Guests: Amy Barnes-Stites, Dan Burton, Joe Tacopina, Jon Klein, Bill Maher
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight’s top headline, civil war breaks out at CBS, while “The New York Times”’ heavyweight speaks of crimes and felonies committed in Rather-gate.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed.
Civil war at CBS, as the network’s reputation takes a deadly dive. And a “New York Times” bigwig is suggesting Rather-gate could involve federal felony convictions. Then more of the CBS report called into question. Ben Barnes claims that he gave George Bush a cushy ride all the way to the Texas National Guard, but Barnes’ daughter says her father is lying and she is here to tell us why.
Plus, comedian Bill Maher has a little bit of advice for John Kerry, speak up or get out.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome to the show.
Now, first we had the memo, then the scandal, and now reports that CBS may find itself in the eye of a legal storm. In today’s “New York Times,” William Safire suggests that someone in Rather-gate could face criminal charges.
He writes this—quote—“Some person or persons conceived a scheme to create a series of false Texas Air National Guard documents and append a photocopied signature to one of them. The perpetrator then helped cause the fraudulent file to be transmitted by means of television communication to millions of voters for the purpose of influencing a federal election. That was no dirty trick. It could be a violation of the But.S. criminal code.”
With me now to examine the possible legal implications for CBS, the Kerry campaign, and others is attorney Joe Tacopina.
Joe, thanks a lot for being with us.
JOE TACOPINA, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Hey, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me begin with the first question. Did the person who forged this document and presented it to CBS commit a felony?
TACOPINA: Without question, if you read the Texas Penal Code, which I have in front of me, Section 3221, Joe, of the Texas Penal Code—I will break it down in very basic terms—says that this forgery is a felony.
If this person published a forged—and published doesn’t mean put it in the newspaper. Published simply means disseminate—a forged national government document, which this unquestionably is, with the general intent to harm someone, knowing the document was forged. Obviously, the facts of Rather-gate, if you will, or this document production fit into that penal code to make it a felony in Texas.
You then have, as Safire suggested in “The New York Times,” the potential of federal offenses by trying, attempting to influence a federal election. So there’s no question the creator of this document, because it is a national government document, committed a felony.
SCARBOROUGH: And this person is probably going to be convicted.
Let’s move on now. Could CBS be considered a co-conspirator in that felony if they knew or had reason to know that this document was forged?
TACOPINA: Well, when we say CBS, obviously, we need to have a lot more information there, Joe. Were there higher-ups? Was it an executive decision, or was it one particular producer, as seems to be suggested, that sort of may have been involved?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, let’s make it simple, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Let’s say that Mary Mapes saw this document, had reason to know, or should have known that this document was a forgery, decided to do move the story forward because this self-described liberal wanted to get this story before the public before an election. Could she possibly be convicted as a co-conspirator in this felony?
TACOPINA: Without question. Aiding and abetting is what that would be called. And, quite frankly, the two scenarios you posed, if she knew it was forged, it’s a ground ball. She is as guilty as the creator of the forged document.
If she did not know it was forged, Joe, but turned a blind eye to the obvious evidence that it was or was consciously avoiding the truth that it was a forged document, didn’t want to know, for instance, she is still—the law would consider her guilty if a reasonable person would have known it was a forged document. And, in this scenario, if that’s, in fact, the case, she is as guilty as the creator of the document and has committed felony.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Joe, there are 50 states obviously that are impacted by this because of the national election. Could an attorney general from any state press charges against these people, since CBS disseminated this information and it came into their states?
We keep talking about Texas, but could somebody from Florida or Missouri or Washington state possibly move—start a prosecution against the forger or Mary Mapes or somebody else at CBS News?
Joe, look, as a former prosecutor, I can tell you that you want to examine all your open possibilities here. And the answer is probably yes, but, clearly, let me say this. Each state—forget about the federal government and the federal laws, but each state has their own independent set of books, if you will, regarding the penal law, and you would have to examine all the elements. But for the most part, Texas Penal Code regarding forgery as a felony is not unlike that of many states, sort of almost like a common law offense, if you will.
It’s pretty straightforward. It’s a forged document. It’s a national government document with intent to harm someone, and it was published. Those are the elements. If that’s in fact the case, a lot of people could go down here, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, it’s a ground ball.
