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'Scarborough Country' for Dec. 21

Read the transcript to the 10 p.m. ET show

Guest: Ellen Johnson, Steve Lonegan, Jack Burkman, Margie Omero, Terry Jeffrey, Bob Baer

PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST:  Defense Secretary Rumsfeld remains under fire tonight.  There‘s even a bill in Congress calling for his impeachment.  But, unbowed, he‘s put forward a plan to expand the Pentagon‘s intelligence-gathering role, the move a shocked “New York Times” calls—quote—“a recipe for disaster.”  Is it time for Rumsfeld to go or for his critics to get off his back? 

Then, if you went to the holiday concert in Maplewood, New Jersey, tonight, you wouldn‘t have heard any Christmas carols, at least not sung by the kids.  But outside, the mayor of Bogota, New Jersey, was staging a sing-in.  He‘s here tonight to tell us all about it. 

And with Iraqi elections coming up next month, Iran is reportedly interfering to affect the outcome.  Should Tehran be America‘s next target?  That debate and much more tonight on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.   

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

BUCHANAN:  An explosion rips through a mess hall tent at a base near Mosul, killing 15 soldiers, making it the deadliest single attack on U.S.  forces since the start of the Iraq war. 

President Bush, however, says it must not derail the January 30 Iraqi elections, and that he hopes relatives of those killed know their loved one died in—quote—“a vital mission for peace.”

Today‘s events put Secretary Rumsfeld back front and center.  Today, the embattled Pentagon chief, once the toast of the nation, wrote an op-ed piece in “USA Today” defending himself from the severe criticism he faces over both his war strategy and comments he made to troops in Kuwait. 

Rumsfeld writes that the Army has ramped up production of armored Humvees by 1,000 percent since last year and body armor by 2,000 percent.  But the chorus against Rumsfeld is growing.  Senator John McCain says he has no confidence in the secretary.  Other Republicans have begun to echo McCain.  Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel has even introduced a bill of impeachment. 

All of this brought President Bush to Rumsfeld‘s defense yesterday. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I asked him to stay on, because I understand the nature of the job of the secretary of the defense.  And I believe he‘s doing a really fine job.  The secretary of defense is a complex job.  It‘s complex in times of peace, and it‘s complex even more so in times of war. 


BUCHANAN:  Many believe that Rumsfeld deserves credit for the swift, successful invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, yet feel that he is largely responsible for failure to anticipate a guerrilla war and for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. 

Can President Bush, himself now at 49 percent approval, afford to keep supporting Rummy? 

Joining me now, Bob Baer, former CIA officer and author of “Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul For Saudi Crude,” Terry Jeffrey, editor of “Human Events,” and Democratic pollster Margie Omero, president of Momentum Analysis. 

Let me ask you first, Bob Baer, what is your take on whether and how long Rumsfeld can survive under the present onslaught? 

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER:  I think he‘s going to take the fall for Iraq.  And I think we‘re going to see a lot more violence between now and the 30th of January.  We‘re going to lose a lot more troops.  Someone‘s going to have to be sacrificed.  George Tenet was sacrificed for the bad intelligence, and now Rummy.  Someone‘s got to get blamed for this.

And I think we‘re going to see a lot more pressure.  We‘re just going to see if the president will be able to withstand it. 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t agree with that, Terry.  I don‘t think the president is going to let him go.  I don‘t think he should let him go.  If he did, it would be an admission that the president himself was wrong, because as far as I know, Rumsfeld‘s been carrying out presidential policy. 

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, “HUMAN EVENTS”:  Well, there‘s no question about it. 

One thing we learned about President Bush in his first term is, this is a matter of his conviction and a man of resolve.  When he makes a commitment, he doesn‘t break it.  And we just saw him yesterday give a very firm, adamant vote of confidence to his secretary of defense.  He‘s not going to cut this guy loose.  They have a plan.  This process is going forward. 

Admittedly, it‘s not working as well as everyone would like in Iraq, but I don‘t see him cutting it loose until—Rumsfeld leaving until their process is completed, which is a year from January. 

Margie Omero. 

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER:  Well, the president, as we‘ve seen for a while, rewards loyalty before competence.  So I wouldn‘t be surprised if he kept Rumsfeld on for quite a bit longer. 

And it seems to be that the president‘s attitude is, we‘ll go with the secretary of defense that we have and not the one that the American public wishes we have, because polls show that people are dissatisfied with the war in Iraq.  They disapprove of Bush‘s performance in Iraq, and they want Rumsfeld to go. 

BUCHANAN:  Bob Baer, do you feel he ought to go, and if so, why?  I know the criticisms of him, they are four, I guess, that he ordered General Franks in with too small a force.  They he did not stop the looting of Baghdad that broke out.  We did not anticipate a guerrilla war, and we disbanded, Bremer did, the Iraqi army of 250,000 men, which I guess left us without a force to compete with the—to fight the insurgents. 

What is your take on whether he should go or not? 

BAER:  Well, let me put it this way.  Let me take Rumsfeld‘s side in this. 

He had bad intelligence going into Iraq.  He was told that the troops would be welcomed.  It was a matter of destroying an army, which he did quickly. 


