Guest: Marc Rotterman, Joe Trippi, Christopher Hitchens, Chris Lehane, Jack Ryan
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY: Tonight‘s top headline, John Edwards takes the reins as John Kerry‘s number two. The read deal?
He may just be what the Democrats need at this time. Welcome to
SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required, and only common sense is allowed.
John Kerry taps former rival John Edwards to help him get across the finish line in November. But will the charismatic southerner upstage his elder colleague? And just how nasty will the campaign get before it‘s all over? It‘s Bush-Cheney versus Kerry-Edwards, and the race started today.
Then, it‘s “Fahrenheit Fight” as Michael Moore adviser Chris Lehane steps into the ring with Vanity Fair‘s Christopher Hitchens. It‘s going to be an explosive SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown that I promise you, you are not going to want to miss.
And in a prime time cable exclusive, Jack Ryan opens up about the sex scandal that ended his run for the U.S. Senate. Is he bitter? Does he blame the press? And was he a victim of a double standard. All that and more tonight.
ANNOUNCER: From the pressroom to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, welcome to the show. From John Kerry‘s backyard in Boston, I‘m Joe Scarborough. Well, you know what? We have us a campaign for president, and we have a vice president on the Democrat side. And it looks like John Kerry may have picked right man. It‘s time for tonight‘s real deal.
You know, this morning when NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell broke the news that John Kerry had picked Edwards as his running mate, and Kerry announced his pick a few hours later, a lot of people in the White House were concerned, and they had good reason to be concerned. You know, John Edwards is one of the more articulate people to be in the Democratic Party in quite some time.
He would actually get up and speak without any teleprompter, without any notes, talking about two Americas. Now, of course The Wall Street Journal, Republicans in the White House and on Capitol Hill dismissed this as populist banter. But he connected. It didn‘t matter if he had been in the Senate for six months or six years. He knew how to reach out to people and make them believe again that a politician can make a difference.
You know, he almost snuck up on John Kerry. The fact that Kerry continued to fight Edwards for weeks during primaries only made him a stronger candidate. And I‘m predicting tonight that this selection of John Edwards is going to help him as he moves towards November, for several reasons.
One of the main reasons is because of the great story he has to tell and also his background as a trial lawyer. That‘s right, as a trial lawyer.
A lot of people are saying that Dick Cheney is going to pick him apart during the vice presidential debates. You know what? I am a trial lawyer, my Republican friends, and I can tell you something. These guys like John Edwards, who are at the top of their game, they sit in a room with a CEO for three days, and they keep after him nonstop until they get the information they need.
This guy has faced the toughest of the tough CEOs, and he is not going to be intimidated by what he sees when he looks across the table and he‘s debating the vice president of the United States. Again, my prediction, he‘s going to be good for John Kerry. He‘s going to be good for the Democratic Party. And most importantly, in this age of Michael Moore, he‘s going to be good for American politics, because he is going to campaign with a smile on his face, and he‘s not going to get down in the mud.
Now, that‘s tonight‘s real deal. Now, as I told you, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell broke the news that John Kerry had picked Edwards as his running mate, and John Kerry announced his pick a few hours later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have chosen a man who understands and defends the values of America, a man who has shown courage and conviction as a champion for the middle class, for all Americans‘ opportunity, not just to stay in it, but to get into it and to do better in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Does this mean that southern states are now in play for the Democrats? Could Edwards tip the balance against Bush and Cheney? Howard Dean‘s former campaign manager Joe Trippi is here, so is Marc Rotterman, a GOP strategist from Edwards‘ home state in North Carolina, and MSNBC‘s senior political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell.
Lawrence, let me begin with you. You know John Kerry as well as anybody. Why did he pick John Edwards?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think, first of all, it‘s an indicator of the weakness of the other candidates. Because if Dick Gephardt could have shown, or if private internal polls could have shown that Dick Gephardt wins you Missouri, if the Florida senators, who you know well, could have shown that they could have won Florida for John Kerry, you would have had to have taken one of those guys who could win you a state.
It looks to me like none of them could be guaranteed in the polling now to win him a state. So he went with the one who was most popular in his own party, and he‘s at least pleasing his base. He‘s thrilled my mother. I just came from my mother‘s house. She is a Kerry supporter...
SCARBOROUGH: But as you said there, your mother was going to vote for Kerry before.
O‘DONNELL: Exactly. That may be the problem, is that I‘m not sure whose vote John Edwards turns who isn‘t already with John Kerry.
SCARBOROUGH: And it used to be, obviously, everybody goes back to 1960, when Kennedy reached out for Lyndon Johnson, a man he despised, but he wanted to win Texas. It helped him win Texas. And everybody looked at that saying, well gee, you pick a vice president so you can win a state. But really, there‘s no guarantee.
