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'MSNBC reports: a question of faith' for Jan. 17

Guest: Robert Reich, Flynt Leverett, Mark Palmer, Richard Land, Barry Lynn

ANNOUNCER:  MSNBC REPORTS: a question of faith.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  May God continue to bless the United States of America.


ANNOUNCER:  It‘s a highly charged legal, political and emotional issue, and it may take center stage at George W. Bush‘s inauguration.


BUSH:  We are guided by a power larger than ourselves, who creates us equal in his image.


ANNOUNCER:  Have conservative Republicans crossed the line between church and state?



That‘s always wrong in America.


ANNOUNCER:  Then: As the war in Iraq rages on, is the Bush administration lining up a new target?  Tonight, why Iran is next on the Pentagon‘s hit list.


SEYMOUR HERSH, “THE NEW YORKER”:  I‘ve been told by people whose information has been totally reliable in the past, yes.


ANNOUNCER:  Plus, saving Social Security.


BUSH:  I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust.


ANNOUNCER:  A real crisis, or a scare tactic designed to push forward privatization plans?  Tonight, the truth about the status of the Social Security system.


SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  The Democrats are not going to let this administration dissemble it.


ANNOUNCER:  Now, live from Washington, Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN, HOST:  Good evening, and welcome to MSNBC REPORTS.  Up first: We‘re three days away from President Bush‘s second inaugural, and it looks like religion could play a big part in it.  But does Jesus Christ really belong at the president‘s inaugural?

Joining me now are Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who is an adviser to President Bush.  Welcome, both of you gentlemen.

Barry, let me go to you first.


All right.

BUCHANAN:  Welcome, old friend.

LYNN:  Thank you, it‘s nice to be back.

BUCHANAN:  It‘s been a long time.

LYNN:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Barry, back at the 2001 inaugural, Franklin Graham, the son of Dr. Graham, Dr. Billy Graham, gave the invocation at that inaugural.  I‘m sure you‘re aware of it.  And he ended with these words, quote, “Now, oh lord, we dedicate this presidential inaugural ceremony to you, you alone, as our lord, our savior and our redeemer.  We pray this in the name of the father and of the son, the lord Jesus Christ, and of the holy spirit, Amen.”

That‘s Franklin Graham, January 20, 2001.  Do you have a problem with that statement at a presidential inaugural, Barry Lynn?

LYNN:  I do have a problem with that.  And I think that we‘re heading this year to an inauguration that has all the wealth of a coronation and all the religion of an ordination, and in fact, it shouldn‘t be steeped in religion, particularly in one religious faith, because this is supposed to be starting the second term of the Bush administration, a time when the president ought to be acknowledging the diversity of America, including the fact that we‘ve got 2,000 different religions in this country, as well as 20 million non-believers.

BUCHANAN:  All right, but Barry...

LYNN:  Let‘s respect it.

BUCHANAN:  Let me follow up...

LYNN:  Let‘s not try to make this a Christian event.

BUCHANAN:  Look. 80 percent of the American people are Christian.  There have always been invocations at inaugurals.  In inaugural speeches, there is always a mention of the deity.  What is wrong with the president of the United States having someone give the invocation from his own faith?

LYNN:  Look, if this is one prayer, you‘re right.  This is what has been done in most, but not all, inaugural ceremonies.  But we have two Christian ministers already scheduled for this inaugural event.  We have a military band that‘s going to be playing hymns.  We‘ve got a gospel singer.  We‘ve got two singers who will be singing religiously themed songs, one written, I believe, by John Ashcroft, the other by Orrin Hatch.  So this is really drenched in the Christian faith...

BUCHANAN:  Barry Lynn...

LYNN:  ... in a way that makes some people...

BUCHANAN:  Don‘t you get...

LYNN:  ... feel like second-class citizens.  That‘s what‘s the problem.

BUCHANAN:  But don‘t you—look, Barry, don‘t you get to choose the hymns, choose who gives the invocation when you win the election?

LYNN:  Well, this is not an election, though, that was fought about whose religion is more powerful than somebody else‘s religion.  That‘s not the basis for people‘s campaigns, although, I must say, George Bush certainly played to the so-called religious right.  This was not fundamentally and is not fundamentally an event that‘s supposed to be religious.  That‘s why he goes to church.

You know, I went to church with Bill Clinton the first time he was inaugurated, but he went to church before the inaugural ceremonies.  He went in a private ceremony.  And I think that that‘s the most appropriate way to mix personal faith with the political event of the inaugural day.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Dr. Richard Land, you‘ve just heard Barry Lynn.  And I want to quote you something from Alan Dershowitz after Dr. Franklin Graham‘s remark.  He said, “Inaugurations are not the appropriate setting for theological proclamations of who is and who is not the true messiah.”

