JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Good evening. It is a good evening over here, at least, but not in Iraq. Right now in Iraq, it‘s a country in freefall, more bombings, more bloodshed and today a shocking mass kidnapping in the heart of Baghdad, where gunmen dressed as Iraqi policemen stormed the education ministry, kidnapping teachers and visitors, as many as 50 Iraqis taken hostage, maybe more. Many have been released, but one week after U.S. elections and six weeks before Democrats take control of Congress, insurgents pull off one of their most breath-taking operations yet.
And in Iran, the situation no better as more evidence surfaces of a budding nuke program in that country. Iran‘s president has said the nuclear program will be complete in months, not years. And that‘s a word that brings images of nuclear holocaust to the mind of Israeli leaders. While the meltdown in Iraq and Iran threatened to launch a bloody, protracted conflict in the Middle East, the growing crisis over there is causing a pitched political battle over here, with the Democrats‘ next Speaker backing an anti-war candidate who‘s accusing his own party of Swiftboating him, and the Republicans‘ presumptive presidential candidate calling for more troops in Iraq. It‘s getting ugly out there.
To talk about the war and the region that‘s slipping tragically beyond the president‘s control is Michael Crowley—he‘s the senior editor for “The New Republic”—Bob Cusack—he‘s the managing editor of “The Hill” -- and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.
Michael Crowley, let me show you some numbers here. This is a Gallup poll that puts it all in perspective for just how badly things have slipped out of control for the president. This “USA Today”/Gallup poll shows that Americans believe that 61 -- 61 percent of Americans want Democrats in Congress to decide which way this country is headed. Only 31 percent want President Bush there.
And of course, all of this comes back to Iraq. The news keeps getting worse over there, Michael. What are the impacts not only for Iraq, but more importantly, for where our Congress goes and our president goes in the next six months?
MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”: Well, it‘s incredibly depressing. Today‘s story is just unbelievably depressing. And you know, I think that you don‘t want to kind of immediately start spinning events like this into the political ramifications, but the reality is that there is an effect on Capitol Hill. And I think that every day we hear about horrible tragedies like this in Iraq, I think it does empower Democrats to push a little harder for their vision, which I think, generally speaking, although there‘s not a specific Democratic plan, is, “Get out sooner rather than later,” whereas the president is still talking about a kind of a “stay the course” position. So...
SCARBOROUGH: Well, that is, Michael, what the president‘s talking about, but of course, as you know, 2008 presidential hopeful Senator John McCain has taken a position that you can only call bold. He‘s actually calling for more troops in Iraq. Take a listen to what he said on “Meet the Press.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: ... that a withdrawal or a date for withdrawal will lead to chaos in the region. And most military experts think the same thing. I believe that there are a lot of things we can do to salvage this, but they all require the presence of additional troops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, additional troops? Is John McCain the only man in America who thinks that?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he‘s not. Quite frankly, we can‘t win the war without additional forces. I disagree with McCain to this extent. I think to win it, you‘re going to need an awful lot more than 20,000 troops. You might need 150,000 more.
SCARBOROUGH: But Pat, we‘re not going to get—I mean, where do we get...
SCARBOROUGH: ... those troops from? The troops aren‘t out there.
BUCHANAN: This is my point. We‘re not going to put the troops in. McCain also said that if we‘re going to get out, rather than draw it out lengthily, we ought to get out now. In other words, he‘s got the George Wallace position from 1968, when Wallace said, Win or get out.
Now, Joe, what is happening is we‘re not winning the war on the ground in Iraq, but we are losing it here in the United States. I think the Democratic position, the withdrawal, is going to be successful. And I think what‘s going to happen is very probably, the United States is going to lose this war. And McCain is right, it will be a national calamity.
SCARBOROUGH: And of course, Pat, as you and I both know, the conservatives were saying throughout the ‘60s and early ‘70s that the problem in Vietnam wasn‘t that we had too many troops there. It was that we didn‘t have enough and we weren‘t doing the right things to win. But this is what‘s so fascinating.
Bob Cusack, let me bring you in here because you got John McCain, who‘s, again, the presumptive GOP nominee, saying we need more troops. When you pressed Charlie Rangel, one of the new powerhouses on the Hill, back in September about how Democrats would handle the war if they took control of the House, this is what Rangel suggested, that they would cut funding for the troops, saying, quote, “You‘ve got to be able to pay for the war, don‘t you?” Of course, the president talked about that quote. But it seems like we‘ve got the two parties just splitting in opposite directions, McCain over here and Charlie Rangel on the other side.
BOB CUSACK, “THE HILL”: Well, exactly, Joe. I mean, I do think that what McCain is doing is very brash, but it‘s not going to happen. Democrats now control the power of the purse. But what is the Democratic plan? They say a lot about what they don‘t want to do. They don‘t want to stay the course. They don‘t want to cut and run. But what exactly do they want to do?
And how they‘re going to fund this war is going to be key, and they are all over the map. Some of the conservative Democrats who just got elected to Congress don‘t want to leave right away. But this “out of Iraq” caucus in the House has 73 members, a lot of liberal members, a lot of committee chairs, including will be Chairman Rangel. So they are just all over the map on this, and they really are going to have to decide, make some major decisions on this. And of course, it‘s going to come down to the Baker commission report.