Now, finally, the question that a lot of people are asking in the press right now, something that was touched on in “The New York Times,” could somebody possibly in the Kerry campaign be considered a co-conspirator?
TACOPINA: Hey, Joe, the bottom line is this. Anyone could be considered be a co-conspirator, bet it in the Kerry campaign or at the Dairy Queen down the block, if they helped procure the document, forge the document, publish it, meaning pass it on, disseminate it, knowing it was forged, knowing it was a national document.
If someone, for instance, Lockhart or someone in the Kerry campaign was privy, for instance—I used his name as an example—to the fact that it was going to be disseminated, to the fact that it was possibly or probably a forged document and it was a national government document and allowed that dissemination to go on, there’s no question people will be getting convicted of felonies here, least likely of which will be Dan Rather. But, unfortunately, he is at the head of this whole thing.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks a lot, Joe. We really appreciate you being with us tonight. We are going to be calling you back, because I fully expect somebody somewhere to press charges fairly soon.
Now, the controversy surrounding Dan Rather, his liberal producer and CBS News continues to grow by the day. Today, CBS announced that it’s appointed former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press CEO Louis Boccardi to investigate what went wrong at CBS. Is it too little, too late for CBS and Dan Rather?
With me now to talk about it is MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, who is also the author of “Where the Right Went Wrong,” former CBS vice president Jon Klein, “Newsweek”’s Howard Fineman, great friend of this show, MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle and a columnist for “The Boston Herald” and “The New York Daily News,” and Indiana Republican Dan Burton.
Let’s begin with you, Pat Buchanan, at the top.
CBS has finally started investigation, but is it about a week too late? And is William Safire on to something? Are there going to be other investigations started by prosecutors across the country?
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I’ll tell you, Joe, I think the investigation by Dick Thornburgh, that’s nice. But this is not an investigation of journalistic mistakes anymore.
CBS stands convicted in the public mind already and is guilty already of being the enablers of criminal conspiracy to produce forgeries to destroy the president of the United States in an election. We know these documents were forged. If it was one individual, it’s a plot. If Burkett was involved with a couple of others in doing it, it is conspiracy, and it’s been enabled by CBS.
Now, at the very least, CBS ought to come out front and say, the charges we made of insubordination by the president, of insolence toward his officers, that he might have been disciplined except for political pull, we have no evidence, we have no witnesses for those charges. We withdraw them now. We were irresponsible to put them out. We apologize to the president of the United States. We are going to get to the bottom of why we did this, and we are going to try to correct the damage we have done.
They are certainly guilty of that much today, Joe, and CBS’s leadership should get out in front of this story, and they are still far behind it.
SCARBOROUGH: Howard Fineman, what do you make of William Safire’s article this morning in “The New York Times”?
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he proposes an interesting possibility.
Everybody wants to know where those documents came from. That is the thing that’s out there that is going to keep this story going, because reporters and investigators and political partisans are going to want to know how those things appeared on the scene. And until that story is answered, it’s going to drive this thing. It’s not going to go away.
Is it going to dominate the presidential campaign? I don’t really think so, but is it going to be a constant motif woven through it? Absolutely. And I think it’s going to make it difficult for the media, the big media, the national media, to write and produce and put out there some of the stories that they might want to be doing about George Bush’s presidency.
It has a much broader effect on, a chilling effect, shall I say, on the national media than I think even the people in the national media realize yet.
SCARBOROUGH: Dan Burton, what’s happening in Congress right now on Capitol Hill? Obviously, William Safire writes this article. Others are talking about in Congress, Chris Cox, for one, talking about the need to open investigation on Capitol Hill. Any talk of that going on, moving forward, an investigation of Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, CBS, and all others involved?
REP. DAN BURTON ®, INDIANA: Yes. I think Chris Cox is serious about what he is talking about, and I have heard other members of Congress say the same thing.
The fact is, I think most members on the Republican side in Congress believe that Dan Rather was out to try to sabotage this president. He was looking for any way to do it, as was his staff. They grasped—grabbed onto something they thought would work, and I don’t think they really scrutinized those things very carefully. They took these people at their word. They threw caution to the wind, did a very poor job of reporting, and I think it’s given the entire media a black eye, not just CBS. And I think that’s very unfortunate.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, there’s another remarkable development going on today. We talked about a civil war at CBS. The wheels appear to be coming off internally between “60 Minutes” and “60 Minutes II.” Look at the comments made by Steve Kroft, of course one of the hosts of the Sunday show.
