Guests: Joseph Biden, Evan Kohlmann, John McCain, Brent Wilkes, Ed Hill, Wade Jessen
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Hey good evening Keith and thanks a lot.
And right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY America‘s enemy number one blown up in Iraq. Tonight our all-star lineup weighs in, NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “MEET THE PRESS”, Tim Russert, Senator John McCain, Senator Joseph Biden, MSNBC‘s Chris Matthews and NBC terror analyst Evan Kohlmann. The best analysis anywhere tonight on why two 500-pound bombs dropped in (INAUDIBLE) desert are sending shock waves through Washington and across the world.
Also tonight the president is still hammering home his message on immigration, forging ahead and demanding action, but is anybody listening on the Hill?
And the Dixie Chicks did it their way and lost and then won and then lost again? Poor ticket sales forced cancellations and embarrassment leading us to ask that age-old question, what if somebody held a concert and nobody showed up? We will answer that and much more tonight.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. No passport required. Only common sense allowed.
We‘re going to have those stories and much more tonight, but first the world‘s most dangerous terrorist is dead. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed this morning by American troops, who brought along two 500-pound bombs for good measure. One of the more significant footnotes in the killing was the fact that it was Iraqis and fellow jihadists who tipped off U.S. troops. Unlike Vietnam where it was always hard for the natives to tell the good guys from the bad, most Iraqis have figured out that beasts like Zarqawi were not the insurgents as described in the American press, but rather were terrorists who were targeting their women, their children, and their most vulnerable.
You know Zarqawi lost a battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people first and after that, he lost his life. The Jordanian devil is gone, but what does it mean for Iraq, the war on terror and President Bush? I spoke to Tim Russert, the head of NBC‘s Washington bureau and host of NBC‘s “MEET THE PRESS” and I asked if Zarqawi‘s death will help the president convince Americans that this war is still worth fighting for.
TIM RUSSERT, NBC‘S “MEET THE PRESS”: It‘s very difficult for this president to convince people about this war. In many ways they have tuned it out because they are growing very, very concerned and it‘s becoming increasingly unpopular. The best thing I think this president can hope for is to buy some time with the American people, some extended patience and hope and hope that this new Iraqi government is able to use this event as a catalyst to train a true security force that can protect Iraq from the insurgency so that Americans can come home.
That is what we are observing now. And the window I think is very, very short, Joe, between now and the end of the year. And if the president can achieve that, buy some time with the American people and buy some time with the Iraqis so that they are willing to build up a security force and then let the—quote—“occupier” go home, it will be an extremely significant event. But no one should think that somehow the violence and the roadside bombings are suddenly going to stop because this monster‘s head has been cutoff. This monster is going to grow another head.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much, Tim Russert.
SCARBOROUGH: And tonight I spoke with a top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Joe Biden, and I asked him how this terrorist death would impact the war on terror.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: It depends, Joe, on what the administration does now. This guy has a special place reserved for him in hell, but he is only one part of the problem. He was the guy that headed up, as you know, as well as I do, the jihadists, those folks from out of country like him, who came in and according to our military, they made up about 12 percent of our problem, 12 percent of the insurgency.
SCARBOROUGH: But that being said is it safe to say today that the U.S. military took out America‘s number one enemy in Iraq?
BIDEN: Absolutely. He took out our number one enemy, symbolic enemy, and he took out our number one enemy in terms of the specific focus on carnage. You know I think the reason why the Jordanians were able to get the kind of intelligence we needed on him is because Iraqis were beginning to give up on him because he was killing Iraqis indiscriminately.
SCARBOROUGH: With him gone, is there a chance to bring the sides together? Is there a chance for Iraq leaders to step up and take control of their destiny?
BIDEN: When we captured Saddam there was a lot of hope. You said and a lot of other people said unless we did something more than that, there would be as much carnage six weeks from the time we captured him and six months as there was at the time. I am saying the same thing about the capture of—the death of Zarqawi and may he burn in hell. I think that all it‘s going to do is give us an opportunity here and it temporarily—it temporarily abates the ability of his organization to formant the civil war. But I‘m afraid the genie is out of the bottle.
SCARBOROUGH: What is your gauge of the American people? How much longer are they going to allow our politicians in Washington to keep us engaged in Iraq before they finally say we have sacrificed enough money, we‘ve sacrificed enough blood. It‘s time for the Iraqi people to take control of their own country.
BIDEN: I think basically the end of the year, Joe. I think we are approaching that point. Look, they understand. The president has a plan how not to lose Iraq completely, but not how not to win. And the Democrats by and large are putting forward plans of how to get out and not worried about what‘s being left behind.