BUCHANAN:  Who misled him, Bob, into believing we would be welcomed? 

BAER:  The intelligence community, bad intelligence, a lot of assumptions, wrong assumptions, and this embracing of the Iraqi exiles who, frankly, lied about what would happen once we got in.

But, as secretary of defense, controlling this Army and getting and defeating Saddam quickly, he did quite well. 


BUCHANAN:  Exactly. 

Terry. look, the invasion by General Franks, even with a smaller force than, I guess, he initially wanted, you took Baghdad in three weeks.  But what happened was, this insurgency breaks out that no one seems to have anticipated.  Chalabi and all the others, the neocons, said it was going to be a cakewalk, that they‘re going to welcome us with flowers.  Is Rumsfeld responsible—if he is responsible for believing bad intel, is the president responsible? 

JEFFREY:  Well, Pat, three of the four things you listed there can‘t possibly be laid at Rumsfeld‘s door.  They are failures of civilian authorities, including intelligence. 

Let me put this in perspective.  In the Senate Select Committee report on the intelligence in Iraq, they said that, after 1998, when Saddam kicked the U.N. weapons inspectors out, the CIA did not have a single human intelligence source collecting on Saddam‘s weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, not one.  They also said they didn‘t try and insert...


BUCHANAN:  Tenet said it was a slam-dunk that he had them. 

JEFFREY:  Yes.  Tenet went to the White House, sat in the Oval Office.

BUCHANAN:  He got a Medal of Freedom. 

JEFFREY:  Told the president it was a slam-dunk for information.  He didn‘t have a single human intelligence source checking on it. 


BUCHANAN:  Terry, why did the president call him in and give him a Medal of Freedom? 

JEFFREY:  I don‘t understand that, Pat.  It‘s completely inexplicable. 

Now, let me extrapolate from that.  Think about this.  If our government, if our CIA didn‘t have one guy who was trying to check personally a human intelligence source on Saddam‘s weapons of mass destruction, how could we have possibly known the internal political dynamics of Iraqi society and culture?  How could we really know who had popular appeal there, what people really thought?  We didn‘t have a clue. 


JEFFREY:  All right, Margie Omero, this is an argument.  Some head somewhere should have rolled for this.  There‘s no doubt about it.  The president was badly served here. 

OMERO:  Right.  That‘s clear.  And the American public wants answers.  They want results and they want to see that we‘re making progress.  And they don‘t see that that‘s really happening in a way that justifies what‘s happening there and the casualties that we‘ve seen today and that we‘re seeing so frequently. 

And even if Rumsfeld ends up taking the fall, it‘s not as if President Bush is going to put someone in his place who is going to differ wildly from what Rumsfeld has done. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Bob Baer, look, the surveys today, they show the president‘s approval at 49 percent.  I think for the first time, a majority you know of Americans—with Rumsfeld, a majority of Americans, 52 percent, say Rumsfeld should resign.  Only 36 percent say he should stay. 

A majority believe that the Iraq war was not worth it.  Now, here‘s—let‘s take a look at President Bush talking about Rumsfeld yesterday. 


BUSH:  I know Secretary Rumsfeld‘s heart.  I know how much he cares for the troops.  He and his wife go out to Walter Reed in Bethesda all the time to provide comfort and solace. 

You know, sometimes, perhaps, his demeanor is rough and gruff, but beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about the military and deeply about the grief that war causes. 


BUCHANAN:  Bob Baer, I think there‘s really sort of a move to, if you will, certainly by the neoconservatives, to scapegoat Rumsfeld.  They were the ones that said this was going to be a great cakewalk and we‘re going to be welcomed with flowers. 

But, clearly, someone—I don‘t say they deceived the president.  Someone gave him lousy, lousy advice.  And while you have got to admire the president for standing by his men, somebody‘s head should have rolled here, shouldn‘t it?  I mean, does everybody get Medals of Freedom? 

BAER:  Oh, absolutely. 

These people that produced the bad intelligence are identifiable, just like the people that failed us on September 11 are identifiable.  Fire them.  There should be accountability.  The CIA is broken.  It‘s not getting fixed.  That‘s why the Pentagon wants to take over intelligence now, because they‘re not getting it.  They want to know who‘s supporting these insurgents. 


BUCHANAN:  I can‘t blame the Pentagon, Bob. 

Terry, I can‘t blame them for wanting intelligence, if that‘s the kind of intelligence they got from over in Langley. 

JEFFREY:  Exactly right, Pat, because another thing that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee said is, when the CIA tried to explain why they didn‘t have a single intelligence source, human, on the ground trying to figure out whether Saddam Hussein had those weapons of mass destruction, because of which, we‘ve now put all these men at risk—we‘ve lost more than 1,000 Americans.

It‘s because CIA didn‘t want to risk someone in there trying to recruit human intelligence sources.  So because the CIA would not risk someone to develop a human intelligence source in Iraq before the war, we put 140,000 Americans‘ lives on the line after the war. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Margie Omero, you‘re a Democrat. 

OMERO:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  How long do you think the Democrats will support the war, given what‘s happening in Mosul and given what happened on Sunday with that -- and I‘m sure everybody‘s going to support it up to the election, but after that, is the Dean wing going to come forward?

