Guest: William Donahue, Deroy Murdock, Max Lucado, Michael Rectenwald, Jack Burkman, Dave Pollak, Alan Dershowitz
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Come one, come all. The circus has rumbled into town, so let the sideshow begin.
In this corner, see the woman with the world‘s biggest broken heart, still in mourning over John Kerry‘s loss. Sad Senator Babs Boxer spent today protesting the president‘s win in Ohio, despite the fact that Bushman George carried the Buckeye State by 118,000 votes.
And in the other corner, the Michigan congressman who has trouble counting 50 turkeys. He is demanding greater accountability from election officials. In the words of “WKRP”‘s Les Nessman, the humanity of it all.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and no sideshows are allowed.
Stop the presses. The president‘s nominee for attorney general testifies that he opposes torture. But should he? Democrats grill Alberto Gonzales and his stance on torture as an interrogation tool. But would you want the law to beat a terrorist if it was the only way to find a nuclear bomb that was about to be detonated in your hometown?
And then, Michael Moore is back. Despite the whipping Democrats took from Bush, Moore still claims Americans side with Democrats on the issues, and he pitches Tom Hanks and Oprah for president.
And a Saudi professor blames sex-crazed tourists for bringing God‘s wrath down on South Asia. Meanwhile, oil-rich Arab countries turn their backs on suffering Muslim brothers and sisters. As Peggy Lee once asked in the song, who is stingy now?
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, welcome to the show.
Now, you can tell Congress is back in session because the laughs never stop coming. It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
It was about 10 years ago this week that I was sworn in as a member of Congress, and it was a great source of pride, more often than not. But from time to time, my former colleagues often embarrassed themselves and the institution I once served.
Today, United States Senator Barbara Boxer played the role of Vladimir Putin in the Ukraine by refusing to acknowledge the popular will of the people and accepting voting results that even the most hardened Democratic political pro accepted. What does Ms. Boxer and her fellow tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists suggest we do every time a candidate is beaten by over 100,000 votes? Challenge the process, stop the business of the Senate and the House, whatever that is, and grandstand for the most extreme 1 percent of all American Internet users?
Listen, no respectable politician or journalist has suggested that John Kerry had a chance in hell of winning a challenge in Ohio. The fact that a United States senator and a handful of congressmen would hold up congressional business for the benefit of Internet conspiracy nutbars says more about Boxer and friends than the freaks they are trying to appease.
And what can you say of John Conyers, a former fellow Judiciary member with whom I served and personally like? Now, here is a man who was given 50 turkeys over the holidays, so his office could distribute them to the poor and needy. Instead, Conyers and staff reportedly gave a handful of the basted birds to political cronies as flavorful favors. And they lost count of what happened to the rest of those turkeys.
Is this really the man to be criticizing the way Ohio election officials count five million votes? Of course not. But, then again, some congressmen and senators never let the facts get in the way of a good press conference. Pass the gravy, because this one is too rich even for my taste. And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
Now, here to talk about all the political maneuvering on Capitol Hill today is Howard Fineman of “Newsweek.”
Howard, thanks for being with us to talk about this momentous occasion.
I understand you were there. And I just got to ask you this, Howard. You can usually find a hotheaded congressman like myself to strap political dynamite on his chest and do something foolish like this, but you usually can‘t find senators to do this. Why would Barbara Boxer step forward and challenge the vote in Ohio?
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, I wanted to be there to be able to tell my grandchildren that I had seen it.
FINEMAN: You know, I have to say, even though there are questions about the way voting is conducted and it‘s always worth looking to make sure that it‘s done right, you know, this was a, I think, fundamentally in the end perhaps a little silly exercise by the Democrats, because they said all along, and even the most partisan of Democrats said, even John Kerry himself said repeatedly that George Bush won Ohio by 115,000, 120,000 votes.
Nobody disputed that, especially after the recount was had in the state. So, they weren‘t really saying that the electors did not deserve to be recognized by the Congress, which is actually what was going on today, a sort of formal exercise. And, you know, they lost the vote 74-1. Many of the senators were not around. They were on various trips abroad or it would have probably been 99-1. But they did it anyway.
And I think it‘s unusual. You are right. You make a good point about the Senate, which used to be a place where senators considered themselves on many occasions to be above partisanship, to be representing the country as a whole and not just their states, as the founders intended, but where today, if you look at the roll call sheets in the Senate, where they tally votes, Joe, they are color-coded now, red for Republicans, blue for Democrats.
