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'MSNBC Reports: The price of war' for Jan. 25

Guest: Terry Jeffrey, Rachel Maddow, Jack Spencer, Ivan Eland, Michael Medved, Jeff Jarvis, Rachel Maddow

ANNOUNCER:  MSNBC REPORTS, “The Price of War.”  Ambushes, assassinations, kidnappings...


ROY HALLUMS, AMERICAN HELD HOSTAGE IN IRAQ:  My health is in a very bad situation.


ANNOUNCER:  With only five days before elections, Iraq is in turmoil.  Now President Bush wants an additional $80 billion to continue bankrolling the war.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘ll finish the historic work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq.


ANNOUNCER:  Tonight: Are Americans still willing to foot the bill for the war in Iraq?

Then: Is America‘s conservative trend turning some key Democrats to the right?  Hillary Clinton‘s latest comments on abortion and immigration might surprise you.  Plus: Where‘s “The Passion”?  Why wasn‘t Mel Gibson‘s blockbuster good enough for a Best Picture nod?

Now, live from Washington, Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN, HOST:  Good evening, and welcome to MSNBC REPORTS.  Up first tonight, Iraq.  In five days, they‘ll hold national elections, but there was more deadly violence today.  Six U.S. soldiers and nine Iraqis, including a senior judge, were killed.  Also, a video surfaced of an American hostage pleading for his life, with a rifle pointed at his head.  Roy Hallums was kidnapped on November 1.  It‘s not known when the video was made.

And President Bush asked Congress today for another $80 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  That‘s on top of the $25 billion Congress approved last summer.  It brings the total for the wars to almost $300 billion.  And the Pentagon says it plans to keep 120,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq through 2007.

How long will this go?  How much will it cost in blood and treasure? 

Is it worth it?

Joining me now are Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, author of “The Empire Has No Clothes,” and Jack Spencer, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

Jack Spencer, let me start with you -- $300 billion.  That‘s Afghanistan and Iraq.  You‘ve got 1,400 almost dead, 10,000 wounded, tens of thousands of Iraqis.  How long is this going to go on, and how much should the American people pay for a democratic Iraq?

JACK SPENCER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION:  Well, we don‘t know how long it‘s

going to go on, but we need to continue moving forward until we reach our -

·         accomplish our mission, which is that the Iraqis in Iraq are able to provide for their own security, can take care of themselves.  It‘s time for us to begin pulling back, putting that responsibility in their laps.  And the way to get to that point is for them to have successful elections.  And I think that‘s going to be a turning point in for us to begin pulling back.

And what you already see already in the rhetoric is from—our concentration going from providing that security to really putting all of that effort into the training.  And it‘s that training, hopefully, combined with a successful election...

BUCHANAN:  All right...

SPENCER:  ... which will give the Iraqis—make Iraqis stakeholders in that government, that will lead to success in Iraq.

BUCHANAN:  All right, you say stakeholders.  Why should the Sunnis, who are the heart of the resistance, kill other Sunnis to support a Shi‘ite-dominated government?

SPENCER:  Well, they shouldn‘t kill other Sunnis to support a—any government...

BUCHANAN:  That‘s what you‘re going to get, a Shi‘ite-dominated government.

SPENCER:  Well, that may be part of the process, Pat.  And in past, democracies have been born out of blood, and this one may be no different than many others that are very successful today.  But what the Sunnis are going to have to learn is that to be successful in the new Iraq, they need to participate.

And one of the reasons they‘re not participating is because they‘re being fed bad information from the terrorists, from the Saddam loyalists, from these other sects.  And what they‘re going to see is that the elections are going to go forward.  Iraq‘s going to begin moving forward.  And if the Sunnis want  any say at all, they‘re going to have to participate...

BUCHANAN:  The train‘s leaving the station.  OK, let me go to Ivan Eland.  Ivan, look, if the United States should pull out, as you‘ve suggested, would that not—and the country collapses in chaos and civil war and it becomes a haven for terrorists, would that not be the kind of debacle and disaster this country simply cannot afford in the Middle East?

