updated 5/2/2005 2:11:21 PM ET 2005-05-02T18:11:21

Guest: Jim Kuhn, Edmund Morris, Gerald Posner, Lisa Myers, Ben Brandzel, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Jay Sekulow, David Oblon, Michael Harrison, G. Gordon Liddy

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline:  Liberal radio makes a joke about killing the president, and the White House is not amused. 

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH (voice-over):  The White House comes out firing after the liberal talk radio network Air America runs a skit about killing the president. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn‘t safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Gunshots fired at George Bush as part of an on-air joke.  And now reports are that the Secret Service is investigating.  What happened to the liberal network that was supposed to be the antidote to political hate speech? 

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They even claim that those of us who disagree with their point of view are waging war against people of faith. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And he is back and he‘s angry.  Al Gore joins with MoveOn.org to politically deep-six the president‘s judicial nominees, but will the former veep‘s heated rhetoric only end up hurting the Democrats?  That‘s tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown. 

And the great communicator in his own words.  Ronald Reagan‘s diaries are being published.  We are going to be talking to his official biographer, Edmund Morris, who is also the author of “Dutch.”  He will give us an inside glimpse at the life of Ronald Wilson Reagan. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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 tonight‘s show. 

Tonight, making jokes about killing the president, how the White House doesn‘t think it‘s a laughing matter.  Yesterday, liberal radio host Randi Rhodes from Air America network opened her show with a sketch so offensive that our network won‘t even let us play the entire skit for you, but here‘s a portion. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn‘t safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us.  Well, here‘s your answer, you ungrateful whelp. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, after that, you can hear the sound of four gunshots supposedly being unloaded into President Bush. 

Now, White House spokesman Scott McClellan was quick to comment today. 

This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I haven‘t heard anything about it until you just mentioned it, but it sounds very inappropriate and over the line to me, from the way you described it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And Randi Rhodes apologized today.  And Air America released a statement saying this—quote—“We are not under investigation from the Secret Service.  We regret that a produced comedy bit that was in bad taste slipped through our normal vetting process.  We do acknowledge that it was an internal error.  And internal discipline will be enforced.”

With me now to talk about this, about making jokes and threats to the president of the United States are radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy.  We also have Michael Harrison.  He‘s the publisher “Talkers” magazine, the bible for talk radio, and also First Amendment attorney David Oblon.

Let me begin with you, Michael. 

There‘s vitriol, as you know, up and down the radio dial.  But when

Air America launched last year, host Al Franken said that his network would

be a kinder, gentler talk radio network.  And this is what he says—quote

·         “Right-wing radio doesn‘t appeal to people‘s better side.  It appeals to their angry side.”  And he also said Air America would be different. 

Michael, by that standards, judge Air America, and Randi Rhodes, who I understand is one of their more popular talk show hosts. 

MICHAEL HARRISON, “TALKERS”:  Well, first of all, I am not sure whether Randi Rhodes even knew that was going to happen.  She might have been caught by surprise.  I haven‘t been informed yet as to what the origin of that produced bit happened to be. 

It‘s a very unfortunate situation.  There‘s no excuse for it.  You shouldn‘t make jokes about shooting the president.  It‘s against the law.  The Secret Service moves in quickly whenever something like that happens.  But it should be kept in mind that something like that could happen with any kind of network, any kind of station.  and to go and call it liberal talk radio has done this or Air America has done this, some producer did it.  And that producer could have been working for a conservative network, a liberal network, or just any old radio station.

And I think that people should keep in mind that it was an accident.  They did apologize.  And, internally, whoever was responsible for it should pay the price, because there‘s no excuse.  But this is not necessarily a liberal thing or an Air America thing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Michael, as I said, Michael, you find vitriol up and down the radio dial.  In fact, I think we can stay away from ideology.

But talking specifically about Randi Rhodes, this isn‘t the first time

that she joked about assassination.  Last year, “New York Daily News”

columnist Michael Goodwin described listening to her show one day.  And he

said this—quote—“Rock bottom came when she compared Bush and his

family to the Corleones in the ‘Godfather‘ saga.”  And she said, “‘Like

Fredo, somebody ought to take him out fishing and phuw,‘ she said,

‘imitating the sound of gunfire.‘”

HARRISON:  If, in fact, that‘s the case, if that‘s the case, then Randi Rhodes is not serving her liberal cause very well and is creating embarrassment for others of that ideology, who will now be soiled by those remarks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  David, this is a skit.  This is political humor.  They are making—they are poking fun at the president of the United States.  Some people may say, hey, grow up.  The Secret Service certainly should know, the president should know that these comedians aren‘t really trying to encourage people to kill the president of the United States.  As a First Amendment attorney, what do you say to them? 