What‘s your take on that?


Well, I think that when people pray, they ought to pray according to their faith tradition.  If a rabbi prays, he should pray as a rabbi prays.  If a Catholic priest prays, he ought to pray as a Catholic priest prays.  If an evangelical minister prays, he ought to pray in the way he normally prays.  That‘s real diversity, instead of a sort of a dumbed-down civil religion.

And look, I don‘t think anybody in America has any question about what kind of president President Bush is going to be.  He expresses his faith.  He expresses the kind of faith it is.  And if John Kerry had been elected in November, we would have had prayers.  They would have been probably offered by different people.

The American people have a right to make a choice about who they want to be president, and the president has a right to express his religious faith and have others express religious faiths for them.  And President Bush has actually, contrary to the liberal media‘s assumptions, has been far more restrained in his use...

BUCHANAN:  All right...

LAND:  ... of God talk than Bill Clinton.

BUCHANAN:  All right, we‘re going bring up some of Bill Clinton‘s comments.  But let me ask you, Dr. Land, is it not exclusionary if all you have is basically an evangelical Christian?  Why not have a rabbi or a Catholic priest or something like that?  I believe there was more than one invocation at the last inaugural.  Do you think it‘s being exclusive of that 20 percent of the country which is not Christian?

LAND:  I don‘t think it‘s being exclusive.  If it were me doing it, if I were the one doing it, I would probably have people of different faiths.  But this president has held ceremonies for Islamic Americans at the White House.  He has had people of other faiths pray at different events.  This is his inauguration, and the president has the right to decide the people that he wants to pray.  And I hope he tells them what I would tell them, which is, You ought to pray in the way you normally pray.  That‘s real diversity, as opposed to sort of a dumbed-down civil religion.

LYNN:  You know, Richard, this is not about what the right of the president is.  This is fundamentally not some technical legal issue.  What this is, is a question of what the president is trying to say.  Is he trying to be inclusive or exclusive?  He knows full well that there are people, including, apparently, yourself, who would advise him to be more inclusive.  He‘s rejected all of that, and this inaugural event is likely to be more focused—Christo-centrically focused than that last time.

I think Alan Dershowitz was absolutely right.  Whatever an inauguration is, it is not the time when the president makes proclamations about theological matters, determines what God is the strongest, most powerful God...

BUCHANAN:  All right...

LYNN:  ... or what religion is the true one.


BUCHANAN:  Let Richard Land respond.  Go ahead, Richard.

LAND:  The president didn‘t make those statements.  The president didn‘t make that prayer.  He invited people to make those prayers.  They made those prayers.  And this president has actually been far more inclusive in terms of his comments about synagogues and mosques and the Islamic faith and the Jewish faith than his predecessor.  This president is not an exclusionary president, and he—and his administration in the last four years showed that.

LYNN:  That‘s preposterous.  You know, this is a president...

LAND:  It‘s not preposterous!  It‘s a fact, Barry!

LAND:  Well, let me just tell you what the facts...

LAND:  I know the facts are a problem...


BUCHANAN:  Barry—Barry...

LYNN:  Let me tell you what the facts are.  The facts are that Bill Clinton was a man who did understand the diversity in this country.  He was also a deeply religious man, and he talked about religion a lot...

LAND:  And he mentioned Jesus Christ...

LYNN:  ... sometimes too many times.  But the point is...

LAND:  He mentioned Jesus Christ more every year than George W. Bush has in any year...

BUCHANAN:  All right...


BUCHANAN:  Let me give you a quote, Bill.  Let me give you a quote, both gentlemen, by Bill Clinton.  Quote, “I‘ve always been touched by the living example of Jesus Christ.”  That‘s Bill Clinton at the national prayer breakfast.  I mean, Barry Lynn...

LYNN:  Sure.

BUCHANAN:  ... as much as any president, it seems to me—I mean, Bill Clinton carrying the Bible around with him.  He was going to church, he was constantly invoking the lord.  Let me ask you a question.  I‘ve got a quote from the president of the United States he made to “The Washington Times” last week.  He said, “I don‘t see how you can be president without a relationship with the lord.”  Now, in that‘s what this man believes deeply, do you want him to be a phony up on the inaugural stand, or do you want him to have a minister or a pastor stand up and speak for what this president believes?