He said this—quote—“Now I think it’s our responsibility to try to draw a distinction between the two broadcasts. They’ve done a lot of great work over there, particularly with the Abu Ghraib story. They didn’t rush that story on the air. This one, for whatever reason, they did.”
Jon Klein, with ratings dropping and affiliates getting beaten up by this story, are you surprised that not only Steve Kroft, but a lot of other very respected journalists at CBS are saying on the air and off the air that they are disgusted by what’s going on and they want to be distanced there from this scandal?
JON KLEIN, FORMER CBS NEWS VICE PRESIDENT: I actually saw something on “KEITH OLBERMANN” earlier saying that Rather’s ratings had actually risen over the last couple of weeks. So I don’t know if that’s just the time of year, that the holiday is over and ratings go up normally.
But I don’t think it’s surprising that people at CBS are voicing their opinions. It’s long been a place where, like it or not, as an executive, it was always very difficult to control especially the superstars from either working back channels and getting their comments out in the press or just going public and doing what they wanted. So that’s not a surprise, especially when the superstars at “60 Minutes,” the Sunday edition, feel very protective of that franchise.
And one of the difficulties in launching “60 Minutes II” several years ago was their concern that the product itself, the show itself, the new show might somehow reflect poorly upon their vaunted Sunday night edition, so this might be just a case of their worst fears coming to haunt them.
But I thought it was interesting that Don Hewitt, the creator of “60 Minutes” and the first guy you might expect to leap to protect the Sunday night show, came out pretty forcefully in a quote saying, hey, that’s wrong. People shouldn’t pile on here. It’s not a classy thing to do. No surprise.
SCARBOROUGH: What’s wrong?
KLEIN: Hewitt was saying it was wrong of Steve Kroft to make that remark, or perhaps, in general, it was wrong for CBS News employees to be bad-mouthing the Wednesday edition until the facts came in. That’s what Hewitt’s quote said.
SCARBOROUGH: That is interesting.
Mike Barnicle, what do you make of the development of this scandal? Do you think it has legs another week, and do you think there are going to be criminal charges pressed?
MIKE BARNICLE, NBC ANALYST: I have no idea whether there will be criminal charges pressed, Joe. That’s above my pay grade.
But the entire episode—our problem in the media is that we look at things like individual brush fires, and we tend to do the predictable thing. In this case, it’s to demonize Dan Rather, who has had a long career, and an honorable career, to be honest about it, and CBS News, which is a terrifically valued enterprise in this country.
The larger issue is the slow, steady progression of isolation, condescension, arrogance, and the cultural divide between big media, especially big Eastern media, and the customers, the people who buy the papers, the people who watch the TV shows. We no longer have much of a frame of reference for the reason that I originally got into the business, and I bet Howard Fineman got into the business, to tell the stories, the daily stories of the human condition that occur.
A policeman’s costume does not become us. We are reporters. This story became an obsession, five years, an obsession.
SCARBOROUGH: It was.
Hey, Mike, I want to keep talking to you about that disconnect.
We are going to have a lot more of this discussion when we get back in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Talk to you in a sec.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, if you think Rather-Gate is the only scandal out there, read my book, “Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day.” You will be shocked at how this sort of thing goes on in Washington, D.C., all the time.
We are going to be talking, though, more about Dan Rather when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: So how has the heir to Walter Cronkite’s throne become the poster child of biased media, according to many? Is he the partisan who always has it out for conservatives, as some allege, or is he a dogged newsman still trying to be first with a story?
To answer those questions, I am back with our panel, Congressman Dan Burton, Pat Buchanan, Jon Klein, Howard Fineman, and Mike Barnicle.
Mike, I want to go back to you.
You were talking about a disconnect between the elite liberal media in the Northeast and middle America. I want to play you a clip of something that probably helped conservatives cement their opinion of Dan Rather when they accused him of showing contempt for then Vice President George Bush.
Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: Mr. Vice President, I appreciate you joining us tonight. I appreciate the straightforward way in which you have engaged in this exchange. Clearly , some unanswered questions. Are you willing to go to a news conference before the Iowa caucuses, answer questions from all comers?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I’ve had 86
news conferences since March
RATHER: I gather that the answer is no.
Thank you very much for being with us, Mr. Vice President.
We will be back with more news in a moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Now, of course, Mike, you know the whole exchange was a lot more inflammatory than just that small clip. It’s hard for me to imagine Walter Cronkite ever doing that. It’s hard for me to imagine Fred Friendly ever allowing any of his reporters to show that contempt for a sitting vice president, be it a Republican or a Democrat.
Do you think Dan Rather may have made his own bed here?
BARNICLE: Well, I think in part he has. I think absolutely he has,, Joe.
But part of it also is what we are doing now. We are on television. And this tube has created in this country over the past 20 and 25 years especially, in the last 10 specifically, with the growth of cable, a cult of celebrity that unfortunately attaches to some news people.
We are supposed to be in the business of going out, coming back into our offices with editors and producers asking us, what did you find out? And now we are on these shows with people asking us, what do we think? Wrong question. We should get back to, what did we see, what did we find out? To understand how warped the business has become, I would submit that you could go to the editors of “The Times,” “The Washington Post,” “The Boston Globe” today, top producers at all three networks, and ask them the names of everyone involved in the CBS scandal. They could tell you specifically who they were, and then say, do you know who Kevin Casey (ph) is?
And they would say, geez, I don’t know who he is. Who is he? He is a 38-year-old Marine corps major killed in Iraq last Thursday on his birthday. That’s the story. Who was he and why did he die? That’s the story, not what George Bush did 35 years ago. We are not telling those stories.
SCARBOROUGH: Why is that, the cult of personality?
BARNICLE: I think because we have gotten away from our mission, because the whole prize mentality of this business, the whole gotcha mentality that has attached itself to this business, the growth of it with the Internet, where it’s not only now necessary to define someone or demean someone. We now go the extra step. We are not successful unless we destroy them.
And we never, ever look back in the rear-view mirror for the collateral damage of reputations that we have left by the curbside.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, you know, Pat Buchanan, a lot of people will say on both sides of the political divide—and I have certainly heard from journalism professors talking about it, too, who are probably center-left saying that this all started during Watergate. It was an unfortunate byproduct of some reporting by Woodward and Bernstein, and, like Mike said, that, pretty soon, the goal was to destroy at least one politician every election cycle.
And, of course, at the height of Watergate, Dan Rather first drew fire from conservatives for the way he treated President Richard Nixon at a 1973 press conference. Take a look at this memorable moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RATHER: Mr. President, I wonder if you could share with us your thoughts, tell us what goes through your mind, when you hear people, people who love this country and people who believe in you say reluctantly that perhaps you should resign or be impeached?
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I am glad we don’t take the vote of this room, let me say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: OK. You know, I can’t believe we cut out—we cut out the ending of that, Pat, and I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it. Dan Rather is then asked by Richard Nixon, are you running for office? And Dan Rather contemptuously says back to him, no, Mr. President. Are you?
And you talk about a cult of personality; 1973, Dan Rather injects himself into the middle of this story, and he is trying to be the story himself. I mean, wasn’t that the start of Rather’s problems?
BUCHANAN: Well, I was in Houston when that happened. And what happened in Houston was, Rather was introduced. He said, Dan Rather, CBS News. He asked his question. And the whole audience, because he was controversial, part of it booed, part of it cheered, and everybody then laughed. And that’s when Nixon threw out a light line, are you running for something? And Rather came back with that insult, which I think really hurt him.
But let me go to Mike Barnicle’s point and your point, both. There has been a blood-in-the-water-syndrome ever since Lyndon Johnson and especially Nixon, the royal blood. You can take down a president. It’s been done before, and it was tried again with Reagan and Iran-Contra and the rest. But Rather has a particular problem. He does have this inherent bias, if you will.
Take a look at what he did in that report we are talking about Joe, where he—and I reread it tonight. He says, in effect, we have got an unimpeachable source here, and we got these new documents. Why did he not at least say the colonel’s son says the documents aren’t real, and our source here who has given us this, we have to admit he has got a strong bias against the president of the United States, a number of people, to let the people know the context here that people are coming after the president?