OMERO:  Yes.  I mean, it‘s not just Democrats. 

We‘re talking about the public, the majority of the public.  And so Democrats are already coming out against the war.  Democrats have been coming out against the war for a while now.  And you‘re going to see more and more Democrats.  You‘re seeing Republicans criticize Bush.  I mean, if Rumsfeld was a stock, you see McCain and Hagel and other folks shorting that stock. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  But McCain‘s a hawk. 

But, Terry, how long—looking at the public, looking at the numbers, you‘ve seen them this way.  These people, some of them working for us, say it‘s going to be a five-, 10-year struggle.  I don‘t see the American people supporting that. 

JEFFREY:  Well, I agree with you, Pat.

I think the problem here is that we have some people who have an ideological aim in Iraq.  The idea is not to secure the interests of the United States.  It‘s to advance some utopian ideal.  And I think part of the problem Rumsfeld has is, the ideologues has discovered that he is a realist.  He has adopted what he thinks is possible.  He‘s adopted his tactics to the reality on the ground in Iraq.  And what they want is to pursue their ideological dream, which will cost American lives. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, one quick question before we go to a break.  Whose side is President Bush going to come down on?  The realists?  Because I think he‘s looking for an exit, exit ramp, and an honorable one.  I don‘t believe he wants to go in there and widen this war. 

JEFFREY:  Look, after they have this election in Iraq and they‘ve moving towards developing their own constitution, the guy who has the upper hand is Ayatollah Sistani.  He doesn‘t want us there.  I don‘t see how we can stay after they have their own government in place that‘s answerable to this guy. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, that‘s after January. 

Right now, though, Joe Scarborough couldn‘t be with us tonight, but I‘d like to read you some of his comments on today‘s attack in Mosul from his blog. 

Congressman Joe says: “Let‘s pray to God that on the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the American people will posses the same resolve that their brave men in women in uniform carry with them every day as they wake up for work in Iraq.  Circle January 30th our D-day, because our enemies know as Hitler did in 1944, that a U.S. victory on that date means the beginning of the end for the forces of evil.”

To read more on Joe‘s blog, go to 

And don‘t go away.  We‘ll be back with our debate in just a minute. 

And later, Secretary of State Colin Powell thinks Iran is still working toward becoming a nuclear power.  Should Iran be America‘s next target? 

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back. 


BUCHANAN:  Congressman Charlie Rangel has introduced a bill to impeach Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. 

But what high crimes has he committed, Charlie?

More of that debate coming up.



SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  We are in the mess we‘re in, in Iraq partly because the planning wasn‘t there.  The Pentagon wanted to run everything. 


BUCHANAN:  Welcome back.  That was Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. 

Again, my panel, Bob Baer, Terry Jeffrey, Margie Omero.

Bob Baer, let me ask you about your take on, given where the polls are today, where the casualties are today, the hopes that have been invested in this election and the fact that even the president admits the Iraqi army is not up and running the way it should be, how long do you think the American people will continue along this course of casualties and coming back without any clear end to the American involvement in sight?  And, secondly, if the president asks for what McCain wants, 40,000 or 50,000 more ground troops, should we send them, and would we? 

BAER:  We‘ve got two problems. 

One is, how do we leave Iraq?  Do we leave it in the hands of a Shia theocracy.  Ayatollah Sistani, as the previous guest has said, wants us gone, wants to set up a Shia state.  Will that be a threat to the rest of the Gulf?  And there‘s a good chance there is going to be that threat existing. 

BUCHANAN:  We ain‘t going to fight the Shias, are we? 


BUCHANAN:  If they‘ve got an election and they win it and take over and they set up what they want, I cannot see the United States expanding its military involvement from what is one-fifth of the country right now to four-fifths. 

BAER:  We can‘t do it. 

And you have to keep in mind that these people are the original terrorists.  These Iraqi Shia in the South were the ones that found this party Dawa, the original car bombers.  And they—I used to be a liaison with them.  And they‘re a tough bunch.  And we do not want to face them in a guerrilla warfare. 

BUCHANAN:  Margie, go ahead. 

OMERO:  The American public is not willing to expand this conflict.  They‘re looking for the president—at some point soon, it‘s going to be his unwavering resolve is going to seem foolish and dangerous, rather than strong. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask you, then, I mentioned the Dean wing of the Democratic Party.  I always felt if John Kerry won, that he would have a hellish time if he felt he had to put troops in, because his party was divided up there at that convention in Boston.  That was an anti-war party.  It cheered Sharpton.  It cheered Dean. 

They were taken out of prime time, but they really set the place on fire.  And Dean‘s speech wasn‘t all that good to set it on fire.  So my point is, with the Democratic Party, when will they do as they did during Vietnam and break with the administration?

OMERO:  I think that‘s happening.  You know, that‘s really happening. 

This is now—the majority of Americans are already opposed to the war.  Democrats and other elected officials and Republicans are starting to fall in line. 

BUCHANAN:  Terry? 

JEFFREY:  Well, I think, Pat, we could get hoist our own Wilsonian petard. 