LYNN:  Look, it‘s all a matter of excess.  And I think we‘ve seen the excess and we‘re going to see it in this upcoming inaugural.  The statement made in “The Washington Times” offended many people because it seemed to suggest that as a matter of principle, not just for President Bush personally, but as a matter of principle, he thought he really couldn‘t be president, he couldn‘t imagine a person who was Muslim or Jewish who didn‘t have...

BUCHANAN:  But Barry Lynn...

LYNN:  ... the Christian lord as his leader.  And I think that was why it offended so many people around the country.

BUCHANAN:  Richard Land, were you offended by the fact that the president singled out the fact that it was our lord—in other words, he‘s saying, I don‘t understand how you can be a president of the United States without having a personal relationship with the son of God, our savior and lord, Jesus Christ?”

LAND:  No, it didn‘t offend me, and it didn‘t offend...

LYNN:  Well, of course it‘s not going to offend you!

LAND:  ... it didn‘t offend three quarters to 90 -- 80 percent of Americans.  Barry Lynn is in an extreme secularist minority, and he‘s running around with his hair on fire, and nobody‘s noticing.

LYNN:  I‘m a Christian minister.  It didn‘t offend me as a matter of theology...

LAND:  That doesn‘t keep you from being a secularist, Barry!LYNN:  ... it offended me as a matter of politics.  I don‘t think that

·         I think that this president is a president who should do two things, de-emphasize this religion and find some way...

BUCHANAN:  Why?  Why de-emphasize it, Barry?

LYNN:  Because—because this is not...

BUCHANAN:  He believes in it!

LYNN:  This is not a church...

BUCHANAN:  It‘s part of the man.  It‘s part of the man...

LYNN:  Pat...

BUCHANAN:  It‘s—it‘s—I mean, it‘s...

LYNN:  Pat, it‘s not a church service.

BUCHANAN:  ... the warp and woof of this man.  It‘s what he believes.  And he speaks from the heart.  Frankly, that‘s one of the reasons he‘s president of the United States and Mr. Kerry is not.

LYNN:  He speaks from the heart.  John Kerry spoke from the heart.  The truth is, this is not a church service we‘re having.  This is an inaugural event, the beginning of the second term for a president who represents all the people...

BUCHANAN:  He represents...

LYNN:  ... not just the people who happens to be the Christian majority in this country.

BUCHANAN:  He represents one nation under God.

More with my guests Barry Lynn and Richard Land, and at look at the influence of religion in President Bush‘s second term when we return.


BUSH:  This war continues.  The story goes on.  And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.  God bless you all, and God bless America.




BUCHANAN:  Back with our look at the role of religion in President Bush‘s second term.  The traditional first lady inaugural tea party will be held this Saturday without the presence of first lady Laura Bush.  Is it because 10 Commandments judge Roy Moore is the featured speaker?

Joining me again are Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who is an adviser to President Bush.

Let me ask you, Richard Land, that brings you up the question of Judge Roy Moore, who lost his supreme court justiceship, head of the Alabama supreme court, for the reason that he refused under federal court order to remove the 5,000-pound granite monument of 10 Commandments from the Alabama state judiciary house.  Do you think Judge Roy Moore did the right thing?  And do you think the first lady ought to go to that inaugural tea?

LAND:  Well, I‘m not going to get into what the first lady ought to do.  I agree that Judge Moore should have had the right to display his 10 Commandment and other historical documents monument, but I do not believe he had the right to defy a court order.  We cannot have elected officials deciding which laws they are going to obey and which laws they‘re going to disobey, whether it‘s the chief justice of the Alabama supreme court or the mayor of San Francisco.

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask you this...

LAND:  That defies the rule of law.

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know Judge Roy Moore, and you know what he did. 

If, for example, the president of the United States nominated him to a

federal appellate court—and you say you‘re an adviser to the president -

·         would you tell him that‘s a good idea?

LAND:  No, I wouldn‘t.  And the reason is because I question his judgment because I do not think that you can have a judge who is saying, I‘m going defy a federal court order, when you‘re a state judge.  We have to have the rule of law.  And if you disagree with the law, you can resign, if you‘re a public official, and protest that law, but you can‘t decide which laws you‘re going to enforce and which laws you‘re not going to enforce, as I said, whether you‘re the chief justice of the Alabama supreme court or the mayor of San Francisco and decide you‘re going to gay marriages because you don‘t think the law that‘s against it is a law that you agree with.  That breaks down the rule of law, and you can‘t have a breakdown of the rule of law.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Barry Lynn, I gather you‘re not going to disagree with that.

LYNN:  No.  I‘m almost tempted to say Amen to Richard Land for one of the rare times in our public lives.