And they started doing that in the last session. That to me is all too symbolic of the way the Senate now operates.
SCARBOROUGH: One final question for you, Howard. Let‘s talk about the other show that was going on, on Capitol Hill, a much more important story. And that is what is happening with Gonzales, a lot of Democrats attacking him, saying that, as the president‘s counsel, that he basically turned a blind eye to torture towards terrorists.
Do you think, in the end, there is any chance at all that Alberto Gonzales will not get confirmed by the United States Senate, or is this too a sideshow?
FINEMAN: Yes, well, there‘s very little chance that he won‘t be confirmed. I just was talking to a key staffer right in the wheelhouse of the Democratic Party up there just a few minutes ago who said to me, of course he is going to be confirmed. We think we have made progress by getting him on record for having supposedly changed the administration‘s torture policy.
That could be debated forever. But this all had a sort of shadowboxing quality to it. Ironically, I don‘t think the Democrats wanted to find out anything that would actually compromise Gonzales‘ chances, because they don‘t want to have to vote against the first Hispanic nominated for such an important position, either that, or they think they can roll this guy once he is in the Justice Department.
So the whole thing had a sort of phony quality about it, of pounding the table, having already decided that they are going to vote for this guy, or not vote at all and let the Republicans put him in place. Very strange day.
SCARBOROUGH: Very strange day, indeed, Howard Fineman. But, again, you were there to record it, not only for “Newsweek” readers, but also for your grandchildren. I know you felt history rushing through your veins. Thanks for being with us tonight.
FINEMAN: I was humbled. I was humbled.
SCARBOROUGH: And we are humbled to have you here. Thanks for being with us.
Now let‘s go to Alan Dershowitz. He‘s Harvard professor and the author of “Rights from Wrongs: The Origins of Human Rights in the Experience of Injustice.”
And thank you for being with us, Professor.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR, “RIGHTS FROM WRONGS”: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, one of the things that I found so interesting today was that, by the end of the hearings, I really had no more idea on what the state of the law is regarding terrorism and torture than I did at the beginning of the day.
DERSHOWITZ: You are absolutely right.
SCARBOROUGH: It is so muddled.
DERSHOWITZ: You are absolutely right. And it is deliberately muddled.
SCARBOROUGH: So what did we learn as Americans? Go ahead.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, nothing. We deliberately—what we deliberately do is muddle the situation.
Everybody is against torture, but then everybody has their own definition of torture. Torture is what they do to our people. What we do to their people, that is something short of torture. And nobody is prepared to sit down and say, precisely what are we prepared to do? If there were ticking-bomb terrorist who was about to set off a nuclear weapon, would we be prepared to put a sterilized needle underneath his fingernails for 30 minutes, cause him excruciating pain, so that he would reveal the information?
Would we be prepared to put him on a board and have his head dip in the water until he felt he was drowning, so that he would reveal the information? We are not prepared to debate what precisely we are permitted to do, who is prepared to authorize it. We just want to be satisfied, say, oh, torture, that‘s terrible. We are against torture. We are all against torture, even though we all know we would use it if it ever came down to crunch and it required torture to save hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Professor, I know you are not here to talk politics. Obviously, though, this is my feeling.
When Democrats get out and criticize someone who supports, let‘s say, water-boarding—and, of course, water-boarding is what the CIA agents did to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, where they made him think that he was going to drown.
SCARBOROUGH: I can tell you, that may offend a lot of people on the Upper West Side. It certainly would offend sensibilities of a lot of thinking Americans, but it seems to me most Americans would support that type of action if, like you said, they thought that there was a nuclear device in Lower Manhattan and this guy had the information.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, how do we bring these two sides together? How do we reconcile what Americans are willing to do to keep their country safe and what, let‘s say, judges are willing to allow under the Constitution that our founding fathers gave us?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think judges would be allowed, would allow extreme measures in extreme cases.
The problem is, because we have the hypocritical approach, in which we say, we are against it all, we are against it all, and then, with a wink and a nod, we send a message, do what you have to do in extreme cases, Abu Ghraib results, where we have no standards, no measures, no accountability.