IVAN ELAND, SR. FELLOW, THE INDEPENDENT INSTITUTE:  Well, I don‘t think that‘s going to happen.  The country‘s already in chaos.  And when Jack says we‘re moving forward, I‘m not sure U.S. forces are moving things forward.  We‘ve got chaos already.  This election is probably going to increase the chaos because the Sunnis are not going to get many representatives because they‘re either boycotting the election or their representatives—or their voters are too scared to go to the polls.  So they‘re probably going to be disenfranchised even more.

And frankly, just because the United States withdraws and—does not necessarily mean that the country‘s going to go into chaos.  I think we ought to give up on this idea of training a national army and provide local security on the part of the Shi‘ites...

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

ELAND:  ... the Sunnis and the Kurds.

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me ask you this, Ivan Eland.  Look, if the United States ceases doing battle with the insurgents—who have been successful, basically, in fighting a guerrilla war, fighting to a stalemate—it seems to me they‘re going to dominate in the Sunni triangle.  And you‘ve got a situation, then, where you‘ve got a haven for terrorists and for guerrillas which is far larger than what we cleaned up in Afghanistan.  In other words, haven‘t you left there with a worse problem than you started with, if you follow your advice and pull out?

ELAND:  Not necessarily because I think we—that assumes that the Sunnis are naturally terrorists, and I think what the Sunnis are fighting for, No. 1, is to get the foreign invader out.  The administration calls them terrorists, Ba‘athists and criminals, and there are some of those—each of those in there, but I think most of them are Iraqi nationalists fighting to get the foreign superpower out.

The second reason that the Sunnis are fighting is to avoid paybacks from a Shi‘ite government.  Remember, the Sunnis ruled Iraq with an iron hand, and they‘re scared of payback.  So if you create a situation where they rule their own territory, the other groups rule their own territory, there‘s no incentive to take over the central government to oppress the other groups because the central government is weak.

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me talk—Jack, look, the cause of the insurgency that‘s in the Sunni area, it seems to me, and why it keeps expanding and growing, and quite frankly, is, The Americans are here, they‘re occupying us, they‘re running the show.  It‘s their elections, it‘s not ours.  And so they‘re fighting against the United States.  Isn‘t the way to end the insurgency, frankly, to remove its cause, if the cause is the armed forces of the United States?

SPENCER:  I think there‘s some truth in that, Pat.  I think that when we first invaded Iraq, the decision was made to stay there and try help them move towards democracy.  And once that decision was made, as opposed to pulling back right away, removing Saddam Hussein and giving the Iraqis this opportunity to move forward and so forth—so we didn‘t make that decision, but now we‘re there, we need to continue to move forward.

I think it is time to pull back, and that has two consequences.  One is that you begin to ensure that the Iraqis, the—both Sunnis—all Iraqis begin taking responsibility for that security because we‘re not going to be there to do it.  And secondly, you begin to achieve that dynamic that you‘ve just described, where the United States is not on every street corner.  But that doesn‘t mean we leave Iraq altogether.

BUCHANAN:  OK, let‘s take a look at recent Washington poll that found a majority of Americans don‘t think the war in Iraq was worth fighting for.  When asked, quote, “Considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting for,” 44 percent said yes and 55 percent no.

Ivan Eland, how long do you think the American people will sustain this effort in Iraq?

ELAND:  Well, I think probably not all that long.  We don‘t have a draft, like Vietnam, which is really pushing the middle class and the rest of the political voters to push immediately for withdrawal, but I think the war has been lost.  It may take a while, but we‘ve lost public opinion in Iraq.  The Iraqis no longer want us there.  The people here at home don‘t want us there.

And in guerrilla warfare, public is everything.  Our military is doing a sterling job at doing what they do best, and that was going to Baghdad.  But they‘ve never been able to fight guerrilla warfare very well.

BUCHANAN:  All right.  And let me ask...