LYNN:  On the other hand, I think it is important that the first lady not go to this tea, not only because she shouldn‘t be present with a judge who has shown such a remarkable disrespect for the rule of law, but also because one of the other sponsors of this tea, one of the people putting it together, is a well-known anti-abortion activist who has said that she believes that the rule of the United States should be subservient to the rule of God when it comes to her particular cause and interest.

BUCHANAN:  Well, Barry Lynn, isn‘t that...

LYNN:  This is not a place that she should be.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Barry Lynn, isn‘t that what Dr. Martin Luther King said, when he said, Look, these laws that segregate people violate God‘s laws, and therefore, we got to break these laws?  And wasn‘t he the apostle of civil disobedience against laws which he said did not conform to the law of God?

LYNN:  It‘s the kind of...

BUCHANAN:  And aren‘t you being a little—a little inconsistent?

LYNN:  No, not at all.  And of course, in general, what we‘re talking about now, particularly with Judge Moore, but with any of these people who are basically in the majority—they‘re powerful people.  They nevertheless feel the law doesn‘t apply to them, I think the first lady is making a prudent judgment not to go to this tea, and I hope that folks on the right do not pressure her into showing up for that event.  It‘s entirely inappropriate.

LAND:  Pat...

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead, Richard.

LAND:  ... if I could just comment about Martin Luther King, Jr.

BUCHANAN:  All right.

LAND:  This, of course, is his birthday.  He is a personal hero of mine, as a fellow Baptist minister.  And there‘s a couple of huge differences between Judge Moore and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Martin Luther King, Jr., was not a public official.  He was protesting as a private citizen against what he believed was an unjust law.

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me interrupt you right there...

LAND:  And secondly—and secondly, most of his people that supported him were not able to vote.  That lowers the bar for civil disobedience...

LYNN:  Of course.

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask...

LAND:  ... when you can‘t vote.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Richard Land...

LYNN:  Of course, it does.

BUCHANAN:  ... let me ask you, do you believe—or do you condemn civil disobedience by people who are protesting what is going on in abortion clinics, if you approve of civil disobedience by Dr. King over segregation laws?

LAND:  I approve of non-violent civil disobedience, as long as, as Dr.  King said, you‘re willing to pay the penalty for the law that you oppose and as long as you do you it non-violently.  And I think the question of when a person of faith engages in civil disobedience is a matter of personal conscience.  And I would never judge anyone who felt led by personal conscience to do so in any particular situation.

BUCHANAN:  All right...

LAND:  And that‘s a matter of individual conscience, as long as they do it non-violently...

BUCHANAN:  All right, let‘s...

LAND:  ... and as long as they‘re not a public official.  Public officials can‘t engage in civil disobedience.

BUCHANAN:  All right, let‘s take a look at something the president of the United States said to our own David Gregory today about this controversial amendment to make marriage between men and women the only form of marriage tolerable in the United States.  Let‘s listen.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘d like to ask you about a campaign promise you made, which was to fight for a ban, a constitutional ban, on gay marriage.  Yet you‘ve told “The Washington Post” that that‘s something that you no longer plan to push for.  Why shouldn‘t that be seen as a—not a campaign promise but a campaign stunt?

BUSH:  There‘s a certain reality to dealing with the Congress.  Yes, I‘ll push for it.  Yes, I‘m still for it.  But I was just telling—I just want people to understand that there‘s a mentality on the Hill that says the way things are fine now.  In other words, states are protected from the decisions of one state to the next because of the Defense of Marriage Act.


BUCHANAN:  OK, both gentlemen, we‘ve only got less than a minute now.  Let me very briefly—Richard Land, you go first.  Is the president weakening on the constitutional amendment to outlaw homosexual marriage?

LAND:  No, I don‘t believe he is.  I think he‘s stating the political reality in the Senate and the House, and that political reality will change overnight the first time a federal judge strikes down a state constitutional amendment.  And it may happen next month.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Barry Lynn, last word.

LYNN:  Yes, I‘ll tell you, I think the president is wrong to push for the federal marriage amendment.  It clearly violates the fundamental questions of fairness...

BUCHANAN:  Politically wrong?

LYNN:  ... as well as the separation church and state.  Politically, he‘s going to be pushed by the hard right to continue to push for this amendment.  It‘s still going to be defeated.

BUCHANAN:  The hard right won 13 to zero!LYNN:  It‘s still going to be defeated.  Oh, they did?

BUCHANAN:  They won 13 to zero in these referenda on gay marriage, Barry!

LYNN:  Yes.  Well...

BUCHANAN:  You‘re a little out of touch that one, I think.

LYNN:  No, no.  I don‘t think so, not when it comes to the United States Congress and amending the 1st Amendment or amending the Constitution of the United States of America.

