Guests: Dave Silverman, Dave Aikman, Michael Goodman, Mort Zuckerman, Ana Marie Cox, Marc Klaas, Joe Tacopina, Pam Bondi
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHELLE NICE, PETERSON JUROR: Scott Peterson was Laci‘s husband, Conner‘s daddy. Someone should have—the one person that should have protected them. And for him to have done that—that‘s it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST: Wrenching accounts from the jury of how they came to recommend that Scott Peterson die for his crimes, but did their press conference open the door to an appeal? We‘ll get a live report from our own Dan Abrams right outside the courtroom.
Then, should the military lie to the public if it will help in the fight against terror? There is a fierce debate over that at the Pentagon.
And in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight, some say the president relies too heavily on his Christian faith in shaping both U.S. policy and presidential rhetoric. President Bush‘s chief speechwriter says his boss should talk about his faith. He will tell you why.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
BUCHANAN: Good evening. I‘m Pat Buchanan, sitting in for Joe.
Christmas Eve will mark two years since Laci Peterson and her unborn child were murdered, their bodies dumped into the icy waters of the San Francisco Bay. Today, the jury in the Scott Peterson trial voted unanimously to put him to death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above entitled cause fix the penalty at death, dated December 13, 2004, Foreperson No. 6.
JUDGE ALFRED DELUCCHI, CALIFORNIA SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: No. 6, is that the unanimous verdict of the jury with respect to the penalty phase?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is, your honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: Let‘s go to Redwood City, California, where our own Dan Abrams heard the jury‘s recommendation today.
Dan Abrams, tell me, we watched that dramatic press conference of the jury, the three members of the jury. Could that press conference and what they said in it conceivably cause a mistrial?
DAN ABRAMS, NBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, conceivably, it could be an issue on appeal. Conceivably, the defense could use what they say to argue that they didn‘t play by the rules, that they didn‘t deliberate the way they were supposed to, and that they considered things they shouldn‘t have.
But it‘s conceivable. It doesn‘t mean it‘s a winning argument. There is no question that the defense will make that argument. The defense is going to argue on appeal that this jury‘s deliberative process was tainted. It‘s a long-shot argument for them. They have a better shot to argue that the penalty phase, that the death verdict should be overturned than they do with regard to the guilt verdict.
I think they are going to have a real tough time getting anyone to overturn the guilty verdict of this jury. Maybe if they are able to parse all of the words of the jurors, they may have something with regard to the death verdict, but both of them a big uphill battle for the defense.
BUCHANAN: Why, Dan—I was wondering, though. And I saw that. And, frankly, you‘ve done a tremendous job out there and you‘ve been working on this for hours. Why would the jurors come out and hold a press conference and risk anything in terms of what they‘ve accomplished these last six months, in terms of both the verdict they came in with and the death sentence they recommended? Why would they risk it?
ABRAMS: Well, they are not lawyers. They are people now. And they are people who are free to speak about their experience. Their job is not to protect the appellate record.
They want to simply talk about what they were doing behind closed doors, a lot of people speculating, attributing things to them that they probably would believe are inaccurate. I think they wanted to set the record straight. And I have to tell you, Pat, I think they avoided all sorts of mines here. They could have said a lot of things that would have gotten them in a lot of trouble.
And these were measured, intelligent, careful, thoughtful jurors. And, as a result, I don‘t think, based on what I‘ve heard, that this is going to be a problem for the appellate record.
BUCHANAN: I heard you say that earlier. Let me follow up with a question.
When I watched the press conference and various speakers came in, the thing that seemed to turn them to death is the issue of trust, the issue of betrayal, the idea that Laci was long pregnant. She has his baby. They have a right as—the wife and the baby had the right to expect protection from their husband. Instead of protection, they are murdered. They are abandoned. And that breach of trust that, that breach of faith, and then the cold-bloodedness and the callousness with which Scott went about pursuing his affair while they were in that bay, that seemed to me to be the real thing that tipped some of them.
ABRAMS: I think that‘s a good part of it, Pat.
What the prosecutors did very effectively here was talk about the 116 days after Laci was killed and talked about what Scott Peterson was doing. There is Scott Peterson at Laci‘s vigil calling his girlfriend and pretending that he is in Paris. There are all these volunteers searching for Laci desperately and Scott Peterson is lying to them about being in grief counseling.