ELAND:  And so I think that‘s the problem.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Jack Spencer, it‘s clear, look, the home front isn‘t as solid as it was a year ago.  There‘s no doubt about it.  There‘s impatience with this.  The cost of it‘s enormous.  The deficits are going up.  People are sick of reading about the bloodshed and things like that.  If the country followed Ivan Eland‘s advice, or if the Shi‘as took and over said, You got to get out, what do you think would happen to Iraq?

SPENCER:  Well, if that happened, if the Shi‘as got together and said to get out, then we‘ll get out.  But I think that that‘s not the right...

BUCHANAN:  What would happen?

SPENCER:  ... thing to do—I don‘t know what would happen.  I think what we can now is that if we stay in Iraq, we continue helping the Shi‘a and all of the Iraqis...

BUCHANAN:  But if...

SPENCER:  ... to provide for their own security...

BUCHANAN:  If our presence is the cause of the insurgency...

SPENCER:  You‘re saying the presence is the cause.  I don‘t think that...

BUCHANAN:  Well, what do you...

SPENCER:  ... the presence is necessarily the cause.

BUCHANAN:  ... think the insurgents are fighting for, then?

SPENCER:  I think the insurgents are fighting to prevent democracy from taking root in Iraq because a lot of people have a lot to lose with...

BUCHANAN:  Why?  They don‘t want democracy because the Shi‘as are going to run the show.  That‘s the point of my question.  Why should Sunnis fight and die for a Shi‘a-dominated government?

SPENCER:  Because Sunnis can participate in a Shi‘a-dominated government...

BUCHANAN:  Yes, but they‘re not going to run the show!

SPENCER:  ... just like Democrats can—can...

BUCHANAN:  Yes, but...

SPENCER:  ... can participate in a Republican government.

BUCHANAN:  You think we‘d go for a national election...


BUCHANAN:  Look, the point is, they‘re outnumbered almost 3 to 1 by the Shi‘a!

SPENCER:  But that‘s OK.  You can still have...

BUCHANAN:  Why should they...

SPENCER:  Pat, you can still have a peaceful government where all sides are represented.  It happens all over the world.  You‘re assuming that if all sides aren‘t equally represented, it‘s going to result in violence, and that doesn‘t necessarily matter.

BUCHANAN:  Well, it is a violent society.  Ivan Eland, go ahead.

ELAND:  Well, I think unified democracy Iraq is a pipe dream, and I don‘t even think the Bush administration really believes that they‘re going to have that.  The only hope is to have a confederation, a loose confederation of these three areas or some sort of partition.

And the reason I say that is that they are going to fight over the central government.  The Sunnis do not want to be the victim of paybacks from the Shi‘ites for all the year—for all the violence that the Sunnis perpetrated on the other two groups when they were in power.  And so I think most experts on federalism say that when you have multiple ethnic groups and you pop the top off an authoritarian regime, the country will break up...

BUCHANAN:  All right...

ELAND:  ... whether it‘s peaceable, like Czechoslovakia, or violently, like Yugoslavia.  I think we‘re headed down the violent route here.

BUCHANAN:  OK.  I‘m sorry, we don‘t have any more time.  Ivan Eland, Jack Spencer, thanks.  We‘ll be right back.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: Is Hillary Clinton buckling under conservative pressure?  Wait until you hear her latest thoughts on immigration and abortion.  The liberal label—has it become a liability for Democrats?

MSNBC REPORTS with Pat Buchanan will be right back.



BUCHANAN:  She‘s the junior senator from one of the bluest states in the union, yet she says both sides in the abortion controversy should find, quote, “common ground.”  Senator Hillary Clinton spun heads Monday when she told a large group of abortion rights supporters that ending a pregnancy can be, quote, “a sad, even tragic choice.”  While she again firmly pledged her support for Roe v Wade, Hillary also said she respects the views of those opposed to abortion and feels the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  So is Hillary moving to the right?  And if so, why?

Joining me are Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent for “Newsweek” and an MSNBC News analyst.  Also Rachel Maddow, the host of “Unfiltered” on Air America Radio, and Terry Jeffrey, editor of weekly newspaper “Human Events.”