DAVID OBLON, FIRST AMENDMENT ATTORNEY:  Well, the First Amendment answer is the question of whether this is satire or incitement.

And, as you are alluding to, it appears that it‘s clearly satire.  Incitement is determined if there‘s a clear and present danger, that she is encouraging her audience to actually go and kill the president.  And that‘s not what is really happening here.  We can take a look at this through a court opinion back in 1969. 

It was Watts vs. United States.  In that case, a Vietnam protester wanted to protest his drafting, and he said, if I get a rifle, I would like to put the president in my sights.  And the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that he could not be prosecuted for that statement, because it was mere hyperbole. 

SCARBOROUGH:  G. Gordon Liddy, are conservatives guilty of similar hate speech on their shows? 

G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, if they are, I certainly haven‘t heard of it.

And one of the jobs I had in my misspent youth was Enforcement Legislative Counsel of the Treasury, and we had under us the United States Secret Service.  And given the assassinations that have occurred and the attempted assassinations that have occurred, something like this is treated the way the people who are searching people to get on the airplane treat somebody talking about a bomb. 

They don‘t like it.  They are very concerned about it.  And it causes the Secret Service to have to expend a lot of time and energy to ascertain, OK, this was just a joke, albeit one in very bad taste.  So, while I don‘t think there is going to be any prosecution warranted on it, certainly, the persons responsible for doing it should be fired. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, an HBO documentary, “Left of the Dial,” caught this statement from Randi Rhodes on her first day on the air.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “LEFT OF THE DIAL”)

RANDI RHODES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Because of the state of the media, George W. can announce that Satan is his campaign manager, and still the votes will be in, at least at the FOX News network, and they will announce that the winner is George Satan and use it.

Clinton, he had sex.  George is going to have sex with something, but it‘s going to be the world, if you know what I mean.  I can‘t say the word.  But, you know, you want to talk about somebody that is going to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the world, he is the guy who is going to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the world. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  George Satan. 

Is that what it takes, Mr. Liddy, to succeed in talk radio, whether you are a liberal or a conservative? 

LIDDY:  No, I don‘t think it is at all.  I have succeeded without

averting to things like that, and so have people like Sean and Rush and

what have you.  It‘s just bad taste, however.  But bad taste is protected

by the United States Constitution‘s First Amendment. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you, Michael, again, going back to this question, it seems, again, that, you know, when Air America launched, they talked about being kinder and gentler.  In fact, when they launched, NBC quoted Al Franken as saying this: “The mission of the show and the network is to get a foothold of the terrain that‘s been controlled by conservative talk radio.  And it‘s about time we fought back and answered them.  They do it by lying and distorting and bluster and bile.  We‘re going to do it by telling the truth.”

Now, Michael, this isn‘t the first time that Air America appears to have aped some—let‘s just say some more harsh conservative talk show hosts, and again, it seems like there‘s a lot of bile going on, on both sides, doesn‘t there? 

HARRISON:  My view has always been that the media should be more independent and not be so quick to attach itself to either the Democrats or the Republicans.

And any time one seems to have a dominant role in the media, I always root for the other to balance the scales.  And Mr. Liddy has had his own experiences being misunderstood in the media and being called a hate talk show host when, in fact, he is quite a nice gentleman, and I defended him at that time. 

I think there‘s a huge difference between the opening statement that Randi Rhodes made calling the president Satan and making a joke about shooting the president.  Both may be in bad taste, but people in broadcasting should know they shouldn‘t go on the air and make any kind of references or jokes about shooting the president.  That should just be off limits.  Making fun of the president or saying that he is going to have sex with the world, it might be raunchy, but that‘s satire.  That‘s political humor.  It‘s raw.  And it‘s provocative.  But it‘s OK with me. 

SCARBOROUGH:  G. Gordon Liddy, I remember, back in 1995, right after Oklahoma City, President Bill Clinton blamed conservative talk show radio hosts like you for the Oklahoma City attacks. 

Are you always going to have politicians on both sides of the White House lashing out at anybody who is against them? 

LIDDY:  Well, I suppose so.  Actually, it was quite a boost of my career to have President Clinton specify me, you know, rather than Rush at the time.  It didn‘t hurt my career any. 