BUCHANAN:  All right...

LYNN:  It was rejected by the House and the Senate, and I think it will be again this year, not withstanding Mr. Land‘s efforts to the contrary.

BUCHANAN:  Barry Lynn, Richard Land, thanks very much.

LYNN:  Thank you.

BUCHANAN:  When we come back: Is the Pentagon planning strikes on Iran?

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: Is the Bush administration targeting Iran for a military strike?


SEYMOUR HERSH, “THE NEW YORKER”:  He‘s also decided that he‘s going to root out international terrorism wherever he finds it.


ANNOUNCER:  Is the U.S. geared to take the war on terrorism to a new level?  All sides of the issue when MSNBC REPORTS returns.



BUCHANAN:  A bombshell article in “The New Yorker” from investigative reporter Sy Hersh.  Hersh says the United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify nuclear, chemical and missile sites, all in preparation for possible military strikes on three dozen targets, putting Iran in the crosshairs as the next target in the war on terror.

Joining me now is Flynt Leverett, senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.  He‘s an expert on counterterrorism and nonproliferation.  And Ambassador Mark Palmer with the Committee on the Present Danger, an advocacy group for expanding democracy and battling terrorism.

Let me go to you, Flynt Leverett, first.  If Iran is driving toward nuclear weapons, doesn‘t the United States have to have the military option on the table?  And if we have to have the military option on the table, does it not make sense to conduct reconnaissance missions?

FLYNT LEVERETT, SABAN CENTER FOR MIDEAST POLICY:  The military option, of course, always is going to be on the table, but in this situation, I think it‘s important to appreciate just how difficult the military option is going to be to implement in a strategically meaningful way.  This is not a one-shot program, where if you take out one facility, the way the Israelis did in Iraq in 1981, that you‘ve effectively eliminated the Iranian nuclear capability or solved this problem for an appreciable period of time.  This is a dispersed program.  There are many targets.  I think there‘s good reason to believe that we don‘t know all the targets that we would have to hit...

BUCHANAN:  Mr. Leverett...

LEVERETT:  ... in order to take out this program.

BUCHANAN:  Let me interrupt you there.  There‘s no doubt it is a complex problem, that it is a much more difficult problem than the Osirak reaction which the Israelis hit.  It‘s full of all sorts of surprises and dangers.  But the question is, in the last analysis, would you say we should live with a nuclear Iran, if that‘s the alternative, or make strikes to try to prevent it?

LEVERETT:  No, I don‘t think that living with a nuclear Iran is in America‘s interests.  But America has, I believe, better ways of trying to deal with the threat of a nuclear Iran than by talking about scenarios for surgical strikes against this program.

BUCHANAN:  OK, let‘s go to our other guest, Mark Palmer.  Mark, let‘s listen to what Seymour Hersh had to say about why the administration set its sights on Iran.  Seymour Hersh told “HARDBALL‘s” Chris Matthews this is what is motivating the president.


SEYMOUR HERSH, “THE NEW YORKER”:  He‘s got a mandate to carry out the policy that he did in the first term in his second term, which means what?  He‘s going to install democracy not only in Iraq, but he wants do it elsewhere in the world.


BUCHANAN:  Let ask you, Mark Palmer, under the Bush doctrine, regimes

·         the world‘s worst regimes will not be allowed to get the world‘s worst weapons.  Iran‘s one of the three “axis of evil” regimes.  Can Bush tolerate Iran getting nuclear weapons?


DANGER:  No.  And in the Committee on the Present Danger‘s report, which I was the principal author of, we specifically say that we cannot tolerate it, that it has to be explicit and clear that we will not accept it and that, in the final analysis, if we have no other alternative, we will use military force to remove it.

BUCHANAN:  How do you use military force to destroy all these sites Mr. Leverett was talking about? 

PALMER:  Well, I think he‘s right.  It‘s not simple.  They‘re obviously doing everything they can to hide the development program.  That‘s why it‘s critical to have our whatever covert means we have of collecting, as well as overt means, to have them fully developed.  But at the end of the day...

BUCHANAN:  Mr. Palmer, let me interrupt all right. 


PALMER:  At the end of the day, you do have to take them out. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  At the end of the day, you say you have to take them out.  At the end of the day, we did not take out North Korea‘s nuclear facilities.  The president did not.  They‘re apparently building nuclear weapons, or we believe they are, in violation of the Bush doctrine.  In the absence of regime change or overthrowing a regime in Iran, how do you accomplish the denuclearization of Iran? 

