Guest: Bob Kohn, Marc Klaas, Karen Russell, Joe Tacopina, Jay Carney, Mort Zuckerman, Bob Zelnick, Cheri Jacobus
BUCHANAN, HOST: A soldier asks the defense secretary why he has to scavenge through junkyards for armor. The question was planted by a Chattanooga reporter. Was that reporter out of line?
Then Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather are not the only famous newsmen stepping down. PBS‘ Bill Moyers is signing off. But Moyers plans a parting blast at—quote, unquote—“right-wing media” on his way to leisure world.
And the Peterson jury ends a second day of deliberations on whether to give Scott Peterson life without parole or the death penalty. He‘s been convicted of coldbloodedly murdering his pregnant wife and dumping her body in San Francisco Bay, so what‘s the hold-up?
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
BUCHANAN: Are the best-trained troops in the world not necessarily the best equipped? And is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld coming under fire from the most overreacting media in the world?
Joining me now, Mort Zuckerman, editor in chief of “U.S. News & World Report,” former ABC news correspond spent Bob Zelnick, and Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus.
Let‘s start, gentlemen, by taking a look at the questions and answers in Kuwait that started it all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPC. THOMAS WILSON, U.S. ARMY: Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to help armor our vehicles and why don‘t we have those resources readily available to us?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It‘s a matter of production and capability of doing it.
As you know, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: Bob Zelnick, we now know the Chattanooga reporter planted the question with the soldier there, and they worked together to, in effect, ask the secretary of defense a question that the reporter wanted asked. Is there anything unethical journalistically about what that reporter did?
BOB ZELNICK, FORMER ABC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Not terribly.
I know it‘s not going to surprise you that I‘ve even seen presidents of the United States plant questions. But the—I would say, first of all, it was obviously something that was on the soldiers‘ minds. The soldier himself, Specialist Jerry (sic) Wilson, didn‘t have to ask the question. He did voluntarily.
The soldiers didn‘t have to applaud. Obviously, they were acutely aware of the armor problem. There have been follow-ups today. I know “The Boston Globe” up here showed that one of the plants that produces Humvees down in Jacksonville, Florida, has the capability of producing 50 to 100 a month more, but it has been held up by bureaucratic snags.
I do wish that the reporter, Edward Lee Pitts, had referenced the fact that he helped conceive the question in his copy back to—in his file back to the states. But it‘s really a de minimus question. If it saves one American life or prevents one serious American injury, I think it‘s more than worth it.
BUCHANAN: Well, let me make a confession. I agree with you, Bob. And I know to say that I know communications directors for various presidents have from time to time called reporters in and said, if you want a good answer, just ask the president this, and then you tell the president to call on the fellow. And that‘s the way you get a news story out.
Mort Zuckerman, do you have a problem with the journalistic ethics of that reporter? I also agree with Bob. He probably should have come straight forward and said, I talked with the soldier before he asked the question.
MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”: No, I really don‘t.
I think it is an important question. And I think it was asked in a very dramatic setting. And the reaction of the other forces really gave a special impetus to the question. There‘s also a certain uneasiness about anything that smacks of subterfuge, but if this is the way to get the issue out to the American public and out front, I‘m all for it.
BUCHANAN: All right, Cheri, let me ask you—move on to another subject.
The secretary of defense is really under fire. He‘s being pounded in editorials all over the country . It was a dramatic exchange, those two questions from that soldier and his response. Do you see the media now as sort of ganging up and using the secretary‘s flat-footed responses, if you will, in order to severely damage him and maybe drive him from office?
CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that‘s probably exactly what they‘re trying to do and sort of create—increase the momentum of the story, create some drama.
And I think that what this so-called journalist did that was very, very wrong is, you can‘t create a story and then call it reporting and call it journalism. Now, it‘s a very important issue. I think just about everybody would agree with that, but he was, he was engaged in deception in doing this. And it is hurting the secretary and I‘m not sure it‘s quite fair. There‘s better ways to get this out. And I think the secretary is probably handling it pretty well.
BUCHANAN: All right, well, let me ask you this, though, following up.
Now, it‘s quite clear from the reaction of those soldiers who really endorsed that act of defiance to the secretary of defense, that they agreed with what was in that question. That soldier obviously agreed with what was in that question. What is wrong with the reporter who wants to get this story out really giving the guy a hand and framing the question if, as Bob Zelnick, he said so when he reported back to the states?
