updated 2/16/2005 2:33:46 PM ET 2005-02-16T19:33:46

Guest: David Jernigan, Nancy Zirkin, Sally Webster, Koren Zailckas, Bill Maher

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s special guest, comedian Bill Maher with his unique take on America. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required and only common sense allowed. 

Bill Maher is here in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to talk about whether there‘s a liberal elite, the president‘s plans, and what the deal is with Hollywood.  Are you ready for the news as only he can tell it? 

Plus, kids and alcohol, it‘s a national epidemic.  New studies show drinking can harm kids‘ memories and their ability to learn.  Are our children doing lasting damage to themselves?  And what can parents do about it? 

Then, why are Democrats afraid to give George Bush‘s judges an up-or-down vote?  Just a simple up-or-down vote, that‘s all we are asking for.  After all, it‘s about time. 

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Now to HBO‘s Bill Maher.  He‘s a guy who isn‘t afraid to tackle the burning issues on everything from celebrity scandals to political blunders. 

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”)

BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”:  First of all, if Osama bin Laden was captured and killed today, it would have the same effect on terrorism as Ray Kroc had dying for McDonald‘s. 

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  They have already built the franchises.  Ray Kroc doesn‘t need to be alive to sell more McDonald‘s hamburgers. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  The much-awaited new season of “Real Time With Bill Maher” starts this Friday on HBO with his guests Robin Williams and Senator Joe Biden. 

And Bill is with us here tonight. 

Hey, Bill, good to see you. 

MAHER:  Hey.  And Tommy Thompson is also going to be with us.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tommy Thompson.  That‘s big.  How could I forget the most electric guest that “Real Time” has had in how many years of existence now, two years?  How long you guys been doing this? 

MAHER:  Two years.  This is our third year.  Very funny, Mr.  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  But Tommy actually is a pretty straight shooter, especially now that he is not in the administration. 

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  I like to get people on their way out the door. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I always love talking to generals about two weeks before they retire, because they would lie the entire time out there:  Yes, we have got everything we want.  We love the president.  He has given us everything our troops need. 

Then, about two weeks before they got out of office, they would stop whispering to you and they would start telling you just how bad the Pentagon was to work for.  And it‘s about the same thing with politicians, too, isn‘t it? 

MAHER:  Isn‘t it a shame that the only people who can tell the truth are the ones who are not in office.  Like Governor—ex-Governor Gary Johnson.  Are you aware of him? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I am. 

MAHER:  I think he was the governor of New Mexico.  The only one in the country who can be so brave as to say marijuana should be legal, which should be a no-brainer, and yet it takes a guy who isn‘t in office to say something that benign. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t know that that‘s a no-brainer, Bill, but I will say that...

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  Yes, you do.  And if we weren‘t on the air, you would...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Come on. 

MAHER:  If we weren‘t on the air, you would agree with me. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t think so. 

MAHER:  Do you really think marijuana should be illegal? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I think that, just like alcohol, I don‘t think it helps people behind the wheel of a car.  I don‘t think it improves anything.

MAHER:  Well, but why is alcohol legal?  We don‘t organize our laws around what people might do if they are messed up.  We say, you are messed up, and then don‘t commit crimes.  But you are allowed to get messed up. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  What about the legalization of other drugs?  Do you think we should legalize cocaine?  You think we should legalize heroin? 

MAHER:  Let‘s just stick to marijuana, which has never killed anybody, never kills anybody. 

How come these drugs like aspirin, which kill 7,000 a year, alcohol kills hundreds of thousands, tobacco, they are legal, but the one that never killed anybody, that‘s not legal? 

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  You know, Joe, for a fact this is a no-brainer issue.  Anyway, we‘re...

SCARBOROUGH:  Come on, Bill.  We are talking about marijuana. 

Why don‘t we talk about Iraq?

MAHER:  OK. 

SCARBOROUGH:  The reason why I was looking forward to talking to you tonight was the fact—I remember I was on your show. 

MAHER:  Sorry.  I just got high before I came on and it just came out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I know.  It‘s just like eating you. 

MAHER:  No, we were talking...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You jabber a lot.  You just can‘t help yourself.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, no, I was on your show, though, right after the invasion of Iraq.  They showed pictures of Iraqi kids waving, especially in the Shia area.  And I remember you saying, you know, I was against the war, but you look at those pictures and it‘s hard to argue with some of the success that has happened over there. 