Terry Jeffrey, we got a new recruit to the conservative movement?


TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, “HUMAN EVENTS”:  Well, I‘m for it.  And I tell you, I believe that Hillary‘s remarks are probably for transparent opportunistic politics.


JEFFREY:  If she wants to convert to the pro-life side, I think we should take her in.  And I would challenge Hillary.  If she believes, as she says, that abortion is a sad and tragic choice, she has to explain why does she believe that because the reason pro-lifers believe it is is because it takes the life of an unborn child and it harms the life of the mother whose child is taken.  And if that‘s what Hillary believes, Pat, that demands certain acts of her, as a public official, as a member of the United States Senate.  I want to see her act legislatively.  I want to see her act when Supreme Court nominations are made consistent with the principles she stated yesterday.

BUCHANAN:  Howard Fineman, what‘s going with Hillary?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hillary‘s building her national profile.  She‘s building beyond the blue you state of New York.  Yes, she‘s running for reelection to the Senate from New York, but she‘s looking beyond that, first to repair her party, Pat, because even a lot of Democrats, even a lot of liberal Democrats and Democrats such as Tim Roemer, who‘s running for the DNC chairmanship, or Harry Reid, the new Democratic leader in the Senate, and Bob Casey, the treasurer in Pennsylvania—they‘re all saying—these are all people saying that the Democratic Party has to get away from a strict hard-line position on abortion, at least to the extent that it limits or seems to limit the Democrats‘ ability to talk about values and morality and be sensitive to it.

And Hillary‘s just following a path that Bill Clinton, her husband, followed as president rhetorically, and that he, Bill Clinton, recommended to the Democrats after John Kerry‘s loss.  Clinton gave a speech analyzing that loss, saying that the Democrats had to figure out a new and more generous or all-encompassing way to speak about abortion.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Rachel Maddow, I think what Howard‘s saying is right.  I don‘t think there‘s any change in substance in Hillary‘s position on Roe v Wade.  But in terms of tone, she appears to try to be acting more empathetic.  She talked about—I think we‘ve got a quote of hers, a direct quote of hers about abortion.  She says, quote, “We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.”  Now, that is language, it seems to me, far more empathetic, which is suggesting that abortion is a matter of sorrow, not a matter of celebration.  And she‘s getting away from the—if you will, this militant National Organization of Women, in-your-face, headband liberalism approach, is she not?


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  I think that the idea that anybody ever celebrated abortion in this country is a little bit off the deep end.  But I honestly believe that this isn‘t a real departure for Hillary Clinton, and it‘s not a real departure for the Democratic Party line.  I mean, the Democrats have long been saying, We want abortion to be safe, we want it to be legal and we want it to be rare.  This isn‘t a huge departure from that.  She is test-driving some new language, some new, more values-driven language post-November election, and I think...

BUCHANAN:  All right, she‘s...

MADDOW:  ... everybody‘s been talking about.

BUCHANAN:  Terry Jeffrey, she‘s test-driving language?  Is that right?

JEFFREY:  Well, absolutely, she is, Pat.  But why would someone want they call a constitutional right to be rare?  It seems to me, if you think something‘s a right, you want people to express it, to use it and for the government to protect it in all circumstances.

I agree with Howard.  This is a political maneuver.  Everybody saw in the last election the, quote, unquote, “values voters” are the real swing voters.  People who care about abortion are going to elect the next president in Ohio, states like Wisconsin and Minnesota the Democrats almost lost.  Problem for Hillary is people are going to want to see substance behind this rhetoric.  Bill Clinton came in from Arkansas.  His record was obscure.  Her record is not obscure.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Howard, let me ask you—let me go to Howard again.  Howard, it seems to me what she‘s doing, she‘s not moving to the right, what she is doing is basically putting down language, laying a predicate, if you will, whereby Catholic Democrats who are put off by the fact of the militant pro-abortion rhetoric they see coming out of Democratic Party, that they will at least give them some room to stand on, so they can stay with their party.  In other words, Hillary is sort of not moving to the right, she‘s trying to get a little closer to the center.