JACOBUS: Because, again, he created the news, rather than just reporting it. He could have done an investigative piece on this. Certainly, this was an open town hall meeting and the soldiers can ask whatever you want. There‘s also a chain of command that you can go through to make your point.
BUCHANAN: All right, now, before I go back to the fellows, Mort Zuckerman and Bob Zelnick, we have some breaking news.
Bernard Kerik, the individual the president appointed to homeland security to replace Tom Ridge, has just stood down. He has taken his name out of consideration for the job of secretary of homeland security. He has been under fire for his role in Saudi Arabia and for his role in various companies. We don‘t know the details of why he has done it, and we are trying to get our correspondent on the phone.
We‘re trying to get Mr. Kerik on the phone, and we will bring you every bit of updated information as soon as we get it.
Now, Mort—excuse me, Bob Zelnick, why don‘t you—can you respond to Cheri‘s point that, in effect, it was a setup, it was a planted story, and it was not an authentic story, and the individual doing it is going after the secretary of defense, maybe legitimately.
BUCHANAN: OK. Go ahead.
ZELNICK: I don‘t think at all that it was a setup and an illegitimate story. There‘s nothing more legitimate than the issue of whether the equipment being furnished to soldiers going into combat is adequate protection, provides adequate protection for them.
I can‘t think of a more relevant question to be posed to the secretary of defense. And, again, I think the fact that the soldiers involved put forward the question, no matter who drafted it, and the fact that it caused the reaction in the room that it did is proof positive that this is a real problem to the men.
ZELNICK: Now, I think on the scale of what is important, whether the reporter conceived the question is maybe point one on the scale, and getting the right equipment over there, so these guys have an honest shot at coming back alive, I think I‘ll go for the latter.
BUCHANAN: I‘ll have to—go ahead, Cheri.
JACOBUS: I would agree that it‘s an extremely important issue, having armor on the tanks. And I don‘t think that anybody would think that it isn‘t.
But from a strictly journalistic standpoint, it was a little bit sleazy. And the fact that this journalist then went and e-mailed all of his journalism and said—what he said was, this was the best day of my journalism career. And I think that tells you a lot.
BUCHANAN: You can say it‘s the best day simply because he got his question to the secretary of defense, or it‘s best day because he‘s got a national story and he‘s got an issue he‘s concerned about being directly addressed, which is, these kids heading up that road to Baghdad in Humvees and trucks that aren‘t armored and maybe he can stop the next group from getting killed.
But the result of what he did actually ended up being positive, but I don‘t think that justifies sort of the shaky ethics that he engaged in, in terms of doing it. So I think it‘s really apples and oranges. And to say, yes, very important issue—I think it‘s great that we have now the attention paid to it, but there‘s other ways to do it.
ZELNICK: I‘ve just never seen such ego a journalist like that before.
BUCHANAN: Mort Zuckerman, let me ask you about the Rumsfeld side of it, because you—we know—we‘ve been down in this town. We know, when a little blood gets in the water or somebody gets down, everybody goes for it, because it is a story. Rumsfeld is a very tough, capable guy. He‘s not humble. And a lot of reporters feel he made some real mistakes, and he hasn‘t taken responsibility for them, hadn‘t been held accountable. Do you think they‘re using this story now, a number of journalists, to settle accounts?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, I‘m not sure it‘s the journalists who are using the story to settle accounts, but certainly the Democrats are still using this as a means of attacking Rumsfeld, which is only natural, given our partisan political atmosphere.
In fairness to him, the fact is that the production of Humvees has gone from 30 to 450 a month. The reason why they aren‘t able to provide additional ones, that there are other people who have ordered them, and they‘re ahead of the government, so to speak, on some level. They are willing to increase their production by another 100 a month, or 22 percent.
And the fact is that the Humvees is so much the issue as the transport of materiel and military supplies. It is those transport things which tend to be driven by people from the National Guard.
ZUCKERMAN: These are the ones that are still to be given the proper armor. And, again, in fairness, it‘s because nobody really anticipated the kind of insurgent war and terrorist war that we‘re now up against. We just never really planned for it. It takes some time to do that.
BUCHANAN: All right.
All right, Cheri, when Mort says—and he‘s correct—we didn‘t anticipate the kind of war we‘re up against, shouldn‘t we have anticipated? A lot of us before the war, said, look, you go up to Baghdad, we‘re going to wind up with our own Gaza Strip, our own West Bank, our own Lebanon. That was all over. Journalists—I mean, people on the other side of this. Shouldn‘t they have anticipated the problem?