I think and there is reason why I put forward a plan and it may not be the plan that will work, but at least it‘s a plan. I don‘t know anybody else has one, which says this is how we leave behind a relatively stable Iraq, not a democracy, a stable Iraq and still be able to get out. But if the only choice, Joe, is between staying there and bleeding financially and physically to keep something worst from happening, the American public aren‘t going to buy into it and they are going to leave in droves. I think the president‘s got another you know five, six months and maybe to the end of this year.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Senator Joe Biden, it‘s a great honor to have you with us. Thanks so much.
BIDEN: Great to be with you, Joe. Thanks.
SCARBOROUGH: Let‘s now bring in NBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann. Evan, talk about Zarqawi. People have been talking about him all day today. Just how bad of an actor was this guy on the world stage?
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: Well I think you just have to look to his relationship with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in the sense that if you think that bin Laden and Zawahiri are radical, then come visit Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This is a man that pushed the boundaries of even what al Qaeda thought was acceptable.
He was willing to kill civilians. He was willing to behead people. He was willing to carry out suicide bombings targeting mosques. This was not someone who has any sense of mercy for his foes and he is someone that really embodied I think this new generation of al Qaeda, for which there are no rules. There are no restrictions. Everything is fair game.
SCARBOROUGH: And Evan, he was in fact so brutal and so ruthless that as you suggested, he shocked the sensibilities of Osama bin Laden and his number two man and basically told him to knock it off, right?
KOHLMANN: Yes, it‘s true. And in some ways I think his excesses may have been part of his undoing. By creating this civil war, the civil strife in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, Zarqawi may have prolonged the existence of al Qaeda in Iraq. But what he also did is I think he convinced many Iraqis, even Sunnis that al Qaeda was not interested in Iraqis‘ national interests.
It was interested in his own interest, namely speaking to spark a war against the United States and to use Iraqis as cannon fodder. And I just don‘t think that‘s what most Iraqis want for their country and hopefully this raid, the successful raid is a direct result of that.
SCARBOROUGH: So talk about the long-term impact. The short-term impact obviously we saw killings, more killings today. What‘s the long-term impact of Zarqawi‘s death?
KOHLMANN: Well you know it really is this. We have an opportunity here. There‘s a power vacuum that‘s going to follow the exit of Zarqawi. We have an opportunity here to try to work with moderate Sunni factions and with the Shiites to try to patch up their differences and work back towards the position we were last December right after we had the nation‘s first real elections.
We need to work back to that point. If we don‘t, there will definitely be another Zarqawi. There will be 10 more Zarqawis. There are lots of people that would love to fill his position. They have got the drive. They have got the energy. They have got the motivation. All they are looking for is the opportunity.
And if we slack off and we let these guys creep back in and they will creep back in, it‘s going to be just like it is now once again. I mean don‘t forget before 2003, that was only three years ago, nobody had ever heard of Zarqawi before. Nobody could have foreseen what he did in Iraq and don‘t try to foresee what‘s going to come next because it‘s impossible to predict.
SCARBOROUGH: I think you‘re exactly right. Evan Kohlmann, thank you so much.
KOHLMANN: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: And you‘re exactly right. Nobody could have foreseen what he did, which is basically divide a country. I mean this guy actually put out a memo a year and a half ago saying that they needed to kill as many Shiites as humanly possible so they could start a civil war. And he almost succeeded earlier this year with the bombing of the mosque.
Now earlier tonight I took a walk down the hall to the set of MSNBC‘s “HARDBALL” here in Washington, D.C. and I asked Chris Matthews to weigh in on what Zarqawi‘s death means for President Bush.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”: You know it‘s been a plus like this before with the capture of Saddam Hussein. This is not quite as big. I think it‘ll be a plus for the president because we are winning. Americans like to win and beat the other side. And this is one of the real bad guys and I think the more that we think about him as a beheader, a guy who actually beheaded himself Nicholas Berg, the American for no reason. The guy was just there. A horrible guy and I think it‘s going to help people root for the president for a while. It‘s not going to last long though.
SCARBOROUGH: Not going to be a big impact. Do you think we‘ve gotten to the stage where Ronald Reagan was in 1985, 1986 where he kept trying to pitch the Contra War, the Contra War and finally at some point, Americans just turned it off and said no, we are against it. Are we almost there with Iraq where Americans have had their viewpoints hardened so much—just not a lot is going to change their minds...
