.  First, they came out and said, oh, we‘ll pledge $15 million.  Later, it was to raise $350 million.  And that‘s great.  And, of course, we‘re going to help.  But we have a real problem around the world.  And this was a lost opportunity.  It‘s not that they did it out of malice.  It was just a lost opportunity to show the world that we weren‘t going to wait around to see what other people were going to do, that we were going to show them that we‘re with them in this time of tragedy. 

It wouldn‘t have been that all that hard, but he missed the opportunity. 

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  This is incredible.  This is incredible. 

Have we lost all of our sense of perspective and context?  We are eight days, only eight days removed from this event.  Last Tuesday, on the front page of “The New York Times,” they had the death estimates at around 10,000.  The havoc, the destruction, the death was so enormous, it‘s still beyond comprehension and we‘re saying now, or some of us are saying now that eight days out that we lost a tremendous opportunity? 

We haven‘t lost anything.  People have lost their lives.  And this is about people, not about politics.  And the United States of America will stand as tall as it ever has in the wake of the world‘s most horrific, horrific natural disaster in my memory.  And the idea that we‘re engaged in the political debate over a humanitarian effort says more negatively about us than it does about the people who are over there on behalf of us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Mike Barnicle, let‘s just put a couple numbers up because we really do—you‘re talking about perspective.  We really need to put this in proper perspective. 

After reading the wire reports out there, we recognized that the United States government pledged $350 million.  The European Union has pledged $30 million.  And Sandra Bullock has pledged $1 million.  One Hollywood actress pledged one-thirtieth of what the European Union has pledged and yet they‘re making this—turning this into a political football.  It‘s absolutely disgraceful. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead.

BARNICLE:  Joe, I think the initial contribution of Canada, our wonderful neighbor to the north, was $3.5 million, $3.5 million. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Yes, and yet we‘re the ones that always get kicked around.  It makes no sense. 

Well, Mike Barnicle, thanks for being with us.  We‘ll see you in a couple segments.  Jack Burkman, as always, thank you for being with me.  And we appreciate it. 

And I‘ll tell you what.  NBC is doing its part for tsunami relief.  They‘re going to be hosting a celebrity telethon on Saturday January 15 at 8:00 p.m.  Find out more about the telethon and other ways that you can help at our Web site at Joe.MSNBC.com. 

And later, if you thought reality shows had bottomed out with “The Littlest Groom” or “The Swan,” well, you‘ve got another think coming.  Wait until you hear about the latest controversial sleaze fest from Fox, “Who‘s Your Daddy?”

All that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Laser beams in the cockpit, the latest breach in airline security.  But is it child‘s play or the next terror tool?

Back in a moment with that one in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

Last night, a laser beam shoots into the cockpit of a United Airlines flight right after takeoff in Nashville.  The pilots, unharmed, land the plane safely at Chicago‘s O‘Hare Airport.  But security experts are shakened by the eight incidents of laser attacks on U.S. cockpits since Christmas. 

The FBI has previously warned U.S. officials of possible laser attacks to bring down commercial aircraft, but no one‘s yet been arrested for these incidences. 

Now, in June, the FAA released this disturbing assessment of what a laser can do to a pilot in the cockpit—quote—“A sufficiently powerful laser could cause permanent ocular damage, blinding crew members and making a successful landing virtually impossible.”

With me now to talk about the latest breach in airline security is Michael Smerconish.  He‘s the author of “Flying Blind: How Political Correctness Continues to Compromise Airline Safety Post 9/11.”  And former FBI special agent Clint Van Zandt. 

Appreciate both you gentlemen being with us.

And, Clint, let me begin with you.

CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  How much of a danger is this?

VAN ZANDT:  Well, it is a danger.  We can‘t write it off as child‘s play.  I don‘t think it‘s an intentional act of terrorism—i.e., I don‘t think al Qaeda is in the United States. 

But, you know, this right here is a laser.  This is something that you and I might use if we‘re lecturing or something and you put it on your hand and you get the proverbial red spot there.  But this is still dangerous.  This little one can go about 1, 500 feet.  There‘s lasers you can buy on the Internet that are advertised, Joe, to go into the sky 25,000 feet.  There‘s been at least one pilot who has been flash-blinded by laser devices in the past. 