There is his mother putting up posters, asking for any help in finding Laci, and Scott Peterson is laughing at his own mother. Basically, the prosecutors saying, this is not a life worth sparing.
BUCHANAN: All right, Dan, earlier on in the trial, months ago, there was talk that the prosecutors are blowing it. They don‘t have it down cold. They are not doing a great job. In the end, did they turn in a superior performance and did Geragos have a chance all along?
ABRAMS: Well, it went like this, Pat.
Basically, we started this case with the prosecutors down here real low and the defense team up real high in terms of the performance of each side. You even heard the jurors talk about it today. And as the trial went on, it went like this. And by the time you got to the penalty phase, it was the defense doing a far inferior job and the prosecutors suddenly stepping it up.
And I have to tell you, the closing argument of prosecutor Dave Harris, who is a very understate guy, I thought was one of the most powerful closing arguments I‘ve seen in a penalty phase, not because he was emotional or passionate, but because he put together all of these videos and these tapes to tell these jurors, Scott Peterson is a bad guy. And I think that, in the end, they deserve a lot of credit for how they finished the case.
But make no mistake about it. They were doing a terrible job at the outset here. They just stepped it up by the end.
BUCHANAN: All right, now, let me ask about what was I guess most dramatic—even though I believe there were only several accusers after the verdict came in, accusers against Scott—was Laci‘s mom.
And I understand even some reporters broke down in the courtroom on listening to her. Do you think that riveting statement she made staring over there at Scott influenced that jury to go for death?
ABRAMS: I think it had an impact.
I would watch the jurors walk into court during the penalty phase and smile, at least two of them, smile and say good morning to Sharon Rocha as they were walking into court, not saying hello to Scott Peterson or Mark Geragos or anyone else in that courtroom. It was just Sharon Rocha. Now, do I think that that was the deciding factor? No.
I think that these jurors weighed what are called the aggravating factors, meaning the reasons to execute, vs. the mitigating factors. And I think in the end they just didn‘t find any mitigating factors, any reasons not to execute. Scott Peterson was not a guy born into poverty who was beaten by his family and as a result went on the wrong track. This is a guy who was afforded every opportunity, and for some reason, still ended up killing his wife.
BUCHANAN: Just callousness, incredible callousness.
Listen, Dan Abrams, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Pat, great to see you.
BUCHANAN: You‘ve been working very hard, my friend.
ABRAMS: Thank you.
BUCHANAN: Now we‘ve got an all-star legal panel with us to talk about the jury‘s vote for death, Pam Bondi, a prosecutor, Marc Klaas, whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered a decade ago and who now heads the Klaas Kids Foundation and Joe Tacopina, a defense attorney.
Joe, you‘re also the attorney for Bernard Kerik and were kind enough to discuss that case with us on Friday.
But, tonight, we‘re hear the discuss the Peterson sentencing and verdict only.
Let me start with Marc Klaas.
Mark, the man that murdered—the criminal that kidnapped and murdered your daughter, he is still on death row, is he not?
MARC KLAAS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: That‘s exactly right, Pat. In fact, he‘s only been assigned an appeals attorney in the last couple of years.
BUCHANAN: All right, how long you do think it will be before Scott Peterson goes to his reward, the death sentence, given all the appeals that are going to be made on his behalf? I understand there are two people on death row in California who have been there 26 years.
KLAAS: Well, let‘s do the math.
Peterson gets at the end of a line of 629 men on California‘s death row in a state that has executed 10 individuals in the last 25 years. So he‘s most likely, as are most of those individuals, to die of natural causes.
BUCHANAN: All right, Pam Bondi, I gather you heard the press conference of the jurors. I was a little surprised in terms of what I was asking Dan Abrams that the jurors, I wonder why they would go out, talk about why they did what they did and made the decisions they did, and really gaining nothing, given the fact that he‘s got the death sentence, but risking a possible error of some kind that could lead to an appeal that could maybe overturn a verdict.
PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR: Well, Pat, I can tell you, as a prosecutor, when your jurors after a verdict go out there and start talking, you are holding your breath, because it could potentially create a lot of legal issues.
But do I agree with Dan. They are not legal excerpts. They are not lawyers, and they were very cautious in what they said. They were very guarded in what they said. To me, they came across as people who really, really cared. They followed the law. They weighed the aggravators against the mitigators. And I think they came to a correct recommendation.
