Guests: Clarence Page, Ed Rollins, Bob Kohn, Lou Canon, Jack Kemp, Ed Meese, Martin Anderson
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
Tonight, we‘re doing our show live from Reagan country. You know, Ronald Reagan always talked about America being a city shining brightly on the hill for all the world to see. Well, behind me here is a hill where Ronald Reagan said goodbye to America and goodbye to the world that loved him so much. Tonight, it‘s a great honor to be here at the Reagan Library. Of course, there‘s 100 acres around here. We‘re very lucky. I‘ll tell you, we‘re very lucky.
Ronald Reagan actually was going to initially have the presidential Library at Stanford, but I think he made a great choice having it right here in Simi Valley. It‘s a beautiful library, over 150,000 square feet of exhibits inside. I‘ve been walking through it today. And behind me, of course, not a replica of the Berlin Wall, because an actual chunk of the Berlin Wall, a constant reminder to everybody that walks through these doors not only from across America, but across the world how Ronald Reagan changed this country and this world forever.
Tonight, we celebrate his legacy in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
From the Ronald Reagan presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, here‘s Joe SCARBOROUGH.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCARBOROUGH: And welcome to our show. We are, of course, live in Reagan country. What a great place, what a great group of people. And you know what? Not only is this Reagan country—I told the crowd here this is God‘s country. What a beautiful setting for us to be here tonight. What a wonderful setting, as all of saw, for Ronald Reagan to say goodbye to America and the world.
We‘re going to be talking a lot about Ronald Reagan‘s legacy, what he meant to me personally and what he meant to America and what he meant to those of us that believe that America should be about freedom, should be that city shining brightly on the hill for all the world to see. We‘re going to be doing that.
But first up tonight, we‘re going to be talking about the top story of the day, the CBS document scandal. It continues to develop. Did Dan Rather rely upon a source...
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re in Reagan country—who had an axe to grind against President Bush?
We have a panel of media of political and media veterans who will help us to figure out the truth behind the latest developments in the growing credibility problem for CBS News.
I‘m happy now to be joined by longtime Republican strategist and good friend of Ronald Reagan, Ed Rollins. And we also have columnist Clarence Page of “The Chicago Tribune.” We have Larry Kudlow of CNBC‘s “Kudlow & Cramer.” And we have Bob Kohn. He‘s the author of “Journalistic Fraud.”
Ed, let‘s start with you.
Can you believe how bad Dan Rather and CBS News have mishandled this situation not only in Reagan country, but more importantly at some of the centers of journalism in America? A lot of people are starting to call for this guy‘s head.
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think, to a certain extent, he‘s losing his viewership overnight. He‘s basically taken a political side in the debate in the middle of a presidential campaign. He obviously didn‘t have good empirical sources.
And I think he‘s putting the credibility of what was once considered a great network really in jeopardy. And I think, to a certain extent, a lot of Republicans over the years have felt there was a bias by Rather, having been to Democratic fund-raisers and everything else. And I think, to a certain extent, this just reinforces that.
SCARBOROUGH: Are you surprised—coming from somebody and also a news organization that always lectures politicians, about how they mismanage the scandals, saying it‘s not about the underlying scandal, it‘s always the cover-up that gets them in trouble, are you surprised that Dan Rather and CBS News seem to be doing the same thing?
ROLLINS: Well, there‘s always an arrogance. And, certainly, the three major anchors in this country are very unique in their positions.
And I think to a certain extent it‘s awful hard for someone to walk in and say, listen, let‘s do crisis management. The scrutiny is now on you and you have basically got to do what we do in the business and that‘s get the whole story out, and they haven‘t done that.
SCARBOROUGH: Larry Kudlow, let me ask you the same question.
Do you think that this may in the end cause CBS to have to get rid of their anchor?
LAWRENCE KUDLOW, CO-HOST, “KUDLOW & CRAMER”: Well, I think it may. I think one of the key points here is this is a business and Viacom owns CBS, as you probably know.
Viacom is run by Sumner Redstone. The network itself is run by Les Moonves. Rather‘s ratings are collapsing left and right as this story has come out and as people began to understand that he actually vetted sources and vetted documents and knew going in when he made the accusations that the vetting was unsuccessful and that there was fraud and forgery everyplace. So, as that word‘s gone out, his credibility has collapsed. Nobody is watching the news program and that becomes a delicate business proposition.