MATTHEWS: I just look at the health chart on this word; you know a health chart with that line zigzagging, but going down relentlessly. Yes, once in a while it pops up. You catch Saddam, you kill Zarqawi, you get a new government there, it pops up maybe an inch or two. But then there is a relentless slope to it and I think that‘s the president‘s problem. It was the problem with Harry Truman in Korea, the problem with Lyndon Johnson and Nixon in Vietnam.
We don‘t like murky international messes. Jimmy Carter with the hostage crisis. Every month is going to be worse. And I think that‘s his problem. We have to get out of there. I think the war hurts anybody who‘s in office. It hurts the Republicans. The war is a negative.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, one of the guys, he‘s the biggest champions of the military on the Hill, is a former prisoner of war, a military hero himself, Senator John McCain. Now, he‘s been a (INAUDIBLE) supporter of the war in Iraq since the very beginning. Tonight I asked the guy that many people believe will be the 2008 presidential nominee for the Republican Party just how important Zarqawi‘s death was.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: I think it was very important. It took out a force of evil that was not only a threat to Iraq and our efforts there, but a threat to the United States, Joe, and you have seen his statements. You heard his tapes where he said his goal was the destruction of the West in general and the United States in particular, so I think it was very significant.
Have we forgotten that he liked to saw people‘s heads off? I mean this is—I can‘t think of a more evil character. You would have to go back to Hitler‘s Germany before you‘d find people of this depth of evil.
SCARBOROUGH: What does the president need to do right now to exploit the death of Zarqawi, to push democracy, to push freedom, to push stability forward in Iraq?
MCCAIN: I think to tell the American people that this is ample reason why we have to stay the course. And that we not—as I mentioned in—beginning of our conversation, this just wasn‘t the elimination of a threat to Iraq. This was elimination of a threat to the West, part of this titanic struggle we are in between western Judeo Christian values and principles and radical Islamic extremists.
SCARBOROUGH: How much longer do you think Americans are going to put up with our troops being over in Iraq before they finally say you know what, this is the Iraqis‘ problem. We contributed enough money. We‘ve sacrificed enough blood. Let them take over and take destiny for their own country.
MCCAIN: In other words, what success? The success is what happens when you fight any insurgency. It‘s slow and it‘s gradual and one day finally you see the threat eliminated. It‘s not a peace signing onboard the USS Missouri. We have to have a functioning government and improving economy and most importantly, the Iraqi military and law enforcement taking over responsibilities from the United States military and so that they are doing the fighting and dying for their own country and beating back this insurgency, which will take many years before it‘s over.
The key to it, Joe, is not American presence. It‘s American casualties. As you well know and our viewers know, we‘ve had troops in South Korea for many, many years. Nobody minds that. The way we keep the American casualties down is having the Iraqis capable of taking over those responsibilities. I don‘t want to revisit history and I don‘t want to on this day of celebration to sound a sour note, but we are paying a very heavy price for not having enough troops there to start with, which—and we know where the responsibility for that lies.
SCARBOROUGH: No doubt about it. You cannot win wars on a cheat.
Thank you so much, Senator John McCain, great honor to have you...
MCCAIN: Thanks, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: And you know I sat down with Senator McCain after that interview in his office and I‘ll tell you what, he is a straight shooter. What a straight-talker and truly our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world have no greater champion than he.
We‘ll be right back with the debate on immigration when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: The Chicks are filleted, postponing and canceling concerts outright. Is it time to apologize to George Bush again? Maybe it is time to say I‘m sorry. We‘ll tell you about that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: President Bush didn‘t let the death of Zarqawi stop him from hammering home his immigration message. Today he demanded that Congress accept his guest worker program for millions of illegal immigrants, saying that deporting illegal immigrants right now—quote—
“ain‘t going to work”.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then there are those here in Washington who say why don‘t we just find the folks and send them home. That ain‘t going to work. That‘s not a good idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Is the president pushing a program that nearly 80 percent of Americans disagree with? Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Brent Wilkes. He‘s national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Gentlemen thank you for being with us.
SCARBOROUGH: Brent, let‘s start with you. We had Mr. Gutierrez (ph) on the other night and he accused Mr. Buchanan early on of being a fascist, a racist, a bigot for opposing this program that many people believe is amnesty. Do you believe that Americans—that 80 percent that oppose this program are bigots?
BRENT WILKES, LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS: Of course not. We believe that this is the right bill for American that providing an opportunity for people to come here legally, to work hard, to earn their way to a legal status and to contribute to this great country as generations of immigrants have done before. We believe that‘s the right thing and most Americans support that and President Bush is taking the lead on this key issue.