So it‘s not a game.  It‘s not kids playing with a BB gun.  It‘s something that, at the wrong time, the wrong moment, if you blind a pilot, lord knows what could happen to that aircraft. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Michael, of course, there were some concerns by the FBI, also the FAA, that terrorists may actually employ this. 

And in addition to the laser attack in Nashville last night, there have been eight other laser attacks since Christmas, two in Colorado Springs, one in Cleveland, one in the nation‘s capital in Washington, D.C., one in Houston, Texas, one in Teterboro, New Jersey, right across the river from New York, and one in Medford, Oregon. 

It doesn‘t sound like child‘s play to me.  It sounds like what the FBI and what the FAA were warning us all about six months ago.  What do we do about it? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  The Internet‘s been alive on this subject for a while now, Joe. 

And I went to the Web site where they say the father of the 7-year-old who shined a laser on that Port Authority helicopter procured his laser.  Here‘s the distressing news.  It was only $119 and they‘re sold out.  If I wanted to buy one today—and, of course, I wouldn‘t—I‘d have to wait until the end of January.  So apparently there‘s a demand. 

Look, if I were al Qaeda and I wanted to strike at the United States, you know what I would do?  I would dress up with a turban, and I‘d carry a copy of the Koran and I‘d get on board an airplane, because those are the only people we‘re not taking a long, hard look at. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, are you concerned about these laser attacks as much as you are concerned about the political correctness in the airports? 

SMERCONISH:  I‘m concerned about both, but I‘m more concerned about our failure to come to grips with the fact that radical Islam is threatening us.  Now, radical Islam could get their hands on the lasers the same way as the father of the 7-year-old. 

But I think we‘re kidding ourselves and we continue to kid ourselves about who the enemy is. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Clint, you know, in addition to the recent attacks, a Delta airlines pilot, as you said before, reported an eye injury from a laser beamed into the cockpit while he was approaching Salt Lake City in November.  The plane did land safely.

But, in November, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent an intelligence bulletin to police agencies across the U.S. warning that terrorists could use laser beams to bring down airplanes.  And this is what it said—quote—“Terror groups overseas have expressed interest in using these devices against human sight.  In certain circumstances, if laser weapons adversely affect the eyesight of both pilot and co-pilot during a noninstrument approach, there‘s a risk of airliner crash.”

So what in the world do we do if these possible devices of terror are so easily gathered on the Internet and from science catalogs? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, you know, the FAA started keeping statistics, Joe, in 1997 on these incidents. 

Since 1997, there have been over 250 reported incidents of lasers being shone from the ground up toward an aircraft in 25 different states.  You know, the challenge comes here.  It‘s like any other terrible incident that starts out small, that looks like child‘s play and yet is very serious, and what the FBI and the United States attorney‘s office and local police need to do is vigorously investigate and prosecute these individuals. 

Now, I agree with your other guest.  We have to deal with major threats of terrorism, but this, you know, we can‘t allow stupidity on the ground to put lives at risk, hundreds, 200, 300 people at risk because someone got a $119 laser for Christmas and now they want to test the Internet theory that it will actually shine 25,000 feet into the air.  We need to find those people who are doing this.  We need to prosecute them and make it a public matter, so that anybody who picks that device up shines it at the ground and not in the sky. 

SMERCONISH:  Joe, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead, Michael. 

SMERCONISH:  There‘s no redeeming quality to these lasers that I‘m aware of.  It‘s funny because I remember a couple of years ago where when those PowerPoint devices first came out, people were using them in movie theaters and the like.  And it would unnerve you because, if you got that red dot on you, my God, you thought that somebody had a gun trained on you.  It‘s the same sort of thing.  They serve no purpose whatsoever.  We shouldn‘t have them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael, I want to ask you this, a yes or a no.  I need a conclusion from you here.  There have been, again, eight reports of these lasers being shined into cockpits since Christmas.  Do you think it‘s all child‘s plays or do you think that terrorism could be involved? 

SMERCONISH:  Child‘s play, but I think the terrorists could get involved because they‘re watching these events. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Clint Van Zandt, I‘ll ask you the same thing.  Again, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the FAA have all issued warnings saying these devices could be used in terror attacks.  Do you think these eight so-called attacks since Christmas Day have been child‘s play or do you think terrorists are afoot here? 

VAN ZANDT:  You know, sometimes, there‘s just no accounting for the lack of common sense on the part of some people. 