And I don‘t, of course, have anything to do with the Oklahoma City bombing.  The Oklahoma City bombing, according to the bomber in his statements to the FBI did what he did on the anniversary of Waco as sort of a—some sort of tit-for-tat for Waco, for the massacre of the fundamentalist Christians by Janet Reno. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks a lot, G. Gordon Liddy.  Thank you, Michael Harrison.  Thank you, David Oblon.  We greatly appreciate you all being with us tonight. 

And, still to come, straight ahead, the fringe left, that‘s what some Democrats are calling MoveOn.org.  But they‘re jumping into the middle of the filibuster fight, and look who is leading the charge.  Is Al Gore really the savior of the Democratic Party? 

And then a major announcement about President Ronald Reagan‘s diaries.  What will we learn about the great communicator?  We are going to be talking to somebody who has actually read those diaries.  He‘s going to give us the inside scoop.

Don‘t go anywhere.  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is just getting started.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s back, and Al Gore is angry, blaming the Republican Party for starting what seems to be a theocratic war.  We‘re going to have that and much more straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE:  It is no accident that this assault on the integrity of our constitutional design has been fueled by a small group claiming special knowledge of God‘s will in American politics.  They even claim that those of us who disagree with their point of view are waging war against people of faith.  How dare they.  How dare they.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s back.  Al Gore was keynote speaker today in Washington at one of 160 rallies held around the country by MoveOn.org.  It‘s the liberal group that is jumping full force into the fight over faith and judges.  They say they are out to stop the president‘s judges from being confirmed.

But do mainstream Democrats even want MoveOn.org and Al Gore in their corner? 

With me to talk about it Ben Brandzel.  Ben is the advocacy director for the MoveOn Political Action Committee.  We also have Katrina Vanden Heuvel.  She‘s editor of “The Nation,” and also have Jay Sekulow of the American Center For Law and Justice. 

Ben, let me begin with you.  Do you agree with Al Gore that this is a battle between groups like MoveOn.org and Republicans who believe God is on their side? 

BEN BRANDZEL, MOVEON.ORG PAC:  I am not going to speculate on Republicans‘ beliefs about God being on their side. 

I know what they say, but this is really about a battle between those who want to preserve checks and balances in our democracy and those who don‘t.  At the moment, Republicans, some Republican leaders, like Senate Majority Bill Frist, are pandering to hard-right interests, including fundamentalists who do make those kinds of claims.

But this is not about religion vs. secularism.  It‘s about absolute power vs. the checks and the balances we have had in our country for 200 years. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Katrina, you know, I heard what Al Gore said today.  There‘s been a common thread that‘s gone through a lot of “New York Times” editorials, a lot of Democrats going on TV talking about a coming theocracy.

And yet, you have Howard Dean, obviously, the head of the Democratic National Committee, who had this to say about whose side Jesus was really on.  Let‘s go ahead and put up that full screen right now. 

He said that: “We need to talk about Christian values and how they‘re Democratic values.  The Democratic Party is the party of that value, not the Republican Party.” 

Can you think of a time when a Republican senator or a Republican National Committee leader has said that Jesus is on our side and we are the party of Jesus‘ values? 

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, “THE NATION”:  I think Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist did just that last Sunday when he allied himself with televangelical leaders and he basically said that honest policy differences are not that, but he smeared those who have honest policy differences as people of no faith, as if saying our God is better than your God. 

You know, Joe, I think a lot of people in this country are very scared

today.  They‘re scared because—and Republicans and conservatives alike -

·         that there are people controlling this government who would like to merge church and state.  The difference between a democracy and a theocracy is not necessarily secularism.  It‘s pluralism. 

And if those people are saying, our God is better than your God, we are going to impose our faith on this country in the laws and in the public‘s sphere, that is a very dangerous moment, and it‘s taking down what Ben was talking about earlier, the fundamental pillars of a democracy, that is, in an independent judiciary, rule of law, checks and balances. 

That is what is at stake here, not just the filibuster.  There‘s a much larger struggle for the heart and soul of a democratic America. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Katrina, you—again, you said the word theocracy and talked about the merging of church and state.  I have read it in “The New York Times.”  I have read it in “The Nation.”  I‘ve read it in a lot of magazines.

And yet I want to read this again, Howard Dean saying: “We need to talk about Christian values and how they‘re Democratic values.  The Democratic Party is the party of that value, not the Republican Party.” 

I have Googled it.  I Fact checked (ph) it.  For the life of me, I have never, ever read a similar quote from a Republican leader, claiming that Christian values are the values of the Republican Party, not the Democrats.  I just—I would like a specific example, if you can think of that. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I can think of Jerry Falwell.  I can think of Pat Robertson. 