What I am in favor of is some kind of accountability, whereby only the president of the United States or the chief justice or the secretary of defense, a very high-ranking official, would be able to say, look, this is a crisis. This is something that will happen maybe once a century. We have to suspend the Marquis of Queensbury rules and we have to do what we need to do to get the information.
But we‘ll never allow it to become routine. We are not prepared to do that. We prefer the way of the hypocrite, which says we will never allow it, but quietly we say, look, we all want it to happen if it‘s required to save lives. We need accountability. We need rules. We need regulation.
That‘s why I agree with what the designated attorney general said when he said that the Conventions are clearly anachronistic, the Geneva Convention, after 9/11.
DERSHOWITZ: We must relook at them. Now, whether we should look at them the way he wants to look at them or the way human rights groups want to look at them, but I think every thinking person would say that those conventions today benefit the terrorists, at the expense of innocent civilians.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Professor, obviously—and you understand this better than most because you have been studying this extensively since September 11, 2001, but listen to what you are saying. You are saying, we need a set of concrete rules.
SCARBOROUGH: We need guidelines that our leaders can follow, that our judges can follow that can hold people accountable.
SCARBOROUGH: I agree with you.
At the same time, you are saying that we as an American people, who respect individual rights and like to think of ourselves as that city shining brightly on the hill for all the world to see, don‘t want to put those rules down in writing.
DERSHOWITZ: That‘s right.
SCARBOROUGH: So, are we not doomed to this ambiguous approach to the enforcement of torture and terror for, God, the next 20, 30, 40 years?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, if we do that, we will have more Abu Ghraibs.
And the reason we won‘t have more is not that what was going on is unacceptable. It‘s the fact that photographs were taken, and they were forced—we were forced to see the degradation that was going on. And, by the way, the degradation that went on at Abu Ghraib happens in American prisons and British prisons and prisons all over the world. It‘s fairly routine, but what‘s not routine is seeing them in front of our eyes in photographs.
SCARBOROUGH: And what they did with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, obviously, al Qaeda‘s No. 2 guy, I would suggest much tougher, putting a man under water, making him think he is going to drown, more than, let‘s say, stripping people down and stacking them up in a pyramid.
DERSHOWITZ: No question about that.
And, by the way, the description of what we were doing to Shaikh Khalid Mohammed was in all the papers, in “The Wall Street Journal,” “The New York Times,” “Atlantic Monthly,” well before the photographs, but nobody cared because we didn‘t have a visual picture of it.
DERSHOWITZ: And not only that, but he was the No. 2 man.
So what I think we need to do is go back to the drawing board, redesign the rules and create limited exceptions in extraordinary cases under which only the president—it‘s really like shooting down the jet that‘s about to crash into the Empire State Building.
DERSHOWITZ: You don‘t want some lieutenant colonel to make that decision. You want to make the president of the United States accountable in case he is wrong. The same thing is true for torture.
SCARBOROUGH: Professor, we‘ve got to leave it there. Thank you so much for being with us.
DERSHOWITZ: My pleasure. Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: Looking forward to having you back again to talk about this in the coming weeks.
We‘ll be right back in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Up next, will Michael Moore ever get it? He is back with a fresh propaganda film, and we are going to break it down for you.
So, don‘t go away.
SCARBOROUGH: From the sound insight of Howard Fineman and Alan Dershowitz, we move to a SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown. When should torture be acceptable?
With me now to talk about it is Republican strategist Jack Burkman and Democratic strategist Dave Pollak.
Dave, I know you heard Professor Dershowitz, a progressive. He says, hey, in the post-9/11 world, torture is just a reality we are going to have to get used to. You agree with that, don‘t you?
DAVID POLLAK, PRESIDENT, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP FOR THE 21ST CENTURY:
I didn‘t hear him say that. I think I heard him say in the post-9/11 world, in certain very, very unusual cases, the president himself may need to authorize a very difficult decision to perhaps torture a subject where lives are at stake.
POLLAK: But that‘s not what is happening today. That‘s not what happened in Iraq. That‘s not what happened in Abu Ghraib.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you support—let‘s say, for instance, there is a nuclear device? And he was talking about the ticking bomb situation. There‘s a nuclear device in southern Manhattan. We have got somebody there that has information on it. Should the United States government be able to torture that detainee to find out where the nuclear device is?
POLLAK: Joe, before I answer that, let me preface my answer by saying, the question you are asking me is not what happened in Iraq, and it‘s not what we faced with the Gonzales writings and opinions on.
