Guests: John Dickerson, J.D. Hayworth, Doug Brinkley, John Engler, Tom Schatz, Susannah Meadows, Catherine Crier, Yale Galanter, Belinda Luscombe, Carmen Rasmusen, Peter Cooper
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. No passport required. Only common sense allowed. We are at 9:00, and Rita follows in an hour.
Now, tonight on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, nobody is trying to impersonate Elvis, but a president who may be doing his best Richard Nixon impression. And with gas prices at an all-time high, big oil gives its own CEO $400 million for a pension. So why is Congress allowing corporations to gut your retirement plans?
And old rock stars never fade. You just saw it. They just wind up on “American Idol,” if they have a good agent, that is.
But first up tonight, 32 is a full number of teeth in the human head; it‘s also the number of former Laker great Magic Johnson; 32 is the international code for calling Belgium. And tonight, it is the approval rating of President George W. Bush, the head of state who‘s looking, walking and quacking more like a lame duck president every day.
Now, Mr. Bush finds himself in the select company of Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and his dad, George Bush, Sr., presidents whose ratings tanked their last year in office. But unless impeached by an incoming Democratic Congress, this president may be left twisting in the wind for the next 2 ½ years.
And if trends continue, George W. Bush is going to leave office the most unpopular president in American history, save Harry Truman, who got sideways with the American people for firing a general who refused to follow the commander in chief‘s orders. This president can be in hot water, according to his critics, at least, because generals followed his orders.
To provide insight on just how low this president‘s ratings can go, let‘s bring in “Slate” magazine‘s John Dickerson.
John, man, it has been a long, long road for this president since Election Night 2004. How has he sunk so low in the eyes of so many American who voted for him just a few years back?
JOHN DICKERSON, SLATE.COM: Well, I think it‘s two things. If you look at when his numbers really starred plummeting, about a year ago or last summer, it was the same things that are bothering and bedeviling him today: gas prices and Iraq.
And when you‘re president, you don‘t want items on your agenda you can‘t control, and he has two, and they‘re at the top of most people‘s lists when you ask them what worries them. And so that‘s part of the problem, is that both people are upset about the direction of those two issues, and there‘s not much the president can do about it.
SCARBOROUGH: What are about this arrogance, this White House that‘s been accused of being arrogant, not only by Democrats in Congress, but by Republicans on the Hill. People that I‘ve talked to over the past five or six years claim that this president and this administration, from time to time, can be very dismissive of critics. Do you think they‘re finally listening now?
DICKERSON: Oh, I think so. I mean, arrogance is—it doesn‘t matter when the results are going your way. And that was how it worked for the president for a while.
I think the problem, as you point out, about Congress is that he‘s lost both Democrats—certainly, he lost them a long time ago—but he‘s lost a lot of members of his own party. They don‘t trust him. They‘re not willing to go out on a ledge with him for any new kind of proposals or any new kind of message. They‘re running to save their own hide.
And I think the White House is listening quite a lot, and they‘re trying really to show that they‘re listening, but the question is whether it‘s too late.
SCARBOROUGH: John, you know, six years in, in the Clinton administration‘s run in Washington, D.C., Democratic congressmen on Capitol Hill told me they no longer trusted Bill Clinton; they didn‘t trust his word. If he came and tried to strike deals with him, they would ignore him. However, his approval ratings shot up into the 60s. This president‘s is about half of that. So what does he do to turn it around, not only on Capitol Hill, but with the American people?
DICKERSON: Well, it‘s a great question. The question is, what he really has to do is beat expectations in the 2006 election. The first thing he has to do is settle Iraq, but that‘s something, again, over which he has not that much control.
But in the 2006 elections, if the president somehow can define the Democrats, pull some trick out of his bag to do better in those election than people thought, that is perhaps the only thing on the horizon that he has more control over, that he can actually change.
And if he gets some kind of good result there, then maybe he can scrape together a little political capital. But, again, much of the problems in his life are out of his control, and the election is looking awfully ugly for Republicans, but it‘s still the best place for him to make up any kind of lost ground.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s looking extremely ugly for Republicans. They‘re scared to death.
And, you know, with the president visiting California, the “L.A.
Times” sent him a little message yesterday calling for the resignations of
Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
And this is what they said. Quote: “Throwing Cheney overboard would be an implicit repudiation of the excessively hawkish foreign policy with which vice president, even more than Rumsfeld, has been associated.”
John, you know people deep inside the White House who are your sources. We know they‘re not going to fire Cheney or Rumsfeld. But are they listening?
DICKERSON: Well, they‘re listening, but it‘s a limited listening, because, a, this president doesn‘t like the chattering class, which would include the “L.A. Times” in this case.
And, also, just as a political matter, remember who loves Dick Cheney still. It‘s a dwindling number, but it‘s those Republican who tend to turn out in those off-year elections.