JAY SEKULOW, CHIEF COUNSEL, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE: 

Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are not leaders of the Republican Party. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They were never elected to any post. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I can think...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Howard Dean runs the Democratic Party. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I can think of Senator John Cornyn, who essentially said that those judges who rule in ways that violate Christian values may deserve the retribution they get. 

SEKULOW:  No, that‘s not what John Cornyn said, actually.  So let‘s start...

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  His words were an incitement, were tantamount to incitement of violence. 

SEKULOW:  No, no, no, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Jay Sekulow, you respond. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  For violating Christian values. 

(CROSSTALK)

SEKULOW:  Look, first of all, no one wants to deal with what‘s really going on here, not the concern over creation of a theocracy.  How about senators doing their job and voting up or down?

You know, this discussion about a filibuster—and, Katrina, you all ignore this on your side.  And MoveOn.org certainly is not talking about this.  Let‘s talk about the history of the filibuster.  When was it most successfully utilized?  To block the ‘64 Civil Rights Act, which ended up starting in the 1950s and took eight years to get through because it was what?  Filibustered.

The Constitution of the United States says that the Senate is supposed to advise and consent.  The minority in the Senate that‘s not allowing these nominees to go to the floor of the Senate for a vote, up or down, are violating, in my view, their constitutional obligations.  And this filibuster is code word for taking.  That‘s what actually the word means.  It‘s a pirating.  And that‘s exactly what‘s happened here. 

And, look, I know Vice President Gore.  My wife and I had dinner with him not too long ago with he and his wife.  But let me tell you something.  He is trying to relive a case from 2000 called Bush vs. Gore.  But here‘s what happened.  He lost. 

(CROSSTALK)

SEKULOW:  And you don‘t get to block these judges because you disagree with their ideology.  I‘m sorry.  That‘s not the way the Constitution works. 

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But, Jay...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I would like a straight answer from you all, if I could get it. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Sure. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And I am going to ask each of you—and let‘s go quickly through it.

And I want to ask, can you think—And, Ben, let me start with you.  Can you think of a time—has there ever been a time in the history of the United States Senate, over 200 years, that appellate court judges have been blocked by filibuster? 

BRANDZEL:  Are you asking me? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, Ben.  Yes. 

BRANDZEL:  Oh, well, the filibuster has a long history of being used in the case of judicial nominations. 

SEKULOW:  Has it ever been used to block an appellate court nominee? 

Answer, never. 

BRANDZEL:  That‘s not accurate. 

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But that‘s not pertinent. 

SEKULOW:  It is true. 

(CROSSTALK)

BRANDZEL:  Look at the 60 federal nominees to federal bench that Bill Clinton put up from 1995 to 2000 that were blocked, denied a vote. 

SEKULOW:  None of them were filibustered. 

BRANDZEL:  By a filibuster by the Republicans. 

(CROSSTALK) 

BRANDZEL:  They were denied an up-or-down vote.  But you can go all the way back.  Look at Abe Fortas in 1968, nominated by Lyndon Johnson to be the... 

SCARBOROUGH:  Supreme Court justice. 

BRANDZEL:  Right.  Or look—it goes all the back to 1881, 200 years of this being used to block extreme judicial nominations and keep the courts fair. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.  Please stop.  Katrina, I‘m trying get—I want an answer on this.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Katrina, could I have an answer?  Is there any time in the history of the United States Senate that you can name when appellate court judges have ever been blocked by a filibuster? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I believe People For the American Way says that they have been blocked, but the more...

SEKULOW:  Never. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  The larger question, the larger question—and I agree with Jay that the filibuster as a tool has been used for good and bad purposes. 

But the fact that we are now talking about blasting away, getting rid of the filibuster with this nuclear option I think is gutting—is going to gut democracy.  And the key here is that we need an independent judiciary.  Finally, what is so striking is, these attacks on the judiciary from conservatives come at a time when the judiciary is quite conservative.  These aren‘t the times of, impeach Earl Warren.  These are times when 55 percent of the circuit and district courts in this country are made up of judges appointed by Republicans. 

There‘s something larger going on in the right wing‘s attack on the judiciary.  And I would argue it is to roll back the democratic rights and liberties of accountability, of checks and balances. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

BRANDZEL:  It‘s a quest for absolute power.

SCARBOROUGH:  Jay, let me—let me ask you the same question, Jay.  Has there ever been a time—and I know you have studied it.  Has there ever been a time when a filibuster has been used to do what the Democrats are doing to George Bush‘s nominees right now? 