PALMER:  Well, in fact, the Committee on the Present Danger recommends and specifically sets out how to go about doing regime change.

On Martin Luther King birthday today, it‘s important that, in this country, peaceful, nonviolence worked.  It has worked in over 40 countries in doing regime change in the last four decades.  It‘s just worked in Ukraine.  It‘s worked in Georgia.  We believe and deeply believe that it can work in Iran, where the people clearly do not want the supreme to remain in political power.  He is a dictator against the will of his own people.  And we think that with support, sufficient support, the people will rise up there and depose him. 

BUCHANAN:  But, Mr. Leverett, let me ask you a question.  From what I‘ve seen, it‘s not only the dissidents in Iran, that 70 percent that voted against the present regime, it‘s the regime as well that‘s committed to making Iran a nuclear nation.  Secondly, if you engage in a military strike on Iran, will that not tend to unite those people, just as the Americans, anti-war and pro-war, were united by Pearl Harbor? 

LEVERETT:  I think that‘s exactly right. 

The nuclear ambition is shared really across the Iranian political spectrum.  And if the United States were to attack these facilities, most Iranians would see it not as an attack on a regime that they don‘t like, but as an attack on their aspirations to have Iran be a major regional player with modern and sophisticated technology. 

I think it would produce a rally-around-the flag reaction in Iran and, from the perspective of the clerical hard-liners, would be so to speak a gift from God. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Mark Palmer, let me follow up on that.  There‘s no doubt you could set back Iran‘s nuclear program by a number of years.  But if the people and the government are determined to build nuclear weapons, ultimately, are they not going to join the nuclear club, when South Africa could, which is smaller, when Israel could, which is smaller, when North Korea could, which is far more backward?

Ultimately, aren‘t you going to have to live with this?  And isn‘t it better to deal with that prospect honor tan try to overthrow a government through—I guess through Martin Luther King Jr.‘s civil disobedience, which, quite frankly, doesn‘t sound very credible to me in Tehran?

PALMER:  Well, it‘s worked in so many other places with such diverse backgrounds and where everybody predicted in those cases as well that it wouldn‘t work. 

All of Latin America, much of Asia, Central Europe against the communists, against military dictators, it simply works.  And people never predict that it‘s going to happen, because they always see all of the difficulties.  But we believe that it can work in Iran.  After all, Khatami, when he tried, the president tried to speak to the students at Tehran University just two weeks ago, he was shouted down.  They all say shame, shame.  You‘ve not done what we elected you to do.

So, it‘s important to remember also that a democratic South Africa gave up its nuclear weapons program.  And I think that a democratic Iran would certainly be a lot easier to deal with in this dimension than a theocratic regime which threatens its neighbors, which funds terrorism.

BUCHANAN:  But, with all due respect, Mr. Palmer, South Africa was a Westernized country.  Both the Boers and the Brits were part of the Westernized tradition.  These are deeply anti-Western people, these mullahs.  They‘ve not hesitated to use guns on their own people. 

And so it would seem to me, it‘s almost naive to think that it can be changed.  But if it‘s not changed in a matter of two or three years, we‘re at the point where I guess they can build weapons.  What would you do then? 

PALMER:  If we‘ve done everything else that we recommend in our paper and done it thoroughly and tried every other possible avenue, we believe that we should use military force. 

BUCHANAN:  Would you—OK, let me ask you, Flynt Leverett, you don‘t believe we want a nuclear Iran.  We don‘t have the forces for an invasion.  Do you think bombing alone could prevent it? 


Bombing might do some damage to the program, might delay certain—the attainment of certain capabilities, but it‘s not going to stop this program.  In fact, it may strengthen the hand of those within Iran who are most determined to make Iran a nuclear weapons state.  I think that the real solution to this problem lies in what some would call a grand bargain between the United States and Iran in which the major strategic differences between the two countries, including Iran‘s support for terrorism, are put on the table and resolved. 

Unless we deal with the security motives behind Iran‘s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, we will not induce them to give up that capability. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Flynt Leverett, Mark Palmer, thanks. 

When we back come, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich on the Bush plan to change Social Security.  Is this a real or a phony crisis? 


BUCHANAN:  What is the Bush plan to save Social Security?  Privatization, budget cuts, higher taxes?  Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is next. 



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  By the time today‘s workers who are in their mid-20s begin to retire, the system will be bankrupt.  So, if you‘re 20 years old, in your mid-20s, and you‘re beginning to work, I want to you think about a Social Security system that will be flat-bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act now. 


BUCHANAN:  That was President Bush last week talking about Social Security.  As the president prepares to take the oath of office on Thursday, reforming Social Security is at the very top of his domestic agenda.  And the question of whether to privatize part of Social Security is shaping up as a major battle on Capitol Hill. 