I respect Bob Baer‘s knowledge of what‘s going on in Iraq with the Ayatollah Sistani.  It‘s not been reported widely in the United States, but according to AFP, on Monday, the ayatollah endorsed his own coalition that he put together, the United Iraqi Alliance.  These people want an Islamic republic in Iran.  He‘s is known as the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the Shias. 

He is their object of emulation.  He has moral prestige of a pope among Orthodox Catholics.  This guy—according to “The New York Times,” the ayatollah‘s picture is the one campaign poster you see in Baghdad.  So it‘s hard for me to believe this guy is not going to be the dominant force in this country in the future. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, he‘s going to be the dominant force in the country, but he does not believe in a theocracy.  He doesn‘t believe in himself running it.  He believes in Shias loyal to the faith, basically, political figures running it, doesn‘t he? 

JEFFREY:  Who understand that he is the fountain of moral wisdom, including for their political decisions. 

The question for the United States, it seems to me, is if we can live with this guy and the regime he‘s midwifing in Iraq.  And it seems to me the test of that is, will this regime threaten the United States?  Will it invade its neighbors?  Will it tolerate?  Will it consort with terrorists?  Will it make weapons of mass destruction?  If it won‘t do those things, it seems to me we‘ve achieved a victory in Iraq because we‘ve neutralized Iraq as a threat to us and our friends. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, well, let me ask you.  Suppose things continue the way they are now.  How long do you think the American people will support continued casualties and losses and whatever it is, $70 or $100 billion a year? 

JEFFREY:  I don‘t think for long. 

And I think the test that I just mentioned I think is the one people are really going to be asking themselves.  Are we secure from Iraq, or is it still a threat?  And if we can get out of there and honestly believe it‘s not a threat, why would anybody want to send their children to Iraq to die if they‘re not going there to neutralize a threat to us? 

If it‘s to achieve some sort of ideological aim, to impose some sort of vision of democracy on Iraq at the price of American blood, I don‘t think it‘s going to happen. 

BUCHANAN:  What do you think—all right, let me give you—each of give you give me your take on the president from your different vantage point.  Let me go first to you, Bob Baer.  What is your take?  The president looks to me to be extraordinarily resolute here.  Look, he stood behind Rumsfeld.  He‘s let nobody go. 

I think he has sort of a providential sense that God has called him and that this is his And Mission.  He doesn‘t look to me like someone who‘s going to walk out if he thinks this thing could collapse. 

BAER:  I hope that‘s not the case, because I guarantee you, it is going to get worse there.  The elections are not going to make things better.  We‘re going to head toward a civil war, a Shia theocracy.  And he‘s got to be more realistic and find some way to get out with a decent interest value and let some sort of federal state take over.  I don‘t know what that would look like. 


BUCHANAN:  All right, Omero—Margie, let me ask you this.  If the Shias, as Terry suggests, wins—and everybody believes they‘re going to win—I think the Sunnis are not going to accept rule by the Shia.  They‘ve got no oil and they‘ve got no political power, and they used to run the place. 

OMERO:  I think if the president ends up wanting to stay there much farther after the elections, he‘s going to have a very big problem with the Republican Party and with Democrats and with the American public, with independents, across the board. 

And if he‘s not looking at this in a realistic way, he‘s looking at it as I‘ve been anointed by God to go do this, then that‘s going to put him in a different kind of decision-making process, than someone who is really looking as a president, as a leader of a democracy.

BUCHANAN:  Terry, do you see any Republicans or conservatives who would stand up and say, in effect, after the election, you get the Shias elected, the Sunnis are outraged, it‘s still going on, that they say, look, we‘ve done our best; let‘s move into sort of base camps here, help them to the degree we can, but we can‘t stay there? 

JEFFREY:  Well, Pat, first of all, I think, ironically, there are some shared interests between the United States and the Shias led, by the ayatollah.  They think they‘re going to win the election.  They‘re going to control the national assembly that writes the constitution.

They‘re going to create the constitution they want.  It‘s not going to be the neoconservative constitution.  It‘s going to be the ayatollah‘s constitution.  Then they‘re going to have another election that elects their government under that constitution.  Through that, we can give them some legitimacy.  They‘re creating their own type of democracy.  As long as they abide by the rules we lay down in terms of not threatening our interests—don‘t make weapons of mass destruction.  Don‘t consort with terrorists.  Don‘t threaten your neighbors. 

BUCHANAN:  Will the Sunnis sit still for that? 

JEFFREY:  Probably not.  But it‘s the Shias who are going to have to learn how to accommodate the Sunnis, whether it‘s through violence or whether it‘s through some sort of political accommodation.  That‘s for them to decide, because, ultimately, Iraq is going to have to have its own internal equilibrium.  It cannot be maintained by the United States in perpetuity.

BUCHANAN:  Bob Baer, do you—take us one year from now, December 2005.  How many American troops are in Iraq? 

BAER:  I think we‘re going to stay because of the oil in the Gulf.  I think it‘s going to be 150,000 troops.  We‘re going to be withdrawing to bases.  We‘re going to be maintaining those bases through the year, rather than the ground.  And we‘re going to be trying to tamper down a civil war. 

I‘m against the war.  But now that we‘re there, leaving today is going to be much worse, because this chaos will migrate south into the Gulf.  We can‘t afford that. 