I like John Edwards. I know John Edwards. But there‘s no guarantee that John Edwards would have even gotten reelected in North Carolina had he run for Senate this year.
O‘DONNELL: But there remains a huge mystique around the southerner in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party does not win the White House without a southerner on the ticket. That is a party belief. And John Edwards obviously serves that well.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, you know, the Republican Party, the National Committee pounced on this selection quickly today, and they made this statement. “Who is John Edwards? A disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal and friend to personal injury lawyers.”
Mark, let me bring you in here. That sounds awfully harsh. That sounds like a harsh welcome to this presidential campaign, doesn‘t it?
MARC ROTTERMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah, I think it is. But honestly, I mean, he is practicing that good old Democratic religion of class warfare with a smile. I do think John Edwards is very practiced. I agree with you, he does great theater. But let‘s remember, he only won one primary. He got a lot of mileage out of winning only one primary.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, but Marc, I mean, look at this guy. I mean, he‘s a choirboy. He‘s got a great story. I mean, he comes from a very working class background. Is this really the guy that you want to beat up on as you go towards November?
ROTTERMAN: No, but he can‘t change his deal either. He can‘t change his deal and become an attack dog. I don‘t know what he brings to the ticket. He‘s very inexperienced. He doesn‘t know much about foreign policy. He wants to raise taxes on...
SCARBOROUGH: Didn‘t he serve on the Intelligence Committee?
ROTTERMAN: He served on the Intelligence Committee, but he‘s flipped twice on the war. He voted for the war, and then he voted against the troops. So I think he‘s very vulnerable.
SCARBOROUGH: How did he vote against the troops?
ROTTERMAN: He voted against the $87 billion.
SCARBOROUGH: The $87 billion to actually fund the troops.
ROTTERMAN: That‘s correct.
SCARBOROUGH: And Lawrence O‘Donnell, why did he do that?
O‘DONNELL: Well, that was John Kerry‘s vote also. And they maintain that they wanted to attach other items to that funding proposal, including how you‘d pay for it, by the way. So they have an answer for these things.
Now, it‘s true that Edwards‘ big weakness is experience. And unfortunately, it‘s a big weakness that also highlights the great strength of the sitting vice president, which is experience. However, their campaign is—the Democratic campaign is, all this experience has brought you this fiasco in Iraq.
SCARBOROUGH: I was just going to say, though, this guy‘s been in the United States Senate for six years.
O‘DONNELL: Same amount of time President Bush was in government before he became president.
SCARBOROUGH: George W. Bush was the governor of Texas.
SCARBOROUGH: I mean, if you want to talk about foreign policy, he was the governor of a state that, of course, bordered Mexico. But compare that with a guy on the Intel Committee. I don‘t know where the Republicans go.
Now, the Bush campaign released this ad, reminding America that John McCain, who was actually John Kerry‘s first choice, but that McCain wound up endorsing President Bush. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: America is under attack by depraved enemies who oppose our every interest and hate every value we hold dear. It is the great test of our generation, and he has led with great moral clarity and firm resolve. He has not wavered. He has not flinched from the hard choices. He was determined and remains determined to make this world a better, safer, freer place.
He deserves not only our support but our admiration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Republicans on—Joe Trippi, Republicans on Capitol Hill do not like John McCain. But that may be right now, possibly, the most popular politician in America. What does it say about the Democratic Party that the Democratic nominee‘s first choice for president didn‘t even come from his party?
JOE TRIPPI, FMR DEAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think it says more that the Republicans are running this ad right now. I mean, the fact is, John McCain isn‘t on the ballot. He is not on the ticket, unless they dump Cheney, which is something I think they ought to think about doing.
SCARBOROUGH: But John Kerry wanted John McCain on the Democratic ticket.
TRIPPI: Well, I think John Kerry means to try to end all this partisan bickering that is going on, this six-second sound bite back and forth that is taking the country in the wrong direction. And I think, you know, whether he reached out to the McCain or not, it was in the interest of pulling the country together in a positive direction.
I think John Edwards does that. John Edwards is straight out of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. This is a guy who came up in a middle class working family, fought for the little guy every day of his life, and I think really connected with people. I mean, there is a real passion in this man that I think we‘re skipping over that we shouldn‘t. I think that‘s where the energy comes from.
I think a lot of that does come from what he and his wife Elizabeth went through when they lost their own child in a tragedy about seven or eight years ago. I think he really turned and said, “I‘m going to go make a difference with what‘s left of my life and make a real difference for people.”
And I think that that‘s what he was doing all along, but now he is doing it in public service, and this guy connects. And the only thing that worries me, frankly, is in a juxtaposition with Cheney, you know, Cheney‘s animal magnetism and the way—and the hump factor...