BUCHANAN: Joe Tacopina—thanks for coming back, Joe.
How you do think the defense did in this? I mean, they all—a lot of us, I think, as soon as we saw this case and saw the details of it and read about it, said, this is really an evil individual. He did this. The bodies are up there right where he—quote—“went fishing.” It was a very tough case for Geragos. How do you think he did overall?
JOE TACOPINA, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Well, look, it‘s easy to Monday-morning quarterback and second-guess someone else.
But he did violate at least, at least one of the cardinal rules of trial law, which is, you don‘t make any promises in your opening statement that you‘re not sure you can deliver in a closing statement, because, unlike a politician‘s speech, Pat, where a politician gets out there, makes whole sorts of promises and people then vote on those promises, and then it‘s only after the vote that he either fulfills or doesn‘t fulfill or she either fulfills or doesn‘t fulfill those promises, a trial lawyer has to make a promise, keep the promise, and then reminds the jurors that they kept the promise.
Here, Mark Geragos made a promise in the opening. He at least—the most important promise he made that was not kept was, he was going to show by way of scientific evidence that Conner was born alive, which would exclude Scott Peterson as the murderer of her, Laci, and the unborn child. That didn‘t even come close to happening. They put on a medical expert who the jury was laughing at, who just didn‘t have any scientific information or testimony to add, but simply to say that, well, you know, women—if she told her friend on this date that she was pregnant, that means she just got pregnant the night before.
I mean, jurors were laughing. And it‘s bad when the jurors laugh at your expert witness.
BUCHANAN: Marc Klaas, I gather you believe that the death penalty was certainly justified in this case.
And let me ask each of you quickly if any of you disagrees and thinks death was not justified or ought not to have been imposed.
Go ahead, Marc.
KLAAS: Well, I believe that whatever Karen Rocha wanted, she deserves. And if she wanted this penalty to be handed down, it‘s the right penalty. Justice and society has told Scott Peterson that his life is not worth a plug nickel.
Well, before we get the opinions of the others here, Joe and Pam, we‘re going to take a quick break. But we‘ll have much more on that Peterson jury and its decision to choose the death penalty for Scott right after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG BERATLIS, PETERSON JUROR: There‘s no winner in this. The Petersons, they lose a son. The Rochas, they‘ve lost their daughter and their future grandson. There was no winner. They both—everybody lost in this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: The Peterson jury gave us a look into the jury room today in their decision to recommend the death penalty for Scott.
Much more on that straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHELLE NICE, PETERSON JUROR: Little man was the hardest for me. Little man, that‘s what I call him, Conner. That was the hardest for me, because as I said, that was his daddy who did that. You know, his daddy should have been the protector of him and instead, he took his life. So that was hard for me and Laci—and yes, his family and both families. I mean my heart goes out to both families. And it was hard. It was hard seeing the families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: We are back with our panel, Joe Tacopina, defense attorney, Pam Bondi, a prosecutor, and Marc Klaas of the Klaas Kids Foundation.
The jury in the Scott Peterson trial unanimously recommended the death penalty earlier today in California. And that was followed by a riveting press conference.
Peterson never testified in his own defense. And, according to one juror, it did not matter. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICE: For me, a big part of it was at the end, the verdict. No emotion. No anything. That spoke a thousand words. That was loud and clear. Today the giggles at the table—loud and clear—I heard enough from him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: All right, Pam, let me ask you, is it legitimate to use that to come to your decision in a jury room, how this fellow behaves at the table in the courtroom?
BONDI: Well, I don‘t think see said that was why she recommended the death penalty. But, sure, that‘s human nature, Pat. That always, always comes into play for jurors. Boy, they said that loud and clear, didn‘t they? All three jurors said they watched his body language. They watched his demeanor. They watched his expressions throughout that trial.
And that‘s what jurors do, but they also did say they did not take in the fact that he did not testify, because the law tells them they can‘t do that. So they were very careful to say that the fact he didn‘t testify didn‘t influence them at all.
BUCHANAN: Joe Tacopina?
TACOPINA: Pat, I‘ll note, though, that one juror did say he would have liked to have heard from Peterson, from Scott Peterson.
TACOPINA: Now, that‘s human nature. Of course, we would all like to.