SCARBOROUGH: And Bob Crowley, what‘s—or Michael Crowley, what‘s so fascinating right now is what‘s going on in the Democratic House, where the Democrats are trying to figure out which way they‘re going to go. Of course, you and I both know Nancy Pelosi trying very hard to get her man out there, of course. And—well, you know, obviously, Murtha is one of the really heroes of the anti-war movement. She‘s trying to get him to be her number two. But there‘s political warfare now. The head of a left-leaning watchdog group is saying, quote, “Pelosi‘s endorsement suggests that she was interested in the culture of corruption only as a campaign issue and has no real interest in true reform. It‘s shocking to me that someone with Murtha‘s ethics problems could be number two in the House leadership.” Again, that‘s from a liberal watchdog group.
Michael Crowley, of course, they‘re talking about Abscam. They‘re talking about other scandals. And Murtha responded, saying this. Quote, “I‘m disconcerted that some are making headlines by resorting to unfounded allegations that occurred 26 years ago. I thought we were above this type of Swiftboating attack.”
And Michael, one final thing I‘m going to show you that I‘m sure a lot of Americans seen, the clip that Murtha and his critics were talking about. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I got the $50,000, OK? From what you‘re telling me, OK—you‘re telling me that that‘s not what you—you know, that that‘s not what...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m not interested.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You know, we do business for a while, maybe I‘ll be interested, maybe I won‘t, you know?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: OK, and of course, Michael Crowley, explain how a clip from 1980 is resurfacing 26 years later from a Democrat. Is he being Swiftboated because he‘s anti-war?
CROWLEY: No, Joe, I don‘t think so. I mean, you know, there are sort of competing centers of power in the House right now. I mean, the funny thing about that—the House Democrats, it‘s, like, you finally got what you wanted. Congratulations on your majority. Now, you know, go start cannibalizing each other. I mean, there‘s something a little tragicomic about it.
But Steny Hoyer wants the job of majority leader. Murtha‘s running against him. Murtha is Pelosi‘s guy. And I think people who like Hoyer I think rightfully say, Look, there are a lot of questions about Murtha‘s record. And Murtha can say, Well, you‘re going back 25 years to Abscam, but it fits into a context of Murtha having good relations with lobbyists. He receives huge amounts of lobbyist contributions. He was up there with Tom DeLay in a couple of the recent election cycles.
He‘s notorious for sort of cutting deals with people for, you know,
earmarks and appropriations deals. So I think it‘s legitimate in a larger
context. It‘s not this one isolated episode. I think it just suggests
that Murtha is a guy who‘s kind of a Washington deal maker. You might have
some questions about how he operates. It doesn‘t disqualify him from the
job, but I don‘t think it‘s sleazy Swiftboating. I think that‘s kind of a
you know, I think it‘s kind of a ridiculous response on his part.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Bob, again, you work on the Hill. I like Jack Murtha a lot. I really do. But I got to tell you, that guy was every bit the operator that Tom DeLay ever was. Both of these guys are Washington insiders. Everybody always came to Murtha on the Democratic side. Republicans even called him chairman because he had so much power when they were in the minority. This could be a stain on Nancy Pelosi‘s record, right?
BOB CUSACK, “THE HILL”: It definitely could. I mean, Murtha is very well respected on both sides of the aisle, but at the same time, this is a huge gamble by Nancy Pelosi, really an unexpected move. Early on, Hoyer was viewed as the major favorite. He was getting a lot of votes. And then all of a sudden, Nancy Pelosi jumps in. And right now, it is a tight race. And it‘s anybody‘s game. But if she—if Pelosi does not get Murtha in that position, she‘s lost a lot of political capital.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, that‘s my question. What‘s the worst case scenario for Nancy Pelosi and Democrats, that she wins...
BUCHANAN: Now, look...
SCARBOROUGH: ... or that she loses? Because if she wins, we‘re going to have these stories about Murtha‘s ethics for months.
BUCHANAN: Here‘s what I think‘s going on, Joe. I don‘t think Murtha‘s going to win. I think Hoyer‘s probably got it locked up. I think Murtha went to Pelosi and said, Look, you owe me. I want this job. I came out for you. I nominated you. I fought for you. I led the cause. I want your support.
And Pelosi‘s got two choices. She can say, I‘m going to ditch my old buddy and help Steny Hoyer, I don‘t like, or I can stay with Murtha and...
SCARBOROUGH: ... this is the first time she‘s stuck her neck out...
BUCHANAN: But Joe...
SCARBOROUGH: ... with her Democratic caucus...
BUCHANAN: But you‘ve got...
SCARBOROUGH: ... and she‘s going to get it chopped off! That weakens her, doesn‘t it?
BUCHANAN: Well, she‘s got two choices, and none of them is good. And what she said is, The better choice for me is to stand by my guy and have Hoyer win the race and then close ranks and stay with Hoyer and show my loyalty, that I‘m a stick-up person. I don‘t become Speaker and throw over the side...
SCARBOROUGH: Pat, you have become so idealistic...
BUCHANAN: No, no! No, no, no!
SCARBOROUGH: ... in these last few weeks. You said that Bush needed to stand by Rumsfeld. I mean, the way—let me tell you how Washington works.
BUCHANAN: I know how it works.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat, you know how it works! You know better than me! But the way it worked when I was Congress is, they would always let you go out on that plank, and then, you know, you turn back around...
BUCHANAN: Well, let me tell you...
SCARBOROUGH: ... and they pull it, and you drop into the water.
BUCHANAN: Let me tell you something...
SCARBOROUGH: They go, OK, on to the next one.
BUCHANAN: I‘m of the view that the smartest, the best thing Harry Truman did was to go out to the funeral of Tom Pendergast (ph), the crook. You stand by your people...