So you start throwing out Dick Cheney, you might please some Republicans. The president certainly lost members within his base. But you really look like the whole place is unspooling and that everything has came unwound with Republicans who are still trying to find a reason to get behind this president again.
SCARBOROUGH: Bottom line, though: White House, are they nervous tonight?
DICKERSON: Yes, they‘re nervous. They‘re nervous, and they‘re besieged. Even though there have been changes, and Josh Bolten has got everybody marching quickly and in step, it‘s still brutal and it‘s hard to get those numbers up and to get the public behind you again this late in an administration with this much trouble on the plate already.
SCARBOROUGH: And whether they‘re marching off the cliff, we won‘t know until the midterm elections. Stay with us, John.
Earlier tonight, I spoke with Republican Congressman JD Hayworth. He‘s from Arizona. He‘s also the author of “Whatever it Takes.” I asked him if there was any way a president with historic low numbers like this can turn it around.
REP. JD HAYWORTH ®, ARIZONA: Oh, sure he can, but he has to listen, and listening is a component of leadership. And I look forward to the chance to work, along with the majority in Congress, to get work done for the American people. The Congress...
SCARBOROUGH: Why have conservatives rejected him?
HAYWORTH: Well, I don‘t think it‘s so much rejection. I‘ll just tell you: In my case, again, I have a very significant difference of opinion on border security and illegal immigration. And I think that is part and parcel of it.
And I think that the president, again looking forward, has the chance to rekindle excitement among conservatives and, in Texas talk, dance with those what brung him, getting back to basics. And that has to do with employing that pro-growth agenda, recognizing that we should be first and foremost in a posture of enforcement on our borders, and move in that direction.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, so you have immigration.
SCARBOROUGH: Immigration is important to you and millions of Americans. You‘ve written a book about it. The president has basically ignored you. The Dubai ports deal, important to you and millions of Americans. The president ignored you. Cutting spending, cutting the deficit, cutting the debt. Important to you, important to me, important to millions of Americans and conservatives. The president has ignored everybody on that count.
What doesn‘t this president get?
HAYWORTH: Well, I tell you what: I think you are going to see a turning of the page and a far more responsive White House dealing with those issues, especially in terms of spending.
SCARBOROUGH: Why has it taken him six years? He hasn‘t even vetoed a single bill in six years. Why?
HAYWORTH: You‘ll have to ask him that. I think there are a lot of...
SCARBOROUGH: You are disgusted by that though, aren‘t you?
Conservatives are disgusted by that.
HAYWORTH: I think that—I think that, again, in our balance of power, there are tools in the executive branch to reign in spending...
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s called the veto, right?
HAYWORTH: ... not only the veto. And that‘s why we‘re going to work in the Congress now to re-establish constitutionally the line-item veto. You recall, when you and I first got there, we passed it. It was struck down by the courts. We need to bring that back.
Also, perhaps, the White House will take a look at impoundment, in terms of money that has been appropriated, but that the White House doesn‘t feel should be utilized in a certain way. There are any number of tools available to a president of the United States to have a hand here.
SCARBOROUGH: And again, JD, I got to keep going back to this. Why hasn‘t this Republican president, who claimed to run as a conservative, why hasn‘t he employed these tools over the past six years, when people like you, and me, and conservative across America have been asking him to do that?
Now we‘ve got the largest deficit ever, the largest debt ever, the largest federal trade deficit ever. I mean, this is a country headed in the wrong direction.
HAYWORTH: Well, I guess—and maybe you and I have talked about this before. I believe it was columnist Charles Krauthammer who said that George W. Bush is kind of a cross between Lyndon Johnson and Jack Kemp. And when LBJ is ascendant, that‘s when we tend to have the problems. And so maybe that‘s the best explanation that‘s out there.
SCARBOROUGH: That is a truly gloomy fiscal scenario. What, you‘re talking about tax cuts at all cost, and big spending at all costs? And where does that leave us? That leaves us with the biggest deficit ever and the biggest debt ever.
HAYWORTH: Well, the fact is—again, you and I may get together in a week‘s time and see some real change.
Here‘s the benefit: We return from our districts hearing from the American people. The good news is, through listening and leading, changes can come, and I look forward to helping implement those changes.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Congressman JD Hayworth, as always, thanks a lot for being with us.
HAYWORTH: Thank you, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Let‘s now bring in presidential historian Doug Brinkley.
Doug, all I can say is, I‘m glad I‘m not a Republican congressman right now that had to listen to my constituents in town hall meetings. They are angry at this president and at this Republican Congress, aren‘t they?
All right. We‘re having trouble with Doug Brinkley‘s—we‘re having trouble with Doug Brinkley‘s audio right now. We‘re going to go back to him in a second.
Let‘s go back to John Dickerson, though. John, pick up on the point:
Republicans go home to town hall meetings. It‘s usually an easy laugh-around. I mean, I‘ve done these things before.
But, in this case, no such luck. You‘ve got a president with historically low approval ratings and a Congress with very low approval ratings. What do the Republican do in Congress to turn things around?