That is the risk of doing these press conferences. And Pam is right. When I was a prosecutor, if I had a jury go out there and speak to the cameras and whatnot, your heart is in your throat, because—and they were there for so long. And I guarantee you right this minute the Peterson defense team is scouring over this videotape to see if there is anything, a phrase, a word, something they could use in their appeal.
And saying that they want to hear him testify or would have liked to, I don‘t think that quite meets the standard of them considering the fact that he didn‘t testify, but it‘s getting close. And that‘s why these things are a little bit dangerous.
BUCHANAN: All right, let me interrupt you, Joe.
BUCHANAN: And Pam and everyone, this is what gets me. I agree. It was a riveting interview. And from a journalistic standpoint and a public standpoint, it was really interesting and remarkable.
But then you thought, they‘ve been in here six months. They have come to a verdict and now they‘ve come to a verdict on the death sentence. And they are out here risking it by talking to reporters, who are questioning them from every different angle. And they are risking all this work of six months. Does a judge or does anyone in the court, should they have told the jurors that this is what you are going to risk if you talk to the press or talk in public?
TACOPINA: Well, Pat, you then start intermingling First Amendment issues and stuff like that.
When they are sitting jurors deliberating, the court has absolute control over their words. There is no question about that. The law is clear. Once they‘ve been discharged as jurors, as they were in this case, it‘s very tough to gag them. They are citizens now. And while we don‘t want this six-month trial to be a waste of time and, God forbid, ever have to go through this again, they are citizens. And it‘s very tough for a judge to trump their First Amendment right to freedom of speech simply because it might imperil a verdict.
KLAAS: You know, Pat, if I might.
BUCHANAN: Marc, go ahead.
KLAAS: You have to remember that this jury has been getting second-guessed by a large cadre of defense attorneys on cable news for the past six months. And I think it was really required of somebody to come out and say something. Otherwise, I believe the paparazzi probably would have followed them home and hounded them.
So, I think that they did a marvelous job of coming out and trying to explain themselves. And I think that they really added a lot of dignity to their—to the whole process simply through the way they did that.
BUCHANAN: Well, I agree with that result. And I certainly wouldn‘t recommend a gag, but I just wondered why a judge would not at least suggest that, look, this thing could be imperiled by statements made after the trial. I hope you all will keep that in mind.
But the jury did request to see evidence during the sentencing phase, including a number of photos today. And we find out why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE CARDOSI, PETERSON JURY FOREMAN: They are very difficult to look at, more difficult, I think for some people than for others.
But seeing those on the screen, on a big screen when it‘s, you know, 40 feet away from you, is a little different, or seeing them from 10 feet away as they are paraded in front of you is a little different than sticking them down on a table in front of you and looking at them and where you can really see that, you know, that is a baby or was a baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: All right, Pam, let me ask you, it seems to me that whoever requested those photos in the jury room, look, that had nothing to do with whether Scott was guilty or how he had behaved afterwards.
That seems to be someone who is in favor of the death penalty asking to bring the photos in to maybe show them and persuade the doubters that—the horror of the crime by visual photographs in order to bring them around. Would that be your read or not?
BONDI: Well, I think Mr. Cardosi, the juror who was just speaking, he said he was the one who requested the photos. And he said he just wanted to see exactly what Laci went through and that that was a baby, that was a real baby, and that all the jurors went around and looked at them.
But, sure, that‘s certainly, certainly enrages jurors when you look at photographs like that. Boy, I bet when the prosecutors knew that that was the evidence they wanted to see, they were very, very pleased with that, because that‘s what this is all about. It‘s about that beautiful young woman and her unborn child losing their lives because of Scott Peterson, because of her husband.
BUCHANAN: Joe Tacopina, let me follow up on what Pam said.
When Geragos learned that these were the pictures the jury wanted another look at, would that pretty much convince him that they are very—almost certainly going for the death penalty?
TACOPINA: It was over at that point. This is not—don‘t forget.
It‘s not the guilt or innocent phase at this point, Pat.
TACOPINA: Where they are saying maybe there is some validity to the tape around the neck theory or something. They are convinced. This jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt and I am sure in their minds to a certainty that this guy did this to his wife and unborn child.
And, at that point, they are looking for crime scene photos. You know, that tugged at the heart and that‘s an emotional moment. And there was no question. When I heard that, I absolutely knew that the next note we would get was, we have a verdict. That‘s sort of a, like, final goodbye when you are looking at those photos. They lived with Laci Peterson in a way for almost six months. And the last thing they asked for were the photos of her dismembered body and of the baby. There is really nothing more egregious about this whole case.