SCARBOROUGH: You stand by your crook?
BUCHANAN: ... and take your hit.
BUCHANAN: Yes, that‘s right. You stand by your friend and take a hit, Joe.
CROWLEY: Joe, can I suggest a third option that Pelosi had, which would have been to get Murtha to stop—to drop this race a while ago.
BUCHANAN: I bet she tried.
CROWLEY: Say, You‘re putting me in an impossible position.
BUCHANAN: I bet she tried.
CROWLEY: Then the Democrats who are mad at Pelosi now should be upset with Murtha. I mean, he put Pelosi in a very difficult position.
CROWLEY: He started a fight that no one needed. So I‘m surprised she‘s not more upset at him, and maybe in response maybe wouldn‘t have...
SCARBOROUGH: But again, though, guys, I mean, if you were the Speaker of the House—I don‘t care who it is. You go up to him and say, Listen, you stood by me. I‘m going to take care of you later on. But I cannot allow...
SCARBOROUGH: ... the first act as Speaker of the new Democratic House to blow up in my face. It weakens me. It embarrasses the party. It hurts our cause. Why can‘t you do that?
BUCHANAN: Suppose the guy says, I know what you‘re saying, Nancy, but I believe it. It‘s my last chance. I‘m going to lead this party in an anti-war movement. I‘m running. What do you do?
SCARBOROUGH: You say, You run, I can‘t support you. I‘ve got to be down the middle. Because I cannot—because you don‘t have the votes! You can count the votes, Murtha...
BUCHANAN: I know that!
SCARBOROUGH: ... better than anybody else! You don‘t have the votes, Murtha! What are you doing?
BUCHANAN: ... I‘m going to go ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m saying, thought, yes, go ahead, but I can‘t be with you. You swing...
SCARBOROUGH: ... at your own expense.
BUCHANAN: You say, I can‘t be with you. And everybody said, Murtha was with her when she needed him, and she dumped her guy. That would cut her in the caucus.
SCARBOROUGH: And you know what you say? You say, Thank you so much for making me Speaker. You know what you also did? You made yourself chairman of the Defense Appropriations Committee. You‘re now one of the most powerful people, regardless of whether you get this leadership post or not.
Bob, let me give you the last word. How much is Nancy Pelosi pushing right now?
CUSACK: She is pushing very hard. We‘re reporting tonight that not only did she put out this letter of support, she is making phone calls. She is trying to change the outcome of this race. And that is pretty serious. And the one thing is, she has to win this. She just has to win it. And if she doesn‘t, it‘s going to be a big stain on her.
And the thing is, it also shows that her relationship with Steny Hoyer has always been strained. They had a leadership race years ago, and she wants an ally on her team, not Steny Hoyer.
SCARBOROUGH: And Pat Buchanan, let me just say for the record, you have forgotten more about politics than I ever knew.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m not saying that you‘ve got Alzheimer‘s or anything. I‘m saying—you‘re just such a smart man. You have all this information, Pat. Let‘s make a quick wager, Pat. We got to go, but does Murtha win or lose?
BUCHANAN: I think Hoyer wins.
SCARBOROUGH: You think Hoyer wins? Let me go around. Bob Cusack?
CUSACK: I think Pelosi gets what she wants and Murtha wins.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael Crowley?
CROWLEY: If I had to guess, I‘d say Hoyer. But whatever happens, there‘s going to be a lot of bitterness afterwards. So welcome to your new life, Speaker Pelosi.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, welcome to your life, Speaker Pelosi. I‘m just—
I‘m with Bob here. I don‘t see how she loses her first battle.
BUCHANAN: Had to do it. Had to do it.
SCARBOROUGH: I think the Democrats line up behind her. And I think they‘re going to probably end up electing Murtha. All right. We‘ll see. Michael Crowley, Bob Cusack—Pat, stick around.
Coming up next: Rudy Giuliani tells America he is ready to run against Hillary—again! But this time, it‘s for the big prize. Democrats fret Hillary‘s not electable, while Republicans are saying that Rudy can‘t win. Wow, this is a match made in heaven.
Plus: It‘s a Scientology-fueled couch-jumping even of the year. Tom Cruise lands in Italy ahead of this weekend‘s big wedding that observers are already calling bizarre.
And later: Bill Maher and the GOP. The comic threatens to out more gay Republicans on “Larry King Live.” We‘ll talk about the Republicans‘ angry response with the communication director from George Bush‘s 2004 campaign. That‘s next.
SCARBOROUGH: Big news from campaign 2008. That‘s right, you heard it, campaign 2008, where Rudy Giuliani jumps into the race. He‘s preparing to run once again against Hillary Clinton. It‘s going to be a bloodbath, a political showdown. Can either of them win their party‘s nomination?
Here‘s Jim Warren. He‘s managing editor of “The Chicago Tribune.” And Pat Buchanan with us once again. Jim, it doesn‘t really get more fascinating than this match-up, Rudy versus Hillary. Question is, Who‘s going to win if either of them can get past their party‘s nomination process?
JIM WARREN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Oh, this is so absolutely scrumptious. Remember, the last time Rudy Giuliani actually ran a political campaign, Joe—and I think this is an interesting factor—is 1997, when he ran for mayor. He was going to run against Hillary for Senate in 2000 but then had prostate cancer.
I think the big question about Giuliani to me is, which one would we see? Would we see the pre-9/11 Rudy Giuliani, the guy who was the famously moderate Republican who was pro-abortion, anti-guns, pro-gay rights, or do we see the post-9/11 Giuliani, Mr. Tough Guy, Mr. I Take Responsibility, I can be tough on the tough guys? And I think he‘s got a choice to make.