We saw in Washington, D.C., what—two guys in a ‘92 Chevy, a $250 rifle, and a $20 box of bullets can terrorize this entire part of the country.  So now, for $50, $100, you‘ve got a laser doing it.  Could terrorists do it?  You know, we are such a soft underbelly as a country.  There are so many ways that we can be hurt.  We shouldn‘t have citizens out stretching law enforcement, making the FBI chase after kids and dumb adults with a laser pointer when we want them chasing al Qaeda. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks so much, Clint Van Zandt.  Thank you, Michael Smerconish.  We greatly appreciate both of you being here. 

And you know what?  This is the way I feel.  Whether it‘s al Qaeda, whether it‘s a stupid kid, whether it‘s some Timothy McVeigh-type that has an axe to grind, it really doesn‘t matter in the end.  If they cause blindness, as they did in Salt Lake City earlier this year, of pilots and prevents a plane from landing, it‘s all the same thing.  Very dangerous situation, and I‘m afraid we‘re going to be hearing a lot more about this in the coming months and years. 

Now, CBS President Andrew Heyward goes to Washington to try to make up to the White House.  But will the network of Dan Rather really clean up its act? 

That debate coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  In the wake of Rather-gate, CBS News would like to pretend that the 2004 election never happened.  Can they convince Washington that they‘re going to be able to clean up their act in 2005?  That debate in a minute.

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

(NEWS BREAK)

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back. 

Well, Mr. Heyward goes to Washington.  Who‘s that, you ask?  Just the president of CBS News.  And he‘s hoping to mend fences with the White House.  But can the network regain credibility after its anybody-but-Bush campaign of 2004? 

With us again, Mike Barnicle of “The Boston Herald.”  We also have University of Texas journalism professor Bob Jensen.  And we 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.”

Mike Barnicle, let me start with you. 

I‘m so torn on this, because part of me obviously is laughing at the comeuppance or arrogant types at CBS News having to go hat in hand to the White House saying, well, we promise we‘ll be fair in the future.  Another part of me, though, sort of longs for the day for the grizzled old newsman who says, to hell with politicians.  They can like us or hate us.  We‘re going to report the way we‘re going to report. 

What do you think about the head of CBS News going to Washington, D.C., begging for forgiveness of the Bush White House? 

BARNICLE:  Well, I don‘t know that he went down and begged forgiveness of the White House.  He probably—Andy Heyward probably went down and tried to explain what their view of the situation was going to be in the immediate aftermath of the Thornburgh report, which is going to be issued I think fairly soon and probably just tried to shake a few hands and get things off on a better foot than they had been. 

I would hope, Joe, that the Thornburgh report would get to the root of a lot of what is wrong with television news, not that there‘s a great deal wrong with TV news.  But part of the problem with TV news is the producer packaged piece.  And it affected Dan Rather.  Dan Rather is a busy guy.  He‘s had an honorable career.  We shouldn‘t hang his career on just this one incident.  He made a mistake. 

But a producer went out and did most of the legwork on this story, as producers do a lot of legwork on a lot of stories.  Producers are very smart.  Producers tend to ask questions.  The interviewer is seen on camera, not the producer, and then the anchorman or the chief correspondent in this case, Dan Rather, comes in, does a few voice-overs and asks some questions himself in the cutaway.

And the public is led to believe that the producer—the reporter, Rather, or whoever else is involved did the whole thing himself.  That‘s not the way it works.  In the newspaper business, you go out.  You find the reporting yourself.  You write the thing yourself.  That‘s not the way it is in TV.  And I‘d like to see this explained a bit more in the Thornburgh report.  I think it would be helpful.

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Kohn, insiders are saying that the president of CBS News is—quote—“working overtime to try to convince the White House communications director, Dan Bartlett, that neither CBS News nor Dan Rather had a vendetta against the White House” and from here on out that they would do everything they could to be—quote—“fair and balanced.”

What‘s your take on this meeting between CBS News and the White House? 

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”:  From here on out, they‘ll do everything possible to be fair and balanced?  What about before? 

If that‘s the promise that they‘re making to the president, first, they should come out and admit it to their own public that they haven‘t been fair and balanced up until now.  So, if they‘re going to make a promise from here on out they‘re going to be fair and balanced, make it to the public, not to the president. 