BUCHANAN: Marc, did this take you back to that day 10 years ago?
KLAAS: It sure does.
And I‘ve got to tell you, Mrs. Rocha has been running away from one death for the last two years and finally came into a collision course with the monster that murdered her daughter. I think today she probably has a huge weight off of her shoulders. And I only hope that some healing can begin for her.
BUCHANAN: Pam, you were going to—I believe, off camera, you had mentioned that this, if he gets the death penalty, that time on death row is going to be difficult. It‘s going to be awful for him. And what would be your argument? Do you believe it would be better to have him in the general population, prison population the rest of his life or the death penalty?
BONDI: Well, I can tell you from seeing Florida‘s death row, it‘s a miserable place. You are in a 10-by-10 cell in isolation. Death row is probably the worst place for an inmate to be.
And, also, Scott Peterson is going to know he is on death row. He is not spending the rest of his life in prison. He‘s got to—that is going to—he‘s going to be thinking about that every day, no matter how long he is on death row, that that‘s what‘s coming.
BUCHANAN: Do any of you think that the judge will contradict the jury and not impose a death sentence or is that, Joe, a slam dunk?
TACOPINA: That‘s a slam dunk, as much of a slam dun as you get in this case. It‘s a rare, rare occasion that a judge will upset a jury‘s verdict, especially in the penalty phase, when they‘ve deliberated for so long. This jury clearly has put a lot of time into this, a lot of effort and they have articulated for some of us some of the reasons.
The judge really doesn‘t have any true mitigating factors that would mitigate against the death penalty here. If there was some issue of insanity or mental illness and the jury decided that death was appropriate, the judge has the power and at that point might look at it and say, I‘m not going to impose a death penalty because of what with I deem to be a substantial mental defect.
You don‘t have any of that here. And just one thing, Pat. What that one juror, the colorful juror, the female juror said, that I thought was very, very telling and validates a lot of what trial lawyers worry about.
TACOPINA: Scott Peterson throughout this trial sat there with that smug—that you wanted to take his face and just choke him, you know, with that little grin, that half laugh.
Even if you were innocent, why would he be sitting at the murder trial of his wife and unborn child and be able to crack a smile, let alone do it constantly, and have that smug look on his face? And I heard that came into play. And that is something else. I‘ll tell you. That gives us all a lesson, that we are right when we talk about the appearance of the guy sitting next to you.
Joe Tacopina, Pam Bondi and Marc Klaas, thanks for joining us.
BONDI: Thank you.
TACOPINA: Thanks, Pat.
BUCHANAN: Coming up, If the Pentagon lies to the enemy, the media and the American people, is that so wrong? We‘ll bring you the debate that is taking place at the highest levels of the U.S. military.
BUCHANAN: A debate goes to the highest levels of the Pentagon: How far should the military go to deceive the enemy? Should they mislead the media and the American people along the way, if necessary? 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.
BUCHANAN: Welcome back. I‘m Pat Buchanan, filling in for Joe Scarborough.
As you know, Joe is out with back problems, but is feeling better and eager to get back to his anchor chair. Friends and family are telling him to wait a little longer to ensure a full recovery. Expect him back soon.
Now, should the Pentagon lie to the media if that will cause our enemies to make fatal mistakes in the war on terror?
Joining us now, Mort Zuckerman of “U.S. News & World Report,” Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Goodwin of “The New York Daily News” and Ana Marie Cox of Wonkette.com.
Let me start with you, Michael Goodwin.
The famous disinformation strategy or tactic in World War II of course was Eisenhower‘s use of General Patton and a phony Army to let the—or convince the Germans to believe, with false signals and maneuvers, that we were going to attack at the Pas-de-Calais and that Patton was going to lead the invasion force. Meanwhile, the real invasion force was being prepared for Normandy. It was a bodyguard of lies. And everyone believes that was a brilliant maneuver.
Is that what we are talking about here in this “New York Times” story, where they are going to mix disinformation with information and put psy-ops operations in effect for the general media?
MICHAEL GOODWIN, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: It sounds as though that it‘s going to be broad-based. There‘s going to be a real strategy to do it, to tell the media lies almost every day.