And I think, at the end of the day, the top executives at Viacom are going to have to step in.
SCARBOROUGH: Clarence Page, a lot of people are surprised that Dan Rather actually was warned by quite a few people at CBS News not to move forward with these documents before he had verified them.
Are you surprised that he moved forward with that? And explain to our viewers not only here, but across America, why Dan Rather and CBS would be in such a hurry to move forward with the story before they had properly vetted them, before they had answered all those questions that a lot of people at CBS had raised.
CLARENCE PAGE, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Well, I don‘t know the details, none of us do, because CBS has been reluctant to talk about this openly and that doesn‘t make them look good.
But I‘ve been this business for 35 years, Joe, as you know, including four years at the CBS station in Chicago. I‘m very surprised that they‘ve allowed themselves to get into this mess. There were two people, again to my understanding, who had looked at the documents and had given some kind of warning, some kind of head‘s up that they might not be legitimate. I don‘t know the details. It‘s still being investigated.
But I respectfully disagree with my friend Larry Kudlow. I don‘t think this is necessarily going to be a collapse in the ratings. First of all, Dan Rather has been running behind his two principal competitors for a while now. These ratings go up and down. CBS doesn‘t have somebody waiting in the wings to step in there. That in itself can cause a network to go slow in talking about replacements.
And Dan Rather has been in this business a long time and obviously he has few fans in your audience out there, Joe. But he can recover from this kind of crisis, I think.
SCARBOROUGH: Bob Kohn, you know, Dan Rather, the person that preceded Dan Rather, obviously, Walter Cronkite, it was known fairly well that Walter Cronkite was center-left in his politics, and yet conservatives and liberals still seemed to respect him. If we had been talking about Walter Cronkite tonight, I don‘t think the boos wasn‘t have been as loud.
My dad watched Walter Cronkite every night even though he called him a communist.
SCARBOROUGH: That offensive.
But, please, give us a history about Dan Rather. Why is it that conservatives and Republicans distrust this man so much? And why is it that they seem to be hoping that this is Dan Rather‘s Watergate that takes him down?
BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”: Well, Dan Rather and CBS News has a history of biasing the news to a liberal slant. We‘ve seen that at “60 Minutes” not only over the years, but, even in recent months, with all the people that they‘ve put on the program to interview for the liberal books, but not putting on people who have written conservative books.
But you know, Joe, I think that the liberals and conservatives are not going to be making the decision here. And I want to go back to something that Larry Kudlow had mentioned. The board of directors of Viacom are the people making the decision here. And they‘re under tremendous pressure under security laws to investigate unethical and criminal conduct within that organization.
So, if you think of their decision tree, Dan Rather can either continue to stonewall or he can concede that these documents were forgeries. If he continues to stonewall, Dan Rather will become the Bozo the Clown of CBS News or the Bozo the Clown of broadcast news. He will lose his reputation. And then the board of directors is going to be concerned about the brand name CBS and the loss of affiliates.
Now, if he does concede that these are forged documents, then I think journalist schools will tell you that he should expose who the forgerer is. If he exposes the forgerer, and as Bernard Goldberg said in “The Wall Street Journal” this morning, if it turns out to be a partisan, Dan Rather‘s toast. They have to fire him.
But we know that the forgerer is a forgerer, so we‘re going to have maybe the Texas attorney general or somebody is going to look into this. And then Dan Rather becomes part of a criminal investigation. Again, what do you and a corporation like Viacom is tell Dan Rather, go to the Hamptons for a couple of weeks while this investigation is going on or you are out of here.
SCARBOROUGH: Ed Rollins, that‘s—and Bernie Goldberg wrote a great op-ed in “The Wall Street Journal.” I‘m sure you and everybody else read it.
But the point that he really underlined that really struck me was that it‘s fairly obvious, at least to Bernie and others, that this was planted by somebody obviously wanting John Kerry to be elected president, that maybe it came from the Kerry camp or maybe it came from the Democratic National Committee. If that‘s the case, then basically it‘s game, set, match. Dan Rather‘s career is over. And Bernie speculate that that‘s why they‘re continuing to cover this up.
ROLLINS: Well, I think to a certain extent, that‘s where the source was. And I don‘t want to just talk in terms of rumors. But people said that these documents were at the DNC weeks ago and that they were speculating whether they should make a commercial, whether the campaign should make a commercial or how best to get it out there.