SCARBOROUGH: You are so hateful. Don‘t be hateful. Okay, Lawrence, you know, a lot of people may look at these pictures of Kerry and Edwards together, and Bush and Cheney together, and say you‘ve got two millionaires running against two millionaires. But Joe Trippi talked about SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, which is not a geographic location: it‘s a state of mind.
It‘s really about middle America guys, regular guys. And you know what? Whether it‘s in the south of Boston or whether you‘re in Kansas, or wherever, you look at John Edwards—I‘ll just be really blunt. I look at John Kerry, I can‘t relate to that guy. I mean, he‘s like this stiff, ivy league type. I mean, yeah, he‘s got tons of money, married a lot of it.
But you look at John Edwards, I can relate to him. He‘s a real guy.
His father, what, a mill worker?
SCARBOROUGH: He‘s made tons of money. But, you know, isn‘t that what America is about, guys that start with nothing and end up making, what, $40, $50 million?
O‘DONNELL: Well, and as Joe indicated, John Edwards is great at telling that story. And what you said, trial lawyers of the John Edwards caliber are the best storytellers in the world. They have to learn things very, very quickly. So the Cheney experience gap, I don‘t think will show very much in the debates.
By the time he gets into a debate with the vice president, he is going to be as well versed on everything that the vice president knows, because that‘s the way these trial lawyers are. They devour material. They fill themselves up very quickly. So I think the experience gap won‘t show when you get him out there onto the stage, when he is ready to be shown.
And his story not only plays well, he tells it well, and that‘s the important thing. John Kerry has a fabulous story. He‘s got an incredible story. If he could tell his story as well as John McCain tells his story or as well as Edwards tells his story, this would not be a close race.
SCARBOROUGH: He should have been a trial lawyer.
O‘DONNELL: That‘s right.
SCARBOROUGH: Marc, I‘m going to give you the last comment. Now, talking about trial lawyers, The Wall Street Journal reported today that there are a lot of CEOs—and, in fact, the National Chamber has said they will get more aggressive against this Democratic ticket than ever before, because there‘s a trial lawyer.
But you know what? We‘re going to have the indictment of Ken Lay—obviously, Enron CEO. You look at what Merrill Lynch, what Solomon Smith Barney, what CitiGroup, what all these people did to investors in middle America—I mean, right now is not a bad time to go after corporations and powerful CEOs, is it?
ROTTERMAN: You know, I can‘t—get on this bandwagon and defend trial lawyers, Joe. At the end of the day, this guy Edwards is the poster boy for tort reform. He‘s the reason why our health care costs are up. So I think when you get under the—and he has scrutiny, it‘s going to be a real problem.
SCARBOROUGH: What‘s the weakest part of John Edwards? As somebody from North Carolina that‘s been following his career, what‘s his weak point? Because his family sure looks like it‘s his strong point.
ROTTERMAN: I think he knows his line. I‘m not sure about his depth.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much. I appreciate you being with us. We‘ll be right back in a few minutes on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. And coming up later, Jack Ryan‘s going to be talking about why he ended his Senate run after the press sued to get details of his divorce with actress Jeri Ryan unsealed. Does the public really have the right to know everything? I‘m going to be talking to Jack Ryan in a prime time cable exclusive. But first, we‘re going to be talking about Michael Moore. We‘ll be back in a second.
SCARBOROUGH: Jack Ryan ended his Senate campaign because of a sex scandal. But was he really the one who was the victim of a double standard? We‘ll talk about that in a little bit, when we return.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re back, talking about the news, and NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell broke this morning that John Edwards is John Kerry‘s vice presidential selection. I want to go to Joe Trippi right now. Joe Trippi, you know a thing or two about Democratic politics. Of course, your book, “This Revolution Will Not be Televised,” is a remarkable book.
Explain this basic politics 101 question. Why wasn‘t John Edwards at the announcement of his own vice presidential selection by John Kerry? That seemed very strange to me, if not unprecedented.
TRIPPI: I think it was brilliant.
TRIPPI: Because they first got the word out over the Internet, first thing in the morning. They then get the press, all of us covering his speech today. And then, they get another shot at it when Edwards and he actually start campaigning together. And so, they‘re going to have this thing rolling for two or three, four days here.
If they had all done this in one fell swoop this morning, I think the energy and excitement would be there, but I think the press coverage would be over—not over, but not as well orchestrated. They did an amazing thing. One of the things I think this says too that Rove and the Republicans ought to worry about—this was a masterful execution that I have not seen.
I don‘t believe the Clinton 1992 campaign could have pulled off what the Kerry campaign did today. This was a really professional, major league thing. I think that Rove wasn‘t counting on two things: a Democratic nominee who had opted out of the public funding system so he‘d be able to compete with Bush financially. I don‘t think they counted on that.
I don‘t think they were counting on a campaign that is coming together a lot better than people thought. I mean, the campaign staff in this campaign should be commended, the campaign staff in this campaign should be commended for how they‘ve pulled this off. This is major league.