I don‘t know about Pat Buchanan‘s personal views on race issues. I‘d be happy to have a conversation with him about that. But it is very suspicious that he seems to be demagoguing this issue at a time when the economy is not doing well, at a time when the war in Iraq is not going well and a time when there is lots of corruption in Congress and people are concerned about that. Those are the real issues that Americans are focused on and they are trying to distract people‘s attention by focusing on immigration.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, are you being a demagogue?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Joe, I was invited on. I‘m
not trying to distract Americans. Look, what the president said today is -
it‘s not going to happen. We are not going to deport 12 million people.
First the president is not deporting anybody. He is not doing his job.
Secondly, no one recommends we deport 12 million people. What we recommend is quite simple. A security fence all along the border, which stops the flood, stops the illegals from coming in. Secondly, simply remove the magnets that draw them here. Punish people that hire illegals and remove all the welfare benefits from people who don‘t belong here and are here illegally.
Attrition is the strategy of the conservatives. The ones we want deported and I think the gentleman from LULAC might agree with this, are any of these gang members who are illegal aliens and anyone who has been convicted of a felony who is illegal alien, and anyone who‘s convicted of drunk driving, which you are killing an awful lot of Americans. Those are the people you deport. Other than that, attrition will solve the problem. I don‘t want a national nanny raid. Neither does any other true conservative.
WILKES: Well the problem with that, Pat, is that attrition is like saying (INAUDIBLE). We make life as miserable as possible for the immigrants that are here so that perhaps they will leave overtime. That‘s a ridiculous argument. Hey, they are working hard.
They‘re feeding our families. They‘re picking food. They‘re building our homes. They‘re taking care of our kids. Let‘s give them an opportunity to legalize their status, to earn their way toward that avenue. What harm is that? Now I agree with you the folks that are causing problems here, they should go back. We agree 100 percent with that. We have to have secure borders...
BUCHANAN: All right. Let me respond to that.
BUCHANAN: Let me respond to that.
WILKES: But they should have an opportunity to legalize their status...
WILKES: This idea of attrition is ridiculous.
BUCHANAN: All right. Hold it. Look, illegal people I think don‘t belong here. People who are in line want to come legally should be first in line. The illegals should go home.
WILKES: There is no line, Pat. There is no line...
BUCHANAN: Let me talk about the Italian immigration 100 years ago, Joe. Those folks came to the country, a lot of them—of course some of them thought the streets were paved with gold. Some of them came legally. Many of them didn‘t find work here and when they didn‘t find work here because there is no welfare state to keep them here, they got on the boat and they went back home. Others stayed here and became citizens.
BUCHANAN: That‘s what we want to reenact that again.
BUCHANAN: No, no...
WILKES: Those folks had—they came—they got off the boat. They came in and that was that. There is not all this complicated bills. It was very easy to emigrate back when the Italians...
BUCHANAN: They were...
WILKES: ... came and the Irish came...
BUCHANAN: Look, what we got is six million people. Let‘s go back to what the president said, Joe. Six million people have tried to break into the country and been caught under Bush. Four million have got here. Bush says we‘re not deport anybody. If you‘re not going to deport anybody, Mr. Bush, then you‘re going to lose your country because they are coming in the millions, 1.8 million expected to be caught this year. If you are not going to deport anybody, it is over.
SCARBOROUGH: Brent Wilkes, are you impressed by the president‘s staying power here that despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans seem to be against this bill, despite the fact that his conservatives are abandoning him, he still is staying with this immigration reform and really pushing it every day, some would say to his political detriment.
WILKES: I would say the president is—has staying power. We do appreciate his strong support on this issue, but I have to say the majority of Americans while they are against illegal immigration, they do support changing our law to give people legal opportunity to come here. That currently isn‘t in place and they do support the idea that people can earn their way to legal status as long as they pay a fine, they undergo a background check. They pay their debt to society...
SCARBOROUGH: And yet this Pew poll says that...
SCARBOROUGH: ... 77 percent of Americans want to either freeze or lower the levels of immigration. Only 17 percent want to increase them. And this bill by the White House is on standard suggests that we‘re going to have anywhere from 40 to 100 million new immigrants. Americans certainly don‘t support that, do they?
WILKES: Americans are certainly benefiting from the great economy engine that immigration has brought...
SCARBOROUGH: But they don‘t support it, right?
WILKES: They do support comprehensive immigration reform that provides a legal opportunity for folks who are working hard...
WILKES: You know they see the people...
WILKES: ... doing this work in their communities. They see them picking the food. They see them taking care of the kids...