But the case you laid out, perhaps. But that‘s not the reality of modern torture today.
JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But, you know, Joe, it‘s interesting. We‘ve seen that question. I think you and I have asked that question to a lot of Democrats. Perhaps is just not an answer.
The president of the United States can‘t answer that question perhaps. When two generals come in and say there‘s a dirty bomb in New York City, a million people can die, perhaps is not an answer that saves a million lives.
POLLAK: But wait a second. Now you are playing word games, because perhaps is not the answer to that question.
BURKMAN: Is the answer yes or no?
POLLAK: The answer to that question is up to the president.
BURKMAN: Well, what is your answer? Joe asked you.
POLLAK: Well, if I got to be president and I could torture somebody to keep them from blowing up a million Americans, I suppose I would do it.
BURKMAN: Well, Joe, the issue, look, with the Geneva Conventions, we all they were never intended to prohibit torture under any circumstance.
The framers of the Geneva Convention could not contemplate a circumstance where there would be something like a dirty bomb or a smallpox epidemic or some type of terrible thing that could kill millions of people. But I would take it even further. Why does it have to be something so extreme, as Senator Specter laid out today? What if 10,000 or 5,000 lives? Do you mean to tell me the president of the United States should refrain from—not killing someone or even maiming someone.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, Jack Burkman, during today‘s hearings, Gonzales didn‘t back down at all when he was asked whether the Geneva Conventions applied to al Qaeda. And this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: The decision not to apply Geneva in our conflict with al Qaeda was absolutely the right decision for a variety of reasons.
First of all, it really would be a dishonor to the Geneva Convention. It would honor and reward bad conduct. It would actually make it more difficult, in my judgment, for our troops to win in our conflict against al Qaeda. It would limit our ability to solicit information from detainees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: David Pollak, the professor agrees also with Mr. Gonzales regarding that, that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to al Qaeda. What‘s your position?
POLLAK: I don‘t think the professor said that he agreed, nor do I believe Jack would agree that the Geneva Convention does not apply to detainees in Iraq.
BURKMAN: You are wrong. I do. Don‘t put words in my mouth. I do agree. The Geneva Convention were drafted for pre—they were drafted for the 1940s. They‘re very vague documents.
POLLAK: Jack, do you support the torture that happened in Abu Ghraib in Iraq?
BURKMAN: I do not support that.
POLLAK: Thank you.
BURKMAN: But that‘s a mistake and an error. That has nothing to do with what we are talking about.
POLLAK: But that was a result of Gonzales‘ writings, were those mistakes in error.
BURKMAN: It was not. You are attributing cause and effect where you can‘t attribute cause and effect.
Look, Joe, I think Gonzales did a good job today. I think the one thing he should have done, he should have stuck by his guns and said yes. He should have said clearly, yes, there are circumstances where torture is OK. We have a three and a half million vote conservative mandate. I don‘t think we should be coddling Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, and Pat Leahy. Those guys should be steamrolled.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jack Burkman, we will leave it there with those happy thoughts, the steamrolling of United States senators.
Jack Burkman and David Pollak, thank you so much for being with us, as always.
Now, earlier today, Michael Moore was on “The Today Show,” and he was pushing his new book and his usual bag of ideology.
Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER/AUTHOR: When we start running people that are beloved by the American public, we are going to win, because we already win on the issues, as I said earlier. The American people generally agree more with the Democratic platform than the Democratic platform.
KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST: What do you base that on, by the way?
MOORE: Any Gallup poll, CNN poll, “USA Today” poll.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m here with—yes, he‘s the gift that keeps on giving.
I am here with Lawrence Kudlow of CNBC‘s “Kudlow & Cramer” and Michael Rectenwald. He‘s the founder and chair of Citizens For Legitimate Government.
I have got to go to you, Lawrence, first.
Michael Moore pronounces that the American people agree with Democrats more than Republicans. And George Bush must have just won because he had the force of personality of Oprah. Let‘s talk facts. Do the American people support Democratic positions or Republican positions?
LAWRENCE KUDLOW, CO-HOST, “KUDLOW & CRAMER”: You know, I think, listen, if Michael Moore wants to go down that road, if the whole Democratic Party wants to go down that road and sink deeper and deeper into the electoral quagmire, so be it. Who am I to stop them.