He didn’t. He didn’t do that, and he misled the public as to what he had there. And now he is caught up and he hoist on his petard.
SCARBOROUGH: Howard Fineman, proving that there’s no cult of personality in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY and proving that I will admit I am a jackass when I make a mistake, I will be the first to admit, I am a jackass.
SCARBOROUGH: Actually, here is the are-you-running bite? It was six months later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RATHER: Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather, CBS News.
NIXON: Are you running for something?
RATHER: No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Jon, you think Walter Cronkite would have done that?
KLEIN: Oh, no way.
Dan is the first guy to say that he has long been his own worst enemy, and maybe he regretted that comment the moment he made it. However, I think that comment was one of the things that helped propel him into the anchor chair, so that one instance wasn’t a bad thing for him. It was a lot of other stuff ever since, but he does tend to trip about his own feet a lot. And he laughs about it himself.
SCARBOROUGH: What was the courage thing and the frequency thing? Dan Rather has always had these bizarre incidences swirling around his universe. And then he talks in this Texas twang when he wants to be a down-home boy. He seems like a very strange man.
KLEIN: Well, he is a dogged reporter. That’s for sure. And like a lot of very well known people who live in the public limelight, he is his own person. He’s unique. Let’s put it that way.
SCARBOROUGH: That’s a polite way of putting it.
Dan Burton, a lot of conservatives were also stunned by this statement that was made by Dan Rather at the height of the Cold War. He said this—quote—“Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy.”
Now, Dan, of course, two years later, the wall fell, and soon after that, the Soviet Union collapsed. And to me, at least—I know I am going to offend some people here—but to me at least that sounds like Dan Rather playing apologist for one of the most bloody regimes in the history of the world. Again, this guy, by making stupid comments like that, only convinces conservatives and Republicans that he is their mortal enemy.
BURTON: Yes, I think he does have a very liberal bias.
He has spoken at Democrat fund-raisers, as we know, in the past. He supports Democrat candidates. But that’s OK. He can still be a newscaster as long as he reports the news. The problem is, he, like many newscasters, editorialize in the news and give their own personal opinions and they try to slant the news in a way that gives their philosophy and the people they are supporting support.
And I think this is a perfect example. They have known about this problem that they brought up for five or six years. It’s been brought up again and again and again, but they keep digging and digging and digging because they want to destroy George W. Bush. Now, finally it’s backfired on them. What I would like to see the media do, including Mr. Rather, is start reporting the news. And if they are going to editorialize, then tell people they are editorializing and let the people know it.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
And you know what? When we come back, I am going to ask Mike Barnicle about that. And also, just for the record, I myself attended a George Bush rally earlier this year. I try to play it down the middle. The John Kerry campaign knows that I was a Republican in Congress. We have got a very good relationship, as do most Democrats and me.
What I am running here is an op-ed page, instead of being an anchor like Dan Rather. But I am going to ask Mike Barnicle about that, about the blurring of lines and where we go from here.
Now, listen, we want to know what you think about this controversy. If you will, log into Joe.MSNBC.com and vote in our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY poll: Do you think Dan Rather should resign? Vote now and we will give you update on the results later in the show.
And coming up, you’re not going to want to miss this. Former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes says he was asked to keep George Bush out of Vietnam by giving him a spot in the National Guard, but his daughter says that’s not true. Her story is coming up next.
Plus, more of my interview with comedian Bill Maher. And you’re not going to believe what he is saying now. Stick around and we’ll let you hear it.
SCARBOROUGH: A key player in the Rather-gate debacle says he pulled strings to get George W. Bush into the National Guard. His daughter says, no, he didn’t. That’s next.
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 back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I will tell you what. What has Martha Stewart’s whole situation taught us? Go to jail, get a prime-time TV show. Gee, that’s exciting.
Well, anyway, Ben Barnes, the former Texas House speaker and lieutenant governor, recently told Dan Rather in the controversial “60 Minutes” piece that he helped George Bush get into the National Guard. What Dan Rather didn’t tell his viewers, though, were the facts that Barnes is a Kerry friend and, more importantly, that he testified under oath that he did not help Bush with any favors.
With me now on the phone is his daughter, Amy Barnes-Stites, who has a very different take on this controversy, much different than her father.
Amy, thanks a lot for being with us.