JACOBUS: I think it would have been great if they could have. But, again, hindsight is 20/20.
I‘m not a defense expert in terms of planning military strategy. And I think Secretary Rumsfeld was brutally honest and awkwardly honest when he said, you go with the Army you have, not the Army you wish for. And it‘s unfortunate we‘re in that situation.
But I think you also have to look now, if you really want to dig into this, let‘s look at all those Democrats who were voting against the $87 billion and that sort of thing. If you really want to be fair and start pointing fingers and see who‘s enthusiastically behind the troops and who aren‘t, then let‘s dig into the whole thing.
BUCHANAN: Just a second, Mort.
ZUCKERMAN: I‘m sorry. Go ahead.
BUCHANAN: We want to take a quick break right now.
And we‘re going to try to dig into that breaking news. Again, Bernard Kerik, the president‘s choice to lead Homeland Security, has tonight withdrawn his name from consideration. He‘s been under fire for a couple of days. No one thought it was this serious. We‘re going to try to find out what‘s behind that and report it to you just as soon as we get back.
BUCHANAN: Dramatic breaking news. Bernard Kerik, President Bush‘s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, has withdrawn his nomination tonight. He‘s been under fire. We‘re going to talk to his attorney. And we‘re going to talk about that in the upcoming segment.
So stay tuned. We‘ll be right back.
BUCHANAN: Welcome back. We want to talk first about that breaking news about Bernard Kerik, who is the director of homeland security-designate appointed by the president. He‘s been embattled for the last several days, but no one thought it was that serious. And he has withdrawn his nomination.
Right now, let‘s talk to Jay Carney of “TIME” magazine.
Jay, what is the latest on this? What have you heard?
JAY CARNEY, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “TIME”: Well, I think this has come as a surprise very late in this day, even to some, Pat, people in the White House.
As late as about 5:00 this afternoon, I was on the phone with somebody in the White House who is involved in all the meetings on the new Cabinet nominees, and this was not on his radar. He was dismissive of the stories about Kerik, all his business interests, the controversy over his role in a security job at a hospital in Saudi Arabia, all these different issues that have been out in the papers in the last few days.
CARNEY: This White House official did not seem to think that they would cause Kerik any problems getting confirmed. So it seems to me—this is obviously very early and somewhat speculative—but it seems that it‘s most likely that Kerik himself probably decided that this was more than he wanted to take in the press.
BUCHANAN: So you feel probably—and I agree with you. I‘ve read Richard Cohen. I read “The New York Times”‘ editorial, but it looked like the normal roughing up of a controversial appointee who was going to get through. But your take on it is that Kerik probably looked at this and said, I don‘t need all this aggravation. I don‘t need all this grief. Forget it.
CARNEY: Well, unless there was something new to pop, which of course we don‘t know, because both the temperature at the White House was not that high this afternoon, and on the Hill, there was certainly no convergence of opinion that he might get derailed, his nomination. And most people of the relevant committees on the leadership were still saying, he‘ll get through. He‘ll be confirmed. So it certainly doesn‘t seem like he was in that much trouble, despite these stories.
BUCHANAN: OK, Jay, thanks very much.
Mort Zuckerman, you‘ve been up there in New York, where Bernard Kerik made his reputation. And you‘ve seen the stories that have run, the attacks in columns. They didn‘t seem to be that grave or that serious. It seemed to be the normal kind of roughing up a nominee gets. I didn‘t hear anything off the Hill that his nomination was imperiled.
What‘s your take?
ZUCKERMAN: I think there clearly were any number of newspapers and news reporters who are working on stories about him. And I do think that there were stories that might well have popped had he continued with this nomination that he just didn‘t feel it was worth bringing out in the public with the intensity that would have accompanied the fact that he was a nominee.
And I think that‘s what caused him to withdraw. I think there were stories that were going to pop.
BUCHANAN: Oh, you do? And you‘ve heard—I guess you‘ve heard the rumors or details that have not been substantiated, but they were about ready to go. Kerik probably had word of them, because correspondents were probably calling him and asking him and getting his side of the story. and he decided rather than have them break, let‘s do it now, because it is going to so damaging down the road, it may cost him his job after his reputation is damaged.
ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I think he would have felt that the cost of going through the nomination would just be too much. And I think that‘s exactly why I think he probably withdrew.
BUCHANAN: OK, Mort, thanks.
The White House has told reporters this—and we quote—
“Commissioner Kerik is withdrawing his name from director of homeland security. He informed the White House this evening that he was withdrawing for personal reasons from considerations to be secretary of homeland security.” Scott McClellan said, “The White House will move as quickly as we can to name someone else to fill this nomination.”
Now let‘s get back to our subject.
Conservative anger at liberal media bias, as we‘ve been talking about, is hardly new.
Let‘s listen to the great Spiro Agnew from 35 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPIRO AGNEW, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As with other American institutions, perhaps it is time that the networks were made more responsive to the views of the nation and more responsible to the people they serve.
AGNEW: I want to make myself perfectly clear. I‘m not asking for government censorship or any other kind of censorship. I‘m asking whether a form of censorship already exists when the news that 40 billion Americans...
AGNEW: When the news that 40 million Americans receive each night is determined by a handful of men responsible only to their corporate employers and is filtered through a handful of commentators who admit to their own set of biases.
BUCHANAN: We‘re joined by Bob Kohn, the author of “Journalistic Fraud: How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted.”
Let me go to you, Bob Zelnick.
They don‘t write speeches like that anymore, do they?
ZELNICK: Not too many.
Moyers is a man that I‘ve long admired in some ways. I think he has a deep and sensitive intellect and a true social conscience, but I think, increasingly, he‘s become kind of a gentle voice for the paranoid left. When he doesn‘t like white-collar people being unemployed, well, outsourcing by the evil corporations is to blame. He doesn‘t like election returns, too much money being spent on them. He‘s not quite pleased with the tax structure, that‘s of course the work of special interests.
He doesn‘t like the policy in the Middle East, that‘s partly the work of the rapture Christian. And now we have the news that he doesn‘t like, and so it‘s a product of the right-wing press and its alliance with the Republican National Committee.
I just are think he hasn‘t become convinced that the political trends that are so evident to everybody else are real and have roots in the country and the political sentiment, and he‘s looking for the villain, and I don‘t think he‘s going to find a credible one.
BUCHANAN: All right, let me read to all the audience what Bill Moyers said today as he‘s leaving the door, going out the door from PBS. He told this to the Associated Press—quote—“I‘m going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time, how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee. We have an ideological press that is interested in the election of Republicans and a mainstream press that‘s interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don‘t have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people.”
Mort Zuckerman, why aren‘t you running a vigilant, independent press up there in New York?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, with all due respect to Bill Moyers, they say that eulogies are never given under oath, so I don‘t intend to criticize him.
But I don‘t agree with him at all. I think there is a vigilant press. A lot of it doesn‘t necessarily attack the targets that he would like because of his own particular political perspective. But I think there is a vigilant press, both on—and you could argue, I might say, that there‘s a very strong both left-wing press and right-wing press. There‘s no such thing as the media. It‘s all over the place. And I think everybody gets attacked and that‘s the right way to do it.
BUCHANAN: Well, I‘m inclined to agree with you. I think there‘s no doubt there‘s been a rise of the conservative press.
ZUCKERMAN: There‘s no doubt.
BUCHANAN: Columnists in the ‘70s and ‘80s, talk radio in the ‘90s. You‘ve got cable TV and Fox and you‘ve got the Internet. Conservatives do well there. But surely the liberals still control “The Washington Post,” “The Boston Globe,” “The New York Times,” CBS, NBC, PBS as well.
And poll after poll after poll shows that, by and large, national political journalists are liberal, that they have liberal political tendencies. Now, I don‘t think that means that they all have a liberal bias. I think all journalists think that they‘re fair, but I think that there‘s more of a propensity obviously to go for a liberal bias, just because human beings are human beings. So to say that—Bill Moyers to say that everything is being taken over by the right-wing media I think is just absolutely ludicrous.
BUCHANAN: All right, Bob Zelnick first, let me give you an exchange between Moyers and Charlie Rose on election night. Here‘s what he said.
Moyers said—quote—“I think if Kerry were to win this in a tight race, I think there‘d be an effort to mount a coup.” Charlie Rose responded, “What do you mean by a coup?” And Moyers said, “I mean that the right-wing is not going to accept it.”