FINEMAN:  I think that‘s exactly right.  And there are a lot of Democrats looking at the election, saying that if John Kerry had been able to communicate a sense of empathy about people who do feel strongly about the unborn and phrase it in that way and believe it in that way—John Kerry was very wary, being a New Englander and being a Yankee, kind of reticent about all this, to talk in even the most vague—vaguely related religious terms.

Hillary‘s following her husband‘s footsteps here.  Now, Bill Clinton was from the south.  He‘s a fellow who almost, you know, wanted to become a preacher at one point.  He spoke in the cadences of the South, in biblical terms at times.  Hillary‘s going to have—have a tougher row to hoe because she‘s not from that part of the country...


FINEMAN:  ... but she does have a religious background herself.  She was from the sort of social activist wing of the Methodist Church.  She cares about this stuff, and I think she wants to rebuild the party, so when she‘s ready to do so, she can run in 2008.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Rachel Maddow, the Democratic Party, it does need, I think—it does need a moral values vocabulary which is not utterly off-putting to evangelical Christians and traditional Catholics and orthodox Jews and others who are militantly—I mean, who are pro-life and who cannot abide the idea of homosexual marriage.  Don‘t they need some of that vocabulary?  And do you think Hillary is picking it up?

MADDOW:  I think the distinction between the vocabulary and the substance of the issues we‘re talking about is important.  I mean, think about it.  The American people, by and large, do not want Roe v Wade overturned.  In 1973, 19 percent of Americans said they wanted abortion banned.  In 2004, 19 percent of Americans say they want abortion banned.  This isn‘t changing.  What‘s changing is that Americans are now electing somebody who they don‘t agree with on abortion.

BUCHANAN:  But you know—excuse me, Rachel...

MADDOW:  They‘re electing a president—yes?

BUCHANAN:  Rachel if you overturn Roe v Wade, you don‘t ban abortion, you simply give it back to the state legislatures who have been elected.  But let me move onto another question, and I‘ll move on to Terry.  Do you think—first, do you think Hillary Clinton is running?  And secondly, if she is running, handicap her right now for the nomination.

JEFFREY:  Well, I think, absolutely, no doubt, she‘s running, Pat.  And that‘s why she‘s talking like this.  Once she gets into it, she‘ll be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.  It‘ll be extremely difficult, I think, for any other Democrat to knock her off that pedestal.  So I think it‘s likely unless something that we don‘t know about comes up, she‘s going to win the Democratic nomination.

Her problem is, we‘re going to see the same red state/blue state divide.  What she‘s doing now is trying to eat into the red state vote.


JEFFREY:  But bottom line, she‘s going to have the same problem Kerry did.  The rhetoric will not match the policies.

BUCHANAN:  All right...

JEFFREY:  People want to see the policies.

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s take another look and put up on the screen here, if we will, something else where Hillary Clinton is taking a stand which might have some appeal in the red states and the Southwest.  She says, quote, “I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants.  People have to stop employing illegal immigrants.”

Howard Fineman, how far are we away from the Buchanan fence on the border here?


FINEMAN:  She‘ll be down there with a hammer and saw with you, Pat, any minute!

BUCHANAN:  I‘ll send her a pitchfork!

FINEMAN:  Any minute now.  Pitchfork populism.

BUCHANAN:  No, but this is again—well, this is a place—or she—

I mean, on this issue, she seems to be saying, Look, I at least will enforce the law against illegal immigration, which is better than somebody I know is doing right now.

FINEMAN:  Well, again, I mean, it‘s the phraseology.  She may well be in favor of an amnesty program of some kind, call it that or not.  But the way she‘s shading things these days, she‘s looking nationally.  I know her own advisers get angry at me for saying that, but it‘s obviously true.  And when she ran for the Senate in New York, don‘t forget, she focused first on upstate New York, Pat...


FINEMAN:  ... not on the cities.  She focused on the conservative areas, on some of the Republican areas.  She focused an economic populist message up there.