SCARBOROUGH: And yet, Lawrence O‘Donnell, it seems that despite a year of bad press, John Kerry can‘t get a bump. What does Edwards do?
O‘DONNELL: There‘s a huge pressure on John Edwards right now to create a bump. These candidates have been locked in a tie. Everyone‘s looking in the Democratic Party for Edwards to create a five or eight-point gap, the likes of which we haven‘t seen before outside of the margin of error.
If you go for the next couple of weeks and there is no Edwards bump, and they‘re coming in here to Boston for that convention without already getting an Edwards bump, that convention will not be as joyous an occasion as it would be if they were coming in here with some Edwards lift.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Marc, I‘ll give you the last word. Do you think Bush should dump Cheney and pick up McCain?
ROTTERMAN: Absolutely, not. And at the end of the day, the race is going to be about John Kerry and not about John Edwards, and the American people are not going to buy John Kerry.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks so much, Marc. We appreciate it. Also, Joe, thank you for being with us. And always, Lawrence, great to have you here.
O‘DONNELL: Pleasure. I‘m glad to have you in my hometown.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s good to be here. Now, back in June, Michael Moore went on the David Letterman show and made this boast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: I am ready to debate any Republican, any right winger, any time of the day on this, and I‘ll take them on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, right. Well, Michael Moore hasn‘t accepted our invitation to visit SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY yet, but the man who Moore hired to defend him and “Fahrenheit 911” from attacks, Chris Lehane, is here. And we‘ve got him here along with Vanity Fair‘s Christopher Hitchens, who‘s been waiting for the chance to share his views on Moore‘s movie with Chris Lehane.
Christopher Hitchens, now‘s your chance—go.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, VANITY FAIR: Oh, my god. It‘s my turn already?
HITCHENS: Look, the film is, as they say in Latin, falso ununious, falso in omnium (ph). It‘s generally based on a lie that says that we‘re not at war with Islamic Jihad because they‘ve attacked us or because it hates us, or because it‘s a terrorizing medieval force. But we‘re at war with it because of private interests of the Bush family. That‘s a grotesque lie.
This lie is, furthermore, promulgated by Michael Moore, Mr. Lehane‘s new client, who takes the view, expressed repeatedly in public, that the war should be won by the other side. He issued statements of solidarity with the Iraqi so-called resistance, and compares them to the American Minutemen and to the American Revolution.
And then, if you move to the minor stuff of the distortions and defamations in the film, there‘s a mangled, and deliberately mangled, quotation from Condoleezza Rice, there‘s an allegation about a pipeline across Afghanistan built by Unocal that was abandoned in 1998. Where do you want me to stop with this?
SCARBOROUGH: Chris Lehane?
CHRIS LEHANE, CONSULTANT TO “FAHRENHEIT 9-11”: Well, look, at the end of the day, this movie is fundamentally about asking questions about why our young men and women in uniform are on the ground in Iraq today—questions that, frankly, should have been asked over the last several years and haven‘t been asked.
Now, I know Mr. Hitchens is an apologist for the Bush administration. He‘s someone who‘s supported this war. But at the end of the day, what this movie does convey, and conveys in a very compelling and provocative way, is that President Bush took us to war based on distortions, based on misrepresentations, and there‘s no way around it.
There was no plan to win the peace. The WMDs didn‘t exist. There were no ties to Al Qaeda. Those aren‘t things that are just in our movie. Those are points that have been made by the 9-11 Commission and by others. And as for the Saudi claim, you know, just yesterday, on the front page of The New York Times, there was a major story raising some serious questions about what the Saudi influence was in a prisoner swap that occurred, which we still haven‘t had answers to.
Literally, every day something happens that raises serious questions. And my question is this. If, after the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City incident, if a member of the McVeigh family had called then President Clinton and said, “Look, we want to get our family members out of the country. Can you help us,” people would have raised all sorts of questions.
But this is exactly what—no, no, let me finish—this is exactly what occurred on the night of September 11, which is the United States White House got a call from the Saudi Embassy asking for help in removing some Saudi citizens from the United States, including members of the bin Laden family.
SCARBOROUGH: Christopher, respond to that. Christopher, respond.
HITCHENS: Do you agree, Mr. Lehane—can I just cut to the chase...
LEHANE: Well, I‘d like you to explain whether you‘re an apologist for the Bush administration. Isn‘t it true that you supported this war? Yes or no?
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Chris, Chris, Chris Lehane, listen buddy. We invite you on here so we can have a discussion. I‘ll ask the questions. Christopher Hitchens, go ahead.
LEHANE: He can‘t answer the questions. That‘s the problem, Mr.
HITCHENS: I was a member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and a public advocate of regime change in Iraq when George Bush was governor of Texas, and when he was running against Al Gore against nation building.
LEHANE: But did you support the Bush war?
