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Al Franken visits 'Scarborough Country'

The liberal talker and author goes head-to-head with Joe Scarborough
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He's a best-selling author, a talk radio pioneer, and now possible candidate for the United States Senate in the state of Minnesota. 

He is Al Franken, host of "The Al Franken Show" on Air America Radio and now the Armed Forces Network.  He's also the author most recently of a new book, "The Truth With Jokes." 

On Wednesday, Franken took a trip into 'Scarborough Country,' where he talked with Joe about Iraq, Howard Dean, the 2008 race and more.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: ... Let's talk about Howard Dean.  You know -- and I am sure you have been talking about on your radio show the past couple days -- Howard Dean was on the radio on Monday, talking about the war in Iraq, a lot of people talking about it.

Take a listen, and then I want to talk about it. 


--Begin audio clip-- HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN:  The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that, unfortunately, is just plain wrong. --End audio clip--

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, as you know, Al, right-wingers like me jumped on this immediately. 

FRANKEN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Said that this showed that he was still caught in the Vietnam syndrome. 

I thought it was interesting, though.  'The Washington Post' (on Wednesday) wrote a column saying that Democratic leaders are very concerned that this type of talk and Nancy Pelosi's type of talk actually is going to hurt the party next year.  What is your take on that? 

FRANKEN:  Well, I think he was at least telling, you know, what he thought was true. 

And I think it depends what you mean by winning the war.  Are we going to do what we said we were going to do when we first went there, and set up a Jeffersonian democracy?  No.  That's just not going to happen.  When the president said nothing short of complete victory, I am not sure what that means. 

Howard Dean actually kind of was right.  He was against our going in.  I think it was a mistake.  I was wrong.  At the time, I believed Colin Powell.  I believed that the presumption that the president is telling you the truth, so I thought I guess we have to go to war.  It turns out that we were misled into the war, and not only that, but that, since then, the war has been badly bungled because of hubris, unwillingness to admit mistakes.
And we find ourselves in a situation where many, many smart people believe that our very presence there makes things worse.  I don't -- and I think it's very hard to trust this administration in anything they say about the war. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we could talk about that and debate the war.  I would rather not do that, looking back.  But I do want to talk...

FRANKEN:  Well, I can understand why you wouldn't, because you are in such a weak position. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Well, there you go.  Now you have lured me into the debate. 

I always try to, you know, treat people when they come on my show like they are a guest in my home, but now you have pulled the switch.  And I got to go after you.

FRANKEN:  You don't have rude guests in your home ever? 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Well, I do, but I wait until they are rude to me before I start fighting back. 

I mean, you say the president lied about the war, but you know Ted Kennedy said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; Al Gore said it; Bill Clinton said it; John Kerry said it; John Edwards said it, said it was an imminent threat. 

FRANKEN:  Well, at what time?

SCARBOROUGH:  Even Saddam Hussein said in 1998, I have got weapons of mass destruction.  So...

FRANKEN:  And, in 1998, he did have weapons of mass destruction.  And after we bombed them, they didn't.

SCARBOROUGH:  Where did they go?  Where did they go? 

FRANKEN:  They were destroyed by President Clinton. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, good God.  You don't believe that one missile strike at a camel and a tent destroyed Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction? 

FRANKEN:  That's wasn't what they did.  As you know, it wasn't one missile strike at a camel and a tent.  I don't know why you feel the need to mischaracterize... 

SCARBOROUGH:  Al, are you really suggesting -- listen, no serious person could step forward and say...

FRANKEN:  No-the Duelfer report said that very thing.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Bill Clinton's missile strikes got rid of those weapons of mass destruction. 
Oh, come on.  So, you are telling America tonight that the president's weapons of mass destruction, that the president's attack in '98 destroyed all of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction? 

FRANKEN:  Remaining weapons of mass destruction.  That's exactly what the Duelfer report said.  That's what the president's own weapons inspectors said, that those destroyed the remainder of...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, then, when Saddam Hussein knew that America was coming at him, why didn't he say in 2002, in the fall of 2002, I destroyed them?  Why did Bill Clinton himself say in 2002, Saddam Hussein still has weapons of mass destruction?  Why did Al Gore say in 2002 Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction?? 

FRANKEN:  Because I'm sure he thought he did.  ... They didn't have access to the same intelligence that the president had.  And the president said certain things that he knew were not true. 