But what he said is just utter nonsense. The Democrats are way out of the mainstream on the war against terrorism and the use of American force. They are way out of the mainstream on religious values and moral values, and they are also way out of the mainstream on tax cuts and class warfare and class envy.
All the gambits that Mr. Kerry tried to use failed on these things. You know what‘s interesting to me? Why is it that a leading Democrat doesn‘t pull a Sister Souljah and just blast, I mean frontally blast all of the nonsensical garbage that Michael Moore says? I don‘t know. I am waiting for that, because that‘s the Democrat that can lead the party out of the quagmire.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, I was waiting for that the entire election. I expected John Kerry to do it at some point. I expected Hillary Clinton to do it at some point. Instead, all they did was seem to embrace him.
I think Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for that, because I believe she is going to keep moving to the center. She is going to move to the center economically. She is going to move to the center as far as national security goes. I think there‘s a Democrat that needs to step forward and do that, because you are right. That‘s a Democrat that can lead the party.
Let me go to you, Mr. Rectenwald.
MICHAEL RECTENWALD, CITIZENS FOR LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT: Hey, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Moore says that the American people support the Democrats on key issues.
RECTENWALD: I agree.
SCARBOROUGH: And yet, when it comes to tax cuts, when it comes to the war on terror, when it comes to all these other issues, time and time again, the polls show that Americans support Republicans. What‘s this guy talking about?
RECTENWALD: Actually, Joe, that‘s not true. The polls show that the public does not support the tax cuts for the 1 percent. The public does not support the president‘s Social Security gambit. The public does not support the continuous minimum wage at $5.15, what have you. The public does not support the economic programs of the president.
And, furthermore, 56 percent of the public now suggests that the war was a mistake and that it wasn‘t worth it. So, I think Michael Moore is correct on that assessment.
SCARBOROUGH: We live in an age of terror. The key issue to most Americans is how a president handles the war on terror. And when it comes to that issue, before and after the election, Republicans outpolled Democrats by 16 percentage points.
Larry Kudlow, why is that so difficult for Democrats like Michael Moore to understand?
KUDLOW: It‘s hard to believe. I don‘t get it. I mean, anybody can read the polls. They are as clear as day on these key issues.
Even when Bush fell asleep during the debates and got crushed in the polling on who won the debate, he nonetheless had double-digit leads in all of the key content point in the debates. Listen, I will tell you a great story. Yesterday, I was in Albany, New York, of all places, Governor George Pataki‘s state of the state message. The Democratic side of that chamber, the only time in an hour they ever clapped was when Pataki proposed some nontoxic chemical to clean the buildings in Albany, which is junk science.
When they talked about tax cuts, they never clapped. When he talked about cutting the budget, they never clapped. I mean, the Democratic Party is just locked into this bizarre ideological anti-American position, and somebody can pull them out. They are not that far behind, as Peggy Noonan noted in the paper this morning, but I sure don‘t see it yet.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you, Larry Kudlow. Thank you, Mr.
Rectenwald. I appreciate both of you being here.
And I wrote this down, junk science. Don Imus, are you listening? Larry Kudlow just went after your wife. Larry, you just stuck your hand into a hornet‘s nest.
Well, anyway, the big question going around the Middle East right now is whether the Christmas tsunami was God‘s punishment for sex-crazed tourists in Asia. That‘s what they are saying. At least, that is what some Saudi clerics are claiming.
We are going to be back debating it when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: In the wake of the tsunami, the U.S. has been called stingy, but we have actually pledged three times what all the oil-soaked Arab countries have combined.
That‘s coming up next, but, first, the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, a few nights ago, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY was the first national media outlet to start asking questions about God and the relationship with the tsunami and how a loving God allowed something like this to happen. The next day, “The Washington Post” picked it up. “The L.A. Times” also started asking those same questions.
And now Middle East media outlets are also asking the same questions and wondering whether the sins of the people in that region were responsible for their horrific deaths.
With me now to talk about that and other issues is Max Lucado. He‘s the author of the best-selling book “Traveling Light.” We also have Deroy Murdock. He‘s a syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard service. We also have William Donahue of the Catholic League. And we‘ve got MSNBC contributor Raghida Dergham of “Al Hayat,” a Pan-Arab Arabic language newspaper.
Let me begin with you, Max Lucado.
And, Max, I know we have met. Since we are Baptists instead of Buddhists, I know it wasn‘t in a past life, but we met somewhere before.