BUCHANAN: But Joe...
WILKES: They see them cleaning the homes. That‘s what people see and they support that. They know how hard they work...
BUCHANAN: We all heard all that wonderful stuff. Joe, your guest says the economy looks like it‘s headed downward. Why would you bring in millions of people if your economy looks like it‘s headed downward and it looks like we‘re going to increase unemployment. Let me tell you where Bush is going though, Joe.
Mike Pence, a Republican House member, has put together his rational middle ground. Bush used the phrase today the Senate plan is dead. They are going to try to bring Pence‘s plan up out of Heritage, which says the illegals go back for one week and then they come back to their jobs so they don‘t get amnesty. This is the great betrayal that is coming down the pipe.
The reason Bush is out there, Joe, you got a good point. He is not—
I mean he‘s not a fanatic going out there on something that‘s totally dead. They‘ve got something up their sleeves and I think it‘s this huge plan worked out by Crible (ph), the Chamber of Commerce types, which means first and foremost blanket pardon for the businesses.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Pat Buchanan, we‘ll have to leave it there.
Thank you Pat. Thank you Brent Wilkes. Greatly appreciate you being here.
Coming up next, you‘re not going to want to miss this, extraordinary lessons from ordinary men, readers of (INAUDIBLE) were so inspired by Tim Russert‘s relationship with his dad, they shared their stories of him up next. Tim is back with us with some emotional words of wisdom from fathers. It‘s very moving.
And later, they may not forgive or forget. Supporters of President Bush could be getting even with country music‘s Dixie Chicks. They‘re getting filleted.
SCARBOROUGH: NBC‘s Washington bureau chief and moderator of “MEET THE PRESS” Tim Russert with moving stories about the wisdom of our fathers. You will be moved, I promise. That‘s going to be when we return, but first here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know.
SCARBOROUGH: The Dixie Chicks attack the president and still shot to number one, and it looks like they had the last laugh. That‘s what I said. But now the Chicks are getting fried at the box office. Is it payback time for their conservative fans?
And an attempt to demolish a television tower ends in a towering mistake. That‘s “Must See SC.” Uh-oh. Wrong one?
Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Those stories in just minutes, but first, Fathers Day is right around the corner and a new book has just hit the shelves, the perfect time for any dad.
The book is “Wisdom of our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons,” and its author is Tim Russert. He‘s Washington bureau chief of NBC News and moderator of “Meet the Press.” And he‘s the author of another best-selling book, “Big Russ and Me.” I spoke tonight to Tim and I asked him why he decided toad write this new book.
TIM RUSSERT, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”: I received 60,000 letters and e-mails from sons and daughters all across the country telling me that it was their dad‘s hard work, their sacrifice, that he gave everything and wanted nothing.
And no one talked about an expensive vacation or a material gift; it was the act of their father, his generosity, his discipline, his sacrifice. And so I determined that these letters, one, should be read—and I read them all—but, two, they should be remembered. And so I put them together in a book called “Wisdom of our Fathers.”
And I‘m going around the country now talking about it, and it has—
Joe, it‘s changed my life. It‘s a journey that I never expected, never anticipated, but I‘ve learned that it‘s the small moments in a father‘s relationship with a son or daughter that makes the big difference.
SCARBOROUGH: And the fathers in your book, the heroes in your book are not Kennedys; they‘re not Reagans; they are working-class dads. Does it all come down to a father like yours, sacrificing, working two jobs, giving everything he had so you would have an opportunity to go to college and do the type of thing that you‘re doing? Is that what it all comes down to, sacrifice?
RUSSERT: Absolutely. I‘m the first person in my family to go to college, much less law school. And you think about that. My dad quit school in the tenth grade to go fight World War II, but he never regretted it. And he never was envious saying, “Why didn‘t I have a chance?” I stand on his shoulders, and I hope my son will stand on mine.
That‘s the essence of these relationships: hard work, discipline, accountability. There are lots of cartoon that make fun of dads. And I laugh at him, too, but deep down we all know—deep down we all know that our fathers gave their all, sacrificed their all, sometimes working two, three jobs, in order to give us a shot at the American dream. The son of a garbage man, the moderator of “Meet the Press,” where else in the world?
SCARBOROUGH: Your father and my father worked hard, day and night, to earn money. It was never easy for them. But for those Americans that have been more prosperous, how do we pass on these values that you‘re talking about to our sons, that didn‘t grow up in a blue-collar environment, but instead grew up getting just about everything that they wanted?
RUSSERT: That‘s such an important question. I tell my son every day that he‘s always, always loved, but he‘s never, never entitled.