Did you have a twinge of deja vu off after the Iraqi elections?  Did you sit back and say, hey, wait a second, this may not be all bad? 

MAHER:  Well, I always said it might not all be—be all bad.  I certainly wasn‘t for going into Iraq.  But I always said I was 60-40 on it, because, first of all, you don‘t know how these things come out.

But I do—I say, it‘s a big thing, this election.  I don‘t agree with the Democrats and the liberals who are pooh-poohing it and saying, oh, well, anybody can have an election.  No, no, no, no.  This is a big moment in their history.  And I think what it proves is that freedom, the president‘s rhetoric on freedom, a lot of it is sentimental.

But when you see pictures like that and people who are not jaded like we are, you realize, to them, it‘s not so sentimental.  And if the Republicans weren‘t so sentimental, it would allow the liberals, the Democrats, to be a little less cynical about the situation.  However...

SCARBOROUGH:  As a Democrat, though, don‘t you...

MAHER:  I am not a Democrat. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

I was just going to back up.  As somebody that supported John Kerry. 

MAHER:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Is not a big fan of George W. Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And hopes that somebody other than George Bush‘s appointed successor will take over in 2008, doesn‘t it drive you crazy when good news happens, like the Iraqi election, and you have got Democrats stumbling over themselves? 

MAHER:  No.  It doesn‘t drive...

SCARBOROUGH:  Not wanting to say a kind thing at all about what went on in Iraq? 

MAHER:  It doesn‘t...

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s shortsighted, isn‘t it?

MAHER:  It doesn‘t drive me crazy.  I am the one who has always said you can‘t work backwards from, I hate Bush.

And this election is a good day.  And like I said, it was Bush‘s war, but it‘s America‘s peace.  If it‘s going to go good in Iraq, that‘s good for us.  Now, it does not address the bigger problem necessarily of, are we safer?  We could have a democracy in Iraq and still not be safer.  We could have a democracy in Iraq, and Iraq still, I believe, has inspired a worldwide jihad that may not have been there before. 

After 9/11, I don‘t know how many more suicide bombers were ready to

attack America.  Maybe they ran out of them at that point.  Maybe they got

their shot in, and they weren‘t going to attack us anymore, and they were -

·         I think what bin Laden, by attacking us on 9/11, was hoping to do was inspire the kind of reaction that he got, with us going into an Arab country, into the heart of the Arab world and occupying it, that then did inspire thousands and thousands of young men to want to take up arms against America.

So, in the long run, it may not have been a good thing, but it is a good thing for Iraq, and it is a big moment in Iraq.  It changed the entire psychology in that country.  I don‘t care if they were voting for whoever they were voting for.  It wasn‘t about the voting.  It was about people coming out of their homes and seeing each other and saying, oh, you know what?  There‘s a lot of people like me out here who want a real country. 

I think people forget that cities like Baghdad, cities like Damascus, Beirut, Cairo, even Tehran, these could be European cities if they would get out of the mantle of religion a little bit, out from under it.  So I think what you are seeing in this part of the world may be a transformation.  And Bush may have been right about transforming democracy in the Middle East. 

Now, does that absolve the fact that he went to war under false pretenses?  Does it excuse the fact that the war was conducted in a horribly incompetent way that cost many lives on our side, on their side?  Does it excuse his ignoring terrorism before 9/11?  Does it excuse his dismal record on the environment and a lot of other issues, running up the debt?  A lot what...

SCARBOROUGH:  How many issues are you—many issues are you going to bring up for me to respond to? 

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  I am just saying, he had a good day, and this could work, and he could have been right about Iraq, absolutely.  But he also has left a lot of ticking time bombs under the table. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we could talk about the environment.  We could talk about the debt.  We could talk about a lot of other issues.  I agree with you.  There are a lot of time bombs out there that are going to go off, the demographic explosion that‘s going to go off 20, 30 years.

But I want to go back to what you said about Osama bin Laden, though, and the future of the war on terror.  I think if you look at the Middle East, because you—because, in effect, what you have said is, George Bush has helped recruit a lot more terrorists for Osama bin Laden, and that‘s what he was hoping to do 9/11.  Look at the Middle East, though, pre-9/11 and where we are right now. 