Now let me say, Bob Zelnick, I think your word paranoid is one I‘ve got written down in my notes. What is the reason why—I mean, this fellow Moyers, whatever you say about him. He‘s intelligent. He‘s erudite. He‘s well-spoken. He‘s well-read. And he clearly thinks we‘re in danger of some kind of coup if the conservatives lost the election.
ZELNICK: I think he feels that the country is headed in the wrong direction and that it‘s yielding to its dark angels of prejudice and discrimination against the poor and assertiveness overseas in wars that were never honestly sought—Powell was never honestly sought by the administration.
I think he‘s outraged at so many things that he can‘t find an innocent explanation, and that is the essence of political paranoia. And, unfortunately, again, I think he‘s a man who has contributed much to our profession and is a true patriot. And I think it‘s kind of sad to see him wind down this road at this point.
BUCHANAN: I think you‘ve got a very valid point when you say that they see their own power slipping away, a rejection of the old liberalism they represent. And they‘re unable to understand it and to handle it, and therefore something unethical or horrible must be happening, that they are really losing the country.
BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”: Pat, Spiro Agnew, many years ago, or whoever wrote that speech for him, was way ahead of his time.
That was at the time when basically you had the tree major networks and “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post,” the mainstream media, having a monopoly over the American public heard. And all the alternative media that you mentioned earlier that is coming on the scene, I think what Bill Moyers has trouble with is the competition, is the fact that that conservative voice or those alternative voices are getting out, and he‘s somehow upset with the competition.
BUCHANAN: Let me go to Mort Zuckerman, because he‘s an expert on this publication.
According to “The New York Post,” Mort, Dan Rather‘s producer Mary Mapes is fighting to keep her job at CBS. This is a quote: “Mapes writes in a 68-page statement in her own defense and has been lobbying to convince the CBS probers”—I guess that is Thornburgh—“that Rather‘s expose on Bush‘s National Guard service was accurate, even if the documents obtained from a crackpot Texas Democrat were bogus.”
Do you think there‘s a snowball‘s chance that Dan Rather‘s alter ego in this story can survive?
ZUCKERMAN: I would be very doubtful that she can. It‘s not just the fact that they were bogus.
The whole story was based on the fact that these documents were real, and when they turned out to be bogus, frankly, the story collapsed. And I think that was one part of it. The other part of it, of course, was that they kept sort of asserting the story and justifying the story, rather than saying they are going to investigate it for so long afterwards that they enormously compounded the problem.
And she compounded the problem even more by calling a very senior official in the Democratic Party to engage them somehow or other in contact with the source of this story. That I think crossed a line that I think puts her in real jeopardy in terms of her present role.
JACOBUS: She should not have been there this long.
Once this story broke, one it was clear what she had done, she should have been out the door long before Dan Rather‘s retirement was announced. These are people who rushed with this story. They were so eager not for the news story. You go when the news story is ready. They went with this story because they were trying to affect politics. They had enough experts that said these documents can‘t be real. This didn‘t come as a surprise to them because of Internet bloggers.
So, this woman‘s journalistic ethics and credibility is out the door, and she should have been out the door a long time ago.
BUCHANAN: OK. Bob Kohn, Bob Zelnick, Cheri Jacobus, and Mort Zuckerman, thanks for joining us.
No decision from the Scott Peterson jury tonight. My question, why isn‘t this man on death row yet?
We‘ll be debating that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
BUCHANAN: Bernard Kerik withdraws his name for consideration as homeland security secretary. We‘ll talk to his attorney right after the break.
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.
BUCHANAN: We‘re back with that breaking news tonight.
Bernard Kerik withdraws his name from consideration for secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.
Joining us now, Joe Tacopina, attorney for Bernard Kerik.
Joe, we just heard from Mort Zuckerman that reporters had been running a number of negative stories, but it didn‘t seem like it reached any kind of critical mass. And Mort Zuckerman himself said that they had other stories they were working on.
Now, before you respond to that, let‘s take a look at the statement released by Kerik himself—quote—“In the course of completing documents required for Senate confirmation, I uncovered information that now leads me to question the immigration status of a person who had been in my employ as a housekeeper and nanny. It has also been brought to my attention that for a period of time during such employment required tax payments and related filings had not been made.”
A nanny problem, that‘s what finished off two nominees for attorney general, the first two of President Clinton, Joe Tacopina. They both had to withdraw because of nannies who were apparently in the country either illegally or that proper taxation, Social Security, withholding, those kind of payments work not made.