AMY BARNES-STITES, DAUGHTER OF BEN BARNES: Thanks, Joe, for having me.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Amy, tell me, is your father telling the truth about George Bush’s Guard service? Is it consistent with what he said in the past?
BARNES-STITES: Well, he has told me two different things. In 2000, he told me that he did not help him. And, in 2004, he told me that he did help him. And he told me that he is writing an autobiographical book about time in Texas politics, and part of it is going to be where he was walking through the Vietnam memorial, and he is regretting all the men that he has helped get out of service, including George W. Bush. So he told me two different stories on it.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Amy, why is he changing the story? Is it the book?
BARNES-STITES: I really don’t know. I mean, personally, I think it’s probably to try to help Kerry. I know he very much wants Kerry to win, of course. That’s just my personal opinion. I believe that’s why he is doing it now.
SCARBOROUGH: Why does he want John Kerry to win? Does he have a close relationship with Kerry?
BARNES-STITES: I don’t know how close he is, but I mean, my father, he is a Democrat. He is a partisan Democrat. He is a liberal Democrat. He wants John Kerry to win, so I mean, I know that that is true. I know he does not want George W. Bush to win. He is not a Bush fan at all.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Amy, you have been out telling the American people that your father’s statements are not consistent with what he has told you in the past privately. Why are you coming out now and telling America and the world that your father is speaking out of both sides of his mouth?
BARNES-STITES: Well, basically, I—when this whole thing happened, after I saw the “60 Minutes” interview, I called in a local radio show just to tell them my take on it, what happened, my personal experience with it was.
And my motive is just to help George W. Bush, because, to be quite honest, because I think he is a good and ethical person, and I just—I know that my father has told two different stories about it, and I was just telling my side of the story.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks, Amy. We appreciate you being with us.
BARNES-STITES: Sure. Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: Mike Barnicle, George Bush, a uniter, not a divider.
But it looks like there’s a civil war down in Texas, but in one family.
SCARBOROUGH: I want to read you something that Dan Rather said to the BBC, very interesting. And he was talking about—well, it’s somewhere here. He was talking about George W. Bush, and he clearly stated his disapproval of the Bush administration And the war.
And this is what he said to the BBC in 2002 -- quote—“I worry that patriotism run amok will trample the very values that the country seeks to defend. What is going is a belief that the public doesn’t need to know, limiting information to cover the backsides of those who are in charge of the war is extremely dangerous and overwhelmingly it has been accepted by the American people. And the current administration revels in that . They relish that and take refuge in that.”
Mike Barnicle, as I said before, this is an op-ed page, and I am a Republican congressman. I have let everybody know that. But I have never on this show—in fact, if I have, somebody go into the transcripts and show me—I have never accused John Kerry of trampling the very values that America was founded upon.
How can a guy that is supposed to be down the middle and unbiased go overseas and say that sort of inflammatory comment to a foreign news agency?
BARNICLE: Well, I don’t know. Obviously, Joe, you would have to ask Dan.
The thing about that, though, it gets back to what we spoke to earlier, the isolation of large elements of the media. I don’t know Dan Rather. I am going to assume him to be a good and honorable person. I know people who know him who like him very much. But there’s an element of Dan Rather’s life that is shared by a lot of others at that level of this business. They get limo rides to work. They get waited on all during the day. They have their fame. They have their news program.
How he would know what someone in Ames, Iowa, or Madison, Wisconsin, or Walla Walla, Washington, thought about the state of this country with regard to that issue or any other issue is mystifying to me, because, when they go out, they don’t go out anonymously. They can’t speak to people anonymously. They are famous. They are Dan Rather. The barber tells someone, Dan Rather was in my barber shop today, not a news person, not a reporter. Dan Rather was in my—Tom Brokaw was in my barber shop today.
And that’s the element that differentiates them from us, and that’s an element, I think, that unfortunately, not all of them, not all of us, bring to each day’s work that we do.
The larger problem here, Joe, is with the institution of the media, and I would hope that Dick Thornburgh and his commission maybe could answer something for me. I am fairly mundane. I realize that. But what was the story here? What was the obsession of five years? Was it that George Bush got preferential treatment? Duh. That he missed a few meetings? I know that. What was the story?