SCARBOROUGH: And Pat Buchanan—so many Democrats on the Democratic side—I think Hillary Clinton‘s inevitable. I think Bill Clinton‘s raises all the money for her that she needs. She can raise a heck of a lot of money on her own. They are the most powerful force in Democratic politics, bar none. But so many Democrats don‘t think she can win the election. They are very nervous. Can she win the election if she runs sort of a rogue 2004-style campaign?
BUCHANAN: I think there‘s a possibility she can win. I‘ve always thought Hillary bumped her head at about 47 percent, 48 percent. I don‘t think she‘s got the nomination locked up. There‘s two people I think that can beat her. One is Al Gore because he‘s got the environment and the war issue. He was anti-war before anybody else. And the second who might be able to do it is Barack Obama, if he gets out there and he does very well.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, come on, Pat. Do you really think that?
BUCHANAN: There‘s a—I mean, you‘re talking about a possibility.
If I had to bet, I‘d bet on Hillary. But I tell you this, in a Hillary-Giuliani race, Hillary wins.
SCARBOROUGH: You really think so?
WARREN: You know, Pat, I...
BUCHANAN: Sure. The third party would take away Giuliani‘s support in the South.
SCARBOROUGH: And of course, you‘d be that third party candidate.
BUCHANAN: No, I would be out there...
BUCHANAN: I might be marching with a pitchfork. I wouldn‘t be leading it!
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. Jim Warren, so do you think if there‘s a Rudy-Hillary showdown that Hillary wins it?
WARREN: No, not necessarily. Remember, as impressive as she was in New York, albeit against a weak Republican opponent, drawing a lot of moderate and Republican votes upstate, she remains, though one of the brightest folks in American politics, one of the most catalytic. There are just so many folks who don‘t like her. And it is mentioned—remember, in a new book by Mark Halperin and John Harris, this is the first time in history we‘ve had back-to-back presidents, each serving eight years in office. And in each case—Bill Clinton and George Bush will go down in history as two of the most polarizing figures ever. I think there is an element of Hillary fatigue, Clinton fatigue. And also, when it come to being a campaigner, as good as she is, she ain‘t Bill.
BUCHANAN: She ain‘t Bill, that‘s for sure.
SCARBOROUGH: I really do think that there is such a fatigue from eight years—will be eight years of Bush and eight years of Clinton. So divisive.
BUCHANAN: But Joe...
SCARBOROUGH: I think America—well, Pat, before we go, I want to show you this poll. I think Americans may be ready to go more towards the middle. There have been some polls out there about possible match-ups in 2008, McCain versus Clinton and Clinton versus Giuliani. This is what it shows. More people would vote for McCain if he were to run against Hillary Clinton, and more people would vote for Giuliani if he were to run against Hillary Clinton.
BUCHANAN: But I‘m telling you, Joe...
SCARBOROUGH: Go ahead, Pat.
BUCHANAN: I‘m telling you, as Giuliani—if he should get somehow the nomination, as he marches to the podium, the Republican Party explodes right in the convention hall. The Republican base cannot go along with Rudy Giuliani, his views on social and cultural and moral issue, the background, the record. The party would explode, Joe. It would come apart. You would have a third party candidate, and that would kill Rudy in the South.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, and Pat, also, though—I mean, let‘s talk about Hillary Clinton, who could really energize her Democratic base. She‘s been moving to the middle, but still, she‘s Hillary Clinton. And that‘s how Karl Rove won in 2000 and in 2004, by saying that, The hell with the moderates, the hell with the independents. We are going to go right and we‘re going to get our base out. Hillary Clinton could do the same thing. She wouldn‘t campaign in northwest Florida, she would campaign in Palm Beach County and Broward County.
SCARBOROUGH: I mean, that‘s...
BUCHANAN: The Republican base is shrinking, Joe, slowly. Look, the liberals now are dominant in northern Virginia. Ohio is gone. You can go down the list of states in a presidential election. The Republican have shots in only three big ones, Ohio, Florida and Texas. And Ohio and Florida are both in big trouble for the GOP.
SCARBOROUGH: Slipping away. Jim?
WARREN: Well, Pat—Pat‘s getting a little apocalyptic. Even though the Democrats now have 28 statehouses—and remember, That‘s an important lift in a presidential campaign. But also, tell me what the economy‘s going to be like. And most importantly, tell me what the situation‘s going to be in Iraq. You‘ve got to believe that whoever the Republican aspirant is, whether it‘s McCain, Giuliani, Mitt Romney, they want that issue off the table. And if it‘s not, I think any of those guys are in deep, deep trouble. Deep trouble.
BUCHANAN: I think McCain can beat them both. I just don‘t think Rudy can do it, Joe. I may be wrong, but I‘m not usually.
SCARBOROUGH: No, Pat, you‘re not!
SCARBOROUGH: My money, if I were a betting man, would be on John McCain. I think that‘s America‘s going to be two years from now. Jim Warren, Pat Buchanan, thanks for being with us.
BUCHANAN: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: Really do appreciate it.
And coming up: Is Bill Maher going after Republicans now more than ever? After accusations that he was going to out GOP gay leaders, is the comedian on a post-election crusade? But first: What do Jay Leno and Brad Pitt have in common? Tune in to “Must See S.C.” to find out how both got duped.