But, you know, do they have any credibility to be making promises right now?  Actions speak louder than words.  That seems to be the byword at the White House.  So I think that CBS has to change its behavior before anyone can believe that they‘re telling the truth and that they‘re being fair and balanced.  So they have to start doing it, not just saying that they‘re going to do it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Jensen, I‘ll ask you the same thing I asked Mike Barnicle.  What‘s your feeling about the president of a news agency going to the White House and trying to mend fences, so possibly they could get better interviews, better coverage of that same White House over the next four years?

DR. BOB JENSEN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS:  Well, I think it‘s reprehensible. 

From a journalistic point of view, the top executive of a television network going to the White House to mend fences, no matter what was said, is an absolute abomination.  Journalism should be in constant tension with politicians in power for a simple reason.

SCARBOROUGH:  Amen. 

JENSEN:  Politicians are constantly trying to manipulate them. 

And in this particular case, we have a White House with a track record of not only lying and distorting the news on a regular basis, but putting forward one of the most successful propaganda operations that‘s ever been.  I give the Bush administration credit.  They‘re better at P.R. spin and propaganda than any previous administration.  If anything, the entire news community, journalists should be up in arms about the way the Bush administration has manipulated them. 

I think Andrew Heyward‘s response to this is absolutely reprehensible. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead. 

BARNICLE:  But what would be great, Joe, if you‘re a reporter or you‘re a TV correspondent, it would be great, it would be a badge of honor to have the White House angry at you for the right reasons, you know, for raising questions about Iraq before we invaded Iraq, for raising questions about unarmored Humvees before it became a headline story a year after people getting killed in them.

It would be great to have the White House mad at you for asking questions like that, rather than having the White House mad at you for a story that looks—at least it appears it wasn‘t a story so much as it was one producer‘s obsession. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Kohn, and that one producer obviously is Mary Mapes.  We‘re going to have a report coming out soon that is going to be talking about whether Mary Mapes had a personal vendetta against the Bush family. 

One thing we do know for sure, though, and that is that Dan Rather seemed to have over the years a vendetta against Bush Sr. and Bush Jr., and the fact—this has always been my point.  The fact that they would drop this story 40, 50 days before a presidential election and would pursue it aggressively when they didn‘t pursue a similar story, the swift vet story, on the other side of things, again seems to me to prove that they were biased during the campaign. 

So, if I‘m getting Andrew Heyward coming to me apologizing, I would say, hey, what are you going to do about it?

What‘s your take? 

KOHN:  Yes. 

I don‘t think that the—up until the time they released these forged documents, I don‘t think that that was as much of a problem as was the cover-up that occurred in the two weeks following that discovery of these forgeries, when Dan Rather went out and accused the Internet bloggers who exposed these memos as being partisan political operatives.  He then went on the air saying that there was no internal investigation going on and they were standing by their story.

And the way they went about to rebut their story, that was the real problem, the cover-up.  So I don‘t think this is just going to be a Mary Mapes story.  She certainly should be fired.  But I think perhaps what‘s taking so long here is the politics going on at CBS about as to what they‘re going to do about Dan Rather‘s involvement in the cover-up.  That‘s going to be the real issue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Jensen, in conclusion here, we very rarely agree.  I do agree with you, though, that the media should always be a thorn in the side of all politicians in both parties. 

But don‘t you agree, though, that CBS also—not only is it reprehensible that they‘re going there to mend fences with the White House.  Don‘t you think, though, the cover-up is reprehensible?  The way they covered this story over the final days of the campaign was reprehensible also and unforgivable? 

JENSEN:  Well, first of all, let‘s remember that the claim about Bush‘s failure to complete his Guard service was true.  CBS made a mistake by using forged documents.  They made a second mistake by not coming clean immediately. 

They‘re human.  They made a mistake.  But we often forget that the story really was that George Bush didn‘t complete his Guard service.  And that gets lost.  It‘s one more way in which the Bush administration has been masterful at spin.  And I think CBS made mistakes, but I think, more important, what we see in this is a failure of the entire news media, as Mike Barnicle said, to really hold the Bush administration‘s feet to the fire on things that really mattered.

And that‘s where journalism has failed. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Jensen, I know a lot of Bush supporters would disagree with you and accuse of you spinning also, like you‘re accusing the Bush administration of spinning. 

But, as always, thanks for being with us.  Mike Barnicle, greatly appreciate you being here.  And, Bob Kohn, as always, thank you for being in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

Now when we come back, more evidence that television is going down the tubes, a reality show that is offending many, including some in Congress, by asking, “Who‘s Your Daddy?” 