I mean, pre-9/11, you had the Taliban in charge of Afghanistan.  They were shielding Osama bin Laden and his terror network.  You had Iraq with Saddam Hussein.  You had the Middle East.  You had the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and turmoil.  Now it looks like we may be on a breakthrough in Israel and Palestine.  You got the president of the United States—forget whether he is a Republican or Democrat—talking about Israel and Palestine—that‘s the word he uses, Palestine—living side by side peacefully. 

MAHER:  OK. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You have got women actually voting in Afghanistan.  You have got democracy possibly being planted in Iraq.  I mean, that is a big change.  That is not Osama bin Laden‘s hope post-9/11, is it? 

MAHER:  OK.  Well, first of all, you lumped in the Taliban with Saddam Hussein, as if Saddam Hussein was part of the religious fundamentalist terrorist problem that we were facing, which, of course...

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m...

MAHER:  Which, of course, he wasn‘t.  And the reason why things have changed in the Middle East—in Palestine, rather—is because Yasser Arafat died.  So, let‘s not give Bush credit for things that he really didn‘t have a hand in. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, actually, in Israel, I would give that credit to Sharon, also, because, again, the man that the press loves to hate said, enough is enough.  We are going to go after terrorists.  We‘re going to blow up Hamas leaders in the middle of the street and we‘re going to keep hunting them down and killing them until they stop blowing up our kids. 

MAHER:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And guess what?  Hamas all of a sudden got so scared, they said, we are not going to tell you who our leaders are.  And now they are talking about actually sitting down and working, not with the Israelis, but with Palestinian authorities.  That would have never happened if they would have said, please, stop blowing us up and we will give you half of Jerusalem. 

MAHER:  Oh, I couldn‘t agree with that.  I am very hard-core on Israel. 

And isn‘t it amazing when you hear the news reports week after week when that was going on, and it was always a senior Hamas leader was killed, a senior?  How many senior Hamas leaders are there? 

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  I think they are like ABC.  They are very top-heavy with executives. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I agree with you. 

But let‘s talk about—again, you say Saddam Hussein wasn‘t a terrorist.  Certainly, you will agree with me that he had a state that was Stalinistic.  He tried to get nuclear weapons twice in the 1990s.  In 1998, he admitted that he had weapons of mass destruction.  The U.N. agreed on that.  Even France right before the war said, you know what, we think he has got weapons of mass destruction.  Let‘s just play it out a little bit longer. 

I mean, don‘t you think that America and the world is safer with Saddam Hussein in jail, instead of running Iraq? 

MAHER:  No.  No.  Iraq is safer.  The people who were in Saddam‘s prisons are better off.  Yes, I agree with that.  If you were being tortured by Saddam Hussein or had to live under that dictatorship, yes, you are better off. 

That‘s a whole different kettle of fish than, is the world better off?  No, the world may not be better off, because, as I said, it inspired a worldwide jihad.  And it doesn‘t matter about whether bin Laden is alive or dead.  He has excited all the Arab young men in the world who have nothing better to do than direct their attention toward somebody they hate, which would be us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Bill Maher.

MAHER:  And...

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill Maher, stay with us.  I‘m sorry.  We have got to go to break, but we are going to have a lot more with you, let you finish that thought. 

Also, we are going to be talking about Chris Rock raising eyebrows by making digs about that Oscars, also talking about Michael Jackson getting sick at his trial today. 

And we are going to ask Bill to weigh in on Hollywood and help those of us in flyover space understand it better.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Up next, more with Bill Maher and whether he agrees with the editorial page of “The New York Times” that evangelicals are taking America back to the Dark Ages.

That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

If you really look at it closely, a land that really, if you really look at it closely, is occupied by a disproportionate share of evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews, conservative Catholics, the demographic breakdowns that Bill Maher really loves talking about. 

Now, Bill‘s new season of his new show “Real Time With Bill Maher” debuts this Friday on HBO.  Let‘s take another clip and look at it, where he shows no mercy toward the president. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER:  IN August of 2001, the month before we were attacked, you remember, he spent the entire month at the ranch because he had to make that big decision about stem cells, and he had to think about it for a month. 

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  The red states were very impressed.  He is down there thinking. 

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  And while he was thinking about this moronic issue of stem cell, because some microscopic goo might one day grow up to be a Republican. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Kind of harsh, Bill.  Kind of harsh. 

MAHER:  You know, I have been on vacation, Joe.  I forgot how funny and right I am. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How funny and right you are. 