SEKULOW:  Very quick answer, never. 

And the Abe Fortas example is incorrect, because Abe Fortas removed his own nomination from the floor of the Senate before vote was going to take place, so there was no filibuster. 

BRANDZEL:  That‘s incorrect.  There was a vote for cloture to end the filibuster. 

(CROSSTALK)

SEKULOW:  He did not have majority support on the floor of the Senate, withdrew himself. 

BRANDZEL:  He was never voted on the majority, but a majority voted for cloture.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Again, friends, friends, I am not talking about...

BRANDZEL:  Not a supermajority.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on, friends.  I‘m not talking about the United States Supreme Court. 

BRANDZEL:  Your facts are wrong.

SEKULOW:  There has never been one, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I am talking about, again...

(CROSSTALK) 

BRANDZEL:  So, let‘s look at the 60 appellate judges that Bill Clinton was blocked from getting a vote.

(CROSSTALK)  

SEKULOW:  None of them were filibustered.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Listen, we can‘t all talk at the same time. 

BRANDZEL:  They were denied an up-or-down vote.

SCARBOROUGH:  We can‘t all talk at the same time. 

The filibuster—listen—and, friends, by the way, if you have an example when the filibuster has ever, ever been used the way it‘s being used right now, then let me know at Joe@MSNBC.com, because I really would like somebody to come forward with a name where it‘s happened. 

Now, Ben, I want to move on to the bigger picture. 

BRANDZEL:  Sixty judges, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And I want to run an ad, if we could, run an ad that MoveOn.org, your organization, has put out there.  And I want to ask what‘s behind it.  Let‘s go ahead and run that ad right now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MOVEON PAC AD)

NARRATOR:  Republicans control the White House and the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Republican presidents appointed the majority of judges on most of our appeals courts.  But now the Republicans want absolute control of the entire government.  So they‘re planning to break the rules to get more extremist judges approved. 

A few courageous Republicans have said no to the radicals.  Will your senators have the same courage?  Call them. 

MoveOn PAC is responsible for the content of this advertisement. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Ben, is this the single most important political question facing Republicans and Democrats alike today? 

BRANDZEL:  It very well might be. 

We are talking about a fundamental institution in American history, 200 years of checks and balances that have kept our courts fair and our democracy strong.  And the Republicans are looking to break the rules in a way they have never been broken before to eliminate the filibuster.  It doesn‘t matter what side of the aisle you are on.  When the interests of the minority are that badly threatened, it‘s a very serious issue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks a lot, Ben.  Greatly appreciate it. 

Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Jay Sekulow, thank you also. 

Obviously, you know how I feel on it.  It‘s never happened before.  The minority has never, ever used the filibuster this way before.  But we are going to keep talking about it in the future and we are going to ask our guests back. 

Now, when it comes to the war on terror, is Saudi Arabia a friend or a foe?  Before you answer, you are going to want to hear some top-secret tapes that NBC News has uncovered. 

And, once again, I‘ve got issues with Michael Moore.  And I will show you why coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The president is caught on tape holding hands with Saudi leaders.  Laura Bush isn‘t concerned, but I am.  I‘ve got issues coming up.

But, first, here‘s the latest news that you and your family need to know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, I‘m Joe, I am into trans fat, and I‘ve got issues. 

My first issue tonight, Michael Moore supporters.  Now, after Moore failed four separate times to be elected to his former high school‘s Michigan Hall of Fame, his fans are trying to show something else to show their support.  They have started an online petition for the Davison City Council. 

And the petition reads as follows: “Davison should proudly post signs

at its city limits stating, ‘Welcome to Davison, home of Michael Moore.‘”

Hey, listen, I have got some advice for you.  If GM leaving Flint hurt the economy so badly, why cause further economic suffering by pointing out such embarrassing facts?  It will only scare off the kids and more visitors. 

Now, I also have got issues with uproar over the president‘s visit with Saudi Arabia‘s Prince Abdullah.  Now, Abdullah visited the president on his Crawford ranch Monday.  And all that members of the media have been able to talk about this week was how the two men were walking hand in hand.  Last night, Jay Leno asked the first lady if she had seen the president‘s friendly gesture.  And this is what she told Jay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  I saw it on the front page of the newspaper today. 

(LAUGHTER)

JAY LENO, HOST:  So you weren‘t shocked by that? 

BUSH:  No.

LENO:  No, no, huh?

BUSH:  It was actually very sweet. 

(LAUGHTER)

LENO:  Yes.  No, I know.  I‘m just...