BUCHANAN:  I think that‘s a big problem we haven‘t discussed. 

OK, Bob Baer, Terry Jeffrey, Margie Omero, thank you for being here. 

And coming up, yet another chapter in the war on Christmas.  As kids in Maplewood, New Jersey, are banned from singing Christmas carols, the mayor of another New Jersey town has finally had enough.  He‘ll be joining us next to talk about the sing-in he staged tonight. 


STEVE LONEGAN ®, MAYOR OF BOGOTA:  The rules set forth by this board of education here in Maplewood and South Orange oppose all of those values that have made this nation great.         



BUCHANAN:  Christians from the Rockies to the New Jersey suburbs rise up in defense of Christmas.  We‘ll talk about it in a minute. 

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.  Pat Buchanan here, sitting in for Joe. 

The mayor of Bogota, New Jersey, has had enough after learning that the school district in nearby Maplewood had banned the singing and even playing of “Silent Night” or any other Christmas music. 

Mayor Steve Lonegan decided to confront the Grinches.  Earlier today, Lonegan, who is running for governor of New Jersey, held a sing-along in front of Columbia High School in Maplewood and invited parents and students to join him in putting Christ back into Christmas. 

We‘re joined now by Mayor Steve Lonegan of Bogota.  Also with us, Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston, as well as former ambassador to the Vatican, and Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists. 

Mr. Mayor, how did it go tonight with the Christmas caroling? 

LONEGAN:  Well, it was a terrific success, Pat.  We had over 100 people there.  But what was most important is, there was an awful lot of young people from the high school itself who were standing up for their rights and asking to be heard and to be allowed to express their faith during this Christmas season. 

BUCHANAN:  Now, you did the Christmas caroling outside the school, was it? 

LONEGAN:  Yes, we did, on Parker Avenue in front of Columbia High School at 5:00 this evening.  And it was a peaceful expression of goodwill towards men and faith and really a call for open-mindedness and an end to the intolerance that‘s being expressed through the school system bureaucracy. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, well, let me go to Ray Flynn, who‘s the former ambassador to the Vatican. 

Ray Flynn, how do you explain what seems to be sort of an almost sporadic outbreak nationwide of tremendous hostility to Christ or Christmas carols or any representation of Christ and Christmas this year?  It‘s all over the news.  We pick up the papers every day.  What is behind this? 

RAY FLYNN, FORMER MAYOR OF BOSTON:  Pat, they‘re a cultural backlash taking place in the United States.

It‘s coming basically from the silent majority, people that are good, hard-working, decent, patriotic, family-oriented people that we generally don‘t see on MSNBC or any of the major television networks or quoted in “The New York Times” or “The Boston Globe.”  But, believe me, they‘re out there.  They‘ve been out there. 

And, finally, enough is enough.  They‘ve decided that now is the time when they have to really take a—well, they voted, as they certainly did in November, speak out, be focused on some of these issues that are affecting not only the quality of life of our nation, but their children and their family. 

And that‘s the reason why you‘re seeing this cultural backlash.  And people are getting involved, like the mayor did tonight in New Jersey.  And I see this only a microcosm of what is going to happen all across the United States.  People are standing up, speaking out and voting. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  

All right, Ellen Johnson, let me ask you this.  I know you‘re an atheist and it‘s winter solstice and you don‘t like the Christmas carols in school.  But they‘re no doubt about it.  Preventing the playing, even with instruments, of “Silent Night,” to most folks it says, what is going on?  No religious song sounds like discrimination against one kind of music, religious music.  And all over the country this is creating a backlash.  People are standing up and fighting back.  Why the continued provocations on a time which everybody knows has been a traditional Christian time of joy and holiday? 

ELLEN JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ATHEISTS:  Well, it‘s not just certain music that‘s not—you know, that‘s being prohibited. 

There are children in our schools who are being told to sing hymns of praise to Jesus.  There is all kinds of praying going on in the school. 

LONEGAN:  That is nonsense. 

JOHNSON:  It is not nonsense.  You should be in my shoes and read the mail that I get constantly.


LONEGAN:  No, no one in a school system is being forced to sing anything they don‘t want to sing.


BUCHANAN:  Go ahead, Ellen.

JOHNSON:  Thank you, Pat. 

Just because people are not attending churches in any significant numbers and the Catholic Church is having its problem with its sex abuse crimes against our citizens doesn‘t mean that you should use the public schools or public property to promote your holiday. 

It‘s just amazing to me that here I am once again on television talking to a group of white, religious heterosexual men who are complaining because they‘re being asked to include other people this time of year.


BUCHANAN:  You are white.  Are you heterosexual?  What has that got to do with the price of eggs? 


BUCHANAN:  Well, look, let me go to Mayor Lonegan. 

LONEGAN:  First of all...

BUCHANAN:  Mayor Lonegan, go ahead.


BUCHANAN:  This idea that people are being forced to sing songs they don‘t want to sing is something I just don‘t believe. 

JOHNSON:  In a course.

LONEGAN:  Nobody forced any of those multicultural children who came tonight, and many of them were African-American, and different faiths.  We had Jews, Christians, Protestants.  Everyone joined together tonight.  So, this is an issue of freedom, and we have this small group of narrow-minded atheists trying to force their beliefs or their lack of beliefs on all of us. 