And I think it puts the media in the place of not being able to trust anything the Pentagon says. So, I can‘t imagine why the Pentagon would want to go down that road. It makes absolutely no sense if the credibility is zero and of course the press is going to suspect everything, the body counts that are given out on raids, say, into Fallujah, that sort of thing. So, the press will never trust the Pentagon again. It‘s insane to do this.
BUCHANAN: Well, Mort Zuckerman, let me agree. I just think—look what happened to us. The president of the United States went up there because of somebody‘s else disinformation campaign at his State of the Union and said the Iraqis are buying yellow cake in Niger, and it turned out to be forged documents. Is that what we are going to be doing?
MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”: Well, I certainly hope not.
I think that is a very short-term gain and a big long-term loss, if there is any short-term gain. I think it is a real problem. I think—in one sense, I think there is another part of it, which is, how does the Pentagon, in a sense, develop domestic support for what is becoming an increasingly unpopular war.
And I think this is a real problem for them. And I don‘t think the answer to that is disinformation and deception, because if they lose whatever credibility they have that, I think that would really be a disaster in public opinion terms.
BUCHANAN: You know, Ana Marie Cox, there‘s no doubt they might get some initial benefit from confusing the enemy or damaging enemy morale, but one major exposure that they‘ve been lying to the American people or that they‘ve been lying to foreign governments publicly and the whole credibility of the administration and the Pentagon will be down the drain.
ANA MARIE COX, WONKETTE.COM: Well, I was going to say, this whole argument sort of hinges on the fact that we are supposed to believe they haven‘t already been lying to us.
I‘m not sure if that‘s the case. To the extent that this is a new operation, I have to say that I am sort of in favor of it. Why should we rely on Country Western singers to be the only people spreading pro-America propaganda throughout the world?
From what I understand, they are looking at this as a problem because the American culture has been so good exporting products like Coke and cars and hasn‘t been very good selling at democracy, which you think would be a more immediate need for most people.
BUCHANAN: Well, let me—let me go to Michael Goodwin.
Michael Goodwin, in the Prague connection, we were told Mohamed Atta, he was in Prague, met with an Iraqi agent, flew over there for three days. That is a connection with Saddam Hussein and that is a connection with 9/11 and Iraqi intelligence and Saddam. And now you‘ve got I bet half the American people or 40 percent of them think Saddam had a central role in 9/11. Do you think that was a disinformation operation?
GOODWIN: I think at the time the Bush administration believed that there was a connection, and just as I think they also believed that there were weapons of mass destruction.
But I think what we‘re talking about here is a policy, an arm of the government set up to lie not only to the enemy, which, in wartime, you can certainly approve of that, of course. You would want to give them feints. But to lie to the American people about the policies, about what we‘re doing, about why we‘re doing it, I see absolutely no gain whatsoever.
In five minutes, the first lie would be exposed and the Pentagon would be sunk. And then you would have a whole new review. You would have replacements, little heads rolling, as we say. So I think that it makes no sense. It would not last 24 hours once the first lie was exposed.
Mort Zuckerman, you are a man that studies a lot of history. Back in 1941, FDR went on national television and said he had the Nazi plans in his hands for dividing up all of Latin America and Mexico into five regional areas to be ruled by Nazi Gauleiters and that he had it in his hand and—or he had it in his files. And this was something that had been produced by British intelligence, a man called Intrepid.
BUCHANAN: They were over here creating falsehoods and lies. And FDR was, with some knowledge, reporting these to the American people to build support for war with Nazi Germany because he thought we should go to war. Were those lies justified?
Well, you know, in terms of the American interests at that point, I think it was absolutely essential that we do get engaged in that war. And there was a tremendous legacy of anti-war sentiment in this country and pacifist sentiment in this country. And there were many things that he did. The lend lease program, for example, with Britain to help out Britain was one that, shall we say, skirted the law.
It was technically somewhat correct, but he knew that we had to get involved in that because we could not face an enemy in the form of Germany that controlled all of Europe and in a sense defeated England. We would have been in a terribly difficult position. So you really have a genuine dilemma there. Where is our national interest going to be served?
On one level, you cannot say that everything has to be said to the American people if our national interest is so critically involved in a decision where he has to find some way to move public opinion in the right direction. It‘s a very, very difficult dilemma.