MAHER:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, let‘s talk about—I always love a guy that can laugh at his own jokes. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, anyway, let‘s talk about something that Gary Wills wrote.  And I think Maureen Dowd echoed with sentiment.

After the election when we found out that 22 percent of Americans, based on some exit polls, said morality was their top issue, Gary Wills said that any country with evangelicals that voted for George Bush who believe in the virgin birth more than they believe in evolution can‘t be an enlightened nation. 

And Gary Wills basically compared America to al Qaeda.  That‘s a little harsh, isn‘t it? 

MAHER:  That is too harsh. 

SCARBOROUGH:  People of faith can step forward, get involved in the process, believe in Jesus, and still vote for George Bush without being an ignorant peasant, can‘t they? 

MAHER:  Well, I think comparing them to al Qaeda is too harsh, but that‘s because al Qaeda is a terrorist organization.

But do we have more in common—and I am not the first one to say this.  I have read this many times.  We have more in common with the people, some of the nations who we are aligned against, when you look at beliefs in such things as, do you go to heaven, is there a devil, we have more in common with Turkey and Iran and Syria than we do with European nations and Canada and nations that, yes, I would consider more enlightened than us. 

Yes, we are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion.  I do believe that.  I think that religion stops people from thinking.  I think it justifies crazies.  I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative.  I think religion is a neurological disorder.  If you look at it logically, it‘s something that was drilled into your head when you were a small child.  It certainly was drilled into mine at that age.  And you really can‘t be responsible when you are a kid for what adults put into your head. 

But when you become an adult, you can then have it drilled out.  And you should. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you are saying that the millions and millions of Americans who go to church every week or go to synagogue...

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  Have a neurological disorder, yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Have a neurological disorder.  So I—so, so...

MAHER:  It‘s something that happened to them when they were a child. 

They were told...

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, I believe in Jesus.  I believe in heaven.  I believe in hell.  I believe in good. 

MAHER:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I believe in evil. 

Tell me how that neurological—and I am talking about myself.  How does that neurological disorder impact me day in and day out?  Because some people would argue it actually makes me healthier, makes me a better member of society, makes sure that I respect other people‘s opinions. 

MAHER:  Are you kidding?  Respect other people‘s opinions? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

MAHER:  Would we be having this debate about whether gay people can lead their lives just like any other people if it wasn‘t for religion?  Religion makes people not respect other people‘s lives. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, come on.  I mean, you look at all of these states.  You can look at Missouri.  Like, they had a vote on a referendum on gay marriage.  My gosh, what, 70 -- I think 70, 75 percent of the people in Missouri voted against gay marriage.  That wasn‘t because 75 percent of the people in Missouri are evangelicals. 

What about the people that beat Matthew Shepherd to death in Wyoming?  You think they were worshipping Jesus before they went out and beat him to death? 

MAHER:  Well, no, but why are you conflating those two things?  It‘s one thing to beat someone to death.  That‘s just a crime. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Because they‘re gay.  No, no, it was hatred of him because he was guy. 

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  I understand that.

But, first of all, I think the vote in Missouri and a lot of other states is because people are religious.  They don‘t have to be evangelical, but they‘re religious.  They believe in religion, which as—I think it was Jesse Ventura who had that quote about religion is a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I think Hitler also said that. 

MAHER:  No, not—well, Jesse...

SCARBOROUGH:  No.  Hitler said something—I remember when I heard Jesse Ventura saying that, I said, God, that sounds an awful lot like Adolf Hitler, doesn‘t it? 

MAHER:  Well, you know, even a broken watch is right twice a day right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So Hitler was right.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  The point is, well, even Ted Kaczynski was right about a couple of things.  It doesn‘t mean I agree that he should be blowing things up.  Tim McVeigh had some good points.  It doesn‘t mean I agree with his method of putting those points across. 

But when people say to me, you hate America, I don‘t hate America.  I love America.  I am just embarrassed that it has been taken over by people like evangelicals, by people who do not believe in science and rationality.  It is the 21st century.  And I will tell you, my friend.  The future does not belong to the evangelicals.  The future does not belong to religion.  And I know that...

SCARBOROUGH:  I would actually—I would argue actually just the opposite. 

MAHER:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  If you look at historical trends, you look what‘s happened since the 1960s to right now, actually, America has become more evangelical. 