Were you aware of this? Were you aware of these stories that Mort Zuckerman alluded to, and what do you know about this development tonight?
JOE TACOPINA, ATTORNEY FOR KERIK: Well, what I know is that whatever Bernie just talked about in that statement, Bernie Kerik uncovered on his own. No one found it for him. No one told him about it.
Bernie Kerik did not know, obviously, that these problems existed with his nanny, the woman he who asked to help take care of his children when he was in Iraq serving this country, endangering his life. No one in their right mind would suggest that Bernie knew that.
But what I will say that I think it pretty much telling about who Bernie Kerik is, he uncovered this on his own. No one, no one, including the state of New Jersey, who he had to register this nanny with, uncovered that. And I‘ve got to tell you, it‘s devastating, because Bernie Kerik is the right guy for this job in this day and age.
And, to me, I think the process and the system, quite frankly, needs to be looked at when it‘s something like that could put in jeopardy the safety of this country.
BUCHANAN: Well, you know, I think Kimba Wood was one of those who I believe lost the nomination for attorney general on this issue.
BUCHANAN: But were you aware or have you talked to Bernard Kerik in recent days, after he had become aware that he had this problem? And it seems to me, frankly, if he had this problem and somebody else was responsible for it while he was in Iraq, it would be hard to fault him for that. I can‘t see many congressmen doing something like that. That‘s the only problem you know of, though, huh?
TACOPINA: Pat, let me just say this.
The reasons that Bernie withdrew were his own personal reasons. No one put a gun to his head. No asked Bernie Kerik to step down. I will tell you that right now. As a matter of fact, a lot of people wish he marched forward with this process.
But Bernie Kerik‘s main mission here—and he‘s a selfless man. I will tell you that. His main mission was to make sure that he or any of his issues distracted the president or distracted the Department of Homeland Security‘s most important job. So when Bernie Kerik realized that this would be another issue—all these things that Mort Zuckerman spoke of and all these things that we‘ve read about are—it‘s unbelievable how far-reaching they are, Pat.
They are six degrees of separation. There‘s not one thing out there that‘s been printed that‘s a smoking gun about Bernie Kerik. They‘re all little things. But Bernie Kerik, Bernie Kerik has been in the belly of the beast both in this country as police commissioner, as a policeman, as an undercover in Saudi Arabia for four years, and then Iraq. There‘s no one that is as qualified as Bernie Kerik.
BUCHANAN: You know, Joe Tacopina, let me agree with you.
BUCHANAN: When I saw the name, we heard it announced when I was on another TV show, I said this guy is going to go through. This is the kind of tough, hard-nosed customer this country needs. He‘s a realist. He‘s dealt with these things.
Did you know, however, that—have you talked to Bernard Kerik? Did you know he was about to do what he did tonight?
TACOPINA: I was—we were together all day.
BUCHANAN: Oh, you were?
TACOPINA: And this is not something that happened a few days ago. This is something that, as soon as Bernie uncovered, he made his—the moves he felt was right.
BUCHANAN: All right, let me interrupt you right there and just say this.
Look, here was an honor. We all know—Bernard Kerik wrote in his biography the horrific background he had as a kid, the abuse, and the trouble he got into as a consequence of that. And then he‘s risen up to a position where he‘s basically beyond the president, virtually the No. 1 man in the United States for securing the American people. That is the business he‘s been in.
BUCHANAN: It‘s got to be an incredible honor for him and an enormous responsibility that he was looking forward to.
When he decided today that he‘s not going to be able to hold this job and he‘s got to, in effect, throw his hand in and call the president, was he really morose on that? Was he unhappy? Was he down, despondent? How was he with you today when he told you, look, I‘m going to have to stand down on this thing; it‘s the best for everybody?
TACOPINA: Bernie Kerik is very stoic, not in just physical stature.
He‘s every bit of a man‘s man. He‘s very proud and very strong and stoic.
On the same token, Pat, he‘s also someone who looked forward to this task because he believed...
TACOPINA: He believed he would be able to advance the interests of the security of this country. And anyone who is around him, I think he was picking us up more than anyone picking him up. You know, he made up his decision.
BUCHANAN: You were with a group of his friends?
TACOPINA: Yes. We were—he was with some close people.