Nobody in this country is forced to sing a hymn they don‘t want to sing in any school system in the United States.  I would challenge that every day.


JOHNSON:  If you want to be in the chorus during this time of year, you have to sing hymns of praise to Jesus in many, many, many school districts.  And the school‘s administrations don‘t care if you don‘t like it. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me bring in Ray Flynn. 

Ray Flynn, it does look to me as though—first, look, you and I were raised Irish Catholic.  This is a time of joy and delight and pleasure.  Christmas is a wonderful time.  But I will say this.  There‘s an awful lot of Christians, Catholics, Protestants, others, evangelicals, who are really standing up on their hind legs as though, look, we‘ve had enough.  We‘ve been pushed far enough.  You‘ve been in our face too long.

And the majority seems to be standing up for its own rights for the first time in a long time. 

FLYNN:  You‘re absolutely right, Pat.  That‘s what‘s taking place. 

You know, when I was mayor of Boston, we used to have—one of the most significant events in Boston was the lighting of the menorah on the Boston Common, the oldest park in America, public park in America.  It was well-attended.  We had the Christmas nativity scene.  We had Hanukkah.  We had Kwanzaa.  We had—various religious were able to participate in whatever way that they saw appropriate. 

You know, we didn‘t have one single protest.  And what has happened over the years, Pat, the media, particularly the national media, has given so much national attention to these fringe.  They probably represent about 1 percent of the entire American culture and opinion.  But yet, they probably get about 50 percent, 60 percent of the media exposure.


FLYNN:  And that‘s what it is. 

We‘re seeing—I have not met one person like this lady that is on this program walking down the street of Broadway in South Boston.  And I‘ve been in politics for 40 years.  I have not met anybody like her.  And I‘ve met an awful lot of people like...


JOHNSON:  Thirty million Americans do not belong to any church. 

That‘s a significant number. 

BUCHANAN:  I know, Ellen, but I‘ve got a question for you. 



BUCHANAN:  Look, 95 percent of Americans—I think Christians are only somewhere around 75 percent to 80 percent.  But 95 percent celebrate Christmas in some way.  They may just go to the store and get the gifts for some friends or go to dinner.  Leave it alone.  Why don‘t you leave the majority alone?

JOHNSON:  No, leave it out of the public arena, Pat.  That‘s all I‘m asking.


JOHNSON:  Why don‘t you use your churches and your homes for your holiday—your religious celebrations?


JOHNSON:  It‘s quite a statement of the fact that people are not attending church if you have to go somewhere else with it. 

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead, Mayor.

LONEGAN:  The vast majority of Americans, virtually all Americans, believe in a single creator, and they believe that we are endowed by that creator with certain inalienable rights. 

Clearly, Ms. Johnson and her followers don‘t believe in that creator or the rights that we‘re endowed with.  Tonight‘s efforts was to protect fundamental rights freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom to have open minds and open hearts. 

JOHNSON:  This is not about freedom of speech.  It‘s about the First Amendment. 


JOHNSON:  Don‘t talk about being under siege.  You know, since I‘ve been a child...


BUCHANAN:  Let me ask you.  Look, it‘s winter solstice for you today.


BUCHANAN:  I know it‘s a very, very big day. 

LONEGAN:  That‘s the Druids.


BUCHANAN:  Look, in the schools, they‘re not asking to impose some kind of religion on someone. 


BUCHANAN:  They‘re asking to sing Christmas carols at Christmastime, which seems to be less an attempt to create a state religion than it is the free expression of their beliefs. 

You seem to want to make every school, every public park, every place religion-free.  It‘s the one form of expression that is not tolerated.  It seems to me that‘s the essence of bigotry. 

LONEGAN:  And that in itself is a series of beliefs that I don‘t accept and most Americans don‘t accept that. 


JOHNSON:  Well, you should be upholding the Constitution, especially if you‘re running for governor.  Oh, my goodness, imagine having you being our governor.  But the one thing that...

LONEGAN:  That‘s right, because I do believe in God, and I‘m proud of that. 


JOHNSON:  Well, the thing that the three of you cannot understand is what it‘s like.  I‘m a female.  I‘m an atheist.  You don‘t know what it‘s like to be in the minority position.

LONEGAN:  No, I feel sorry for you, ma‘am. 

JOHNSON:  Would you—just one second. 

Since I was a child in society, we have had Christmas, you know, shoved down our throat everywhere. 

BUCHANAN:  That must be painful. 

JOHNSON:  It‘s—oh, come on, Pat.  You cannot understand. 


BUCHANAN:  Come on, Ellen.  Don‘t be ridiculous.  What is the matter...

JOHNSON:  You‘re an upper-class, heterosexual, religious man.


BUCHANAN:  What does my being white got to do with it or my sexual orientation? 

JOHNSON:  Come on. 

You know, to ask you all to identify with the minority is really going too far, isn‘t it? 

LONEGAN:  There are an awful lot of gay people who believe in God.


JOHNSON:  To make children in our public schools feel like they‘re not excluded.  To celebrate, to say happy holidays, let‘s talk about the winter season would include everybody.  Let‘s do that. 