SCARBOROUGH: Wake up your neighbor, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you just got to see. Now, first up, our good friend Anderson Cooper did what we thought was an unnecessary dig at MSNBC last night when he was unveiling an “unusual suspects” newscast. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That‘s right, it‘s Chimpan News Channel, or Conscience. It‘s from Japan. It‘s a newscast for animals by animals. The anchor‘s a chimp. His co-anchor‘s a camel named Pierre Rodriguez, which makes sense. Japanese celebrities come on the show. A Japanese comedian, of course, is the voice for the chimp. And let‘s just hope the idea doesn‘t catch on here. Actually, I heard—and I don‘t know if this is true, Randy (ph). I heard MSNBC is experimenting with this format.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, really? Because, you know, we would never do that here. It‘s got to be across the street.
COOPER: Yes. Well, you know, they‘re constantly looking for new programming, so that‘s what I hear they‘re onto now.
COOPER: I hope it works.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very nice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: That is so cold! That hurts me. I called Anderson up. You know, I said, you know, I thought he had a great show. That hurts. Of course, Anderson, you are again, somebody who once hosted “The Mole.” So you may want to be—well, it‘s the truth! Actually, it is the truth, isn‘t it? I kid because I love, but yes, we do try some things out here at MSNBC, but some of them actually work. So anyway, hey, it‘s 2.0, baby. If they replace me with a chimp, we‘re trading up and it‘s cheaper.
And finally, Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt was reportedly furious at “Vanity Fair” magazine after it put this picture of him on the December issue. Oh, yes, I bet he was really mad. He was just hanging out in the back yard and somebody took the shot. Anyway, last night, Jay Leno revealed a similar experience that happened to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST, “TONIGHT” SHOW: Well, you know, the same thing happened to me. Remember with Victoria‘s Secrets?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember that, man.
LENO: Do we have that? Show that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Excuse me. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.
Coming up next, was Bill Maher‘s outing of a GOP leader just the beginning? Should Republicans be nervous about a sexual McCarthyism sweeping Hollywood?
And later, we‘re going to check in on a quiet little wedding outside of Italy where a publicity-shy couple is preparing to tie the knot. The latest on what‘s sure to be a simple, quiet, perfectly normal ceremony. That‘s coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: Last night we brought you the story of a guy who‘s always been very fair to me when I‘ve been on—I bet I‘ve been on his show, I don‘t know, 10 times over the past 10 years or so. But we‘re talking about comedian Bill Maher. He‘s been accused of outing Republican Chairman Ken Mehlman on a “Larry King Live” segment last week. Take a look at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME”: The people who really run the underpinnings of the Republican Party are gay. I don‘t want to mention names, but I will on Friday night.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: You will Friday night?
MAHER: Well, there‘s a couple of big people who I think everyone in Washington knows, who run the Republican...
KING: You will name them?
MAHER: Well, I wouldn‘t be the first. I‘d get sued if I was the first, but, you know...
MAHER: Ken Mehlman, OK, there‘s one I think people have talked about.
I don‘t think he‘s denied it when he‘s been—people have suggested. He doesn‘t say...
KING: I never heard that. I‘m walking around in a fog.
MAHER: Come on.
KING: Ken Mehlman? I never heard that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: We upset a lot of people when we ran that clip last night. And some of Ken Mehlman‘s friends wanted us to know that Mehlman actually has denied being gay. Again, scroll the prompter, and we‘ll actually show that. He actually told the “New York Daily News,” I‘m not gay, but those stories did a number on my dating life for six months. Yes, I wish I would have had that excuse when I was in college.
So, anyway, why did Bill Maher do it? In fact, I was a loser. That was my biggest problem. Not that I‘m not now. But why didn‘t he follow up on the threat also to out more gay Republicans? And how are Republicans responding to what they consider a political attack?
Here now is Republican strategist Terry Holt. He‘s the former spokesman for President Bush‘s re-election campaign. We also have media editor for the “Huffington Post” Rachel Sklar and also media analyst Steve Adubato.
Let me start with you, Rachel Sklar. Is this what you would call sort of sexual McCarthyism?
RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: I would definitely not call it
McCarthyism. The key difference is that, in McCarthyism, that everybody
was trying to stay off the black list. In this situation, they‘re already
they‘re putting themselves on a black list by refusing to come out.
They‘re closeting themselves.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, but isn‘t that their business?
SKLAR: Sure. Of course. Everybody‘s private life is their own private business. However, when you take it into the public sphere, when you put forth an agenda that puts the private lives of others into a public agenda and a political agenda, as Ken Mehlman did in 2004, by pushing...
SCARBOROUGH: How did he do that?
SKLAR: ... by pushing the anti-gay defense of marriage agendas in 11 states.
TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But even if you‘re gay, you have the right to push whatever agenda you want.
SKLAR: Sure, but that goes to credibility.
HOLT: Your argument makes absolutely no sense.
SKLAR: That goes to credibility. That goes to, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, Terry, what about Democrats who would be angry at what Republican have been doing with these defense of marriage acts on ballot initiatives and say, “Well, gee, isn‘t that a lot like Ted Haggard, that takes about the wages of homosexuality is death, and then he‘s having relationships with gay hookers in Denver rooms?”
HOLT: Yes, and that‘s crass hypocrisy. And that‘s a poor man‘s struggle and has a personal crisis on his hands, and perhaps illegal ones.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, but what about Republicans? Let‘s move it beyond Ken Mehlman. Well, you‘ll actually—let me first ask you about Ken Mehlman. I mean, Ken Mehlman has denied that he‘s gay. Have these rumors popped up on the Hill for a while?