DICKERSON: Well, this is tricky, that‘s right. If you‘re a Republican, you can pick your reasons to be angry. I mean, Congressman Hayworth was talking about how the president is going to show us some things that show that he‘s conservative again.
But, tonight, the president talked about an immigration bill that conservatives in the party don‘t like, that it has what some would call amnesty in it, and that‘s certainly not what conservatives who want an enforcement-only approach are supporting.
The president‘s also talking about his Medicare prescription drug plan. Well, seniors certainly need prescription drugs, but there are a lot of conservatives for whom that bill, blowing up that large government program, was the beginning of the end, in terms of this runaway fiscal spending.
There a lot of people, conservatives, who are angry at that Medicare plan. So there‘s a lot of crosstalk, in terms of Republicans trying to get an agenda together.
SCARBOROUGH: A lot of angry crosstalk. And I think, speaking of crosstalk, I think we‘ve cleared up the audio gremlins. Let‘s go to Doug Brinkley.
Doug, put this in historical perspective. Polls come and go, but what is a 32 percent approval rating mean for a president?
DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it‘s doomsday. Really, when you get behind 40 percent, you get in great trouble. The one bright silver lining you mentioned was Harry Truman, the fact that he had to oversee the Korean War, and his numbers were sinking, but, of course, he decided not to run for re-election in 1952. And Adlai Stevenson became the nominee of the party.
It‘s hard to move up from 33, but President Bush has a few things in his arsenal that might work. And the number one is getting bin Laden.
The country wants him. We‘re tired of hearing the tapes. There‘s always going to be the feeling that he misdirected the war effort in Iraq and didn‘t get bin Laden. If, for some reason, he is ever captured, dead or alive, I think you would see President Bush go up in the polls.
And, secondly, conservatives are getting tired of the deficit, this fact of a trillion-dollar borrowing. Conservatives are often fiscal conservatives, and they love tax cuts, which Bush has provided, but this growing deficit is something that‘s going to be hard for the real conservative wing of the party to adhere to.
And, finally, I think Katrina does matter. I think that week after Katrina when President Bush didn‘t act, that was very visceral to people. People imagined what it‘s like in their home community, and the president seemed disconnected. And he‘s never really connected at all to the people since then.
Gas prices may come and go.
SCARBOROUGH: Hasn‘t really recovered from Katrina, you‘re exactly right. And I want to show you these numbers again. We talked about them earlier in this segment.
You have Harry Truman at 24 percent. Unfortunately, he had to die before being called a near-great president. Thirty-one percent for Richard Nixon, who obviously chased out of office soon afterwards. Jimmy Carter, 29 percent. George Bush, Sr., 32 percent.
Doug, those numbers all came in the last year of these presidencies. This is a president who is going to have to govern over the next 2 ½ years possibly with very low approval ratings. How do you do that?
BRINKLEY: Well, you try to put Karl Rove on to the political assignment here of winning some elections in ‘06, which he‘s doing. If you somehow don‘t lose Congress or the Senate, you can claim, “Look, we‘re still in control, and the American people have validated us,” even though poll numbers are low.
Maybe people are just angry at politicians in general right now.
That‘s going to be a hard battle in ‘06, but that‘s one way to do it.
The second is figure out a way to present what‘s going on in Iraq better. People do want an exit strategy, and I think the Bush administration‘s policy is: We‘re going to be there for a long time, folks. Buckle up.
People don‘t really want to be there for a long time. Certainly, about 60 percent of Americans don‘t. And that‘s going to be hard for him if that‘s really the policy objective, to stay in and pass the Iraq baton to a Democrat or Republican in ‘08.
I think it‘s going to be hard to get those numbers back up, because it‘s going to be hard to make that war popular, unless bin Laden is captured. And the connection there is simply for him to present that we‘re fighting a global war on terror the way Truman would say we‘re fighting a global war on communism.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thank you so much, Doug Brinkley, live from our NBC bureau in New Orleans. Appreciate it.
And also, thank you, John Dickerson.
And still ahead on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, new information in the Duke University rape investigation. Tonight, the defense team is coming out swinging to prove the players are innocent, but does the D.A. have a date rape Hail Mary pass in his case?
And is “American Idol” the best place to be rocking to the oldies? The show‘s supposed to create the next American superstar, so why are old-school singers fighting to get on the show? It‘s coming up on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: American pension programs are on the brink, close to a collapse that could leave millions of workers out in the cold. And while gas prices skyrocket to new highs, Exxon-Mobil‘s awarding its former CEO with a $400 million retirement package.
Congress, on the other hand, has voted itself a pension program that presents its members, even if they are indicted and thrown in jail. Felon Duke Cunningham‘s pension program is worth about $40,000 every year for the rest of his life, even if he spends all those years in prison.
But when it comes to saving your pension program, Congress is nowhere to be found.