My son growing up in Washington has a much different life than I had in South Buffalo. My son has more access, more opportunity, more privilege, but he has to understand that there is a world beyond himself.
And the reason I wrote these books is for him to read something, read about my dad, read about my upbringing, read about other sons and daughters so he understands what real lessons of life are all about.
The one thing I did take from my dad‘s life that I tried to change was exactly what you‘re talking about. Because my dad worked two full-time jobs, he couldn‘t come to my baseball games or my school activities, and I missed him. I knew he loved me. I knew he would have been there if he wasn‘t working and he was working so we could have a house to live in and an automobile and he paid for our Catholic school education.
But I have made a conscious and deliberate attempt to find time in my work schedule to go to my kids‘ games, to go to my kids‘ school activities, because I remember how haunting it was to look up at the stands when you‘re at home plate and your dad‘s not there.
I hope it‘s made me a better father. But with that comes, I hope, an acceptance by my son that I stand on my dad‘s shoulders, and my son stands on mine. And the only way we can do that is by accepting from each other, from generation to generation, these lasting lessons of life.
SCARBOROUGH: And I remember, after “Big Russ” came out, you saying how you reread it. And you realized, when you got through that book, that you had written it for Luke, your son, as much as you had for your father.
I would guess the same holds true with this book, “Wisdom of our Fathers.” What in particular should my son, who is going off to college this year, and your son, who‘s already at Boston College, what should they learn from this book?
RUSSERT: What I tried to put forward, Joe, is how sons and daughters see their dads. And I actually wrote my son a letter as he went off to college and I left it behind in the dorm room. It broke my heart. He was my wingman. We went to games together. We traveled the country together.
And I said, “Luke, as you go to college, I just leave you with three thoughts: Study hard; laugh often; and keep your honor.”
And that‘s the essence of the wisdom of our fathers, Sons and daughters saying: Our dads taught us how to live our lives.
The little boy who‘s going to the game with his dad and he sees some kids knock down a fence and sneak into the good seats free, and he feels a tug on his wrist. His father says, “No, we pay for our tickets. That‘s the right thing to do.”
It‘s almost as if, every time during the course of his life he wants to veer off that path, he feels that little tug.
My own son read “Big Russ and Me” and read “Wisdom of our Fathers.” I knew that it had connected. On Christmas Eve of 2004, we came home from midnight mass, and Luke was taking off his shirt and getting ready for bed. And my wife ran in and said, “You won‘t believe this.”
I said, “What?” She goes, “He has a tattoo.” I said, “A tattoo? I talked to him about a tattoo, about the health consequences. What is he—
Luke, get in here. Get in here.” And he came in; his arms were locked down. I said, “Lift up your arm.” He said no. “Lift up your arm.”
And there, in little purple stencil, “TJR.” My dad‘s name is Timothy Joseph Russert. My name‘s Timothy John Russert. He said, “Dad, after I read your book, I always wanted you and grandpa on my side.” And I said, “That‘s the nicest tattoo I‘ve ever seen.”
But the fact is, Joe, we were bonded by blood, we were bonded by a book, and now I guess we‘re bonded by a tattoo. But for me it was an acceptance, an affirmation by him he understood these lessons and he realized how important they were to his life.
And if I‘d been successful in passing on Big Russ lessons of life to my own son, then I think I‘ve achieved something as a father and there‘s nothing more important to me.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re out on this book tour. And I know that so many people have been touched by your last book and, obviously, have been touched by this book. Can you give us a story from America, something that you‘ve heard out there—again, obviously, people are still handing you those slips of papers. Does anything stand out about this book tour?
RUSSERT: Yes. I was in Boston the other day. And this young man about 35 came through and said, “I‘d like you to sign the book.” And he said, “You got time for a dad story?” I said, “Sure.”
He said, “My dad worked three jobs, and he did it because he had three sons and he wanted all of them to go to college. And we appreciated it, but we never truly contemplated the level of sacrifice and how hard he worked, and we never thought he was particularly proud of us, that it was just his way of getting us an education and that was the right thing to do as a dad.”
“And then he died,” he said, “and we were gathering up his effects, and we began to clean out his dresser drawer. And we opened the top drawer, and there all alone were the three college diplomas.”
That father felt so passionate about giving his kids a chance to be educated and have a whole new life, those were his prized possessions. He never acknowledged it, never shared it, but he put them in the place, in his mind, of the most ultimate dignity: his top drawer.