And Bernie—Bernie really is a strong guy. Look, naturally, he‘s disappointed, because this is something he looked forward to doing, and he really believed, and I think everyone who knows him knew he could make a significant difference, a positive difference.
And, again, I just—I‘m personally disturbed, I‘m saddened that it‘s something so unrelated to the security of this country that could take someone like that away from us.
BUCHANAN: Joe, when exactly did he make the decision? When he met with you—and I gather you had a couple of other very close friends of Bernie Kerik‘s there today.
Had he made the decision and was he telling you folks why he was doing what he was doing and had to do it, or was he coming to you as friends, saying, look, got one of these nanny things; they‘ll make a big deal out of it, and it‘s a nothing thing, but we just don‘t want to go through this? Was he seeking your advice before he made the decision or had he made the decision and called in his friends and explained to them why he was doing what he was doing?
TACOPINA: Pat, let me just—if you don‘t mind, let just me reserve on that. I just—I don‘t want to go into the personal conversations we had today and he and his friends had.
But let me say this. Let me answer that question this way. This was Bernie‘s decision. No one suggested he do one thing or something else. A lot of us wish he had gone through with it, because, again, I firmly, strongly believe he‘s the right guy for this job in this day and age. I couldn‘t think of another human being who would be better qualified.
That being said, you know, Bernie is the guy who has to go through it all, the confirmation process. And he just—even if it was a minute distraction to the president or to that office or the Department of Homeland Security, Bernie Kerik decided it‘s something he‘s not going to let happen, not on his watch. And he stepped aside. Obviously, his support for the president and this administration is always going to be here. And he‘ll still do what he does.
BUCHANAN: I guess he called the president tonight. And he probably indicated to you folks he was going to call the president tonight. Did he say what he was going to do after this, take some time off? It must have been a grueling—it‘s got to be a grueling experience.
TACOPINA: Yes, it‘s a grueling experience.
He was, I think, nominated, what, a week or so ago?
BUCHANAN: A week ago, yes.
TACOPINA: I will tell you, from where I sit, it seems like it was about 12 years ago.
TACOPINA: It‘s been quite a week.
And it‘s sad when you see what‘s happened here. And, look, I love Bernie Kerik. He‘s a great man and he‘s a friend of mine. But I will say this. To see the level of ad hominem personal attacks that were leveled on him that were really so farfetched, some of them so far removed from current events or even from his qualifications, it‘s a little disturbing. It really was a little disturbing. I think we need to think a look at the process.
BUCHANAN: Look, it started—look, Joe, a lot of us have been through this thing, seen it. It looked like it was gearing up and all the usual suspects taking shots at him. But it didn‘t—frankly, it didn‘t look to me like it was very grave or serious stuff of any kind.
TACOPINA: It wasn‘t.
BUCHANAN: Let me ask you, before we go—we‘re going to go talk to Pete Williams over at Justice and ask him his take on it.
But I want to ask you, was Mayor Giuliani in the meeting? Was the mayor called and informed by Bernie Kerik? I know they were very close. There was talk that the mayor himself had been considered and he had recommended Bernie. And was he there in the meeting?
TACOPINA: Pat, I‘m not going to—I just—let the mayor speak when the mayor is ready to speak and let Bernie speak when—I just want to relay to you some of the decisions, but I don‘t wish to reveal any confidences like that, if you don‘t mind.
BUCHANAN: OK. That is fine. And we appreciate that. And we‘re going to be taking up that other subject in a moment. We hope you‘ll stick with us.
BUCHANAN: Right now, let‘s bring in Pete Williams, who is NBC News‘ justice correspondent. Pete is on the phone.
Pete, what have you been able to learn on what was fairly dramatic news, right—breaking in our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY show here, about Bernie Kerik‘s decision to go out? His statement of course indicated, frankly, a nanny problem. What have you heard and what do you know?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it is very much of a surprise.
And the White House has now said that he has in fact withdrawn his nomination. And it‘s—obviously, people at the White House must have decided that whatever the problems were, some of which may be public, some of which may not, they must have shared in his assessment that this could potentially be a show-stopper for his nomination, although I think it must be noted, Pat, that when his nomination was announced, there was a sudden show of support and rather surprising show of support from Democrats in the Senate.
WILLIAMS: Saying that they would tend to support his nomination.
Naturally, both of the home state senators, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, said they supported it, but so did Ted Kennedy. And I think many large-state senators hoped that Bernard Kerik, because of his background as a police commissioner, would tend to push homeland security money more toward big cities. And that was appealing to many large-state senators.