And I don‘t want to get into rumors and innuendoes, but the bottom line is, Dan Rather has become the story. And I think rather than saying, hey, a mistake was made, let‘s do a little mea culpa that we all have to do as politicians or strategists from time to time, he‘s made himself the story and he‘s trying to throw it back on Bush. And really it‘s right in the midst of this political campaign.
And I think, to a certain extent, that‘s why people clearly see it as a partisan attack and see him a vehicle of that partisan attack.
SCARBOROUGH: And that‘s is the remarkable thing, is, Dan Rather goes back on “60 Minutes” and instead of talking about the documents...
SCARBOROUGH: Basically, it‘s, OK, well, maybe, maybe, it‘s a forged document. But even if it‘s a forged document, this is really George W. Bush‘s fault.
ROLLINS: Right. Right.
SCARBOROUGH: It sounds almost Clintonesque, doesn‘t it?
ROLLINS: Absolutely does.
KUDLOW: The presumption of guilt here before any evidence is available is absolutely stunning. And from the standpoint of journalistic practices and journalistic ethics, that‘s in some sense the most remarkable aspect of all of this, because they do not have, nor does anyone have any proof that Bush did not fulfill his Reserve obligations, nor do they have any credible witnesses or documents to that effect.
And yet Rather gets up at this quasi-news conference and makes that
assertion. It‘s one of the more remarkable aspects of a more remarkable
story. And it got the White House response. As you know, Joe, Scott
McClellan, the press secretary said today, they should stick to reporting
the facts and not trying to dispense campaign advice, which is all Rather
really has been doing, is dispensing partisan campaign advice,
SCARBOROUGH: I thought that was remarkable. You actually had a spokesman at the White House talking about how Dan Rather was dispensing campaign advice for John Kerry. You talk about the long knives coming out.
And Bernie Goldberg, who used to work at CBS, wrote this in today‘s “Wall Street Journal.” He said—quote—“This is why, I suspect, Rather isn‘t coming clean, despite the damage to his reputation, because Dan Rather may be protecting not just his source, but himself; because, if the source turns out to be a partisan, then Dan wasn‘t just taken for a ride. He may have been a willing passenger. And then Dan and CBS News can kiss their reputation goodbye.”
SCARBOROUGH: Clarence Page, those are awfully tough words from a guy who, like you, used to work for CBS News.
Now, I want to ask you about journalistic ethics here. A lot of people are talking about whether Dan Rather should reveal his source or not. Obviously, Bob Novak, when we talked about the Joe Wilson story, decided not to reveal his source. But in this case, since it seems clear that I think CBS is even starting to realize this document was a forgery and they‘ll admit it soon. If somebody gave you a document in confidence and it ends up that that document was a forgery, could you then step forward and tell the American people who gave that you forgery?
PAGE: Well, I think so, Joe, because when you make an agreement with a source to keep their anonymity, it‘s a two-way deal. If it turns out the source has screwed you with some faulty information, the deal is off, in my view, which is why, again, I question whether or not Dan Rather got a source here that he feels is fully illegitimate, because I don‘t see why he would hesitate to tell everybody who it is.
By the way, as long as we‘re dealing in rumor and speculation here, wildly, here in Washington, a lot of people are speculating as to whether Karl Rove may have supplied this bogus document. He‘s had that reputation for a long time. Out in Texas, he was accused of bugging his own office in order to sabotage the campaign of an opponent.
So you can speculate a lot of different ways. I hear several movie scripts being written out of this dialogue right now.
SCARBOROUGH: I believe that.
Now, Clarence, do you believe, like Maureen Dowd speculated a couple of days ago, that Karl Rove is really so much of an evil genius that he would plant a forged document with Dan Rather?
PAGE: Evil genius is your word, Joe. Personally, I view Karl Rove as a friend and a neighbor. Our politics don‘t agree, but I think he‘s a nice guy personally, but a strict professional, a very crafty professional, comes out of Lee Atwater school with a number of other folks who are very Machiavellian and will come up with all kinds of scenarios. I mean, what better way to discredit Dan Rather than to provide him with another Hitler diary? Remember that story?
SCARBOROUGH: I remember the Hitler diary of the mid-1980s as embarrassing to Dan. And there were a lot of resignations. I think it was “Stern” that did it.