MAX LUCADO, AUTHOR, “TRAVELING LIGHT”: We have. It‘s good to see you again.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, good to see you too.
I want to ask you what a lot of people have had a hard time answering this past week, including a lot of religious experts that we brought on to this program. How could a loving God allow 150,000 people to die in this horrendous way, when one-third of them were innocent children?
God‘s priority is not this world, but the next. He has never promised us that there would be no suffering in this life. In fact, he has promised that the suffering could be used to prepare us for and help us to make decisions about the life to come. The 150,000 deaths tragically remind us how frail our life is and how brief our time on Earth is.
The question is, can God be both good and strong? I believe he can. I believe he is a good God, and what he does always has a purpose. It has a reason. I believe he is strong. I don‘t believe he is capricious or careless. I don‘t understand his ways. Whoever does understand his ways claims a falsehood, because his ways are higher than ours, but I do believe that he will use this to glorify his name and to awaken people to the brevity of this life.
SCARBOROUGH: Max, what do you say to people like the college professor I had that said—basically said I was yahoo for believing in a God that would allow millions of innocent people to die in wars and earthquakes and holocausts and tsunamis? What do you say to those people out there right now that say this guy is basically saying that God, a loving God, allowed this to happen, and if he were a powerful God, well, he just chose not to stop it?
SCARBOROUGH: God could have stopped this if he wanted to, right?
This is the same God that you and I worship that parted the Red Sea.
The answer to that comes on so many different levels, Joe. First of all, I would urge humility. Who are we to tell God how to run this world? We don‘t do very good ourselves. We abort several -- 10 or 15 times that many people every single year, talking about the death of babies. Who are we to question God‘s will?
But I think we have to go back and remember that the priority of God has never been earthly comfort. The priority of God has always been eternal salvation. And throughout scripture, he does whatever it takes. He brings burdens or he brings blessings to awaken us. Now, we all raise our hand and say, hey, I will take some of those blessings, but when God allows burdens to come into the world to remind us of the frailty of the human condition, to alert us, to wake us up to who he is and how strong he is, we typically back away and say, hey, you can‘t do that.
But God can do anything he wants, chiefly because, from the Christian perspective, he himself became flesh and received on himself the ultimate of human suffering, not just the physical suffering of Jesus on the cross, but he received our sin on him and, consequently, was separated from God, rose from the dead and proved that he is the son of God. And so he has the right to do whatever he wants to. He is the maker. He is the monarch. He is the king.
And I believe that he is a good God, and he is going to use this to his glory and his purpose.
SCARBOROUGH: Raghida, we have heard the Christian perspective over the past week. We have heard the perspective of rabbis. Today, we are starting to slowly, but surely get reaction from Middle East clerics.
And the Middle East Media Research Institute follows and translates Arab television, and they found and reported that the head of the Islamic relief organization in Mecca said this—quote—“This disaster is a warning from Allah to all those who went to those places and their sinning peers to serve as a lesson and a warning for them.”
Is there a belief, from what you have gathered, from listening to—talking to people in your news operation and across the Middle East that Muslims believe that this disaster, like this cleric, was the result of sin?
RAGHIDA DERGHAM, NBC FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Not at all.
This cleric represents his point of view. It‘s a very small minority. Actually, we heard the same thing after 9/11 from the religious right here, and then they had to retract it, because it was a very bigoted comment. So is this one.
The majority of Muslims feel that this is the will of God. The expression is that you cannot challenge the will of God. Of course, at any level, any of us parents, when our children, God forbid, would slip out of our hands, then, at moments, probably will have a moment of anger with God, to say, why? Why didn‘t you take me instead?
I think this is a very religious society in Indonesia and throughout, and I fear that their anger with God is only probably why they lived and outlived their loved ones.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me read another quote, this from the Middle East Media Research Institute also.
They translated an adviser to a Saudi justice minister. And he said this: “Whoever reads the Koran given by the maker of the world can see how these nations were destroyed. There is one reason. They lied. They sinned and they were infidels.”
DERGHAM: I don‘t know—you know what? But today—today also—today also, Al-Jazeera, for example, and other networks, what they did is that they hosted several leading religious leaders, clerics, both Christian and Muslims. And they hosted them in order to call on the people, to exhort the people to contribute for the victims of the tsunami.