HOLT: It‘s patently stupid. Who cares? First of all, Ken Mehlman is entitled to his private life. He‘s denied it. And most of us get taken at face value.
And as this turns out, I mean, this is Bill Maher, you know, talking off the lip without even really thinking about it. He got cornered by Larry King, and he came up with a name. And, you know, I‘m sorry but, I mean, Bill Maher is a crass and tiny, little human being. I‘m thankful that most Republicans, we get our humor from actually—from funny people and not from Bill Maher.
STEVE ADUBATO, MEDIA ANALYST: Joe, let me offer this.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, hold on. Let me step in again. The thing about Bill Maher that I‘ve found is that he seems to be eminently fair. He also is a guy that will admit...
HOLT: Well, he wasn‘t fair to Ken Mehlman. I mean, let‘s be honest, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: No, he was not fair to Ken Mehlman. There is no doubt.
And could it be, Steve Adubato, because he didn‘t follow up with this...
HOLT: He didn‘t say a word on Friday night as he promised to.
SCARBOROUGH: ... on Friday night. He kept it to himself. Could it be that he just screwed up, like I screw up, like you screw up? I mean, we were talking about this the other night with a segment we ran on Rush Limbaugh, which, of course, Rush twisted around and hung me by, but that‘s another story.
ADUBATO: When he went on the air, he didn‘t...
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m not going to bring that up. That‘s what you get for being decent. But sometimes you screw up. And maybe Bill Maher just made a mistake. Maybe he feels bad about it now.
ADUBATO: Here‘s my problem. There are two. Number one, the Republican leadership, if there are those who happen to be gay in the Republican leadership, I don‘t believe they should be outed, but, boy, are they asking for it in this 24/7 news cycle, in the blogosphere, where everything is fair game. My point is this...
SCARBOROUGH: ... break it down, though. Is it fair game? If you were a Republican—let‘s say you‘re a Republican senator, because a Republican senator was supposedly outed in another episode of “Real Time.” Let‘s say you‘re a Republican senator and you vote against gay marriage.
Are you giving up your privacy right then if you‘re gay yourself?
ADUBATO: No, and I‘ll give you an analogy. The argument there is, if you happen to be African-American, and people can tell whether you are, the assumption is that you are for every single piece of legislation, from civil rights legislation all the way to every affirmative action piece of legislation or quotas, my point is there...
SCARBOROUGH: ... you can be gay—I mean, so, Rachel Sklar, I mean, Steve has a good point. You can be gay. And, again, Ken Mehlman says he‘s not. I‘m taking him at face value. But a Republican can be gay and be against gay marriage.
SCARBOROUGH: What‘s hypocritical about that?
SKLAR: Sure. But there is a difference between being gay and comporting your public life and actively stumping for something that not only...
SCARBOROUGH: But even if I‘m gay, even if I‘m gay—hold on, Rachel.
Hold on a second, Rachel.
SCARBOROUGH: Even if I‘m gay, I could be against gay marriage.
SKLAR: Sure. But when you stump for something that seeks to limit the rights of gay people and foments discrimination and bias against them...
SCARBOROUGH: Listen. If I am gay, I can be against gay marriage but still think I have the right to do whatever the hell I want to do, which is what I believe.
HOLT: And it may shock everybody to know that gay Americans sometimes...
SKLAR: But you‘re going to be called to account for that. You should be held accountable, public...
ADUBATO: Health accountable for what?
SKLAR: Public figures should be held accountable for their views and for being credible. They should be...
ADUBATO: But based on that standard—listen, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. No, no, hold on. The point is—again, I want to restate this, not just for this issue tonight, but as we move forward, you can be gay and you can be against gay marriage.
And, Terry Holt, you and I both know, there are also people who are gay who think that they are living in sin. I mean, that may shock the hell out of Democrats, but that‘s how some gay people feel.
HOLT: Well, and it may shock people to know that some gay Americans are Republicans because they want lower taxes, and limited government, and they want to reform welfare, they want a strong foreign policy. It‘s almost—I mean, you know, liberals should be embarrassed...
SKLAR: Sure, but they belong to a party that closets them.
HOLT: Liberals should be embarrassed by this, because ultimately we should all be for tolerance in our individual and personal life.
ADUBATO: One second, Rachel. I agree with what you‘re saying to an extent, Terry, but here‘s the thing. While I personally would not have done it, professionally would not have done what Bill Maher did, please don‘t say that your party, the Republican Party, is the party of tolerance when it comes to protecting people‘s personal rights. You guys have gone after people on all sorts of levels, personal, private, financial, anywhere you could.
But let‘s go back to Bill Maher. I‘m going to answer your question, Joe. I believe Bill Maher screwed up. I believe Bill Maher made a terrible mistake and he realized it...
HOLT: I wouldn‘t want to defense myself on that point.
ADUBATO: One second, Terry. I believe as soon as he walked out of that studio, Joe, I believe that Maher understood he had a problem.
SCARBOROUGH: I think he did, too. But there is a bigger issue here.
Frank Rich talked about it in the “New York Times” four weeks ago...
ADUBATO: Yes, he did.
SCARBOROUGH: ... about the velvet mafia. The issue of gay Republicans has come up before, not just in the “New York Times,” but also in Bill Maher‘s show. Take a look at this clip where he appears to out Republican Senator Larry Craig.
MAHER: I was looking at what‘s going on in Washington these days, and now I see, you know, a lot of these gay Republicans are being outed, this Larry Craig character from Idaho. Do you know—you must have met him at least. What does your gay-dar tell you about him?