MAHER:  Yes, but it‘s..

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, gosh, when you look at the Grammy Awards, and this guy gets out and he sings rap—he raps to “Jesus Walks,” the whole place goes crazy.  A guy picks up three yards in a football game, he kneels.  I would say evangelicals are on the ascendancy. 

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  That‘s another religion why religion disgusts me, because it is arrogance parading as humility. 

There is nothing humble about somebody getting up there and saying, thank you, God, for this award.  What they are really saying is, thank you, God, for making me so wonderful and so talented.  But, that aside, when you were a kid and they were telling you whatever you believe in religion, do you think if they had switched the fairy tales that the read to you in bed with the Bible, you would know the difference? 

Do you think if it was the fairy tale about a man who lived inside of a whale and it was religion that Jack built a beanstalk today, you would know the difference?  Why do you believe in one fairy tale and not the other?  Just because adults told you it was true and they scared you into believing it, at pain of death, at pain of burning into hell. 

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  But if you ever were able to clear your...

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t believe in Jesus—no, I don‘t believe in Jesus because I think I am going to live with angels and harps.  If you really think about it for a long time, actually, the concept of eternal life is more frightening than the concept of eternal death.  I can‘t even comprehend eternal life. 

But I believe what I believe because of 41 years here on this Earth. 

And, again, I respect you not believing in God. 

MAHER:  But, Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t think that‘s a neurological defect on your part. 

MAHER:  First of all, I never said I didn‘t—I never said I didn‘t believe in God.  I said I don‘t believe in religion. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK. 

MAHER:  Religion is...

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s say Jesus Christ.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  Excuse me.  Religion is a bureaucracy between man and God. 

There‘s a very big difference. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I can agree with you—I agree with you about that. 

But I‘m talking about...

MAHER:  But, Joe, if you were born in Pakistan, you wouldn‘t have been

·         you wouldn‘t be believing in Jesus Christ right now.  You would be believing in Muhammad.  So it‘s completely and terribly arbitrary, isn‘t it?          

               

SCARBOROUGH:  I wasn‘t born in Pakistan, so I don‘t know if that‘s the case or not. 

MAHER:  But, if you had been, you wouldn‘t be believing in Jesus Christ.  You would have been told another fairy tale when you were a child and you would believe that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Bill, that‘s your opinion. 

Stick around.  We will be right back with much more.  I disagree. 

You are watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where Jesus freaks like me hang out.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We have got more with Bill Maher coming up.  Plus, binge drinking and teenagers, how it can haunt them later in life and what you can do to stop it.

But, first, we got the latest news your family needs to know 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:  Hey, we are back now with the host of HBO‘s “Real Time,” Bill Maher.  He‘s also working on a new book called “New Rules,” based on a segment, a great segment in the show. 

Bill, thanks again for being with us. 

MAHER:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  Speaking of new rules, there‘s a new rule in Hollywood, I guess, in these celebrity trials, that you try to pack as many stars on your witness list as possible.  Michael Jackson...

MAHER:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, you talk about a guy with a mental problem.  Why weren‘t you on that list? 

MAHER:  You know what?  I was blowing my agent out about that today, Joe.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  I was like, what am I, chopped liver out here? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  I mean, we got—go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  I saw that Liz Taylor and Corey Feldman.  I don‘t know whether it‘s a trial or Studio 54 reunion. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, Stevie Wonder, Corey Feldman, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, unbelievable. 

MAHER:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Unbelievable.  Go ahead.

MAHER:  And what are they going to testify, that they were never molested by him?  I don‘t see their relevance, except for the people who were child stars at the time that they were visiting Neverland. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That he never touched them. 

Let me ask you, in closing, Chris Rock, a little dust-up over the Oscars.  He said he was—he said such things as he loves abortion, loves going to abortion rallies because he knows that women will be there that like sex, also said things like that he was scared of white men in patriotic hats.  You think this guy is going to be a victim of political correctness or will he end up hosting the Oscars after all? 

MAHER:  Oh, of course he is going to end up hosting the Oscars.  And thank God he is. 

This town needs, this country needs a breath of fresh air like that.  Not to get back on the religious subject, but we do live in a puritanical society lately, the Super Bowl nonsense.  People are just way, way too sensitive.  And it is again—we have talked about this before—what I call fake outrage.  There‘s nothing that angers me more than fake outrage, people who are not...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, come on, Bill!  What are you talking about? 