So, you would have—whatever this service you are talking about, they might have picked up one comment or another here and there, and these people should be condemned for saying that, but the majority actually are very touched with what happened . And they feel that they are coming a bit late at helping, which they have they should raised—risen and helped much more at the beginning.
But at least now we have them call on the people to contribute. And maybe this should be an institutionalized charity, rather than only every now and then, so that there would be aid for victims in Somalia and Sudan. There‘s a difference between only an emergency relief and then the need, the desperate need for contributions worldwide.
SCARBOROUGH: Bill Donahue—let me bring in Bill Donahue.
Bill Donahue, you are the head of the Catholic League. What is the Catholic Church‘s take? I know, in the Middle Ages, disasters were often blamed on people straying from God‘s will. Is that the position of the church? Does the pope believe these people died because they were sinful people?
WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, Christianity, and particularly Roman Catholicism, is an inherently optimistic religion.
Just think about the symbolism of the cross. What does the cross mean? It means suffering, but it also means redemption. It means death, but it also means life. It means darkness, but it also means light. The fact of the matter is that what—we can‘t figure out exactly as mortal human beings what is exactly at work. Job certainly didn‘t understand it in the New Testament. Talk about Murphy‘s Law. Everything that could have gone wrong for that guy went wrong.
But what did it do to his faith? He kept his faith in God. There are strange things that happen. But we do one thing, that Catholicism in particular is a theology of suffering, as Cardinal O‘Connor once said. Cardinal O‘Connor once stunned the Jewish community by saying that the great gift of Judaism was the Holocaust. He didn‘t mean that to insult Jews.
What he was saying was this. There is no greater suffering than what Christ did. He died on the cross, but that‘s a source of optimism. That‘s a source of redemption. So, I think we have to look at this in a positive sense. In one strange sense, then, what‘s happening to these poor Asian people is their gift to the world. It makes us think about our mortality and about salvation and about redemption. That‘s what we should be thinking about.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Bill, we need to take a quick break.
But we are going to have more of this debate on the panel. And we are also going to be debating whether Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East are contributing their fair share to take care of the suffering people in South Asia.
That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, a U.N. official caused quite a stir when he accused the United States of America of being stingy with its foreign aid. But how are the oil-soaked billionaires of the Middle East helping out in the tsunami relief effort?
I want to go back to my panel.
I want to start with Deroy Murdock.
Deroy, you wrote a column earlier today saying that, actually, those in the Middle East aren‘t doing their fair share. Explain.
DEROY MURDOCK, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the Middle Eastern countries, Middle East, North Africa, most of which are members of OPEC and are producing oil and making a lot of money now that oil is up at $42 a barrel or so, have been very, very stingy, to use that word, about contributing to the relief effort in South Asia.
You have the most populous Muslim country in Indonesia. You‘ve got Sumatra, which is a very devoutly Muslim province, which was almost vacuumed off the face of the Earth. And yet the amount of money that has come out of Saudi Arabia, for example, was just $10 million early on. They upped it to 30. You go across seven other countries in the Middle East, it adds up to a total $91 million, which is probably about four or five hours worth of oil production.
SCARBOROUGH: Why is that? What is their justification for that?
MURDOCK: I think part of it is just attitude which is not very charitable, unfortunately. I think, as you pointed out, there have been a number of clerics who have explained that they see this as basically Allah‘s justice for the misbehavior of the infidels.
There have been a number of comments like that, even though Sumatra, as I say, is a very, very devoutly Muslim area. I wonder if in fact Allah were upset at us, why Las Vegas wasn‘t flattened or why the red light district of Bangkok is still standing, whereas a place like Phuket, which actually has a Muslim minority, was so badly hurt.
SCARBOROUGH: So, in your column, you are actually saying that the reason why some of these Middle Eastern countries aren‘t helping their Muslim brothers and sisters may be because they do believe that this is God‘s vengeance exacted against them?
MURDOCK: I think that may be a part of it. I think another, there have been a number of—Jihad Watch, for example, took a look at this issue—a number of readings from Islamic religious texts that suggest that charity only should be given to help Muslims.
And there have been statements in fact by some Kuwaiti charities that they only wanted to give money that would go directly to Muslims, and the fear was that some of the money would go to non-Muslim victims of the tsunami. And that may in fact have kept some of the checkbooks more closed than they should have been.