Did you support the Bush war this time around?
HITCHENS: I‘ve been in favor of regime change in Iraq longer than...
LEHANE: So you did support the war.
HITCHENS: I think I‘ve just been saying that to you, Mr. Lehane.
LEHANE: And so you are...
SCARBOROUGH: Stop right now. Stop right now. Hey, Christopher Hitchens, please stop for a second. Chris Lehane, Chris Lehane—guys, please stop. Please stop for a second. Chris Lehane, we‘re going to have an intelligent debate here.
HITCHENS: No, we‘re not. I‘m sorry, Congressman, we‘re not.
SCARBOROUGH: You can jabber all you want. We‘re going to go back and forth, and each one of you are going to have your chance to talk.
HITCHENS: But would you stand out of my way, Congressman, for a second?
LEHANE: But Joe, you‘ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now without really giving people an opportunity to respond.
HITCHENS: I can‘t compete against both of you.
SCARBOROUGH: Go, Christopher.
HITCHENS: Yes, I‘m for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Yes, I was for the overthrow of the Taliban, both of which Michael Moore opposed violently and publicly. And I will repeat this question to you, Mr. Lehane, until I do get an answer, because I think you now owe me one after that amazing demonstration of hysterical rudeness.
When Michael Moore says that he thinks that the forces of Islamic Jihad are the moral equivalent of the America founding fathers and the Minutemen, is that your view? Is that your view, excuse me?
LEHANE: Are you going to let me answer, or are you going to continue with your horrible screeds that you seem to like to engage in on a constant basis?
HITCHENS: Oh, please.
LEHANE: Here‘s a very simple answer, which is that George Bush had no plan to win the peace in Iraq.
SCARBOROUGH: Answer the question.
Hold on. Chris Lehane, I‘m going to show you this quote, and I want you to respond to it.
LEHANE: Are you going to let me answer that question or not, Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, I will. Actually, I‘m going to read this quote, and then you‘re going to answer the question.
LEHANE: But see, you asked me if I was going to answer that question, and you don‘t give me the opportunity.
SCARBOROUGH: Cut his mike off for a second. I‘m going to read this, and then I want him to respond to the question. Michael Moore said this on people killing American troops in Iraq. “The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not insurgents, or terrorists, or the enemy. They are the revolution, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow, and they will win.” Do you agree with that statement, Christopher Lehane?
LEHANE: If you look at the entire context of what Michael was talking about, he was making it very, very clear of the perceptions of the Iraqi people with regards to the situation on the ground in Iraq, a situation that the Bush administration fundamentally failed to analyze. That‘s why we have no plan to win the peace.
They greatly exaggerated the actual facts on the situation there and had no real comprehensive understanding of the how people of Iraq would respond to opposition forces going into their country.
SCARBOROUGH: So is Zarqawi a Minuteman?
LEHANE: So the issue is, how do the Iraqi people view the insurgents?
That‘s the real issue that‘s going on here, and that‘s what Michael is talking about.
HITCHENS: I think it‘s how Michael Moore views the insurgents. But look, I mean look, this is either way a degrading—I feel sorry for you, Mr. Lehane. One minute, you‘re organizing for some guy to spread sexual rumors about John Kerry, then you have Terry McAuliffe and Michael Moore in front of a cinema just think, “What‘ll work now? What‘ll get attention this week? Why don‘t we just say that people who are murdering Iraqis, and murdering Kurds, and murdering American and British and coalition soldiers are Minutemen?”
It‘ll work for now—whatever. That‘s your life. And I think you‘ve said enough. I don‘t have any further questions.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
HITCHENS: So I think we can go to Moveon.org or “Michael Moron dot org” and leave this for now. I mean, I‘m completely satisfied that Mr. Lehane has made the point he came on to make, which is that he and his client are on the Jihad side in this war, and they‘ve made a film that is itself a lie, and it‘s full of individual falsehoods, and it‘s a disgrace.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you, Christopher Hitchens. Thank you, Chris Lehane. We‘ll be right back with Jack Ryan.
SCARBOROUGH: One of the up-and-comers in Republican Party politics has his campaign derailed by a sex scandal for having sex with his own wife. We‘re going to be talking to Jack Ryan and find out why things went so badly in Illinois.
But first let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room to the courtroom to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: You know just two weeks ago, Jack Ryan, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate in Illinois, was a serious challenger to his Democratic challenger who was a media favorite.
Ryan‘s former wife, actress Jeri Ryan of “Star Trek Voyager” and “Boston Public” fame, supported Ryan‘s bid for the Senate even though the two were divorced in 1999.
But the course of the election changed when a local media lawyer convinced a California judge to open up the couple‘s sealed divorce documents which revealed alleged trips to sex clubs in New Orleans, New York and Paris. These revelations caused a media feeding frenzy that ended Jack Ryan‘s Senate bid.