SCARBOROUGH (voice-over): American workers are more productive than ever. But while they‘re taking care of their business, corporations and their allies in Congress seem more interested in taking care of themselves.
Many U.S. corporations are refusing to fully fund their pension programs, leading to a full-blown retirement crisis. The president‘s plan to fully fund pensions was gutted by Congress, leading the president to say this.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, some in Congress have said this reform is too tough. And not only that, they want to weaken the current law even further.
SCARBOROUGH: Why? Because some congressmen who say a complete fix is impossible added loopholes to the pension reform plan to help their political allies.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: It‘s important that we work to protect people‘s pensions.
SCARBOROUGH: Majority Leader John Boehner wants UPS to be allowed to cut pension benefits already promised to their workers. And according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Congressman Boehner received almost $80,000 from that company.
And New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg believed Prudential should be allowed to remove money from their pension fund, even though it‘s not allowed under the law. Prudential‘s headquarters are located in Lautenberg‘s home state of New Jersey.
Georgia‘s senator, Johnny Isakson, wants Delta to be given 20 years to close pension shortfalls, rather than seven required by law. Delta‘s headquarters are in Senator Isakson‘s home state of Georgia.
And Senator Mike DeWine believes Smithfield Farms should be exempt from any new pension reform plans until 2014. Maybe that‘s because Smithfield Farms has major operations in DeWine‘s home state of Ohio.
Other congressmen and senators getting in on the act: Hawaii senator Daniel Akaka, Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, and Minnesota Congressman John Kline. But these same politicians who can‘t or fix your pension program seem to find full-funding of their own pension plans a very possible proposition.
SCARBOROUGH: Taking care of business with me now, former Michigan Governor John Engler. He‘s the president of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Governor, I‘m sure there‘s not a single word in that package that you agreed with. Tell me tonight whether Congress is doing everything they can do to protect our pensions.
JOHN ENGLER ®, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: I‘m shocked you didn‘t have Social Security in there; that‘s not funded at all. But Congress is doing a lot on pensions, and I hope that the result is, Joe, that they‘re able to encourage and allow more companies to keep the defined benefit plans in place.
As you know, that there has been quite a decline—a number of companies are closed those plans. There‘s a transition to the defined contribution plan, the 401k-type plan. But some of the old plans are still certainly worth fighting for. Many companies are doing exactly that, and so...
SCARBOROUGH: But this bill doesn‘t do that though, does it, Governor? When you have the government‘s own pension agency looking at it and saying it‘s going to allow corporations to draw back on their contributions by $140 to $160 billion over a three-year time period, that sounds like they‘re gutting the pension plan.
ENGLER: No, I think what you‘re getting mixed in here, perhaps, is the transition period. You know, right now, there‘s a cap on 120 percent pay into the pension fund. That‘ll go up significantly.
There was a time in the early ‘90s when companies were actually discouraged from paying in. They wanted to pay into pension plans, but had tax consequences that were negative if they did so. That‘s getting fixed in this plan. The requirement to be 90-percent funded is being moved up to 100 percent funding.
SCARBOROUGH: But over what time period, though? You have some congressmen and senators who have corporations in their districts. They want to expand it out to 20 years. Others want to expand it out beyond the seven years or get complete exemptions.
And you have the president who‘s looking at all of this that‘s going on in Capitol Hill and saying—I mean, he‘s calling their bluff, and saying, “I‘m going to veto this bill if you all don‘t fully fund pensions.”
ENGLER: Well, it certainly is his right to veto any bill. As you pointed out in an earlier segment, he hasn‘t done much vetoing. But on this one, I think the art is to try to strengthen the system, but don‘t push it so far that you end up with all of those companies terminating plans or, in some cases, if a company is in bankruptcy—and we‘ve seen that in the past—turning it over to the government, and then, you know, the person who is entitled to a pension is going to get, in some cases, pennies on the dollar. So I think that‘s what...
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Governor, Governor, isn‘t that what‘s happening right now, though, where you have corporations that are paying 50 cents on the dollar?
ENGLER: Well, that‘s certainly happened in the steel industry some years ago. It‘s happened in the airline industry. I believe United Airlines turned their pension over. Delta, as you reported, is fighting to save theirs. That should be encouraged.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thank you so much, Governor John Engle.
Greatly appreciate you being with us.
Let‘s bring in Tom Schatz. He‘s the president of Citizens Against Government Waste.
I want to talk about the congressmen and their pension plans. But first, talk about this double jeopardy that American taxpayers are facing because of this pension bill that‘s moving forward, Tom.
TOM SCHATZ, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: If they don‘t find a way to have the companies fund them as much as possible, it does fall on the backs of the taxpayers through the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. The PBGC, as its called, is already $24 billion in the hole. It might be up to $450 billion that we might have to take on...
SCARBOROUGH: So what you‘re saying is, if these corporations are allowed to have these loopholes and exemptions, these workers are still going to get paid; it‘s the taxpayers, though, who are going to pay for it, even though these corporations had these people working and paying into their pension programs their entire working lives.