DERGHAM: Joe, may I?
DERGHAM: Yes, please, thank you.
First of all, this is—to write a column here in New York is fine, but you should see the many Arab columnists that have written, criticizing the shortcomings of Arab contributions for this terrible, terrible tragedy. So, we didn‘t have an Arab columnist to wait until an American columnist told us what to do. We all wrote criticizing what has happened.
And that‘s why, one of the reasons why Saudis and others realized that contributions were so little. Therefore, they multiplied it and they should do more. Still, this is not enough. And there‘s a drive right now going on, on a national level.
But to say this is because they decided Allah is getting angry with the infidels, this is nonsense. Truly, it‘s nonsense. It‘s irresponsible, particularly at a time when there‘s telethons and people are praying and they‘re gathering money and they‘re feeling guilty that they did not give enough from the very beginning. They should feel guilty and they should do more. But the other argument is total nonsense.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second.
I want to look at some of the numbers here that Raghida and, Deroy, you are talking about. The European Union, Australia, Japan and the United States together pledged nearly $3 billion for the tsunami relief effort.
But the Muslim nations of the world have responded this way so far, Saudi Arabia, $30 million, Qatar $25 million, the United Arab Emirates $20 million, Kuwait $10 million, Bahrain $2 million.
I suspect, as Raghida has said, those numbers will go up.
Max Lucado, I want to bring you back in here. I find it very interesting that—I read a column by a “New York Times” that has not always been charitable towards Christians, but he said that Christians over the past 10 years have become the new internationalists and have started worrying about sex trafficking and poverty and other issues.
And he wrote this actually before the tsunami hit. It was Kristol (sic) in “The New York Times.” What is your response to that? Why is that happening?
LUCADO: No one is more highly motivated to be benevolent than a Christian, because a Christian, at the core of our faith, we believe that everything we have received is a gift. Consequently, we have been given everything. We should be willing to give everything.
In contrast with other world religions, where your salvation is dependent upon your works or your service or your performance, the Christian faith at its core teaches that you are saved by what Christ has done for us. Consequently, I would hope that the Christian populace would be driven to be more benevolent, because we have been given so much. And what can we do but give.
LUCADO: Jesus even said that when we reach out to help those, we are actually reaching out and helping him. So there‘s a spiritual element there that we honor and respect.
SCARBOROUGH: And that was Nic Kristof. Actually, I said—not Bill Kristol. Nic Kristof wrote that before.
Bill Donahue, I‘ll give you the last word.
DONAHUE: Well, I think Americans are perplexed by this, because, quite frankly, we have become a nation of brats.
We want the quick fix. We think that somehow pain and suffering is anathema, that it‘s a form of injustice. So we have a society of do-gooders, of feel-good people. We have all these kids who feel that their self-esteem is so high, even though most of them are illiterate. But we are supposed to feel good.
So, as soon as pain and suffering comes about, we feel cheated. Well, it‘s about time we stopped acting like a nation of brats, got back to our roots, and understand that, through suffering, comes redemption. If you understand what Christ taught us about and what the meaning of the cross is, people can get over it. And I wish they would.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thank you so much.
Max Lucado, Deroy Murdock, William Donahue and Raghida Dergham, we greatly appreciate you being with us tonight, talking about this extraordinarily complex, but important subject.
We‘ll be right back in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in just a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: Tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we are going to talk about why HBO is premiering a new film that some are saying glorifies 20 hijackers of 9/11. That‘s tomorrow night.
But we got more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: And now for some facts we thought you might want to know.
If Alberto Gonzales is confirmed by the Senate, he is going to become the 81st United States attorney general and the first Hispanic. The office was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789, and George Washington appointed Edmund Randolph to be the nation‘s first top cop.
Now, at the time, the attorney general was not a Cabinet position, but that all changed in 1870, when the nation‘s top lawyer was also made the head of the Justice Department. And one of the original duties of the attorney general was to represent the United States in all cases before the Supreme Court, but now that job is usually taken up by the solicitor general.
Janet Reno became the country‘s first female attorney general when she was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Today, the attorney general is said to be the head of the world‘s largest law office, just some facts we thought you would want to know.
Hey, listen, we really appreciate you being with us tonight in
Chris Matthews is coming up next. And make sure you watch Imus tomorrow morning, as he takes apart Lawrence Kudlow piece by piece.
We‘ll see you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
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