Former Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan is with me now tonight, good to have you here tonight.
JACK RYAN, FORMER CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: Glad to be here.
SCARBOROUGH: You know I—as my audience doesn‘t know but we know, I know people that worked on your campaign.
SCARBOROUGH: I know people that know you and what they told me, you never told me this, but what they told me is he didn‘t do it. This isn‘t Jack Ryan. This is all a bunch of garbage. Two people fought in a divorce but it‘s not true. If that‘s the case, then why didn‘t you come out when you were getting hammered and say my ex-wife‘s lying?
RYAN: You know the media has been trying to get me to pick a fight with Jeri Lynn since this came out but there are some things that are more important to me than the U.S. Senate race and one is that we be great parents for our son, which means we get along well. We talk all the time. We make sure that we are raising our son as co-parents.
And so, it‘s just not worth it for any of us to start getting into a public debate about what happened three or four years ago or what was said three or four years ago in divorce documents.
So, we just refused to go there. Furthermore, she‘s a good woman and I‘m not going to say anything negative about her publicly or privately. She‘s a good woman and a good mom.
SCARBOROUGH: So, you‘re not going to say tonight that what she said was a lie?
RYAN: No. And by the way what she said, just to clarify it for your viewers, is the first sexless sex scandal because there was no sex and the person involved was my wife so I don‘t think it‘s really a matter of relevance for the political campaign and said that since the documents were released by the judge in California.
SCARBOROUGH: Have you talked to your ex-wife since this came up?
RYAN: We talk all the time.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you really?
SCARBOROUGH: Now, when this news first broke were you mad at her? Did you pick up the phone and say, “see what this has led to?” Did you—what did you all say on the phone to each other?
RYAN: No, it never—we talked a lot throughout the entire—well since the campaign began because we knew we were taking a risk obviously, although never in the history of the United States has someone broken into sealed custody documents.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, hold a second. You said you knew you were taking a risk.
SCARBOROUGH: In what way?
RYAN: Well, when you run for public office you know that everything you do comes under a microscope, so before we launched this venture, this idea, we spoke about what are the risks to our son? What‘s the upside?
You may know how to run this campaign but how to help the poorest of the poor and the least fortunate because I was teaching high school in the south side of Chicago the last three years, so we thought this...
SCARBOROUGH: Tell that real quickly. I mean you were an extraordinarily successful businessman. You made millions of dollars and you gave it all up and you went to teach school in the south side of Chicago, obviously one of the toughest parts, not only of Illinois but of the country, right?
RYAN: Yes, I was a partner at Goldman Sachs and I left about four years ago and started teaching high school at a school called Hales Franciscan High School, an all African-American high school, where most of our men are on federal assistance and yet each year for the last six years all of our men have gone to college. It‘s probably one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago.
SCARBOROUGH: In your school?
RYAN: In our school, yes.
SCARBOROUGH: All of them have gone?
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s amazing.
SCARBOROUGH: So, you decide you‘re going to run for the United States Senate. You talk to your ex-wife about it. Did you all talk about these allegations that she made about you and say, “gee, do you think they‘re going to come out?”
RYAN: Well, a couple of things we did. First is check with the lawyers in California, say if mom and dad link arms and say these documents should stay sealed would a judge reach around us or some media organization reach around us and basically take those documents out of our hands and put them in the front page of the paper?
And so, the lawyers had said little chance of that happening and then we had to also think that some media organization would want to do that, which is the first time in the history of our country that someone said over the hopes and wishes of the mom and dad, release these documents to the world for everyone to see.
SCARBOROUGH: And you got a 10-year-old son. What‘s his name?
RYAN: Nine-year-old son Alex.
SCARBOROUGH: Nine-year-old son Alex. What did your ex-wife say when this first broke? Was she—was she angry? Was she—was she still supportive of you?
RYAN: When the documents got released?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, when this whole scandal broke and the documents were released, yes.
RYAN: Yes. No, she was really good about it because we knew, first of all it didn‘t happen suddenly. They had been fighting over these documents now for three or four months. That is the media. So, we were kind of leading up to this point.
We always thought we were going to win at the end and the judge suddenly flipped at the last minute and said the public right to know exceeds the health of the child and the judge found that the child would be harmed by the release of these documents. As any parent would know, you don‘t want disagreements between mom and dad put in front of the children. That‘s kind of parenting 101 I think.
RYAN: And so the judge had said this will harm the child but the public right to know exceeds the harm to the child and released the documents. But, no, she was—so it was worth taking a risk. It was worth fighting for the ideas that this campaign was about and so she was never upset with me or unhappy with me.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you regret at this point making any personal choices that led to all of this? Does she regret that she put that information in the documents? Any regrets from either one of you?