So, there was a lot of momentum for the Kerik nomination and the Kerik confirmation. So this is surprising. And it reflects, I think—and I would assume you would agree—it reflects an assessment by both Mr. Kerik and folks at the White House that whatever it is that we haven‘t heard yet was sufficiently troubling that they thought it wasn‘t worth the fight.
BUCHANAN: Well, I think you‘ve probably got a very good read on that, Pete. We don‘t know, but it‘s—for an assessment, I think that could very well be on the money, but we don‘t know. We just...
BUCHANAN: Go ahead.
WILLIAMS: The other thing that‘s interesting, Pat, is, not only did -
· were several Senate Democrats very vocal in their support of Kerik, but within a few minutes after his nomination came out, instantly, opposition groups were circulating a four-page bullet—blueprint for what the attacks on Bernard Kerik would be, all the way back to the controversies that have been fairly well-reported in the New York press, controversies that existed when he was the head of the Department of Corrections, personnel questions.
He‘s a man who has served in public functions in New York.
WILLIAMS: And there were certainly a lot of questions that were going to come out. And that stuff came out almost instantly.
BUCHANAN: OK, Pete, thank you very much for briefing us.
WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.
BUCHANAN: And, folks we‘ll be back. We are going to take up that question out there in California, Modesto. What is taking the jury so long to come in with a sentence of life imprisonment or death?
BUCHANAN: Should Scott Peterson be put to death?
Joining us now live from California is MSNBC‘s Jennifer London.
Jennifer, give us the latest.
JENNIFER LONDON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pat, the jury deliberated for 8 ½ hours today, 6 ½ hours this afternoon and two hours yesterday.
Word came down from the court at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time today that a verdict was not reached. Many people, including a number of legal experts, thought a verdict was likely today. Consider, this jury is being sequestered during deliberations. Oftentimes, that means we can see a verdict on Friday, obviously not the case with this jury.
So what does it mean that they have been deliberating 8 ½ hours so far without a verdict? Well, that really depends on who you ask? Local attorneys that practice here in San Mateo County say, if history means anything, San Mateo County jurors in the past 10 years very reluctant to impose death.
However, other legal experts say longer deliberations can sometimes indicate that the panel is leaning toward a death penalty. So, Pat, the bottom line is, we simply don‘t know and we will have to wait until next week when deliberations resume.
BUCHANAN: Jennifer, thank you very much for the report.
With us now are Karen Russell, a defense attorney and legal analyst for KONG in Seattle, Joe Tacopina, a defense attorney we talked to earlier, and Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was kidnapped and murdered and who now heads the Klaas Kids Foundation.
Marc Klaas, what does this delay tell you? Does it sound to you as though that you‘ve got a jury that wants to go for the death penalty and is trying to argue one or two dissidents into joining them?
MARC KLAAS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: It tells me that the jury is—it tells me that the jury understands that they have been afforded a power that very few people in legal society are ever given, and that‘s the power over life and death. They are affording Scott Peterson so much more consideration than he ever afforded his wife and unborn son.
They understand—they might also understand, Pat, what the rest of us seem to know already, and that‘s the irony of death row, that, if they send this man to death row, it will probably extend his life by several decades, whereas, if he goes into the general population, he probably won‘t last more than a couple of months.
BUCHANAN: OK. Joe—let me go to Karen Russell.
Karen, I‘ve heard it said the same thing that Marc Klaas has said, that you put this guy in the general population and he won‘t last long at all. But there are two California death row inmates who have been there for 26 years.
KAREN RUSSELL, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Yes.
You know, California tends to put one person to death a year. The appeals process is usually 15 to 20 years. But, you know, the jury isn‘t supposed to consider whether or not people in the general population would kill Scott Peterson. They‘re supposed to look at whether or not there are aggravating or mitigating circumstances. And I think they take their role very seriously and they‘re sort of weighing those circumstances.
BUCHANAN: Well, I‘ll be honest. Watching that trial for a year on and off, I don‘t see any reason why this guy deserves anything other than the toughest penalty the law can impose.
Joe Tacopina, Marc Klaas, Karen Russell, thank you for joining us.
Sorry the time was so short.
We‘ll be right back.
BUCHANAN: That‘s all the time we have for SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
You all have a great weekend. We‘ll see you Monday.
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