(LAUGHTER)

LENO:  You are a very understanding wife.  That‘s a wonderful, understanding wife.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Like Laura, I have got no issues with this hand-holding, just the high price of oil and holding hands with the regime that seems to still have close ties to terrorists. 

And, on that point tonight, disturbing evidence there are powerful forces in Saudi Arabia working against the war on terror.  This time, the chief justice of Saudi Arabia‘s Supreme Judicial Council, he was caught on tape encouraging young Saudi men to go to Iraq and—quote—“join the fight against America.”

NBC News‘ senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, has the disturbing tale of that tape. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA MYERS, NBC CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Sheik Salih al-Luhaidan, seated here to the right of the crown prince, is chief justice of Saudi Arabia‘s Supreme Judicial Council.  His sermons and words carry great significance. 

In an audio tape secretly recorded at this government mosque last October and obtained by NBC News, Luhaidan encourages young Saudis to go to Iraq to wage war against Americans. 

SHEIK SALIH AL-LUHAIDAN, CHIEF JUSTICE, SUPREME JUDICIAL COUNCIL

(through translator):  If someone knows he is capable of entering Iraq and to join the fight and if his attention is to raise up the word of God, then he is free to do so.

MYERS:  He warns Iraq is risky because evil satellites and drone aircraft watch the borders.  But he says going is religiously permissible. 

AL-LUHAIDAN (through translator):  The lawfulness of his action is in fighting an enemy who is fighting Muslims and came for war.

MYERS:  The sheik also says those donating money to the fight in Iraq should be sure it actually helps the cause. 

ALI AL-AHMED, SAUDI DISSIDENT:  This statement shows the real face of Saudi government. 

MYERS:  This dissident says that, while Saudi officials, including this sheik, publicly oppose jihad in Iraq, privately, some send a different message. 

AL-AHMED:  He is telling Saudis it‘s OK to go to Iraq and kill Americans and Iraqis, and they won‘t be punished for doing that. 

MYERS (on camera):  A Saudi spokesman twice denied the tape was authentic, claiming Saudi intelligence analysts determined it was a crude fake.  So, NBC News called Luhaidan himself in Saudi Arabia and played the tape. 

(voice-over):  Luhaidan confirmed those were his words, saying, in Arabic, yes, this is my voice.  But the sheik said what he really meant was that it‘s not worth it for young Saudis to go to Iraq, and that the Iraqis are capable of fighting on their own. 

This week, Saudi Arabia‘s crown prince met with the president on economic issues, including oil prices.  And a White House official says the problem of extremism was raised.  Dozens of Saudis have been tied to suicide bombings and violence in Iraq.  And critics claim the Saudis are now dealing with their own problem with extremists by exporting some of them to Iraq. 

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  I am joined now by Gerald Posner.  He‘s the award-winning author of “Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11” and a new book out in May that is called “Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection.”

Welcome, Gerald. 

You know what?  We have been talking about this now for a year and a half, two years.  And it seems that while the Saudis keep talking about how they are against terrorism, we find one disturbing example after another about how that‘s just not the truth. 

GERALD POSNER, AUTHOR, “WHY AMERICA SLEPT”:  Oh, you are absolutely right, Joe. 

You know, the Saudis are doing the same thing they have done now for years, not just since 9/11, but even beforehand, and that is to have their cake, so to say, and to eat it as well.  They want to play both sides of the fence.  They want on the one side to be nice to the United States.  They come in, as the crown prince does and says, by the way, we will try to help you and the West out.  We‘ll keep oil prices a little bit lower.  We‘ll increase production.

Then, on the other hand, they sort of let the radical sheiks and clerics in the Wahabi faith, the most radical form of Islam in all the world, a form of Islam—it‘s the only country in the world where Islamic women can‘t even drive a car.  You can‘t get a driver‘s license there.  There‘s no other country that interprets the Koran like that.  And they let these clerics go ahead and call Christians crusaders.

They say, by the way, we have got to fight the crusaders.  Threat over in Iraq.  They call Jews the infidels and that they are the devil.  And once in a while, they crack down on the clerics.  They moved about 100 of the worst of them out of their positions in different mosques.  But, on the other hand, they turn a blind eye to this all the time. 

And, eventually, an American president, whether it‘s Bush or somebody else, Joe, is going to have to stand up and say, you can‘t have it both ways. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But they don‘t do that, Gerald.  I mean, we just saw pictures of Donald Rumsfeld, our secretary of defense, bowing down to the Saudi royals.