BUCHANAN:  Is she...

FINEMAN:  And she‘s trying to...


FINEMAN:  And she‘s trying to do nationally what she did in New York state in 2000.

BUCHANAN:  And you know—and I underestimated her.  I really didn‘t think she could get elected to the Senate.  And I—I mean, I admire the way she is moving here.  Howard, answer the question, if you will, I asked Terry.  Do you think she‘s running in 2008?  As of now, obviously, she hasn‘t made any final decision.  And what would be the odds of her winning the nomination if she did go after winning in 2006?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think she is—I think she is going to run after she runs and probably wins the Senate race.  I think she‘s already aiming for that, even though her advisers will deny it.  She‘s looking long term.  She‘s got the best possible political sounding board in her husband.  And I think her chances of winning the nomination are at least 50/50, if not much greater than that.

BUCHANAN:  I think they are.  Rachel, what do you think?

MADDOW:  Pat, I think that you‘ve kind of invented something out of whole cloth here.  Did anybody notice that the immigration quote that you put up there was from February 2003?  If you‘re trying create this image...

BUCHANAN:  Well, there‘s two quotes.  One of them was today.

MADDOW:  Well...

BUCHANAN:  There were two quotes.  There were separate quotes.

MADDOW:  If you‘re trying create the image that Hillary Clinton is moving right, I don‘t think that‘s based in reality.  Whether or not Hillary is going to run in 2008...

BUCHANAN:  Which way is she going?


MADDOW:  Listen, what...

BUCHANAN:  There isn‘t any room over there on the other side!

MADDOW:  Listen, how is it right-wing for Hillary Clinton to point out that abortions have gone up in number under George W. Bush because he doesn‘t support contraception, he doesn‘t support family planning and he doesn‘t support sex education?  That doesn‘t sound like right-wing rhetoric to me.

BUCHANAN:  OK.  More with my guests when we return.  And we‘ll look at the controversy caused by Harvard University president Larry Summers, who recently questioned whether women have the brains for math and science.  Do they?  That‘s next.



BUCHANAN:  It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “All men are created equal.”  Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, agrees.  All men are created equal.  Summers caused an uproar when he said that women aren‘t as successful in the sciences because they may have less, quote, “innate ability” than men.

Joining me again are Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent for “Newsweek, also an MSNBC news analyst, Rachel Maddow, host of the radio program “Unfiltered” on Air America, and Terry Jeffrey, editor of the weekly newspaper “Human Events.”

Rachel, why aren‘t you any good at math? 


MADDOW:  You know, Larry Summers, he opens his mouth and his thoughts come out.  That‘s the problem. 


MADDOW:  Apparently.

I feel like this...


MADDOW:  ... going inside his mind, and he had no intention of letting it out.  And it just leaked. 


BUCHANAN:  Rachel, let me ask you.  Look, first of all, Harvard and the academic community, they claim academic freedom, so anything can be said and thrown on the table. 

Secondly, he‘s asked a question, why does he think that girls who once they go out of eighth grade and go into high school, they continue to exceed boys in English and other areas.  However, they tend to fall behind in math and sciences.  Is it utterly illegitimate to raise the possibility that naturally young men are better, as they are at athletics, say, are also better at math?  What is wrong throwing that idea out? 

MADDOW:  Well, think about the context in which Larry Summers made this comment.  It was at a conference about increasing diversity in the science and engineering fields. 

And he said he wanted to provoke the audience.  And so he raised the possibility that the reason women don‘t compete at the same level as men in these fields is because they‘re biologically incapable of doing.  Now, Pat, you may think that‘s a possibility, that women are biologically incapable of doing that. 


MADDOW:  But when you start there, where are you going?  Where does that lead you... 


BUCHANAN:  But let me ask you this.

All right, let me go to you, Howard Fineman.  Look, Howard, they have taken all these—they take these tests, I.Q. tests, I guess aptitude tests, in American schools.  And they find out that Asian kids have a tremendous aptitude, a superior aptitude for mathematics and science and things like that and you see this reflected in many graduate and postgraduate schools.  Is there anything wrong with sitting down and discussing why this may be? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think Larry Summers decided there was something wrong, because in an interview...