SCARBOROUGH: For five years. And one other thing—and I have said this before—and it doesn’t matter whether these anchors are good men or bad. They are treated like rock stars. Nobody—hardly anybody crosses their path. They are constantly patted on the back. It’s a dangerous situation.
BARNICLE: Like you were at Fenway Park, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Exactly. You treated me like a rock star.
But I will tell you what. When I go to Fenway Park, I wanted to be treated like a rock star.
SCARBOROUGH: Howard Fineman, I want to ask you about—you went to Columbia School of Journalism. You are a guy that believes that reporters can have political beliefs, but they should remain politically agnostic when they become reporters.
Tell me about CBS and talk about what you said on “Don Imus” this morning about the lumps that CBS has taken and how different it is from what you were taught when you were learning about journalism in school.
FINEMAN: Well, what I said to Imus and I will say here is that, when I was at Columbia Journalism School many years ago, we worshipped and were taught to worship at the altar of the CBS of Edward R. Murrow. That was the crusading, but factual effort to put on television things that had in the past just been available to print.
I remember Fred Friendly, who had been the head of CBS News and who had come up to Columbia to teach, saying that the TV camera is a 10-pound pencil. And what he meant by that was that you had to get the facts. And whatever Dan Rather’s motivation might be, whatever his internal feelings are, it doesn’t work either in television or in print unless you stick to the facts.
We wouldn’t be having any of this discussion—as a matter of fact, the discussion would be about George Bush, perhaps, if the facts as presented by CBS on that show stood up. They haven’t. And I agree with Mike Barnicle. The story is why. It’s why, why, why, why. It’s a long way from the CBS of Edward R. Murrow, sadly, to the CBS that was shown, at least as much as we can tell, in this report on “60 Minutes” Wednesday the other week. It’s something that Edward R. Murrow never would have stood for.
He might have been angry at the president. He might have agreed with Dan Rather on his critique about the Bush administration’s attitude towards revealing information. But the way Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly would have gone about telling that story is by doing it meticulously with the facts. They understood their power, and they were very, very precious and wary of overusing it.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, stay around with me, Howard, because we have got a lot more on this controversy still to come.
Plus, we have got Bill Maher, who is saying the world is not safer with Saddam Hussein out of power. He is here to tell us why.
And make sure you vote in our poll. Go to Joe.MSNBC.com and tell us whether you think Dan Rather should step away from his anchor chair.
We’ll be back in a second.
ANNOUNCER: You’re watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Now here’s some Hotwire travel trivia. What was the first town to have dot-com in its name? Stay tuned for the answer.
ANNOUNCER: You’re watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. And in today’s Hotwire travel trivia, we asked you, what was the first town to have dot-com in its name? Give up? The answer is Half.com, Oregon. In 2000, the town of Halfway signed an agreement with an Internet company, changing its name to Half.com for one year.
Now here’s Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Wonder how that worked out for them.
Anyway, the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth came out with a new ad today, this time taking a jab at Kerry for meeting with enemy leaders, as they said, while we were at war.
Let’s take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH AD)
NARRATOR: Even before Jane Fonda went to Hanoi to meet with the enemy and mock America, John Kerry secretly met with enemy leaders in Paris, though we were still at war and Americans were being held in North Vietnamese prison camps. Then he returned and accused American troops of committing war crimes on a daily basis.
Eventually, Jane Fonda apologized for her activities, but John Kerry refuses to. In a time of war, can America trust a man who betrayed his country?
Swift Boat Veterans For Truth is responsible for the content of this advertisement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, the attacks against John Kerry, the reason I am playing this is because the swift vets kept John Kerry off balance after the convention. Then the Rather-gate thing came up. Now they are putting this out. I know it’s going to stir up a lot more problems for John Kerry’s campaign. Is this guy going to be able to get his message out between now and Election Day?
BUCHANAN: He has got one big chance, Joe, and that’s the first debate. And that is on the issue of Iraq.
And watching Kerry, I think Kerry is moving to a position where he is going to split very strong and very hard against the president, and, in effect, say the war in Iraq was one of the greatest blunders we ever made, and you are responsible. And he is going to, I think, take a new different position. If he does that and if he also can project some kind of image of a strong, forceful leader who knows where he is going, it could be like the Salt Lake City speech of Hubert Humphrey, which started his great comeback in ‘68.