My next guest says, when it comes to Social Security, if it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it.  Robert Reich was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration. 

Robert, how are you?  ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY:  Pat, how are you tonight? 

BUCHANAN:  Good.  You‘ve given up the gubernatorial ambitions, have we? 


REICH:  Well, I have for the time being.  I‘m out here in Berkeley among all your right-wing friends.  And everybody sends their best to you. 

BUCHANAN:  You‘re right there at home. 


REICH:  Yes, that‘s right. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask you this, Robert.  Look, throughout the years, everybody knows Social Security is headed up to the point where it‘s got to be repaired.  It seems to me the president is showing a lot of courage in stepping up to this, saying let‘s take a hard look at it, make sure it‘s there for the baby boomers and for their children.  Why aren‘t the Democrats helping out? 

REICH:  Pat, I was a trustee of the Social Security trust fund, so I know what I‘m talking about when I say that there‘s absolutely no crisis here.  There‘s no problem.  Social Security will be fully funded all the way through the 21st century. 

In fact, the Congressional Budget Office, you know, an arm of the Republican Congress, said that Social Security is going to be fully funded up to 2054.  Now, there are a lot of problems this country faces before the next 50 years.  This is not a crisis.  This is not a problem.  This is entirely manufactured. 

BUCHANAN:  Entirely manufactured, not a crisis.

Let me read you something somebody said about seven years ago, President Bill Clinton.  Let me read you his quote here.  He said, there should be no new spending, or more importantly no tax cuts—quote—and this is Clinton—“before we take care of the crisis in Social Security that is looming when the baby boomers retire.”

Robert Reich, Clinton did nothing about it.  We‘re seven years down the road.  If Clinton said there was a looming crisis in 1998, why is it wrong for the president to suggest we have a crisis we might want to deal with it right now? 

REICH:  Well, look, I can‘t—Bill Clinton isn‘t here on your program.  I cannot understand and quiz him with regard to exactly why he said what he did.


MATTHEWS:  Was that demagogic on his part?  Was that demagogic?

REICH:  Maybe it was.  I can‘t get into his head.  I can‘t tell you. 

But, Pat, listen to me, I can assure you on the basis of every economic report that I‘ve read, on my own experience, on the basis of my serving on the trust fund of the Social Security trust, I can assure you that there‘s no problem.  And it‘s been blown way out of proportion.  In other words, there might be way out in the year 2070-something, conceivably, there may not be enough money pay for it.  But we‘re talking about so far in the future that it‘s not even worth talking about. 

And let me explain to you why.  And this is very, very important for viewers to understand.


REICH:  Can I just—just give me one second. 


BUCHANAN:  All right, why don‘t we do it, Robert, when we come back?  Because I want to contest some of the figures you‘re going to give.  I think I know what they are. 

But more with Pat Buchanan and Robert Reich when we come back. 




BUSH:  A personal savings account which is their own, a personal savings account which would earn a better rate of return their than money currently held within the Social Security trust, a personal savings account which will compound over time and grow over time. 


BUCHANAN:  That was President Bush last week talking about revamping part of Social Security. 

I‘m back with Robert Reich, secretary of labor in the Clinton administration. 

Robert Reich, I said I‘d give you a chance to lay it out.  Let me lay out, first—I think—I don‘t think you‘ll disagree with these numbers.  Social Security, the surplus, going to run to about $110 billion a year.  We‘re using that.  Obviously, we‘re spending a lot of that money right now in the budget.  And around 2009, that starts shrinking.  You get to 2018, 13 years from now, there‘s no Social Security surplus.  It‘s gone. 

And then we start getting out—money out of general revenue to pay benefits.  Is it not better, Robert Reich, to say, let‘s raise the retirement age over, say, 20 years from 67 to 70 years old; let‘s readjust the cost of living for inflation, rather than wages, and save the system now? 

REICH:  Now, Pat, I would say let‘s save the system now if there really was a crisis in the system.  Now, you just gave some statistics.  And I want to take issue with them without boring viewers and getting into a statistical war with you. 

But you said something, and that is very, very important.  You said that the Social Security surplus right now is being used in effect to reduce the budget deficit.  That‘s right.  And that figure that, by 2018, that Social Security is going to be in debt, the whole Social Security system that, yes, it probably will be in debt, but that‘s because we‘ve been using the money to pay for Iraq, to pay for the war, to pay for everything else the government has to pay for. 

It‘s perfectly appropriate that we take—after that point, we take general revenues out of the budget, instead of having people try to retire later or...