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I actually served in the House with him, and my sense tells me to just shut up.
MAHER: But didn‘t the GOP bring this on themselves?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? Bring what on? The fact that there are gay Republican? Is that a crime?
MAHER: No, but they made...
FRANK: It would be, if the Republicans had their way. The fact is, yes, the Republicans do think it should be a crime, and I think there‘s a right to privacy. But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. And people who want to demonize other people shouldn‘t then be able to go home and close the door and do it themselves.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, I‘m sure that got a lot of applause that night, but no Republican I know in Washington, D.C., wants to make it a crime. And the United States Supreme Court guaranteed that it wouldn‘t be a crime.
But, anyway, let me explain what happened here. A gay activist blogger alleged that Senator Larry Craig was guy on a radio show, but Craig‘s office told reporters, quote, “This story is absolutely ridiculous, almost laughable, and it has no basis in fact.” It again is an example, though, of not just what Bill Maher is saying but what a lot of people in the liberal blogosphere are saying, that Republicans are hypocrites when it come to gays. We‘re going to get reaction from our panel right after the break. We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: Terry Holt, let‘s get your response to that last clip about Larry Craig.
HOLT: Well, I would just say, that whether you‘re a Republican or a Democrat, or a liberal or conservative, if you‘re gay, you‘ve been in a situation where you‘ve felt victimized, where you fell where someone was going to snatch your personal liberty or your freedom from you.
And whether this argument about Bill Maher is there or whether even if it was Rush Limbaugh, I think that all of us need to stand up for people who have the right not to be victimized. I believe that this so-called outing thing that‘s going on in politics, it‘s assault, and it‘s an assault on someone‘s personage.
And you can justify it however you want. You can say the Republican Party‘s issues are wrong, if you want to. We can have that debate. But to do this to individuals and to people who have real lives and real families and children, I‘m not sure that‘s fair. And that‘s why I think...
SCARBOROUGH: Rachel Sklar...
HOLT: ... what was so wrong about Bill Maher is this is someone who did it just to be interesting. It proves that almost anybody...
ADUBATO: You‘re not sure why he did it, Terry.
SCARBOROUGH: Rachel, is it open season on gay Republican? Again, I‘m not talking about Bill Maher here. Again, he did not follow up. But liberal bloggers every single day are trying to out more Republicans. So is it open season on gay Republican?
SKLAR: OK, no, no, no, not open season on gay Republicans. I mean, I want to clarify, and I can‘t believe I have to clarify. Nothing wrong with being gay, Republican or Democrat. Something wrong with being in a party...
HOLT: But you‘re making it wrong.
SKLAR: ... something wrong with a party...
HOLT: You‘re making it wrong to be a gay Republican, and I‘m telling you...
SCARBOROUGH: Let Rachel talk.
SKLAR: I think there‘s a problem—I think there‘s a real problem with a party that institutionalizes closeting, that institutionalizes being gay but not being able to be out.
HOLT: You may not understand this, but the same thing is happening on Capitol Hill every day in the Democratic Party, too.
SKLAR: OK, there is no reason to be closeted if you‘re a Democrat.
There really isn‘t.
ADUBATO: Hold on. Wait a minute. Well, hold on. But, Rachel, that‘s not your responsibility.
SKLAR: Sure. I‘m not taking responsibility.
ADUBATO: It‘s not Bill Maher‘s—one second. No, but you‘re supporting Bill Maher here. And just think about what you‘re saying right now, Rachel. Listen, I am—as a former legislator, I was a sponsor of a gay rights bill in the state of New Jersey. I‘m totally in support of gay rights. But the fact is, I happen to be straight. It‘s irrelevant. My point is, Rachel, realize what you‘re saying. You‘re going down a very slippery slope here.
SKLAR: It is only relevant when you take your private life into the public sphere...
ADUBATO: How did he do that?
SKLAR: ... and push a public agenda.
ADUBATO: Wait a minute. But he happens to disagree with you on that, so you say, “Because I disagree with you on that issue, your private life now becomes public domain. And I support Bill Maher, because politically you agree with him.”
SKLAR: It goes to credibility. It goes to credibility. It goes to accountability. It goes to transparency.
SKLAR: It goes to hypocrisy.
ADUBATO: ... do you wear a fur coat?
SKLAR: I actually don‘t.
ADUBATO: Is it anyone‘s right what your clothes are, if, in fact, you are an animal rights activist?
SKLAR: We‘re really getting off-topic here.
ADUBATO: No, it‘s not. That‘s part of it, because this is a slippery slope.
SKLAR: Sure, we totally are. We‘re talking about—it‘s a slippery slope. We‘re talking about right here—a more germane analogy was used actually...
ADUBATO: No, no, you just happen to like the analogy because it works for you politically.
SKLAR: No, it doesn‘t—OK, hold on a second here. It doesn‘t work for me politically. It actually and tragically who it‘s not working for politically are closeted gay Republicans who can‘t be open in their own party and who are pushing an agenda that is their party‘s agenda of limiting their rights.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Terry Holt, let me just say for the record here—and erhereand I and I understand what Rachel is saying, because a lot of people out there have said it before—but you and I have worked on Capitol Hill. And you know, like I know, that there are gay Democrats, as well as gay Republicans, that don‘t want to come out of the closet. They don‘t want—I mean, the hell with politics. They don‘t want their mom and dad to know.
ADUBATO: That‘s right.
HOLT: That‘s right.