RYAN: Well, I haven‘t asked her about the documents themselves in particular. I guess I regret the fact that I tried so hard to protect my son. In the end, I was unsuccessful and so I tried really hard but in the end I failed and I wish I could have done better but that‘s my biggest regret.
But I think it was worth the risk because we were in this very unique Republican primary campaign. As a former Republican Congressman you know this. We ran a campaign talking about how to help the poorest of the poor and the least fortunate by flipping the great society on its head and saying let‘s empower individuals not government institutions.
We know that it works at Hales Franciscan but all the consultants in Washington, D.C. said we don‘t want a campaign or a primary talking about the poorest of the poor and civil rights and social justice.
And I know Republicans care a lot about those ideas and we proved it through this campaign. We won the primary by a big margin. And so the biggest casualty in all this, after my son, was the fact that we had this great campaign with these great ideas and don‘t have a chance to talk about those now.
SCARBOROUGH: What I do want to talk about when we come back, I want to talk about your son.
SCARBOROUGH: Where has he been in the middle of all this? I want to talk about some of the allegations. And I also want to talk about this judge, a Berkeley grad, whose first judicial appointment was from Jerry Brown, and also the double standard about a guy getting booted from a campaign for having sex with his wife.
RYAN: Not having sex.
SCARBOROUGH: Not having sex with his wife, which he said he didn‘t do.
And the president of the United States is staying and you know where this is leading, I mean the double standard here between Jack Ryan and Bill Clinton is unbelievable.
Anyway, coming up are cases like this going to scare good people away from public service? And is there a double standard at play? Yes, there is. We‘re going to be tackling those questions and much more when my guess Jack Ryan returns with me in just a second.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge. “Who were the first president and vice president to run together as a ticket? Was it:
a) Thomas Jefferson and George Clinton; b) James Madison and Aldridge Gerry; or, c) James Monroe and Daniel Tompkins,” the answer coming up.
ANNOUNCER: In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge we asked: “Who were the first president and vice president to run together as a ticket?” The answer is A, Thomas Jefferson and George Clinton in 1804. Prior to 1804 the presidential candidate who finished second became vice president.
Now back to Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re back with more of our exclusive interview with former Illinois candidate for Senate, Jack Ryan. Jack, how do you explain it? I‘ve been in public office. I understand, I mean the difficulty of having young kids and having the media spotlight on you but how do you explain something like this to a 9-year-old son?
RYAN: Well, it‘s really hard to. What we‘ve explained so far basically is I‘m not running for the U.S. Senate anymore. And when he came back from his trip on the Disney cruise, I told him this news.
SCARBOROUGH: Did you send him away? What did you do once all this broke?
RYAN: Well, as you might guess, the idea was get him away from the press as fast as we could, so we did that and when he got back I told him I was not running for the U.S. Senate anymore. He said, “oh no.” I said, “no, it‘s true, Alex.” He said, “well that‘s impossible.” I said, “no, it‘s true.”
And he paused for a while and said, “don‘t worry, dad, you did your best.” And I thought that was really sweet and he must have gotten it from me or Jeri Lynn but that was awfully sweet.
In terms of the other details, we haven‘t gone into a lot of the details yet but the hardest part is at some point in his future he‘ll go onto the Internet to do a report on his mom or his dad and see all this and this was the very reason we fought so hard to keep these documents sealed.
And now what I think about, and I think your viewers should as well, is what is the standard for running for public office nowadays? Does everybody who is divorced have to hand in their divorce documents, their custody documents to the papers?
I mean I think we have a hard enough time now getting our best and brightest to run for office and, if we keep raising the bar, this is the newest bar that we‘re just setting, we‘ll have no one willing to take on the risk of running for office.
SCARBOROUGH: Obviously, another guy from Illinois, Ronald Reagan, got divorced earlier in life before he met Nancy and I mean the public scrutiny I think would run people off even like Ronald Reagan from office.
Let‘s reset the story though for our viewers tuning in. So, you and your wife get a divorce. As you‘re going through these proceedings you have a child custody fight, which of course everybody knows can get very ugly. She made some allegations that you had taken her to sex clubs, three sex clubs, and all of a sudden, again these were under seal.
SCARBOROUGH: And so this judge in California decides to open them up.
SCARBOROUGH: Did you and your wife work together with the same lawyer to sue to keep them sealed?
RYAN: Yes. We joined arms, her lawyer and our lawyer joined forces and said let‘s keep these documents sealed. There‘s nothing in here the public needs to know for someone running for office. Remember there‘s no allegation of breaking any laws or any infidelity or breaking the marriage vows.
I can see if—I can see if someone has broken a serious promise maybe the voters ought to know about that but there‘s no allegation of that and so basically the idea was this will harm our son to have these disagreements made public.
RYAN: And let‘s keep it sealed.
SCARBOROUGH: I know how tough it is, I mean as far as when you‘re divorced and you‘re walking through a minefield again for the kids. It would be a lot easier if there weren‘t kids there. You could deal with these things and be—if you wanted to come out swinging and everything.