You and I both know, again, that they are nodding and winking to terrorists in their own kingdom, telling us that they are doing the best they can do, and yet we continue to—again, we scrape and bow.  Is it in the end all about oil? 

POSNER:  No question about it.  I will tell you, Joe, there‘s no doubt.

In going back, doing the book that I am just doing on “Secrets of the Kingdom,” if it was not for oil and the power of that oil, we wouldn‘t for a second tolerate some of the things that are going on.  A perfect example, since 9/11, the Treasury Department has been working hard and sending emissaries over to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and essentially begging the Saudi officials to help enforcement of the charities that take in hundreds of millions of dollars from Muslim charities around the world, some of which have been branded as terrorist organizations, which are actually sending money out to some of the most radical of the Wahabi clerics around the world and funding, in some cases, like Bosnia, actual terrorist activities.

And all we are getting is what I call a half-hearted effort that, on paper, sometimes appear that is cutting the flow of money, but, when you actually look at it, is doing very little.  There‘s not another country we would really tolerate this from, and the Saudis know it.  That‘s exactly why they are able to get away with as much what they do, because they know how dependent we and Europe are on the oil that they are pumping out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Gerald, briefly, a lot of people in the administration would say, but look at the alternative.  If we lose the royal family, then radicals will own Saudi Arabia.  Do you buy that? 

POSNER:  Well, look, there‘s certainly something to that.  Look what happened with the shah of Iran.  When the shah fell in 1979, friendly country, the next thing we know, we turn around, we get the ayatollahs.

So, the fear in Washington is, you know what?  The Saudis are not the best group in the world.  They have got a radical form of Islam.  They‘re autocratic.  There‘s no political freedom at all.  There are 6,000 princes that spend money like there‘s no tomorrow.  But, in the end, they may be better than the Taliban taking over the oil fields.  And that‘s the fear that keeps Washington friendly with the crown prince and has the president holding his hand in Crawford. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Unbelievable.  Gerald Posner, i guess it‘s the devil we know.  It just certainly makes us look like hypocrites. 

Thanks a lot for being with us tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  As always, we greatly appreciate it.  Can‘t wait to read your upcoming book. 

Now, coming up next, a look at the great communicator‘s private diaries.  We are going to be talking to one of the few men in the world who have actually read them. 

Don‘t go away.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK) 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And whatever else history may say about me when I am gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence, rather than your doubts. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, as we saw last summer at his funeral, Ronald Reagan changed the course of America. 

Soon, you are going to be able to read his personal reflections and thoughts on how he changed the course of America from when he was in the White House.  A publisher has bought the rights to his private handwritten presidential diaries, and only a few people have actually read the thousands of pages.

But one man who has joins us now.  He is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris.  Of course, he‘s the author of “Dutch.”  And also with is Jim Kuhn, who served as Ronald Reagan‘s executive assistant and spent 13 years with the president.  He‘s also the author of “Ronald Reagan in Private.”

Let me start with you, Mr. Morris.  I read a great quote from you today on the wires.  You said that most of these diaries are unreadable because of vanity and because of self-congratulations, but you don‘t see that in Ronald Reagan‘s diary.  Explain that. 

EDMUND MORRIS, AUTHOR, “DUTCH”:  No. 

It‘s strange that a man with so much personal identity and so much sureness of himself and his philosophy had very little vanity.  He never congratulated himself in his diaries, as diaries often do.  The only little touch of self-approval would come when he would meticulously calibrate and note down how many times he was interrupted in his speeches by applause.  But that‘s the professional actor in him calibrating how successfully he put over one or other of his speeches. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

You also talked about how Ronald Reagan was a very complex man.  And you once even asked him about it.  And he said—quote—“I am just an open book.”

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s an open book that few people really understood, including some family members.  Are we, by reading these diaries, going to get an insight into Reagan that we never had before? 

MORRIS:  Well, these diaries are going to be open books.  And I hope, by the way, they are going to publish them entire, because they are very impressive. 

They‘re not great literature, as you would expect, but they‘re an example of a man who was very clear thinking and an executive totally in command of himself, who thought clearly and sequentially all through his presidency, every night he wrote that diary.  And that is the most conclusive argument I can think of to refute people who suggest that Reagan was beginning to suffer from dementia, because the last entries in his diary are as clearly written as the first, eight years before. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jim, let me bring you in here. 

You were close to Ronald Reagan, obviously, an assistant of his for 13 years.  There were a lot of people before Ronald Reagan‘s letters came out, I guess it was about 10 years ago, Martin Anderson, five, 10 years ago, a lot of people thought that Reagan was a dunce, that he was a great communicator, but there was no depth of thought there. 