I think there are going to be a lot of resignations at CBS News when this story continues to unfold.
Now, coming up, we‘re going to be taking a look at some of the holes in Dan Rather‘s story, including the shaky credibility of a man who may have been Rather‘s key source.
And later, of course, we‘re going to be talking about the great president‘s legacy. Ronald Reagan wasn‘t one to parse words and he ruffled plenty of feathers when he referred to the Soviet Union as the evil empire.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCARBOROUGH: Coming up, more from the Reagan Library. We‘re going to be talking about Dan Rather, the great communicator, and how Ronald Reagan changed the world.
That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation to blithely, declare yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re here live from the Reagan Library. And we‘re going to be talking about the president in the second half-hour.
We‘re back with our panel right now to discuss the growing credibility problems for Dan Rather and CBS News.
It turns out the possible source for the now infamous “60 Minutes” story may have been ordered to alter the president‘s records. “The Houston Chronicle” is reporting that Bill Burkett—quote—“wrote a long indictment against President Bush for a Web site in 2003 in which he said he personally was ordered to—quote—alter personnel records of George W. Bush.”
In that article, Burkett said that when he refused, he was sent to Panama as punishment, where he contracted a disabling disease. Burkett later called that later an overstatement.
ROLLINS: It really wasn‘t Panama he was sent to. It was Alaska.
SCARBOROUGH: Exactly. Exactly.
I mean, again, it‘s amazing that these are the ship of fools that are floating around in CBS‘ universe, possibly. You know, the White House is coming out, calling on Dan Rather to recuse himself from reporting on the presidential race.
Let me quote this. This is “The Washington Times” today. It is claiming that advisers for President Bush are furious and saying this—quote—“Privately, Bush advisers said Mr. Rather has become part of the story and therefore should recuse himself from further coverage. They suggested a more objective journalist at CBS should begin aggressively pursuing the question of the whether the documents were forged.”
Do you believe there‘s any chance that Dan Rather would ever recuse himself from a presidential race, whether it‘s the right thing to do or not?
ROLLINS: No, absolutely not, and certainly not now when he‘s under challenge. But I think he‘d better get this thing cleaned up real quick or his rating is going to go away and they won‘t come back.
He is the bottom of the rung, and obviously, when people move away in droves, as they have—the only city in the country that they have is San Francisco, and I won‘t say anything about my old home town, but the bottom line is that maybe they like bias there.
At the end of the day, I mean, he has become the story. It‘s not the documents. It‘s him and CBS‘ credibility.
SCARBOROUGH: Bob Kohn, I‘ll ask you the same thing.
SCARBOROUGH: Should Dan Rather, as some Bush advisors are suggesting now, recuse himself from covering the presidential race?
KOHN: Yes. There‘s a clear conflict of interest here. You know, Dan Rather is trying to be the judge and the jury.
What he did the other night was the equivalent of witness tampering. He took this woman, this 86-year-old woman, and flew her to—to New York to interview her. They had prepped her in advance. He asked leading questions. God knows what‘s on the cutting room floor of that interview. And then puts her on without letting anyone really cross-examine her at all.
So, I mean, it‘s a tremendous conflict of interest. And the conflict might even go further.
Think about this Bill Burkett was a Democratic operative in Travis County, Texas. His lawyer was a former chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party. I also understand when Dan Rather spoke at a Democrat fundraiser, in 2001, it was in Travis County and it was at the behest of Robin Rather, his daughter. OK, so what‘s going on in Travis County?
There are much more questions here that have been raised than answered, and Dan Rather is not the person to be doing it. And the board of directors—I‘ll say it again—of Viacom, they have a duty under what‘s called the Sarbanes—Sarbanes-Oxley Securities Law to follow up, to look at these and do a complete independent investigation here.
If they don‘t, they‘re not following corporate governance practices, and they are opening themselves up to massive legal problems.
LAWRENCE KUDLOW, FORMER REAGAN ECONOMIC ADVISOR: That‘s such a...
SCARBOROUGH: And you know, the thing is right—Bob Kohn...
KUDLOW: ... is so important. And I just want to add two brief things to it. One is in political terms, Joe, instead of worrying about Karl Rove and weird Dowd conspiracy theories, that Clarence was parroting, the real issue here is the Kerry‘s camp involvement, if this was a Kerry ploy and that Dan Rather got caught in this.