BUCHANAN:  Well, where would you get the general revenues, except by higher taxes or by borrowing, which deepens the debt? 

REICH:  Well, I‘ll tell you one thing, Pat.  You‘re not going to get the general revenues if you require $2 trillion more money into the Social Security system by diverting the money into private accounts.  That‘s what is going to happen. 

You see, these private accounts are not going to be costless.  They‘re going to cost a lot of money.  Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system.  Today‘s payers into Social Security are supporting today‘s retirees.  Where in the world are you going to get the money if you divert all of this money into private accounts.  It just doesn‘t make sense.  It‘s mathematically impossible.

BUCHANAN:  All right, what are you saying?  We‘re going to have to tax or borrow to get the money for the private accounts? 

REICH:  For the private accounts, yes.  There will be a deeper deficit or maybe taxes will have to go up.  Who knows how the administration is going to pay for it.  Private accounts have two—Pat, look, it‘s a dumb idea.  Social Security isn‘t in trouble and private accounts are going to cost $2 trillion.  The deficit is already out of control. 

BUCHANAN:  But, Robert Reich, Pete Peterson is a bright man.  He‘s studied this.  Others have. 

Look, right now, Social Security and Medicare, as I understand it, takes 7 percent of America‘s gross national product.  In about 10 or 20 years, they‘re going to be taking 13 percent of the gross national product.  Don‘t you got to at least pare back some benefits somewhere or deal with the situation now or we wind up just like the European countries are today? 

REICH:  Medicare is a problem.  I‘ll grant you that.  And we do have to have Medicare reform.  Medicare is going out of money.  It‘s going to go bust. 

And that‘s exactly what we ought to be focusing on.  But Social Security isn‘t a problem.  If we have the same kind of economic growth that we‘ve had since the Civil War on average, more than 3 percent a year, Pat, I can show you.  I can bore you to you tears with the numbers, but we are not going to have a problem with Social Security.  We will have a problem with Medicare. 

And I‘ll tell you something else.  If any Republicans that start approaching this third rail of American politics called Social Security, if they start cutting benefits or increasing the retirement age, they‘re going to be trouble in the midterm elections if they‘re in the House or if they‘re in Senate.  They‘re going to be in trouble in the midterm elections in 2006. 

BUCHANAN:  What do you think of Gingrich‘s solution, don‘t fool at all with the benefits and the taxes, but just create the personal accounts? 

REICH:  Well, if you allow people—if you say Social Security isn‘t a problem, but we‘re going to expand the ability of people to put away money in personal accounts, we‘re going to provide more tax benefits, so the average person can create more savings, that‘s great.  That‘s wonderful. 

In fact, I‘ll give you a better idea.  Why not exempt the first $10,000 of income from Social Security altogether and take the ceiling, instead of the $90,000 ceiling?  Right now, you don‘t pay any Social Security taxes anything over $90,000.  Lift the ceiling so you pay for the difference.  So the first $10,000 is exempt.  That would give people the opportunity to save.  But that‘s not what the administration is talking about. 

BUCHANAN:  Now, listen, well, there‘s no doubt the polls show 49-40 that the country isn‘t behind the president thus far on Social Security reform.  He intends to go all out for this Robert Reich.  When he does, if he goes to the wall on this, and he‘s got a Republican Congress, do you think he can win it? 

REICH:  I don‘t, Pat.  At least I don‘t if the Democrats stick to their guns, tell the truth, and make sure the public knows that there‘s no crisis. 

Look, in 1994, Bill Clinton, when we really did have a health care crisis, we had 38 million people who have health insurance, Bill Clinton tried to go to the public with a Democratic Congress and sell his health care proposal.  And the Republicans said in unison, there‘s no health insurance, health care crisis in America.


REICH:  And that really destroyed the entire momentum.  Democrats ought to be doing the same thing now. 


Robert Reich, thanks.  It‘s always a pleasure. 

We‘ll be right back with programming notes for this week in Washington, D.C.


BUCHANAN:  Tune in all this week for MSNBC‘s coverage of George W.

Bush‘s second inauguration. 

Tune in Wednesday night at 9:00 for an MSNBC special.  Tom Brokaw and Chris Matthews host “Picking Our Presidents: Leaders and Legacies.”  They look back four decades of inaugurations to see how the promise of the new administration has been matched or missed.  “Picking Our Presidents:

Leaders and Legacies,” Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. 

Then tune in Thursday for live coverage of the inauguration hosted by Chris Matthews. 

Thanks for watching.  I‘m Pat Buchanan.  Up next, Joe Scarborough in “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  Good night.



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