LONEGAN:  No, it doesn‘t.  It excludes everybody.

JOHNSON:  Let‘s include everybody.  That‘s a good thing. 

BUCHANAN:  We‘ve got to take a break now.  Mayor Lonegan, Ray Flynn, Ellen Johnson, thank you all for being here. 


BUCHANAN:  Up next, we drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, took down Saddam in Iraq.  But Iran is the one that‘s contemplating nukes.  What should George Bush do about it? 

That debate next. 



BUSH:  And it‘s much different between the situation in Iraq and Iran because of this.  Diplomacy had failed for 13 years in Iraq.  And so diplomacy must be the first choice and always the first choice of an administration trying to solve an issue of, in this case, nuclear armament.   


BUCHANAN:  Welcome back. 

With the election in Iraq a month away, even President Bush admits the terrorists are having an effect.  But is Iran helping to create the chaos?  Is Iran, despite its pledges, secretly working on an atom bomb?  And what should be done about Iran?  Is it time for diplomacy to end and military action to begin? 

Here to discuss dealing with Iran are Republican strategist Jack Burkman and MSNBC analyst Raghida Dergham, a senior diplomatic correspondent for “Al-Hayat,” the leading international Arab newspaper. 

Raghida, let me begin with you.  Is there anyone in the Middle East who believes any kind of U.S. military action on Iran is imminent or to be expected in the near future? 

RAGHIDA DERGHAM, NBC FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST:  In the near future, I‘m not so sure.  But they feel that it‘s on the radar. 

They feel that it‘s—that the administration in Washington are having in mind to bomb Iran.  And they think this is part of the neocons‘ plans to begin with, start with Iraq and then go to other regions, including Iran, Syria and probably Saudi Arabia, each in a different way. 

On the other hand, Pat, they are also worried about some sort of courting, as they see it, between some in the administration and Iran, in the sense that is called now the Shiite crescent, as referred to by the king of Jordan, King Abdullah.  So it‘s contradictory signs, contradictory readings, but I think it‘s also because of the policy on Iran in Washington is really not clear yet. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think you‘re right.  I think the neo—there‘s no doubt what the neoconservatives would like, but I don‘t see the president moving in that direction. 




BUCHANAN:  OK.  Go ahead, Jack. 

BURKMAN:  This is the first time in about—first off, merry Christmas, a la your segment.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

BURKMAN:  But this is the first time in about 12 shows you and I will disagree. 

The United States has an historic opportunity to reshape the Mideast.  Bush was elected on a foreign policy mandate.  This won‘t come for 10, 20, maybe 30 years, maybe more.  We have—Iraq is moving forward.  We have to do the same thing in Iran.  The Iranians are thumbing their nose at the United States.

BUCHANAN:  Do what?  Do what in Iran?


BURKMAN:  Well, there is an opportunity.

If the Iranians don‘t come to the table soon on the nuclear issue, the United States has no choice but to issue a final warning and then to be prepared to use military force.  We cannot allow a barbarian—we cannot allow a barbarian state to become a nuclear state in the heart of the Middle East. 


BUCHANAN:  Hold it, Jack.  All right, hold it.

Go ahead, Raghida. 

DERGHAM:  Listen, he‘s speaking as if we‘re doing great in Iraq, as if things are going so beautifully.  The fact of the matter, we‘re not doing that well in Iraq and we cannot afford to do Iran. 

What they‘re talking about in the circles of Mr. Burkman is having Israel strike the nuclear facilities in Iran. 


BURKMAN:  No, that‘s not.  I‘m talking about the United States, Raghida.  You‘re putting words into my mouth.  The issue is...


DERGHAM:  Well, I‘m glad that you‘re not thinking that.  But let me just address the nuclear issue.    

BURKMAN:  The issue is not what we can afford.


BUCHANAN:  Hold it, Jack.

DERGHAM:  Let me finish.

BUCHANAN:  Jack, let her finish. 

DERGHAM:  Please, let me finish.

I think the president spoke of diplomacy, and I think he is absolutely right to do so.  Right now, not only the Europeans, the International Atomic Agency, they‘re trying to pressure Iran.  And they should go on pressuring Iran.  To go ahead with an adventure, a military one, in Iran right now, I think it would be...


BUCHANAN:  Jack, let me ask you a question.


BUCHANAN:  OK.  Let me ask you a question, Jack.

Look, we‘ve got our hands tied in Iraq now.  We don‘t really have enough troops there, a lot of people feel.  If you mount airstrikes on Iran, you could no doubt set back their nuclear program for a period of time.  But you would also get Iranian volunteers in Iraq stirring up the Shia against us, terrorist attacks against our facilities, all the way down the Persian Gulf and all over the Middle East.  How in—even the president seems to realize that this is really not an option now, that the best you could do would be set their program down a couple of years. 

BUCHANAN:  But, Pat, you don‘t realize.  You raise all the right points.

But you have to understand, the Iranians are already doing this secretly.  The fact that we‘ve allied with the Shia, you would think that would please them, but it doesn‘t.  Instead, they‘re trying to capitalize on what they correctly perceived as an overextended America.  We can‘t allow that.