SCHATZ: They will be paid, but they will be paid less, and that‘s one of the reasons they‘re trying to...
SCARBOROUGH: Fifty cents on the dollar in some cases, right?
SCHATZ: Right. And it‘s a problem that they need to fix. And Congress, if they don‘t fix it by Memorial Day, according to the leadership in the House and the Senate, probably won‘t do anything this year. But they‘ll be still funding their own pensions; don‘t worry about that.
SCARBOROUGH: Of course, Tom. And let‘s look at the average congressional pension. A congressman who spends 12 years in office and retires at the age of 60 is going to receive an immediate pension of $25,000 a year and lifetime benefits of more than $800,000, more than $800,000.
And then, Tom, you look at Randy “Duke” Cunningham. Here‘s a guy that has gone to jail. I mean, he‘s been convicted of basically about as bad of corruption as you could, and yet this guy‘s still getting his pension, right?
SCHATZ: Right. In fact, the only reason you would not get your pension is treason. And at one time, they considered having bribery included in that, but they basically modified these laws over a number of years, and bribery is no longer considered something for which members of Congress do not deserve their pensions.
This has been talked about for a long time, Joe. Even before you were in Congress they talked about reforming this. Hopefully, with what‘s been going on now and all the scrutiny of overspending, and lobbying, and the earmarking, they focus on this, and it‘s simple enough to change.
If you‘re convicted of a felony, you shouldn‘t get your pension. And certainly bribery is one where you‘re involving our tax dollars. You should never get a pension if you get convicted of that.
SCARBOROUGH: And, you know, 1994, we were talking about it. I said I was going to give mine away, and I am going to give it away to a charity. But, really, what chance is there that the House and the Senate are going to reform this pension plan, when you look at the reform bills that were talked about being passed but have now been gutted? And what causes that?
SCHATZ: I think it‘s a matter of people not paying as much attention as they should, and certainly we‘re talking about the earmark reforms that are essential to getting pork-barrel spending under control, the record $29 billion this year, $500,000 for the Sparta Teapot Museum. I mean, it‘s all out there.
But they probably believe people aren‘t going to be paying attention. And if there‘s not pressure from the taxpayers, they‘ll probably get away with not doing all that much, in terms of reform.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re right, Tom; unfortunately, too many Americans aren‘t paying attention. You are, and we greatly appreciate you being here tonight to tell us about it.
SCHATZ: Thanks, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s time now for another of flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, stories the mainstream media may miss, but we don‘t.
First up: Deep in the heart of Texas, tough luck for law student who wanted to spend time in Baylor‘s University law library to study for upcoming finals. It seems the dean of the law school closed the library down this weekend so his son could throw a prom party. The dean apologized after students complained. The dean‘s son, though, he had a bitchin‘ time.
Next stop, Wichita, Kansas, where the BTK Killer has earned perks in prison for, quote, “good behavior.” BTK is the beast that killed 10 people and terrorized Kansas for 20 years. But BTK now has access to television. HE can listen to the radio, read magazines, and draw in his prison cell. Prison officials say the serial killer earned his perks, which were part of a statewide program to encourage good behavior.
And finally, on to Wisconsin, where the local fire department is under fire themselves for using an $8,000 Department of Homeland Security grant for a clown-and-puppet show. Your tax dollars at work. The money was set aside by Congress to help first responders in a time of crisis, but only 5 percent of those funds have to go to actual fire prevention. Now, for their part, Homeland Security says they oppose—they oppose—first responder money being spent on clown-and-puppet shows. So glad they cleared that up.
And coming up next in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the Duke rape investigation. The defense team says their clients are innocent, and they‘re pulling out all the stops to prove it, including going after the accuser, whom they claim is lying.
And tonight, the things that we want to see: the best pieces of videotape from around the world and across SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: For the first time, there‘s a major motion in the Duke lacrosse rape investigation. It looks like the defense team‘s plan, it‘s to tell the D.A. to put up or shut up.
But, first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, welcome back. We‘re going to have those stories in just minutes.
Still to come: Why Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney may be out of control. Find out what she was caught saying about one of her own staffers and then how she tried to cover it up. And find out why some music superstars who were once on top of the charts are now begging to get on a show that‘s supposed to promote amateurs, “American Idol.”
Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. We‘re going to be talking about Rod, God, and a lot more in the next 30 minutes. But right now, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” video you won‘t believe.
We have a theme tonight: fire and ice. First we go to Switzerland. Yes, that‘s a burning snowman. It‘s as part of this year‘s spring festival. The Burning of the Boogg of Boogieman, it‘s said to kill off the evil spirit of winter, and the ceremony ends with the explosion of his head.
And from fire to ice to just fire and Greece. Thousands of homemade rockets lit up the night skies over two islands in Greece. Each year during the Orthodox Easter, two churches on the island become opponents in a simulated war. What a peaceful thing to do to celebrate Easter. The rocket wars date back to the 19th century.