Kerry’s problem, though, is, I think, this. It may be that the country has begun to tune him out and write him off after this horrible August and September he has had.
SCARBOROUGH: Jon Klein, has the media let John Kerry and let American voters down by paying so much attention to the swift vet ads, this Rather-gate situation, and now these new ads that are going to be coming out, which I am sure everybody is going to be talking about tomorrow?
KLEIN: Well, cable talk shows like this certainly play into that. We are not sitting here analyzing coolly the positions of the candidates on health care and things like that. We are talking about whatever the swift vets come out with or the whole CBS business or what have you.
So, yes, there’s no question that the general noise level in the media is so much greater today than it’s ever been, and it tends to go after the heat.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, all right, thanks a lot.
Well, I will tell you what, Jon. Maybe we need to look CBS’ way and emulate what they do.
SCARBOROUGH: Thanks a lot for being with us. We had a great all-star panel.
Pat Buchanan, Jon Klein, Howard Fineman, Mike Barnicle, and, Congressman Dan Burton, gentlemen, thanks a lot.
Now, next up, John Kerry should be watching the show tonight because Bill Maher has got some advice for him that he may want to hear.
We’ll play it for you when we come back on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, if you thought Rather-gate was bad, that’s nothing compared to the way that Washington is stealing your money, bankrupting America, and doing a lot of horrible things. You can read about that scandal in my book, “Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day.” Now, for more information and also to vote in our poll, go to Joe.MSNBC.com.
And we will give you the results of the poll on whether Dan Rather should step aside when we get back.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, there aren’t too many things that comedian Bill Maher and I see eye to eye, but one thing we both agreed on was that John Kerry’s campaign is in trouble.
I asked the host of HBO’s “Real Time” what was wrong with John Kerry’s campaign and why it’s looking more and more like Michael Dukakis’ campaign in 1988.
BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”: Actually, it’s looking more to me like the Al Gore campaign in 2000. Maybe Kerry is coming out of it now.
And the reason why it looked like those other two campaigns, Gore or Dukakis, it’s because he refused so far to differentiate himself enough from the candidate. And I don’t understand using that playbook, that the Democrats seem to be so cowed by the personal popularity of a guy like George Bush that they say to themselves, you know what, I will just stick as close as I can to this guy, and, at the end of the day, people will get in the voting booth and they will figure, you know what, they are about the same on the issues, but John Kerry is a lot smarter and he went to Vietnam, so I will vote for him.
That ain’t going to work. John Kerry made a good speech yesterday, started to differentiate himself. It’s a little late in the game, but I think he should go further. I think he should stop saying, the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. You know what? Iraq down the road might be a better place without Saddam Hussein. The world, and especially America, would be better with Saddam Hussein. That’s right, with him.
During the Cold War, you know, by not toppling so many dictators, by supporting so many dictators, we never had to make that argument. We never said, the world would be a better place without Marcos in the Philippines or Mobutu in Zaire or any number of dictators we supported, including Saddam Hussein. We just said, you know what, the world is a tough place, and we have to sometimes support bad people to be a bulwark against even worse people.
And that’s what we would have if Saddam was still in Iraq. We would have $200 billion more in our bank, in our coffers for America. We would not have the world hating us. We would not have the entire Arab world out for jihad because we have invaded the heart of the Muslim world. And we would have a guy in Iraq, by the way, who would never, ever have allowed a terrorist bastion in Iraq.
Saddam Hussein didn’t care about jihad and Allah and all that stuff. He cared about power and keeping his power. He would have made sure Iraq was his and not the province of these guys who are cutting off people’s heads. He was the head-cutter in that country.
SCARBOROUGH: I respectfully dissent.
Now, over 11,000 people have responded to our online poll. We asked, should Dan Rather resign? And the results are overwhelming; 85 percent have said, yes, he should step aside. But 15 percent of you said, no, you want to see Dan in the anchor’s chair. So thanks for the poll. We are going to keep this up throughout the week.
And if you want to check out an excerpt from my book “Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day,” also go to our Web site, Joe.MSNBC.com. You are not going to want to—you are not going to believe what you will read in there.
Make sure to catch Imus tomorrow morning. He’s got great guests, including Donald Trump and the God Squad.
We’ll see you tomorrow night.
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