Ana Marie Cox, what Mort seems to be saying is, sometimes, democracy -
· the people don‘t know what is good for them. And when you‘re in a survival situation, as Mort obviously believes, FDR probably believed, a survival kind of situation, it may be necessary for the people‘s own good to tell them untruths to bring them around to do what they ought to do for their own survival. How would you answer that argument?
COX: Well, that is a very dangerous argument. It assumes that really the government actually knows what is going on.
Something you brought up earlier with President Bush believing that
there was a yellow cake exchange going on, that‘s not disinformation I
guess if the president also believes it, but it turns out it was wrong. I
think something Michael was saying earlier was really interesting, which is
that the first -- as soon as the first lie got found out, we would all be
· the Pentagon would be in trouble and, surely, the first lie would be found out very quickly.
And I like to believe that‘s the case. There is a whole generation of bloggers out there who would probably dedicate themselves to do that kind of thing. But I also would like to think that the Pentagon was a little bit better at covering its tracks than CBS.
All right, Michael, a final question. Just—we are in age where really, democracy, a democratic Republican is handicapped in many ways in fighting the kind of enemy we are fighting. And one of the ways we are handicapped, I think, is the fact if you don‘t tell the truth and you get caught in a lie, it destroys your whole base.
GOODWIN: Well, there‘s absolutely no question there is a double standard here. We‘re held to a higher standard. We hold ourselves to one and the world holds us to a higher standard.
Look at how Abu Ghraib backfired on the United States. Now, Saddam was killing people in that very prison. We did some fairly modest torture in most cases. And we were held up to world ridicule. It undercuts our values. And I think that is the key here, that, if America is going to be a special country, if it really is going to lead the world to a better place, to spread democracy, then democracy I think has to be seen as something that‘s worth fighting for and dying for and getting people in other countries to want to stand up for it. We have to lead by example.
BUCHANAN: OK, Mort Zuckerman, Michael Goodwin and Ana Marie Cox, thank you for joining us.
Coming up, is there an evangelical agenda in the White House? In a rare interview, the president‘s chief speechwriter defends Bush‘s faith. That‘s coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Freedom is not America‘s gift to the world. It is the almighty God‘s gift to every man and woman in this world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: God and President Bush.
The chief White House speechwriter defends the president‘s faith, saying God is at work in the president‘s life, but he stopped short of suggesting that his Christian faith shapes foreign policy. But is there an evangelical agenda in the White House?
Joining me now, Dave Aikman. He‘s author of “A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush.” Also with us, Dave Silverman, spokesman for American Atheist.
Dave Aikman, let me begin with you.
Does the president believe that God first put him in the White House and secondly has chosen him to do battle against evil in the world, which he defines today as terrorism?
DAVID AIKMAN, AUTHOR, “A MAN OF FAITH”: Well, I have never talked to the president about what his feelings about the almighty are.
I think we can say reasonably, certainly, that he felt he was being led to run for the presidency. And if he felt he was being guided to run in the election campaign, that, perhaps when he won, that might have been the will of the almighty as well.
But I think you have to distinguish between a president who prays for guidance, prays for humility, prays to be a good servant to people and prays for wisdom. And, listen, we all pray for wisdom.
DAVE SILVERMAN, AMERICAN ATHEIST: Almost all of us.
AIKMAN: And someone who thinks that he is sort of divinely guided at every moment of the day. And, certainly, this president doesn‘t think that.
BUCHANAN: David Silverman, what is your problem with the president? Is it that he has Christian beliefs or that he expresses the Christian beliefs or that he basically lets these beliefs guide him in judging what‘s right and wrong in policy?
DAVE SILVERMAN, AMERICAN ATHEIST: Well, first of all, the problem that we have is not that he is a Christian man. American Atheist firmly supports the right of every individual, including the president of the United States, to harbor his own personal religious views.
The problem is that George Bush seems unable to separate those religious views from his political priorities as the leader of the free world. He uses those views...
BUCHANAN: Give me an example.
SILVERMAN: Abortion, gay rights, prayer in schools. These are all things that he uses his faith to determine—to make moral judgments for the rest of us, for everybody, whether we share those views or not.
BUCHANAN: All right, let me ask you this. Look, I was at the March on Washington, where Dr. King spoke. And he got up and said, in asking for Christians—and there were priests and rabbis and others there—in asking their support for a Civil Rights Act, he said, we‘ve got to live up to the meaning of our creed.