SCARBOROUGH: What a remarkable story about a remarkable man. Tim Russert, thank you so much. The book is “Wisdom of our Fathers.” And it‘s certainly something that I‘m going to go out and get for my dad this Fathers Day. Thanks so much for being with us.
RUSSERT: Thanks, Joe. Happy Fathers Day.
SCARBOROUGH: And, you know, there are so many other great stories that you can read about in “Wisdom of our Fathers.” Just it‘s so many moving stories, I couldn‘t more strongly recommend any book for Fathers Day than the one that Tim‘s written.
I‘m joined now by Rita Cosby. She‘s the host of Rita Cosby “LIVE & DIRECT.” Rita, what do you have coming up straight ahead?
RITA COSBY, HOST: Well, Joe, we have a one-hour special on the very big news of today, that Iraq‘s number-one terrorist has been killed. We have one of the best people to tell us what this really means in the war on terror. We have the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Richard Myers is going to join me live.
Plus, Al-Zarqawi beheaded his son. We‘ll have Nick Berg‘s father with some surprising reactions to today‘s news. Joe, be sure to tune in. We‘ve got a one-hour special, wall-to-wall coverage about al-Zarqawi, at the top of the hour.
SCARBOROUGH: Rita, they say you always get to great get. You‘ve done it again tonight. I can‘t wait to see that show. Going to be great.
Rita is coming up next, but here a new bump in the road for the Dixie Chicks. Three years after attacking the president, they shot to number one with their latest CD. But now sales have plummeted, and they‘re canceling concert dates. Are politics still to blame?
And later on “Must See SC,” it might be every woman‘s dream. We‘ll try to figure out why this guy is getting slapped in the face over, and over, and over again.
SCARBOROUGH: The hits just keep on coming for the Dixie Chicks, but not the good kind. After debuting at number one on both the pop and country charts, sales have fallen off 48 percent in the past week. And now surprising news that tickets for their upcoming tour just aren‘t selling.
The Chicks have already cancelled their concert in Memphis. They‘ve postponed shows in Indianapolis and other cities and are reportedly looking at several other cancellations. Now, the question tonight is: Have fans turned on the controversial trio?
With me to talk about it, “Billboard” magazine‘s Wade Jessen and also Ed Hill. He‘s program director at KUBL country music radio station.
Ed, let me begin with you. Do you think that the Dixie Chicks have been dumped by their fans because of politics?
ED HILL, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, KUBL RADIO: Well, Joe, you know, it‘s been making the news. Zarqawi got bombed. I think the Dixie Chicks just got carpet-bombed by their fans today in today‘s news, absolutely. They‘ve turned on them, and the fans are not going to go back to the ones who brought them to the dance. And...
SCARBOROUGH: You say they‘ve turned on them. How have the Dixie Chicks turned on their fans?
HILL: They‘ve betrayed them. The Dixie Chicks have put on concerts.
People have paid prices, big prices to see them in concert prior to 2003. They had big tours before, and they basically just came to the fans and said, “You know what? We don‘t like you anymore. We don‘t need you anymore.”
It‘s like having a relationship with someone for five years, they say they love you, you say they love them, you shower them with gifts, and fame, and praise, and love, and then they say, “You know what? I found someone else, and we never liked you.” That is shattering; that is betrayal; and that is what the Chicks have done to the country audience.
SCARBOROUGH: Wade, obviously, some of these ticket sale numbers are not positive for the Dixie Chicks. What do you think is going on?
WADE JESSEN, “BILLBOARD” MAGAZINE: Well, we can‘t make the blanket assumption that the record buyers that are out there are also the ticket buyers. Ticket buyers aren‘t always record buyers, and record buyers aren‘t always ticket buyers.
That said, I think what is happening with the Dixie Chicks now, in terms of their tour, Joe, is that they really are missing country radio at this point in time. I think the thing that we have to remember is that there over 2,000 country music radio stations in America and they are very, very vital to on-sale dates for tickets for country music concerts.
And without a hit at country radio, a hit record, and radio stations participating in the on-sale date and the promotion of these concerts, it‘s tough.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, so, Wade, that‘s fascinating. So what you‘re saying is that maybe a “Time” magazine cover, maybe a lot of P.R. drives CD sales, but if you still have these country radio stations angry at the Dixie Chicks and keeping them off their rotations, it‘s going to dry up ticket sales.
JESSEN: That‘s absolutely correct. I think there are a number of factors involved in it. Country music radio sitting this tour out, I think, is going to be one of the first realizations for the Chicks and their people and their promoters that the country audience is missing in action to a large degree.