Find out what the fuss is all about when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

ANNOUNCER:  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  How tall was the largest tsunami wave ever recorded?  Was it, A, 800 feet, B, 1,200 feet, or, C, 1,700 feet?

The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHERYL CASONE, NBC ANCHOR:  Good evening.  I‘m Cheryl Casone at MSNBC headquarters.

We‘re going to tune in to a press conference that is being held in Bangkok, Thailand.  Secretary of State Colin Powell expected to speak in just a few minutes.  Governor Jeb Bush of Florida is also there as well. 

Right now, the prime minister of Thailand is speaking.  Let‘s go ahead and listen in to what he has to say. 

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SURAKIART SATHIRATHAI, THAI FOREIGN MINISTER:  Secondly, we are thinking about the next stage. 

I propose to Secretary Powell and Governor Bush that we would like to set up the early warning system and monitoring system.  Prime Minister Thaksin has also reiterated this policy and Thailand is willing to invest ourselves, but we would like to have expertise, technical assistance from the United States.  And we would be happy also to work with other countries that have technology and other countries in the region to install the early warning system and monitoring system in the Indian Ocean, in the South China Sea.

We are not certain whether we can expand the scope of the disaster

preparedness center that‘s within Thailand for the region, but has not been

·         has not taken the responsibility concerning the earthquake and tsunami, whether we can expand that with already assistance from the United States. 

Secondly, we are discussing about the possibility of the technical assistance from the United States in the area of rehabilitation of natural resources.  For example, the coral reefs, marine life, configuration of beaches, so that is the next stage that we‘ll be working together. 

We agree that U.S. operations will continue and Thailand in practice has been working with the United States very well to have Thailand as the regional center for humanitarian relief in this part of the world.

And we‘re going to meet again in Jakarta.  And we would like to make sure that the meeting in Jakarta will achieve both objectives.  One is the consolidation of the relief effort, and, secondly, to work together for the setting up of the early warning system and monitoring system. 

Again—and Governor Bush has also offered us to send experts to work with us on the early warning system, to provide confidence back to foreign tourists and Thai tourists into the area.  Florida has a lot of experience in dealing with national disasters.  So, we‘ll be working closely.

We‘re very appreciative of Governor Bush in coming here and talking to us, including the director of USAID, several people responsible for disaster relief from the United States.  So, we appreciate your presence here.  And after this, they‘ll be going to Phuket to see with our own eyes and get briefed by our people in Phuket. 

We are committed to be working closely with United States and we are thankful for the kind gesture.  I have said to Secretary Powell that he has won the hearts of us in Asia.  And we will continue working closely with them. 

Secretary.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

Governor Bush and members of my delegation are very pleased to be here to extend to you, to the other members of your government and to the Thai people once again our condolences and to let you know that we‘re in solidarity with you, as you deal with this crisis. 

I want to send my regards out to the families of those who have lost loved ones as a result of the tsunami and to again express our sympathies to the royal family on the death of his majesty, the king‘s grandson, Khun Poom.

Let me also express how grateful we are for the assistance that the Thai government has given to American victims of the tsunami.  The aftermath of the tsunami is a tragedy for the entire world.  And the United States will certainly not turn away from those in desperate need. 

And I think we‘ve demonstrated in recent days our willingness to provide support, not only financial support, but the military support that our Pacific Command is now providing with the presence of C-130 aircraft, with helicopters from our ships at sea, with the Orion P-3 planes that are performing reconnaissance missions, and with the command post that‘s been set up. 

I want to express, especially thank the governor of Thailand for allowing us to use the air base at Utapao as a central hub for support not only to our Thai friends, but to other nations in the region.  And it really will be playing a very important role in the days and weeks ahead. 

Governor Bush and I have had excellent meetings with the prime minister and with the foreign minister.  And our discussions will enable the United States to determine how it can best support Thailand‘s work to address this disaster.  We‘re already working closely and we will examine some of the areas that we discussed this morning that the minister has touched on, such as an early warning system and such as environmental expertise that we have that might be of assistance to the Thai government and other governments in the region to make sure that any environmental damage that has been caused can be repaired or at least mitigated. 

So, Mr. Minister, I just want to again assure you of the support of the American people and especially of the United States government. 