This is going to drift into a Vietnam situation.  There, we couldn‘t -

·         there, we couldn‘t no north.  Now we can‘t go east. 


BUCHANAN:  You‘ve got a country of 70 million people.  You‘ve got 70 million people.  We don‘t have enough Army to handle right now an insurgency in the... 


BUCHANAN:  ... of that country.

BURKMAN:  The reality is, we‘re probably going to have to draft, because incentives won‘t bring it up.  We‘re heading for a draft in this country.  The choice for the United States is this.  Do we have the guts as a people to lead the world?  World leadership is not easy. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me—go ahead, Raghida.

DERGHAM:  I just want to say, this reshaping of the Middle East, a la the style that is being recommended, I think it is neither good for the Middle East, nor good for the United States‘ interests in the Middle East.

The fact of the matter, there is a lot of democratization that is needed in the Middle East.  There is lots of change that is needed, but not through bombing here and bombing there. 

BURKMAN:  But, Raghida, only the United States is bringing democracy. 

I can‘t believe you‘re saying this.


BURKMAN:  We can‘t go around—never mind bringing it through killing these people.  Let‘s bring it their way as well. 


DERGHAM:  It is not about the Americans reshaping the Middle East. 

Let the Middle East shape itself as well.

BUCHANAN:  Exactly. 

Jack, we‘re liable to get an election in Iraq.  And they‘re going to turn up—they could turn up with a Shia-backed government, Shia-controlled government there, because the vast majority of the people want a government based on Islamic law, Shia law.


BURKMAN:  Pat, there are risks.  But what you have to understand...


DERGHAM:  Well, that‘s a big risk.  I‘m sorry.  Mullah rule is not a really good result for democracy.


BURKMAN:  What you must understand is that the only effort to bring democracy to the heart of the Arab world has been the American effort of the past two or three years. 

DERGHAM:  No, that is not true.        

BURKMAN:  There have been no other serious efforts.

BUCHANAN:  Jack, if you get—all right, suppose every Saudi voted today.  Do you know what they would vote for?  They‘d probably vote for Osama bin Laden to get the Americans out of the country and to throw the Israelis into the sea. 

BURKMAN:  You‘re right.

BUCHANAN:  What are we talking about us sending guys to die for that? 

BURKMAN:  Pat, you have to understand, we confront only Hobson‘s choices right now. 

You‘re right.  It‘s a dilemma here, a dilemma here, a dilemma there.  What we have to do is.  You have to issue a final ultimatum to the Iranians on the nuclear issue.  If they don‘t respond, we need heavy airstrikes.  Now, why won‘t Bush do that? 


DERGHAM:  You can‘t even go there.  Look at how tied up we are in Iraq.  How are you going to—it is not feasible.  It is not feasible to do Iran. 


BUCHANAN:  You start another war right in the middle of the gas station of the world. 

BURKMAN:  You don‘t have a choice, because you‘re going to have a nuclear state in Iran.

BUCHANAN:  We don‘t have a choice?  We have a choice not to. 


DERGHAM:  You think it‘s OK to just draft our kids and—just because you don‘t have a choice, because you don‘t want to think about it? 


BUCHANAN:  Just a second.  We‘ve got to take a break.  More of the debate when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.


BUCHANAN:  Are most American history books written by liberal and radical academics who slant history to the left?  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY has the answer tomorrow night when we talk to the author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.”

Don‘t miss it.


BUCHANAN:  Welcome back.  We have got some final thoughts now from Jack Burkman and Raghida Dergham. 

Jack, why don‘t you start for about 30 seconds?

And let me say before you do, looking at the facilities, they don‘t have them in Iran right now to produce the fissile material for a nuclear weapon.  They are very far away from it, so I don‘t think this decision is going to be forced on the president right soon.  You think, by the end of this coming year, we will be at war with Iraq—or Iran?  Excuse me.

BURKMAN:  I hope not, but I don‘t think we can take the risk of going down that road, Pat, because once that train starts, it will be harder and harder and harder to stop it. 

Look, Iran is a barbarian state.  It‘s run by barbarians with nothing but a medieval ideology.  Yes, maybe they have made some small progress.  And I throw out this question to both you and Raghida, who have the opposite view on this point.  Can we afford to live—can you envision a world that would be safe with a nuclearized Iran? 


BURKMAN:  And, surely, an Iran with nuclear weapons would be 1,000 times as dangerous to the civilized war as Osama bin Laden. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Raghida, we lived with a nuclear Stalin and a nuclear Mao.  Can we live with a nuclear Iran? 

DERGHAM:  Yes.  And we‘re living with a nuclear Israel, a nuclear Pakistan, a nuclear India, besides the other five nuclear powers.  So, we are right now in a situation that we cannot deal with nuclear the way we dealt with it in Iraq. 

Iran is a major country.  We cannot push it around this way.  There is a need for the international community to watch what Iran is doing, so that we do not deliver Iraq into the lap of Iran, as we are trying to somehow do the runaround. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

DERGHAM:  Anyway, there is a good project in the Middle East.  It has to be done without wars, a la Iraq.

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Jack, Raghida, as always, thanks for joining me. 

That‘s all the time we have for SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Chris Matthews is next. 

See you tomorrow night. 



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