Bill Maher...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  No, that‘s just loud outrage. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s loud.  Exactly. 

Thanks for being with us, Bill. 

MAHER:  All right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Looking forward to seeing you next time I‘m in your backyard in Hollywood. 

MAHER:  All right.  Take care, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Talk to you soon.  Bill Maher, thanks for joining us. 

Turning now to a serious subject, teens and binge drinking.  It‘s a major problem in our country.  And a new study shows that teens who abuse alcohol have problems with memory and other brain functions and the problems could last into their adult years. 

With me now, we‘ve got Koren Zailckas.  She‘s the author of “Smashed,”

a new book about her own drinking as a teenager.  We also have Sally

Webster.  She‘s founder of T-DUB, which stands for Teachers, Drinkers and -

·         Teaching Drinkers and nondrinkers Useful Behaviors.  Her 19-year-old son, Taylor, died tragically of alcohol poisoning three years ago.  And we also have David Jernigan.  He‘s the research director for the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University. 

Koren, let‘s begin with you.  Why don‘t you tell us your story?  What inspired you to write your book? 

KOREN ZAILCKAS, AUTHOR, “SMASHED”:  I wrote “Smashed” because, right before I was about to graduate from Syracuse University in 2002, two reporters from “TIME” came through campus because they were researching a story about why girls were drinking younger and more than ever before.

And the answer they came up with was that we are drinking more because we are so liberated and so self-confident and we want to compete with men.  And that was never the case in my own life.  And I drank to mask my lack of self-confidence, and I was the girliest girl alive.  So, I was not drinking to compete with men.

So writing “Smashed” was just about examining the phenomenon through the lens of my own experience. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, tell us about the low point of your own experience.  When you write a book called “Smashed,” obviously you battled binge drinking at Syracuse and in high school.  What was your low point? 

ZAILCKAS:  There were a couple.  One was in high school, when I was 16 years old, and my dad carried me into the hospital to have my stomach pumped after drinking too much. 

Another was waking up in a stranger‘s apartment in New York City, when I was 22 years old.  So there were a few. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How prevalent was it among your friends and among people that you went to college with, other women in particular, this sort of binge drinking that you were talking about? 

ZAILCKAS:  It was very prevalent.  All of my drinking was really social.  It was done with my girlfriends, not my male friends.  And they were all black belt drinkers.  They were big, big drinkers. 

SCARBOROUGH:  When you say blacked-out drinkers, you mean they would sit there and consume how much alcohol before they just passed out? 

ZAILCKAS:  It ranged, but it was binge drinking.  It was four or more drinks in a row, and it was drinking for the explicit purpose of getting drunk. 

Sally Webster, you lost your son tragically to binge drinking three years ago.  Did you have any clues that Taylor was having a problem battling drinking or alcoholism before his tragic death? 

SALLY WEBSTER, TEACHING DRINKERS/NON-DRINKERS USEFUL BEHAVIOR:  Joe, we knew that Taylor did like to drink a lot.  We talked a lot about it at home.  He knew that we did not condone his drinking.  He had moved out of the house just three months before he died. 

He would always tell us that he would be safe, his friends would be safe.  He wouldn‘t do this when he grew up.  It was just a stage that he was going through.  We did know that he did like to drink. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why do you think Taylor and his other friends would go out, like to drink?  Do you think there‘s a part of our culture now that encourages this more, even more than when I was growing up in the ‘70s and the ‘80s or you were growing up? 

WEBSTER:  I think a lot of it has to do with the advertising that we see.  It‘s very idealized.  The young people just also feel that it gives them a lot more self-confidence, gives them the ability to talk to other people a lot easier.  For Taylor, it was to be able to talk to young ladies a lot easier than he could without drinking. 

SCARBOROUGH:  David Jernigan, you have studied this.  I can ask you the same thing.  Do we have more binge drinking these days than we had back in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, from teenagers and people in college, or is it about the same? 

DAVID JERNIGAN, CENTER OF ALCOHOL, MARKETING AND YOUTH:  What we have is a huge problem. 

If we look at this issue over the last 10 years, basically, despite an enormous amount of effort at the local and state levels, we are still looking at about seven million kids underage nationwide who report binge drinking.  And 92 percent of the alcohol drunk by 12- to 14-year-olds, 96 percent of what is drunk by 15- to 17- and 18- to 20-year-olds is drunk on binge drinking occasions. 