The second issue is, with respect to the disposition of Dan Rather in this presidential race or whatever on CBS News, these are decisions that are going to be made by senior executives and ultimately, as Bob Kohn says, the board of directors.
He‘s not a free agent. He doesn‘t run this company. He may be the most visible guy, but he does not run this company. And CBS News is one of the weakest part of the Viacom empire. It is a loss leader. It is not profitable. And this is the last thing those guys want to have.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re exactly right. Very bad news. But right now let‘s turn to the good people of Reagan country in our live audience and give them a chance to ask questions of our experts.
Go ahead. What‘s your question?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am Jean Turner (ph) from Gibsonburg, Ohio, near Fremont, Ohio, and I‘d like to know why Dan Rather is so biased against the Republican Party. And do you think that he will resign in the end?
ROLLINS: He started in politics—at least covering major politics out of Texas. He was a big fan of Lyndon Johnson‘s. And obviously, his first tours of duty were at that point in the White House.
So I think his—I think his friends have always been—been Democrats. And I think to a certain extent, you know, he grew up in a very strong organization. CBS was, obviously. But I think to a certain extent he—he had seen Texas change. And I think that bothers a lot of those old Texas Democrats, it‘s now Republican country.
SCARBOROUGH: From Lyndon Johnson‘s country to George Bush‘s country.
ROLLINS: George Bush‘s country.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s got to sting.
Hey, Clarence Page (ph) and Bob Kohn, thanks for watching and being with us. Very insightful discussion. Ed—Ed, Lawrence Kudlow, I‘m going to ask you to stick around. We‘re going to have a lot more in just a little bit.
And don‘t forget to catch “Imus” on Monday morning. He‘s going to be talking to CBS‘ Bob Schieffer. And I promise, you‘re not going to want to miss that one.
And coming up next, an all-star panel to talk about the lasting legacy of former President Ronald Reagan, my hero. We‘re going to be talking with some of the men who knew him best and one of his most famous speeches on those astronauts who died in the Challenger tragedy.
Here he is speaking to the children who were watching on that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say something to the school children of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle‘s takeoff.
I know it‘s hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It‘s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It‘s all part of taking a chance and expanding man‘s horizons. The future doesn‘t belong to the fainthearted. It belongs to the brave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re here live from the Reagan Library, talking about the legacy of Ronald Reagan and seeing whether some people here that knew Reagan think he shares any similarities with George W. Bush.
We‘re going to talk about that in a second, but first let‘s hear the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: These are the boys of Puento Hoya (ph). These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, once again Joe Scarborough.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know what? Of course if you know Ronald Reagan‘s path and it coincided with the free nations of the world honoring the 60th anniversary of D-Day.
You know, even before Ronald Reagan passed away, everybody that came there, whether they were from—whether they were there from France or whether they came from Britain, everybody was still talking 20 years later about the speech that Ronald Reagan gave, the one that you just saw back in 1984. It was a remarkable moment.
And with me now, we‘re talking to former Reagan advisor Ed Rollins, Reagan biographer Lou Canon. He‘s the author of “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime” and “Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power, two great books.” Former Congressman and vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp. Lawrence Kudlow is still here, and he‘s a former economic advisor to President Reagan. And Ed Meese. He of course, served as attorney general under Ronald Reagan.
Lou, let me start with you. And Ronald Reagan always seemed to have that timing thing down. Even the timing of how he said goodbye to the world, on the 60th anniversary of D-Day.
What was it about Reagan that made him seem so much bigger than life to the American people and to the world?
LOU CANON, REAGAN BIOGRAPHER: He—I think there were two things about him that were—were special. Two among a lot of things.
One was that he had a real sense of the—of the country. It was—it was—Walter Whitman once wrote that De Gaulle was great because he was in France, because France was in him. And I‘ve said many times that Reagan was great in the same sense, that America was inside of him.
The other thing he had, Joe, as you know is this wonderful—Ed is very much aware of this, having watched it and been on the receiving end—this wonderful sense of humor, this self-deprecating sense of humor he had. I was thinking, you know—we were talking about the governorship, and when we first asked him what kind of governor he would be, Ronald Reagan said, “I don‘t know. I‘ve never played a governor.”