And my question: Where are rocket and tubs (ph) when you need them? A boat race in Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida, got a little hotter than anybody expected when this speed boat exploded into flames. And in a daring act of bravery, the driver and the passenger jumped off the boat safely.
Get this: They were actually cooling the speed boat down after just placing third in the Miami Super Boat Grand Prix.
But let‘s talk right now about defense lawyers and how they filed their first motions in the Duke lacrosse gang rape investigation, demanding prosecutors turn over possible evidence that could help Reade Seligmann.
And the motions filed today are very clear: The defense is going after the accuser‘s shaky—they believe—credibility. Reade‘s attorney also asked a judge to hold a pre-trial conference to determine if the accuser is even credible enough to provide testimony.
But in an explosive “Newsweek” report, it says that the blood and urine tests from the accuser may reveal the presence of a date rape drug. With me now to talk about it, Susannah Meadows. She‘s a senior writer for “Newsweek” who co-authored the cover article, “Sex, Lies and Duke.”
Susannah, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
SUSANNAH MEADOWS, “NEWSWEEK”: Thanks for having me.
SCARBOROUGH: What can you tell us about the D.A.‘s strategy moving forward? He had a rough week last week. Now we‘re hearing talk about a possible date rape drug.
MEADOWS: That are comes from two different places. The D.A. a few
weeks ago spoke to me, and he hinted to me that something might have been
put in her drink. And then I spoke with Kim Roberts, who is the second
woman there that night, and she told me that she remembers being served a
drink, along—and she remembers that the accuser was also served a drink
that the accuser drank about half of hers, spilled her cup, and then drank Kim‘s. Kim did not have any of it.
And Kim remembers that, shortly after that, it was then that the accuser started sort of stumbling. She had a glassy look in her eye. And then, as we all know, she eventually passed out.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, in your investigation for the “Newsweek” cover story, what did you find out about Reade Seligmann? Of course, all last week, we heard there was no way he could have committed this crime, despite the fact that he was ID‘d by this alleged victim.
SCARBOROUGH: According to what you found out, according to the timelines and the evidence that he‘s presented, is there any way he could have committed this rape?
MEADOWS: Well, what we found was that, over this period of time when this sexual assault would have been happening, Reade Seligmann made eight phone calls from his cell phone. And when we sort of did the math, it worked out to be about two minutes that he could have committed a crime, unless he did it while he was making phone calls.
So the evidence there is pretty convincing, but then we get back to this whole date rape drug thing. And you have to wonder, well, if she were drugged, she may have had difficulty identifying who was responsible.
SCARBOROUGH: Stay with us, Susannah. Let‘s bring in right Catherine Crier. She‘s the host of “Catherine Crier Live” on Court TV. And criminal defense attorney Yale Galanter.
Catherine, what‘s this D.A. doing? It looks like he screwed up when he indicted Reade. Do you go ahead and drop those charges?
CATHERINE CRIER, COURT TV NEWS ANCHOR: Well, the D.A.‘s duty is to seek justice; it‘s not to seek a conviction. And if, in fact, the defense attorney can come forward and everything from the camera, the photographs that have time stamps on them, to the phone call records, as long as he can verify those records, to the cab driver, who says, you know, they got the call at 12 -- I believe it was -- :14, he picked him up at 12:19, two blocks down the street, all these sorts of things.
If, in fact, the story jives, then the district attorney can go forward and move to have this dismissed, because that truly is his duty here, and not simply to take this kid to trial.
SCARBOROUGH: Catherine, let me tell you what doesn‘t make sense to me. Here you have a D.A. that‘s whispering to our “Newsweek” reporter here tonight that there may be evidence of a date rape drug. At the same time, he‘s moved forward with arrests of Reade Seligmann, based solely on her eyewitness testimony that night. If she were, in fact, drugged, how can he pin an entire case on what she claimed to have seen at the end of that evening?
CRIER: Well, that‘s a very good point, because it may be that the assault took place just as she‘s saying it did, and she may be making misidentifications. Already, we know that the lineup itself is going to be called into question, and possibly a good challenge.
But the D.A. was apparently proffered a lot of this information from defense counsel. He should have taken a good, hard look. At least as far as one of these young men, it looked like he may have the wrong guy.
SCARBOROUGH: Yale Galanter, do you agree this D.A. may have gotten the wrong guys?
YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I love to agree with Catherine, Joe. And we‘ve been discussing it for weeks. I mean, now “Newsweek” has confirmed that three defense lawyers go into his office, present exculpatory evidence, give him the photographs, outline the timeline, and why has Mike Nifong done? He ignores them, kicks them out of the office...
GALANTER: ... off the conversation. Because he was dead-set on indicting these boys...
GALANTER: ... before his election next week. The more I learn about this case, the more we discuss it, the more political it looks to me.
MEADOWS: Can I jump in here?