Young people are primarily drinking to get drunk. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I sit at home on the weekends whenever I get a chance, and I will watch football games with my sons or I will watch baseball games with my sons.  And when I was 13, 14, 15 -- when my boys—

I‘m sorry—were 13, 14, 15 years old, you would have these commercials that would come on that would basically send a message, drink our beer, have hot twins hanging out with you. 

And I will just be blunt.  I am talking about the Coors commercials that were especially offensive to me not because they offended me personally, but because I was sitting next to teenagers who were watching them.  Isn‘t there a clear correlation?  Here‘s a Miller Lite ad that we are showing.  And there‘s a clear correlation.  Drink beer, have sex with hot women. 

JERNIGAN:  Well, and there is stronger and stronger research that shows that these ads are influencing kids‘ decisions to drink and how much kids drink. 

What our studies have found is that these ads are placed over and over again on programs, in magazines, on radio stations where kids are more likely to be in the viewing, listening or reading audience than adults.  And part of the problem this creates for parents is that, as parents, we are completely out of touch with so much of what our kids are being exposed to. 

Take the magazine advertising.  People of parents‘ generation are only half as likely—that is, kids are twice as likely, underage kids are twice as likely to see the ads in magazines as parents—people of their parents‘ age. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Thanks so much, David, Sally, Koren.  We greatly appreciate you being with us. 

And coming up next, I‘ve got issues—right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, it was 73 degrees and sunny in Florida in my hometown today, but I‘ve still got issues. 

I have got issues first with Eason Jordan.  And who doesn‘t?  it turns out that the former CNN chief did more than just ruin his career at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  Actually, he found a new girlfriend, also.  Jordan, who said the U.S. military targets journalists in Iraq for killing, has hooked up with blonde bombshell Sharon Stone.  “The New York Daily News” reported today that sparks flew when the two were seated next to each other at dinner in Switzerland just one day after Jordan‘s inflammatory remarks. 

And within a week, Jordan was calling the “Basic Instinct” beauty his girlfriend.  Hey, you got to hand it to this guy.  He loses a high-powered job.  He faces international ridicule, and he still comes out on top. 

And I have got issues with “Playboy”‘s top five list of albums by U.S.  senators.  John Kerry‘s high school band, The Electras, came out on top.  And albums by Robert Byrd, the former Klansman, and Orrin Hatch rounded out the top five.  Hatch even collects $25,000 a year in royalties for his “Jesus‘ Love is Like a River” album.

But conspicuously absent from the list was anything by John Ashcroft, as well as the great 1998 album by my band, Regular Joe.  Now, I know the list was just for senators.  But in the spirit of inclusiveness, come on.  I think an exception should have been made. 

And, finally, I have got issues with story regarding Charlie Rangel

calling Bill Clinton a redneck.  Now, in an interview, Congressman Rangel

refers to the former president as a redneck.  And America is shocked.  Hey,

look, the guy‘s name is Bubba.  And, as you know from last night‘s show,

the South has an obesity problem because of our affinity for fried and fast

food.  How many times have we joked about Bill Clinton‘s love of McDonald‘s

·         before his bypass surgery, that is? 

If you haven‘t figured out that Bill Clinton is a redneck through and through, then you just haven‘t been paying attention. 

Switching gears now, President Bush is sending to the Senate the names of 20 judicial nominees, some of them the same names that Senate Democrats blocked during the president‘s first term.  Now, the Democrats didn‘t even allow them to get a vote through filibuster, but is the president picking a fight or standing up for the people that he believes will serve the nation best? 

With me to talk about it is Nancy Zirkin.  She‘s the deputy director of the Conference on Civil Rights. 

Nancy, thanks for being with us tonight. 

NANCY ZIRKIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL RIGHTS: 

Hi, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And tell me, what—do you think these judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote by those members of the Senate? 

ZIRKIN:  I think that the Senate has a responsibility to advise and consent.  It‘s clearly articulated in the Constitution.  And it‘s well known that senators should review all records and make the best judgment they can. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.  They should review all records.  But, at the same time, though, you are talking about advise and consent.  Did the Constitution ever say anything about needing a supermajority of 60 votes for a federal nominee—a judicial nominee to take the bench? 