But, also, I mean, let‘s not forget the album was on sale at many of the mass merchants for around $10. That is a better entertainment buy, particularly in the blue-collar sector, where things, in terms of employment, the economy, gas prices, all of those things are affecting the blue-collar audience and in disproportionate measure the country music audience much harder than they are the upper-income folks and folks that are having an easier time making it through these particularly bumpy roads in the economy.
So the blue-collar sector is having a tough time, and they‘ve got to make some choices. If they‘re looking at spending $120 on a pair of concert tickets for one night for a couple of hours, as opposed to $10 bucks for a record, then that decision is pretty easy to make when you‘re putting $3 gas in your car.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, that‘s easy. And, also, let‘s look at some of these cities that the Chicks are having trouble in, having trouble in Memphis, where the show has been pulled, Indianapolis, where it‘s been postponed.
JESSEN: Another real strong country music market.
SCARBOROUGH: Country music market. Houston, Oklahoma City remain uncertain. This is also red state America.
And, Ed, you‘re certainly in the reddest of the red states.
HILL: And proud of it!
SCARBOROUGH: If you look at that, it certainly looks like politics may be playing a part in these country music stations saying, “We‘re just not going to put them in our rotation.”
HILL: It is not politics. You know, initially, when Natalie made that stupid statement in 2003, there was a political avenue to it. And, yes, it does carry through a little bit, because they are affecting—what the Dixie Chicks have said is affecting middle America, the identity of middle America.
Our sons and daughters are fighting a war. They were fighting it then; they‘re fighting it now.
But, more importantly, it has become a personal issue with the Dixie Chicks, not just against the country audience, but against country radio and against the country music industry.
SCARBOROUGH: And again, Ed, the reason why—I mean, in the “Time” magazine article, one of the Chicks said that they didn‘t want Reba McEntire fans and Toby Keith fans listening to their CDs.
HILL: There you go.
SCARBOROUGH: Have they gotten too big for their britches, so to speak?
HILL: Absolutely. You know, I‘ve had a chance to meet the Chicks. I‘ve spoken with several people. And you know what? They are not the nicest people. That has not been brought up. But they are somewhat arrogant, and they were that before 2003.
I think this is a little bit of payback for the Dixie Chicks. And I think that, their company and their platform will see quite a bit of disintegration as time goes on.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Wade, thank you so much, Ed, greatly appreciate it, as always. You guys are great.
And coming up next, demolition experts take down one television camera. I hate when this happens. But they didn‘t mean to do what happened next. Stay with us for “Must See SC.”
SCARBOROUGH: Time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” video you just got to see.
First up, Kansas City, where wrecking crews imploded a section of this bridge that collapsed over the weekend. Now, friends, this is an example of what a demolition looks like when done right. This, on the other hand, is what happens when things go wrong.
HOMER SIMPSON, “THE SIMPSONS”: D‘oh!
SCARBOROUGH: The wrecking crew there was supposed to only take down the TV tower you see on the left. But when the tower was on its way down, it cut a wire connected to the second tower and, well, as Homer Simpson would say...
SCARBOROUGH: Look at that.
Finally to the Internet. Remember that old after shave commercial with the tagline, “Thanks, I needed that”? Well, if a good slap in the face is what this guy needed, he received an abundance of assistance. The man, who appears to have been slapped a hundred times or so, just seems to take a licking and keep on ticking.
And we‘ll be right back with tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY mailbag, where you get your chance to slap me around.
SCARBOROUGH: Wake up Aunt Ethel. It‘s time for tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY mailbag. First, we go to Peter in Tennessee.
He writes, “Joe, as a legal immigrant and a permanent resident, I find it inconceivable that amnesty be offered en masse to illegal immigrants. They should have to enter the same legalization process as the multitude of scientists, artists and athletes that have come here grateful to pursue their crafts.”
You‘re exactly right, Peter.
Next up, let‘s go to Michigan and Cheryl. She e-mails us about the Ann Coulter controversy. We talked about it last night. And she said, “Joe, I agree with you. If you or I lose a loved one, we have the right to express our views. We do not, however, have the right to silence others who disagree with us by using the tragedy and victimhood as a defense shield.”
Good point, Cheryl.
And, finally, let‘s go to Marshall in Georgia who writes, “Joe, I always liked your congressional record and miss having you there. I bet you‘re glad to be out of that nuthouse, and I admire you for getting out. Do you ever miss it?”
Yes, Marshall, I miss it about as much as I miss high school.
Thanks so much for being with us tonight. I greatly appreciate it, as always. That‘s all the time we have for tonight. But stick around, because Rita Cosby “LIVE & DIRECT” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.