In other words, the Christian creed says segregation is wrong and we‘ve got to end it. Was it wrong for Dr. King and wrong for political leaders to use a Christian argument to say we have to impose our values on the people that disagree with us?
SILVERMAN: Well, first of all, I would like to say that Martin Luther King was a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state.
But, in the real world, is it wrong for people to use faith and only because—is it wrong for people to say this is the way it is because God says so; this is the way it is because I spoke to God and God wants me to do this, or because I spoke to my preacher and my preacher says God wants me to do this? If somebody says X is happening because God says so, he has got no real support for it. And that is the problem that we have with President Bush.
BUCHANAN: All right, well, let me ask—let me take that to Dave Aikman.
BUCHANAN: It seems to me people whose values comes out of their religious belief...
BUCHANAN: ... have the same right as anyone else, if your values come out of Marx or Ralph Nader, to try to write your beliefs and create the kind of society consistent with what you think is moral and good.
AIKMAN: Absolutely true. If people of secular persuasion say that they favor abortion rights or they favor gay rights to marriage or something, they have every right, in our free Constitution, to make those claims.
People who believe that there is an almighty and that the almighty might have revealed himself in the word of God, the Bible, and that the Bible offers us guidance for certain things that we do or don‘t do, have every right in the public domain to say that. And I don‘t see any difference at all.
SILVERMAN: But, gentlemen, you are missing the point. We are not talking about...
BUCHANAN: Well, we are talking about—let‘s take the issue of abortion.
SILVERMAN: Go for it.
BUCHANAN: Now, I believe—well, thank you.
BUCHANAN: I believe that both natural law and Christian faith teach the same thing, that we have life at conception and we have no right to destroy innocent human life. That is rooted in a religious belief. Other people believe it all begins and ends here on Earth and that abortion is legitimate.
Why can‘t I fight for my viewpoint based on my beliefs, just as an atheist like Mr. Silverman can fight for his?
SILVERMAN: Well, you can. And that‘s what we are here doing.
But we are not talking about you and me, Pat. We are talking about the president of the United States, the leader of a free world. We are talking about a leader of a country.
BUCHANAN: Well, I was trying to be the president. And if I were him, I would have acted out of the same beliefs.
SILVERMAN: And because you spoke the truth about that, Pat, that is why you weren‘t elected, because most Americans favor abortion rights, and you don‘t. And that‘s cool.
AIKMAN: Well, actually, they don‘t.
BUCHANAN: But Mr. Bush did pretty well the last time out.
SILVERMAN: I want to make a very important point here.
We‘re talking about a man whose job it is to lead Christians and non-Christians into the future. And we are talking about George Bush, who does not lead non-Christians. He does not give even really a second thought apparently to those people that not share his...
BUCHANAN: All right, wait a minute. We‘ll give you a chance to respond, Mr. Aikman, just as soon as we come back.
Final thoughts after a quick break. Don‘t go away.
BUCHANAN: The nominations for Golden Globes are out. And guess which big screen masterpiece didn‘t make the list? “The Passion of the Christ.” We will talk about why tomorrow night on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
BUCHANAN: David Aikman, let me give you a chance to respond to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY‘s favorite atheist.
AIKMAN: Well, first of all, President Bush welcomes all faiths, including Islam and Judaism, and all nonfaiths. He has welcomed to the table of American political life everybody of any belief or any nonbelief.
So, the fact that he is a Christian in no way disqualifies him, because he is an elected political leader, from being a leader of atheists, some of whom may agree with him on many policy areas.
BUCHANAN: Mr. Silverman, you seem to be discriminating against those who have beliefs rooted in religious values, and, in effect, saying, they can‘t bring those values if they are rooted in faith into the public square and compete.
SILVERMAN: I think Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter did an excellent job. And I think John Kerry would have done the same thing, all men of faith.
BUCHANAN: Why not Bush?
SILVERMAN: Because Bush doesn‘t seem to be able to separate his religion from his political agenda.
Hey, Pat, you know what? I would like to thank you for having me on the show. Happy solstice, everybody, the real reason for the season. Atheists.org.
BUCHANAN: OK. Merry Christmas, OK, to you, David, and to David Aikman.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight. That‘s all the time we have for SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. See you tomorrow.
Check out “Imus.” We will be talking to the I-man tomorrow morning.
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