ZIRKIN:  The fact is that the Constitution is silent on all Senate rules.  But the issue here is consultation, not confrontation.  And, unfortunately, President Bush has chosen the route of confrontation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Pat Leahy had to say this during the Clinton years when the roles were reversed.  And, of course, we are talking about the Vermont senator. 

And this is what he had to say about voting on judges—quote—“I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported.”  And, of course, back then, Pat Leahy said it went against the Constitution. 

But Ted Kennedy, of course, had this to say about voting for judges in 1998, when Bill Clinton was doing the nominations—quote—“We owe it to Americans across the country to give these nominees a vote. If our Republican colleagues don‘t like them, vote against them.  But give them a vote.”

I agree, too, Nancy.  If that‘s the case, though, why are they now the ones that are the champions of the filibuster? 

ZIRKIN:  The fact is that, in the 1990s, it was the Republicans who stopped judges by a single senator.  Jesse Helms held up the entire 4th Circuit for years. 

Now, let me also say that this is relatively new history.  Until 1996, when many of the Clinton judges were stopped, there was really a give-and-take.  Orrin Hatch used a give-and-take in the selection of Supreme Court nominees in 1994.  He clearly told Bill Clinton who he would be willing to help through.  And Bill Clinton listened, even though it wasn‘t his first choice. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, though, Republicans, when they had Ruth Bader Ginsburg come before them for the Supreme Court, voted overwhelmingly for her, even though her position offended an awful lot of Republicans.  You could say the same thing about Stephen Breyer. 

ZIRKIN:  Correct.

SCARBOROUGH:  Don‘t you think, on high-level positions like that, that advise and consent means that they advise and consent the president, like you were talking about, but then, in the end, they do allow these judicial nominees to have an up-or-down vote? 

ZIRKIN:  I think the other piece of it is consultation. 

And, actually, Joe, you have mentioned the very two judges who Senator Orrin Hatch recommended.  And because he recommended them, and because he promised that he thought he could get them through, Bill Clinton changed his mind and actually appointed both of those justices.  And that‘s a very, very good example. 

We would really hope that kind of consultation is going to happen.  But, unfortunately, what we learned yesterday was that President Bush is bent on packing the courts with folks who are going to look to follow their ideology, not the law. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Bill Clinton appointed people that were ideologically to the left of many Americans, but, again, they got the up-or-down votes.  You say that the Constitution is silent on the rules of the Senate.  So you wouldn‘t have the objection if the Republicans interpreted the Constitution and the rules of their own chamber, then, to have what some are calling the nuclear option, where there‘s an up-or-down vote required for every judge and you can‘t filibuster and you can‘t kill them by procedural rules? 

ZIRKIN:  To eliminate the filibuster in the Senate would go back on almost 200 years.  The Senate was created in the Constitution, not like the House.  It was thought to be a body of equals.  And, at that time, any one member until 1917, in fact, could stop any business from actually moving forward. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Nancy Zirkin, thanks so much for being with us. 

ZIRKIN:  Thanks, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I appreciate it. 

ZIRKIN:  I appreciate it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We disagree on this. 

I personally believe that, again, there should be an up-or-down vote.  And I am going to make a prediction tonight.  I think that all of the president‘s nominees are going to have an up-or-down vote.  The Democrats will either allow that, or you will have the Republicans changing the rules of the Senate.  And when the Democrats get in power, they will do the same exact thing. 

Now, coming up next, a reporter gets really up close and personal with a subject.  You have got to see this one to believe it. 

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up next, the perils and pitfalls of being a reporter who gets a little too up close and personal with his subject. 

That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it‘s never been easy to be a reporter, but watch what happens when Eric Flack of WAVE-TV in Louisville, Kentucky, tries to question the owner of a local nutrition company about an alleged pyramid scheme. 

The reporter gets choked, punched and kicked.  I mean, who is protecting this guy‘s right to freedom of the press?  It turns out the reporter is now pressing charges and the company boss could be facing a fourth-degree assault and criminal mischief charges. 

And you thought things were rough in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I will tell you what.  It makes this dust-up about Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller going to jail look rather tame. 

Now, be sure to send your e-mails in to Joe@MSNBC.com or log on to our Web page at Joe.MSNBC.com.  Keep those e-mails coming. 

And thanks for watching tonight.  Make sure to stick around because “HARDBALL” is next.

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

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, 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 Voxant, 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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