SCARBOROUGH: They don‘t want their grandparents to know. And it‘s their decision. I think that‘s the bottom line here.
SKLAR: Understand that I agree with you on that point. The only time it changes is when you do one thing in your personal life and you push something else.
HOLT: Is when you want to attack them because you don‘t agree with the...
SCARBOROUGH: And let‘s say, you know what? I can‘t agree. And let me ask you this, Terry Holt. Let‘s say, for instance, there‘s a congressman that‘s running in northwest Florida. And he runs around talking about how homosexuality is immoral, and they‘re going straight to hell, and we‘ve got to protect ourselves from those gay people, and then he turns out to be gay. That‘s fair game, right?
HOLT: He‘s on the ballot. And he puts himself in a position to obviously be accused of hypocrisy. I mean...
ADUBATO: I disagree, Terry. In that instance, Joe, I do believe that people should know, and I‘ll tell you why. One second, Terry.
HOLT: Well, I didn‘t finish.
ADUBATO: Let me finish my point. That‘s not the same as being in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. One is you are saying that someone is going straight to hell. You are making a moral judgment. The other one is a question of constitutionality and legal issues.
SCARBOROUGH: And I think that‘s where I come down on it. This has been a fascinating debate, and I want to thank all of you for bringing your respective points. And I‘ll guarantee you, Rachel, you were teamed up tonight, but the majority of Democrats...
ADUBATO: She handled it well.
SCARBOROUGH: ... I would say I agree with you. My personal belief is, if somebody goes out there and they pass moral judgment on somebody because of their lifestyle decision, and then they end up living that same lifestyle, well, yes, then maybe at that point, maybe I think it may be a point that needs to be brought out on the campaign trail.
At the same time, though, if you‘re just supporting the Defense of Marriage Act or some piece of legislation, it‘s way out of line. It is sexual McCarthyism, and I‘m sure that‘s why Bill Maher did not follow up on his threat. The guy made a mistake. He‘s human. We‘re all human. I say we give him a pass.
I want to thank everybody for being with us. I mean, give him a pass moving forward. He should never have said it on “Larry King Live.” Anyway, I‘m just going around and around here. I can‘t wait to read this on the transcripts tomorrow.
Anyway, stick around, because we‘re talking about something equally bizarre: TomKat‘s wedding. That‘s straight ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Tom O‘Neil is with us. He‘s from “InTouch Weekly” magazine. And Courtney Hazlett with “OK” magazine talking about TomKat‘s bizarre wedding.
Give me details, Tom. What‘s going on?
TOM O‘NEIL, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”: Well, this weekend, in a castle just outside of Rome, 250 guests, who include everybody from the usual Scientologists, like John Travolta and Kirstie Alley, but also Russell Crowe and Steve Spielberg. And we don‘t know a lot of the details because all the guests have to sign confidentiality agreements saying that they‘ll be—or not the guests, the workers—for $1.5 million.
But here‘s the punch line. This is what I think is so funny. The planner who‘s doing this is the same guy who did Nick and Jessica‘s wedding and Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards‘.
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s huge. So I‘m excited—I can‘t wait to see pictures coming out of the wedding of Oprah jumping up and down like on the cake or whatever. How‘s that going to be?
COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE: Except you won‘t, because Oprah did not get invited.
SCARBOROUGH: No way!
HAZLETT: The man who terrorized her couch did not invite Oprah.
SCARBOROUGH: Why not?
HAZLETT: I don‘t know. This castle, it holds over 1,400 guests. So even though they only invited 250, I don‘t know. I probably would have found a seat for Oprah. That‘s just how I roll.
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s 251. They‘re spending a lot of money. What about her wedding dress?
HAZLETT: They‘re spending a ton of money. The reports are that Katie Holmes‘ dress is going to cost over $2 million, which is a little bit ironic, because they‘re saying it‘s a very simple dress. So I‘m sure like how you get a really simple dress for $2 million.
SCARBOROUGH: It is a simple dress in a simple castle. These kids are just modest.
HAZLETT: It‘s all relative.
SCARBOROUGH: It is all relative, when you own your own movie studio.
Tom O‘Neil, this is the hottest ticket in Hollywood, isn‘t it?
O‘NEIL: Well, it is. And I think the show is all for Tom. He‘s going back quite wisely to the core myth and legend that made him great, which was he was always more of a Prince Charming to women than the action hero to guys, and so he‘s reinventing that by getting married in a castle. It‘s brilliant.
SCARBOROUGH: And is this all about his imagine? Is everything Tom Cruise does about his imagine?
O‘NEIL: I think so.
HAZLETT: Well, you know what? Tom Cruise, before this whole couch-jumping thing started, was the most controlled image in Hollywood. He was notorious for really having utmost power over everything that came out about him. And I think this wedding, and really controlling who‘s invited, who‘s not, and all the details that are leaked out or are not, is just a move in that direction again.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, we don‘t have much time, and I am so sorry, because anytime you get me talking about gay Republicans, I can go on all night. But I‘m setting the over-under at four years. Do they survive more or less in four years?
HAZLETT: I‘m a lover, not a hater.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, you‘re over.
HAZLETT: I‘m going to go over.
SCARBOROUGH: Tom O‘Neil, the over-under is at four years. Courtney is going over. What do you say?
O‘NEIL: I think, even if the marriage is unsuccessful behind the scenes, they‘re going to push it past four years, yes.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. I‘m going under. Hey, thanks so much, Courtney Hazlett. Thank you, Tom O‘Neil. I appreciate you being with us.
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