He said that al-Qaida received weapons training from Saddam Hussein.  He said it as if it was a certainty.  The Defense Intelligence Agency told the NSC that the al-Qaida detainee who said that was fabricating.  And that was never shared with the Senate.  Cheney said there is no doubt that Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction.  There's no doubt that he has reconstituted his nuclear program.  That was false.
Condi Rice said that there was no other-no way these aluminum tubes could be used for, other than centrifuge and uranium.  She had to know that wasn't true.  The Energy Department analysts said that they couldn't be used centrifuge uranium.  There are all kinds of...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Al, let me ask you this question. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you, if you're president of the -- because a lot of people want you to run for Senate in a couple of years.  If -- let's say you ran for Senate, became president, and let's say you were sitting in the Oval Office. ... You had the director of the CIA sitting in the Oval Office with you, giving a briefing on weapons of mass destruction, we will say from Iran, and you asked that CIA director, is this the best you got?  And the CIA director, as Tenet did to George Bush a year after 9/11, stood up in the Oval Office, and waved his arms and said, Mr. President, it's a slam-dunk; they have got weapons of mass destruction?  Would you be irresponsible if you ignored the CIA director's waving his arms and saying it's a slam-dunk; he has got weapons of mass destruction? 

FRANKEN:  I think that what Bush was saying is, this isn't good enough for me to sell it to Joe Q. Public.  And Tenet said it was a slam-dunk. 

I don't -- I think he said, I can slam-dunk the P.R. campaign.  I really think that's what he was saying. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Who said that?  Who, George Tenet? 

FRANKEN:  And he was getting enough information. ...  The president got enough information -- listen, he probably thought there were weapons of mass destruction, but he said things that weren't true.  And so did Cheney.  And so did Colin Powell. 

And Colin Powell at least has had the good graces to apologize for them.  And I think the president was saying things that he knew weren't true, and I think so was Condi Rice, and so-the tie to al-Qaida, the Mohamed Atta meeting with Iraqi intelligence, has been pretty well established. 

That wasn't pretty well established, and you know it. 

SCARBOROUGH: ... Al, there's obviously -- a lot of Democrats in the base are very concerned about Hillary Clinton.  They believe that she is moderating too much on the war.  Tim Robbins ... stepped forward and was critical of her a few days ago, because he and, again, a lot of people in the base, think she has really been associating herself too closely with President Bush. 

Do you think that's going to be a problem for her in '08, or do you think she is taking the right tact? 

FRANKEN:  I don't know if it's about taking a tact.  It may be. 

I am a talk show host.  And I feel like some responsibility on talking about what we should and shouldn't be doing in Iraq, and I literally don't know.  I mean, I think there are -- I think we may be in a no-win position, and have been put there.  You know, I say things like, employ Iraqis, put them to work.  But that's something we should have done a year-and-a-half, two years ago in reconstructing their country. 

I think we should really have congressional investigations.  I think Congress should do its oversight into the corruption that's there from both our companies and Iraqi companies.  And that's something that Congress just won't do.  And I think it's because they are afraid of offending the White House.  I think we need the White House to be more truthful with us, frankly. 

But I think that it's legitimate for people to have different views of what's going of what is going -- of what we need to do.  Wesley Clark had an op-ed piece yesterday in 'The New York Times' that said we should be securing the border with Iran more, and we should put pressure on the Iraqi government to outlaw these militias. 

I mean, you have Muqtada al-Sadr, who has a slate as big as anyone for the Shiites, and his militia killed U.S. soldiers, and he is going to be a big part of this government.  So, I think it is very chaotic there, and I think that it's really hard for Americans to have a real open debate about this if everybody is criticizing each other for their opinions and their stances. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  It is awfully tough.  And it's awfully tough.  And we always found this -- Republicans found this when Bill Clinton was president of the United States.  It's hard to speak in a unified voice when you have got all these House and Senate members running around.  And then, I mean, Republicans were in the majority, and it was still hard to compete with that one single voice coming out of the White House. 

Hey, tell us in closing about your book. 

FRANKEN:  Well, can I say something about this, how divided -- divisive and divided we are? 
I think the president -- I think people have to remember back to September 12, 2001.  We were the most united we had ever been in our history that I can remember.  And we had the world behind us.  And I think the president hijacked 9/11 and used it to go to war with Iraq, in a way that was very divisive.  And I think he was divisive by holding the-having the vote on the resolution for him to use force right before the election, and the way he used the Department of Homeland Security, which, if you see four years later, he hasn't really taken seriously at all. 

You don't put Michael ... Brown ... in charge of FEMA, if you really, really care about our Homeland Security.  And so I think this president deliberately divided us and took a -- he took a chance that this war would be successful.  And it hasn't been, and I think he took a gamble, and he has lost. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... We don't agree on everything, but the one thing I think all of us can agree on is, this country is divided right now.

After eight years of Bill Clinton and eight years of George Bush, I think a lot of Americans are going to be looking for people that can bring the country together, just the divisiveness.  And it just doesn't matter whose fault it is or isn't.  We have got to come together as a country. 

FRANKEN:  Barack Obama. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Barack Obama? John McCain, baby. ... All right.  Thanks so much for being with us.  Greatly appreciate it.   The book is "The Truth With Jokes."  Thanks so much, Al, for being with us.