These letters came out.  It changed everybody‘s opinion.  Do you think the diaries are going to add another chapter to an understanding of Ronald Reagan? 

JIM KUHN, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT REAGAN:  I have to believe that, Joe. 

When you look at all the entries virtually every day, that‘s upwards of 2,500 entries or more.  And as interesting as the man was with his strong belief system, whether it was domestic or foreign policy, and as committed as he was to making a difference every day and documenting as much as he could every day in that diary, I don‘t see how it cannot add to what we already know about him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell me about being with Ronald Reagan privately.  When I was reading the book, Martin Anderson‘s book, he was talking about assistants that would ride with him all the time in cars, on planes, said he was constantly writing, constantly putting down his thoughts.  Is that how he was when you were riding with him? 

KUHN:  Probably the hardest worker I have ever seen in my life.  And I grew up on a farm and worked eight years in the Reagan White House. 

Joe, I walked in on him thousands of times in those last four years, in the Oval Office, upstairs in the residence at the White House, on Air Force One, in his state room, Marine One, Camp David, hotel suites, around the world, in the United States, holding rooms everywhere you can imagine, from Geneva, Switzerland, to Boise, Idaho, and the man was constantly working, writing, reading, strategizing, always busy, but most always writing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

MORRIS:  I guess you can remember him in the helicopter, Jim, on the way to Camp David.  He would keep his diary entries in the helicopter. 

I remember when I first saw some of those entries, I thought he had a heart attack because his handwriting was so shaky. 

(LAUGHTER)

MORRIS:  And then it occurred to me, it was the vibration of the helicopter. 

KUHN:  We had some rough rides going up there sometimes, but he was always hard at it. 

MORRIS:  Right.  I think...

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Edmund—I remember when I read “Dutch,” Edmund.  I was, like a lot of people, at points confused, and I heard you talk about Ronald Reagan, how difficult it was to put your arms around him. 

Since the writing of “Dutch,” since moving a little bit away from Ronald Reagan, have you got a better grasp of the man, or do you think he is always going to be—what did Churchill say of the Soviet Union, a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an enigma? 

MORRIS:  Well, all human beings fundamentally are mysteries. 

Reagan was somebody who kept his privacy.  And you will find when you read these diaries that he was private even in diaries.  He didn‘t like to spill his thoughts out on paper.  And he preferred to keep them to himself.  But the diaries are indispensable to history, because they are primary, which is to say, he wrote them every night.  And when he describes events of the presidency that have been changed in the recollection of other participants, we can go back to the actual day Reagan wrote it and find out exactly what the person was thinking and doing at that time. 

(CROSSTALK)

MORRIS:  I could give you a precise example to do with the Iran Contra, if you like. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  I will tell you what.  We are going to ask you to come back, and we are going to keep talking about this as we move forward. 

Thank you, Edmund Morris and Jim Kuhn.  We greatly appreciate it. 

And we‘ll be right back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  For the latest on our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY campaign to protect kids, check out my Web site at Joe.MSNBC.com.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now for our continuing SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY campaign to protect our kids from repeat sexual predators. 

We start tonight with good news out of Hollywood.  Police there are hitting the phones to protect children.  Whenever a sex offender moves into a neighborhood, they use a computerized system to call everybody in that area to make sure they are aware.  It‘s a step in the right direction. 

And, yesterday, we told you that Megan‘s Law, named after Megan Kanka, only requires sexual predators to be tracked for 10 years, so that, next year, thousands of predators are going to disappear into our communities, untraceable.  That alarming information elicited a passionate response from our viewers. 

Colleen says: “I think that is appalling.  The second that somebody is

convicted of harming kids sexually, they should be tracked until the day

they die.  Then it should be put on their gravestone that they are capable

of sexually harming children.‘

Linda wrote in and said: “Please add my voice to those who are opposed to the 10-year limit on following sexual predators.  The idea represents the betrayal of a sacred trust and is tantamount to criminal negligence.”

And Bonnie from Oakland, Tennessee, says this: “Please convince the powers that be to pass legislation that will leave sexual offenders in prison for life.  Let Washington know that voting parents have had enough.”

You know what, Bonnie?  That‘s exactly what I am going to do this Friday in Washington, so keep your e-mails coming.  Our e-mail address is Joe.MSNBC.com. 

Friends, that‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Make sure, tomorrow morning, to catch “IMUS IN THE MORNING.”  His guests include Senator John McCain.

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

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