SCARBOROUGH: And, Susannah, talk about the political side of this story. What did you find out in your investigation about him possibly trying to make in-roads into the African-American community with these convictions?
MEADOWS: Well, I just want to make one other point, just getting back to something you were saying earlier, that we don‘t know that he‘s basing his entire case on her identification of him. We have no idea what else he has.
In fact, he told those three attorneys when they started to—they didn‘t actually get into the photographs. They mentioned them; they didn‘t actually show them. And he‘s saying he cut them off because he said, “I know more about this case than you‘ll ever know.” So it‘s possible there‘s something else there.
SCARBOROUGH: It is possible.
But, Catherine Crier, what did he tell us at first? He said the DNA evidence is going to come back and basically sounded like George Tenet saying it‘s a slam-dunk. It comes back; it‘s not a slam-dunk. And all we know, Catherine, is that she ID‘d these two people, and that‘s why they got arrested?
CRIER: Yes. And, apparently, there was some DNA material, not dirt, not other particular matter, but DNA material under her fingernails. But, apparently, that was inconclusive, as well.
We‘ve got the additional DNA tests. We‘re not sure exactly what is being retested or what additional material may be tested. So that is still outstanding.
But given, again, just one of the three—we don‘t know who the third individual, the 90 percent identification—but one of the three has a very good, thus far, a very good defensive time line. Again, you want to verify all that information, everything from the cameras and the time stamps to the calls, all the rest of this. But it may be that, not the assault did not occur, but that she misidentified, which very well could be due to a date rape drug.
SCARBOROUGH: I think you‘re exactly right, if, in fact, all of this evidence, whether you‘re talking about the ATM machines, whether you‘re talking about the photos, everything else, you know, it‘s very possible that this could actually be a slam-dunk for Reade Seligmann‘s attorneys. And they‘re going to have to drop the case. I predict that‘s going to happen.
Thank you, Catherine. Thank you, Susannah Meadows. And Yale Galanter, as always, greatly appreciate it.
Now, Rita Cosby is going to have a lot more on the Duke investigation coming up LIVE & DIRECT. Rita, what do you have for us tonight?
RITA COSBY, MSNBC HOST: Well, Joe, we have a surprising twist involving the cab driver who was Reade Seligmann‘s alibi. You‘ve just been talking about it. Remember, the cab driver told us first that he picked up Reade Seligmann and then later picked up also four other men later that night at the house.
Now we‘ve discovered that the cab driver‘s story may not match his own time line, begging the question: Was it an honest mistake or something else? That cab driver is going to join us now live for his first live interview to explain what really happened, where the discrepancy is. We‘re going to have that and a whole lot more, Joe, at the top of the hour, at 10 p.m. Eastern time.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much, Rita.
And make sure you tune in for “LIVE & DIRECT,” coming up at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, a big interview you‘re not going to want to miss. And then stay tuned at 11:00 Eastern for “THE SITUATION” with Tucker Carlson.
Still ahead here, though, when it comes to getting his way, it turns out that Rolling Stone frontman Mick Jagger won‘t budge for anybody, including the president of the United States. Come on, Mick, it‘s only rock and roll.
And why “American Idol” may be looking like “Sweatin‘ to the Oldies” if some of the greatest chart-toppers of yesterday have their way. It‘s coming up on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
But first, the first-ever “Heroes and Villains” of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Our first citizen to get the title of villain is Danish swimsuit model May Anderson. She goes from the catwalk to the perp walk.
Anderson proved to be less than a model citizen on a transatlantic flight this weekend. The “Victoria‘s Secret” model was drunk on the flight to Miami when she allegedly attacked a flight attendant. According to the police, she was loud and violent and—get this—even resisted arrest.
Of course, she isn‘t the first model gone wild. Last month, Naomi Campbell was arrested after her housekeeper accused the supermodel of beating her with a cell phone.
But with the bad comes the good. There may be a hero in the world of fashion. We found a place for both of these two beauties to turn: There‘s apparently an organization called “Models for Christ.” For 20 years, they‘ve been helping members of the fashion industry with bible studies, outreach projects, and opportunities for volunteer work, and even a chance to repent for their misdeeds at 40,000 feet.
We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: Last week, aging rocker Rod Stewart tried to light things up on “American Idol,” but in his participation of the show, some people are asking whether they‘re taking the spotlight away from contestants or actually having them become the next big thing.
Here to talk about it with me are Peter Cooper. He‘s a music writer at the “Tennessean.” We also have former “American Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen. And also, Belinda Luscombe, “Time” magazine‘s art editor.
Belinda, let me start with you. Why is it that a show that was supposed to be about propping up the next new stars are actually helping aging rockers get a second wind?
BELINDA LUSCOMBE, “TIME” MAGAZINE: I think it‘s all about demographics. You know, this is the sort of show that parents are watching with their kids. And, you know, you want to have something for both of them, something that the oldie guys for the parents to go, “I remember this guy,” and the younger ones for the young people to watch. I actually think it‘s a great idea, and...