Now—now very, very few people in this world—you‘re in politics, you know. Very few people can—can be—be as—so ego-less. Ronald Reagan was an important person, but he was never, never a self-important person. And I think that—that that‘s what made him great.
You have a conservative audience, but liberals liked—appreciated Ronald Reagan‘s gifts and Ronald—and the way Ronald Reagan related. He -- he belonged to the whole country. And I think—I never—you know, I feel fortunate to have written about him. I never met a man like him.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Ronald Reagan also—I mean, there‘s so many things. And of course he said that—that hard work never killed anybody but he wasn‘t taking any chances.
And my favorite story about Reagan sort of poking fun at others while poking fun at himself was when he was giving a commencement speech, I guess it was, at Harvard. And there he was, standing in front of—of this graduating class, the best and the brightest. And he had the presidential seal on the front.
And he sat there and he said, “You know, sometimes I stay awake wondering what would have become of me if I had gone to a good college.”
CANON: The—the—I guess the bookend of that is my favorite Reagan story. It was always—it was a wire service reporter who came up to him, got a studio picture of Reagan and the chimpanzee, Bonzo, in “Bedtime for Bonzo.” And he asked if Reagan would sign it. He didn‘t know that Reagan did that all the time.
Reagan cheerfully signed it, and underneath his name, he wrote, “I‘m the one with the watch.”
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Jack Kemp, the name of Walter Lipton (ph)...
JACK KEMP, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hey, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: ... and he was—Lipton (ph) obviously has been quoted in a recent book by John Meecham. And Lipton (ph) said the closer you got to Winston Churchill, the more impressed you were. The closer you got to FDR, the more disappointed you were for—I guess for a variety of reasons.
What about Ronald Reagan? You worked closely with him. The closer you got to Ronald Reagan, which way did it break? How was he?
KEMP: Well, I think Lou Canon captured it perfectly when he said that Reagan had America in him. He was American from the day he was born to college to his radio broadcasting days.
And you‘re all telling your favorite stories. I was campaigning with him in 1980 during the Republican primary, and he was being accused of being too old. And he said, “Just to prove that I‘m not too old, I‘m going to campaign in all 13 of our states.”
SCARBOROUGH: Ed, I also love the line when he was in the debate talking about Walter Mondale, and he said he wasn‘t going to—age shouldn‘t be a part of the debate, and he wasn‘t going to use his opponent‘s inexperience against him, his youth and inexperience against him.
Ed Meese, you know, we‘re talking about the past, but you were with Ronald Reagan almost from the very beginning. What‘s Ronald Reagan‘s legacy? What‘s the future of America and the world going to be like because of what Ronald Reagan did and his crusade not only to change America but to change the world over the past 30, 40 years?
ED MEESE, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, REAGAN ADMINISTRATION: Well, I think he did several things. First of all, we know historically what he did. He revived the economy of the United States. He put into place the forces that ended the Cold War. He revived the spirit of the American people. Those are kind of the historic things.
But I think that more than anything else, both as governor and as president, he took conservative principles and showed that they worked in practice. And I—he made conservatism, really, a governing movement. It had been a political movement before that. It had been an intellectual movement before that. But he made it a governing movement. And really, to a great extent that still pertains today.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, you know, I was going to send you (ph) to 1979, but really, up until the weekend before the 1980 election, most of the people in the media and in Washington or the Georgetown cocktail parties and the cocktail parties of the Upper West Side of Manhattan dismissed this guy as a political hack.
And then, of course, he won that amazing landslide victory and—and really created a tidal wave.
What was it about Ronald Reagan that the elites in Washington and Hollywood and Manhattan just never got, that the rest of America did get?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the reason the elites never got Ronald Reagan, didn‘t understand Ronald Reagan, is because they didn‘t understand the country.
Ronald Reagan came from the heart of America. He represented the principles. He represented the ideals of the time before World War II and the Depression and in the post-war better than anyone I know. He articulated them. He had that optimism. It was part of the American soul.
And they thought he was the actor and he‘s a B-grade actor and a cowboy. And they didn‘t realize he was a man of deep principles who had, as I once said, to use Mark Twain‘s phrase, he had the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces.
He believed that these principles applied to the Cold War, applied to American government, applied to the problems and the malaise of the era, that they would turn America around.