I should take note of all of the private contributions that are now being raised in the United States to assist in the effort.  And President Bush‘s announcement yesterday that former President Bush and former President Clinton will be leading this effort is further indication of the solidarity that we will show toward our Thai friends and to our other friends in the region who are in need. 

I would now ask Governor Bush to say a word.

GOV. JEB BUSH ®, FLORIDA:  Thank you, Secretary Powell and Mr.

Foreign Minister. 

I join Secretary Powell in offering our deepest sympathies and the sympathies of the President Bush and the first lady of the United States and the Thai people, and especially to the royal family who have suffered so greatly from the tsunami disaster. 

My home state of Florida suffered four hurricanes a few months ago and so we share this experience, because we know it will take a huge financial and human toll on the people of Thailand and in the region.  And the American people want to offer a helping hand.  Secretary Powell has mentioned the financial support through the military and through the government. 

But I can assure you, as we‘re speaking here today, literally hundreds of thousands of American citizens of all walks of life have been moved by this tragedy and are providing financial support, motivated by the announcement yesterday that the president made that both President—former President Bush, 41, as we call him in our family, and President Clinton, have agreed to serve as a catalyst for additional financial support. 

I received an e-mail this morning when I woke up from a regular e-mailer that writes me regularly, saying his granddaughter had, outside of a church, thanks to the help of her mom, baked cookies and raised $138 yesterday in support of the relief effort.  My guess is that, as we‘re here today, literally thousands of other acts of kindness like that are taking place in our country, because we‘ve been moved by the tragedy. 

And my hope is that, after the relief efforts, which you all have handled so well, subside, that the long-term recovery efforts will go well and that the United States, both the citizens of the United States, as well as our government, will be with you shoulder to shoulder to provide support. 

Thank you for hosting us. 

SATHIRATHAI:  Thank you. 

We‘ll now take questions from members of the press.  Because of the time constraint, we‘ll have time for about four questions.  The first question will be from the Thai press.

And before you ask your question, please state your name and affiliation.  Also indicate the person to whom you‘re addressing the question to. 

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) 

QUESTION:  (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) microphone.  

QUESTION:  (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The question is directed at the minister of foreign affairs.  Regarding the assistance that the United States will provide to Thailand in terms of technical assistance and warning system.  What form would they actually take? 

SATHIRATHAI:  Well, we—in Thailand, we have set up the special task force on this issue of early warning system and monitoring system headed by the former D.T. of the Department of Meteorology.  He‘s now the vice minister. 

So, we have to set up this task force comprised of experts from Thailand.  So, we would like to see if the United States can provide us with experts to be working together...

CASONE:  And good evening again.  I‘m Cheryl Casone at MSNBC.

We‘ve been listening to a joint press conference being held by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and the foreign minister of Thailand—the secretary of state, Mr. Powell, and the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, touring the area, looking at the devastation and trying to offer American support and help in surveying the damage, the tsunami damage that has happened over these last eight days or so. 

I‘m Cheryl Casone.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now here‘s something that we in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY thought you‘d want to know. 

Last week‘s tragic passing of NFL legend Reggie White raised public awareness of largely unknown illness, sleep apnea.  Now, this condition affects more than 18 million Americans.  And doctors say that more than 90 percent of these cases go undiagnosed.  Now, those who suffer from the disorder may stop breathing for as long as a minute while they are asleep. 

And these events can occur up to 400 times during a normal night of sleep.  The pauses in breathing occur when the throat collapses, blocking air flow to the lungs.  And researchers say that sleep apnea can lead to heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, but it can be treated through surgery or changes in living habits. 

If you want to know some more information on sleep apnea or think that you may suffer from it, just log on to www.sleepapneainfo.com, where you can take a self-assessment test to see if you are one of the 90 percent of those untreated cases out there. 

Now, tragically, again, sleep apnea ended Reggie White‘s life, but it‘s a treatable disease.  And it‘s something that we thought you‘d want to know. 

Well, that‘s all we have tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  It‘s great to be back.  And I would love to hear what‘s on your mind as you enter 2005.  Give me an e-mail at Joe.MSNBC.com.  And, please, don‘t forget to see my good buddy Don Imus tomorrow morning.  He has got some great guests, including sportswriter Mike Lupica and CNBC‘s Tina Brown.

Chris Matthews is next.  We‘ll see you tomorrow. 

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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