SCARBOROUGH: But, Belinda, this show is not exactly hurting for ratings with what‘s worked for the past several years. Why go to Rod Stewart and give him time that an unknown artist could have?
LUSCOMBE: Oh, so you actually think that Rod Stewart is taking time away from somebody who‘s young and good-looking? You‘ve got to be crazy. I mean, you know, nobody‘s looking at Rod. It‘s just, you know, he‘s got the chops, he knows music, and it‘s a great American story. It‘s called the second act, the second chapter.
SCARBOROUGH: But, Peter Cooper, what‘s this show about, amateurs or old rock stars?
PETER COOPER, “TENNESSEAN”: Well, it‘s supposed to be about good television. And I think she‘s right: It‘s a lot about demographics. And you do have amateurs on there that they‘re building up. You also, this way, you get some folks who people have heard of. I mean, it‘s about TV.
SCARBOROUGH: And so you also you like the idea of pushing the amateurs to the side every night and giving these aging rock stars or aging country stars—I saw Kenny Rogers a couple of weeks back, a frightening spectacle in itself - but giving these people more time on the stage?
COOPER: Well, I don‘t think they‘re pushing anybody to the side at all. I don‘t agree with that. And I do think that people can learn something from folks who have been doing something for 30 or 40 years. There are certain tricks of the trade that can be passed along.
SCARBOROUGH: Carmen, I mean, what‘s it like for you, as somebody that participated in the early competition a few years back, to see how big this phenomenon has become...
CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “IDOL” CONTESTANT: I know.
SCARBOROUGH: ... that you actually have agents, record companies, the most powerful people in Hollywood and New York, begging an amateur show to bring on some of the biggest aging names in music?
RASMUSEN: It is incredible, the pull that “American Idol” has on the music industry. I mean, they can take a nobody and launch them into superstardom literally within six weeks, or they can take an artist that has been in the lime line and reinvent their career. It‘s incredible.
For me, as a contestant, I like seeing these people on the show. I love songs, such as “Baby Love,” “Can‘t Hurry Love.” So when I met Lionel Richie, I had no idea that he wrote that song. So it was such an incredible opportunity for me to meet the man behind the music that I was singing.
So I think it‘s a great to bring these musical legends in, and have the contestants learn from them, and gain experience, not only from different genres of music, but from the different artists that have sort of paved the way.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Belinda, very quickly, it also helps younger artists. If you just sing their song, sometimes it turns a song that nobody knows into a big hit.
LUSCOMBE: Absolutely. It‘s a very American concept. It‘s called marketing.
Joe, this is uncharacteristically ageist of you, not to welcome these guys. Come on! Let‘s give the guys a second wind. You know, Kenny Rogers probably had plastic surgery for the show. I mean, he‘s really put himself out there. Come on!
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m very concerned—I am very concerned about doctors that participate in plastic surgery, and that‘s part of it. I mean, obviously if Rod Stewart can help that industry out, maybe it‘s not such a bad thing after all.
Thanks, everybody. Appreciate you being here. We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, I‘m Joe. I dig a pony, and I got issues.
Tonight, I got issues with a congressman known for throwing a punch. She‘s back in the news. And also a Rolling Stone who won‘t get off of his cloud. Let‘s go first though with the issues of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
Now, we all know about her troubles after using a Capitol Hill police officer as a punching bag, but this time, after she was grilled by an Atlanta reporter about the incident, McKinney simply walked and turned away from the interview.
But get this: She forgot to take off her microphone. That‘s when she was overheard bad-mouthing her senior staffer that was with her.
Now, we‘ve all got tempers, I guess. But, unlike Cynthia McKinney, most of us aren‘t arrogant enough to run up to a reporter and demand that they censor her off-the-cuff remarks. Sorry, Cynthia, it‘s Congress, not the Kremlin.
And I‘ve got issues with Mick Jagger. He may be the leader of the world‘s greatest rock and roll band, but he isn‘t the leader of the free world. But when President Bush‘s staff tried to book a hotel room in Vienna, they were told that he bumped out of the room by Mick Jagger.
White House staff furiously tried to get Jagger to move, but the Rolling Stone superstar refused to get off of his cloud or his room. What‘s next, Jessica Simpson ordering the queen of England to exchange suites?
We‘ll be right back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY and our mail bag in a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s time for the SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY mail bag.
Let‘s start with this letter. Wadis Hutchinson—oh, here—from Baxley, Georgia. He thinks “oil companies should be grilled and drilled for why they haven‘t used billions of dollars in profits to build new refineries. If companies don‘t act, Congress should step in to regulate.”
Very complicated. Include your name and where you‘re writing from, and we‘ll read your letter on the mail.
A reminder now: SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be on at 9:00 p.m. Eastern from now on. Right now, let‘s go to “LIVE & DIRECT” with Rita Cosby. She starts right now.
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