And if he failed, he said, “You know, I can go back, and I‘ll go back to the ranch and chop wood.”
But the whole—it all worked. And he was blessed with a lot of
fortunate luck in that. But I think that what we had in Ronald Reagan was
· there‘s four words, good man, great president.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat, I want to ask you—Pat Buchanan, still great with applause lines.
BUCHANAN: That happens to be true, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: And only when it‘s true (ph).
Pat, I want to ask you, because one of the things that—that I—we‘re—I consider ourselves to be good friends. I love working with you at MSNBC. But you know, most people that were Cold Warriors like Ronald Reagan and yourself. I would consider you a Cold Warrior. But also supporting the president‘s war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror.
But you don‘t. Why is that, and is that consistent with Ronald Reagan?
BUCHANAN: All right. Now people might not cheer this. But let me say this.
Ronald Reagan had a reputation as a cowboy. He was no cowboy. He was a man of prudence, a man of perseverance and a man who didn‘t take wild risks.
He put those troops into Lebanon in a good cause, to train the Lebanese army, let a Christian government take over. And the Marines were attacked in their barracks, and 241 were killed. People were yelling, “Send in a couple of divisions. Occupy the place.”
And Ronald Reagan said, “There‘s no vital interest here that justifies me getting a lot more Americans killed.” He retaliated and he pulled the Marines out. And people accused him of cutting and running, of running away.
But what Ronald Reagan was looking at is the vital interests of his own country. And if that meant he‘s going to have to be held accountable and responsible, he would take that decision.
That is a big man, a big, big man that could, in effect, admit that mistake and keep his eye on the ball, which was victory in the Cold War, not running around the world getting involved in wars where the country has not attacked us.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Pat. You know what? We can debate this on another night, but I‘ve got to tell you, you‘re exactly right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boo!
SCARBOROUGH: Now, stop. Pat‘s our friend. Pat‘s our friend.
But Pat, let me tell you this before we go to break. You did get some applause here. I would say probably about the same percentage that you got in South Florida in the 2000 election.
We‘re going to be right back—I kid, I kid. I kid because I love. Anyway, Pat, thanks for getting enough votes to put George W. Bush in the White House.
Anyway, we‘re going to be talking about how many of today‘s Republicans in Washington may have forgotten their fiscal conservative roots along the way to Congress.
We‘re also going to be talking more and taking questions from the audience here at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. Stick around; we‘ve got much more ahead.
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REAGAN: We can meet our destiny, and that destiny to build a land here that will be, for all mankind, a shining city on a hill. I think we ought to get at it.
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REAGAN: What I‘m describing now is a plan that I hope for the long term. The march of freedom and democracy, which will lead Marxism, Leninism on the ash heap of history, as it has left other tyrannies which stifled the freedom and muzzled the self-expression of the people.
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SCARBOROUGH: President Ronald Reagan, man of faith, courage, vision and principle.
We‘re back with our panel at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Larry Kudlow, I want to go to you. Right now, there seems to be a fight within the Republican Party in Congress between Reagan conservatives and Rockefeller Republicans. I mean, let‘s face it: a lot of spending going on there.
Do you think we‘re going to see a fight in the Republican Party like the “Wall Street Journal” suggesting, right after this election, right after—again, the “Wall Street Journal” suggests—George W. Bush gets reelected?
KUDLOW: I don‘t think there‘s going to be a huge fight. I think there‘s going to be some disagreements about what to do regarding taxes and the budget.
You know, I think—I want to go back to something Ed Meese said earlier, that President developed an effective governance mode from conservatism, piecing it together. And I think that governance mode holds today.
I think the Republican Party is wedded, correctly so, in my view, to lower tax rates. If George Bush follows through on his pledge for tax reform and simplification, I think that would be an excellent idea.
And I think that we will see another Reagan principle come into play more forcefully in a Bush second term. And that is much greater resolve to hold down domestic spending, probably to reform a lot of areas of government that are unnecessary and wasteful.
These are all things we inherited from Reagan: lower taxes, get rid of unnecessary government. And I think they‘re both big political winners.
SCARBOROUGH: Ed Meese, I want to ask you the same thing. What should Republicans look to in Ronald Reagan and conservative Democrats in trying to get their message across in a culture, in a media that‘s often hostile to conservatives?