But this is what I don‘t understand. Well, I do understand it but a lot of people out there may not understand, OK. No allegations of infidelity. No allegations of you breaking any laws. Your people are telling me it‘s just not true and yet you give up a shot, a great shot of being a United States Senator from Illinois.
SCARBOROUGH: Again, I‘ll ask the question that I know a lot of people are saying out there because people are so cynical, if he didn‘t do it then why did he give up a Senate seat?
RYAN: Because there are some things more important than a U.S. Senate seat and one of them is making sure that we‘re great parents for our son, which means we have a great relationship. We work well together from now going forward.
And so to reopen issues that we ourselves put to bed a long time ago is not helpful to my first priority, which is being a good dad and making sure we‘re great parents for our son.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. So, you come on the show and you talk about this and people are still sitting there scratching their heads saying, you know, is he denying the allegations? So, I‘m going to ask you again are you tonight denying the allegations?
RYAN: And I keep telling the media the same thing over and over again, so I‘m sorry to frustrate you.
SCARBOROUGH: No, no you‘re not frustrating me.
RYAN: We‘re just not going to go back into that because we settled this debate between ourselves a long time ago. We‘re not going to reopen it for the public.
SCARBOROUGH: So, I want you to explain this though because this is incredibly important.
SCARBOROUGH: Because people want to know everything that you‘ve ever done.
SCARBOROUGH: They want to know everything your wife‘s ever done, not because it has anything to do with helping kids in the south side of Chicago but because it makes more people watch TV shows. It makes more people buy the “Chicago Tribune.”
What would happen if you came on my show tonight or if you told John Stossel on Friday night my wife‘s not telling the truth? I‘m not saying that you‘re saying that but what would happen if you got in a fight with your wife right now on TV and said, you know what, I‘m going to protect myself instead of my 9-year-old son? I‘m not going to be slandered by the “Chicago Tribune” anymore. I‘m going to let it all out on the table. What would happen?
RYAN: Well, one, I‘m denigrating the mother of my son, which is not helpful.
SCARBOROUGH: Calling her a liar in front of the country.
RYAN: And she‘s a good woman.
RYAN: She‘s a very good woman, so I‘m not going to do that ever, not going to happen. The second thing is think about the relationship we have now going forward as parents trying to raise our son.
Imagine the telephone conversations that have been so good for so long between me and Jeri Lynn about what‘s best for our son today? What school should he go to? Do you think he should go here for camp or is he better to be with your folks this weekend or my folks?
Think of how those conversations go and that‘s got to be the first priority of anybody is—any parent is their child first. And so the very situation you‘re describing is the very situation that we are not going to get into.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. So, you‘ve said that you did inappropriate things but if you came out and denied these charges right now it would cause a major rift between you and your ex-wife and that would hurt your son?
RYAN: Well, remember, the documents themselves four years ago, you can look at her comments and my response. That‘s all there. But it‘s not worth it for us to reopen those wounds that we healed a long time ago.
It took a lot of work, of course, for both of us to make sure we could work through whatever difficulties we had four or five years ago. We‘ve done that, so we‘re not going to reopen those especially in public.
SCARBOROUGH: So, tell me this. You obviously have had a lot of people talking to you, I‘m sure, about Bill Clinton and other politicians that have had worst charges against them. Again, I‘m not re-dredging this up for any other reason than you‘re here.
But Bill Clinton had Juanita Broderick accuse him of rape. Of course, Kathleen Willey accused him of doing inappropriate things. He settled a lawsuit, a sexual harassment lawsuit with a government employee, Jennifer Flowers, the list goes on and on and on. This guy remains president of the United States and is defended, you‘re out. You‘re out.
RYAN: Well, please don‘t compare me to Bill Clinton, please.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m not. I mean but don‘t you feel like there‘s a great hypocrisy here?
RYAN: Well, I think it‘s worthwhile looking into someone if they‘ve broken a serious promise to their spouse or to someone they owe a duty to. That I think is a character issue for running for the U.S. Senate or for the presidency but the things that they‘re alleging about me don‘t rise to that level. So, I think it‘s fair to go to those issues if they are a serious break of a promise but otherwise no.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jack, thanks so much.
RYAN: Thanks a lot.
SCARBOROUGH: I appreciate you being here.
RYAN: Thanks a lot for having me.
SCARBOROUGH: Good luck with everything.
RYAN: I appreciate it. Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re out of time with Jack Ryan. One quick question, are you open to a possible run in the future?
RYAN: I‘d be open to it, yes I would.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Well, good luck.
RYAN: Thanks a lot.
SCARBOROUGH: Come back and visit us again at SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
RYAN: Thanks for having me.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘ll see you tomorrow night from Boston. Good night.
Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, 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 FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.