MEESE: Well, I think one of the things now is that the media situation is much better today than it was when Ronald Reagan started as president in 1981. Today we have talk radio. We have you, Joe. We have others on Fox News. We have the “Washington Times.” I think there‘s a lot better opportunity to get the message across.
The important thing is to fashion the message, as Larry said, and to make sure that we do have people committed, the leadership of the Senate and the House, committed to—limited government, to respecting the responsibilities and the authority of the states, to lower spending, to—and particularly, and this is really important, to get taxes under control, to make permanent the president‘s tax cuts.
And this is important, not just from the standpoint of government, but to stimulate the continued economic growth that Ronald Reagan got started in the 80s.
SCARBOROUGH: Jack Kemp, what‘s the one lesson politicians should learn from Ronald Reagan?
KEMP: Stick to your guns. Have a lone star (ph). Don‘t quit. Take the heat.
I don‘t know if everybody remembers, but back in the early 80s when he was championing a 30 percent across the board reduction in tax rates, we all were called voodoo economists, witch doctors, snake oil salesmen, dangerous river boat gamblers. And that was just coming from our own party. You should have heard what Tip O‘Neill was saying.
And Ronald Reagan stuck to his guns. He understood classical economics. And what Larry pointed out, sound money, low taxes, less regulation, free trade and less government spending is the recipe for strong, non-inflationary economic growth.
And one last postscript. The world is learning this. Putin has put in a 13 percent flat tax. China is on the Hong Kong model, not the choiceless (ph) model. The world is slowly, inexorably moving towards the Reagan agenda, that lodestar that dominated his whole life: freedom, free enterprise, free trade, private property and unleashing the dynamism of the American economy.
KUDLOW: And the one thing—one other thing that Reagan taught all of us, you know, from the principles that Jack has mentioned and I talked about earlier, is the linkage between a strong domestic economy, which can then throw off the resources to create a strong national defense. That is so vital.
Reagan understood that. That‘s one of the key reasons why we won the Cold War. And that is something we should not lose site of today.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me go to Martin Anderson. Martin, of course, has written books on Ronald Reagan. He‘s got “Reagan‘s Path to Victory” coming out in a few weeks.
I want to ask you about Ronald Reagan. Talk about the Ronald Reagan that you discovered as you started going through all of us—all of his writings.
MARTIN ANDERSON, FORMER REAGAN ADVISOR: One of the things we don‘t pay much attention to is how he accomplished all these things, how hard he worked, how smart he was and how decisive he was.
I remember one time in 1980, when he was trying to decide who the vice president should be. And we were sitting—it was in a hotel room. And he was really looking at Ford, because the polls all showed that a Ford-Reagan ticket would probably win.
And when he talked to him, it soon turned out that Ford wanted a lot of power in the White House. And I remember we were sitting on a couch and watching, and suddenly Ford was on, talking to Walter Cronkite.
And Cronkite says, “Is this going to be a co-presidency?”
And Reagan just about got up out of the couch and said, “Call Ford down here. We‘re going to have a talk right now.” Because the whole thing had been put on ice overnight. And he called him down, and they went over in part of the room and talked and laughed and joked. We couldn‘t hear what they were saying.
And when he came back, we said, “What happened?”
And he said, “Well, he decided it wouldn‘t work.” Because what Reagan had told him was, “You‘re going to be my vice president or you‘re off the ticket.”
ANDERSON: And then very quickly, he turned and said, “All right.
Now this was not down on the—on the spur of the moment. A lot of work had been done as to who the best possible candidates were.
ANDERSON: And he called Bush and said, “Want to be my vice president?‘ And then he said, “But first, I want to make sure you agree with everything on the platform.” And when George said yes, he became the vice president, and a very good one.
SCARBOROUGH: And the rest is history.
Hey, we‘ve got a great audience here tonight. We‘ll be back with them and our guests in just a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re back. Lou Canon, final thoughts?
CANON: My final thought is that we wouldn‘t be talking about the possibility of reelecting a Republican president or a Republican Congress if it wasn‘t for Ronald Reagan, that if—Ed Meese was very good on this point, as were a lot of your other guests.
But I think the real—the real thing that Ronald Reagan did is that politically he changed America.
SCARBOROUGH: He certainly did.
All right. Listen, I want to thank my guests. And make sure to see my special report on Pensacola, Florida, the damage there. Going to be doing that on Monday. Good night.
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