BUCHANAN:  He‘s got three apologies, right. 


FINEMAN:  In an interview with us at “Newsweek,” he said, look, I made a mistake. 

And I think the mistake that understands is that, yes, you need free inquiry at a university, but any university, Harvard or any university, is supposed to be about opening up all the potential of the human mind in every human being, and indeed that he‘s putting his money where his mouth now is.  Harvard is going to spend a lot of money, $25 million, on increasing faculty diversity, women in sciences and so forth.

And also, under Summers‘ leadership, Harvard is now making the college free to any family that makes less than $40,000 a year.  So he‘s definitely for diversity.  He‘s definitely for openness.  I think, in this case, his sort of Socratic method kind of got the best of him and he now realizes he made a mistake. 

BUCHANAN:  Terry, let‘s talk about excellence.  If you‘re talking about a math test or an algebra test or trigonometry or calculus, this is very neutral.  And if young men somehow are excelling here or getting more of the really top-rated slots than young women, it seems to me you pick the best, don‘t you, without regard to sex. 

JEFFREY:  Without regard to sex or race or anything else, Pat.

I think the mistake, ironically, that Dr. Summers may have made is falling into the same group entitlement thinking that his critics have.  The people who attend Harvard and the people who apply for jobs in the faculty of Harvard ought to be charged on their individual merits and their skills as individuals.  They ought not to be judged by what their gender is. 

They should look at this person and say, this individual, what are their skills?  What are their talents.  What are their merits?  What do they bring?  They should be judged on that basis. 


BUCHANAN:  This is the way we conduct the Olympics.  You get the very best.

Go ahead, Howard. 

BUCHANAN:  He didn‘t say they shouldn‘t, as far as I know.


BUCHANAN:  You talk about diversity, Howard. 


BUCHANAN:  Does he mean we‘re going to make sure there are going to be more women regardless of whether they get higher scores or they‘re performing better on these high tests than men?


MADDOW:  I think that you guys are all—you‘re conflating a couple of different things here. 

He was talking about what women‘s test scores are vs. men‘s test scores are.  But when you look at why there are less women in tenure-level positions than there are men, you end up finding out things like equally qualified women with the same amount of seniority get less lab space, get fewer teaching assistants, get fewer resources.

BUCHANAN:  Well, you‘re talking about discrimination. 


MADDOW:  That‘s discrimination.  Those are the kind of research questions we need to ask. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, everybody would be against discrimination. 

But let me ask you this.  I‘m going to throw this out.  You know, the Bible says here the lord gave this man two talents and he returned the two and this.  Does anybody agree or disagree that the talents given out, you know, by God or nature‘s God are given out disproportionately to groups and to individuals, and what you should have is an equal starting line, so that those who have superior talents show up? 



JEFFREY:  I‘m sorry.  Go ahead, Howard. 

FINEMAN:  Sure, sure. 

But I think Larry would agree that much needs to be done, that much, much more needs to be done to make sure there aren‘t those imbalances in terms of resources, in terms of training.  I mean, he‘s all for that.  He‘s all for that. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  I think what happened behind closed doors is, he engaged in a little Socratic dialogue that I‘m sure at this points he regrets. 


MADDOW:  But he‘s not all for that, because the number of women getting tenure offers at Harvard has declined every year that he‘s been president there.  He‘s got a real weakness here he‘s got to answer to.  


BUCHANAN:  Let me ask you, Rachel, what‘s wrong with him throwing out an idea, even if it was wrong-headed?  This idea that people have got to go out and apologize for opinions they honestly hold which don‘t appear to me, at least, to be any sign of hostility to someone based on race, gender or creed, why can‘t he at least have a discussion about it?  What‘s academic freedom all about? 

MADDOW:  Academic freedom is one thing.

But, Pat, consider what he did.  He went to a conference about diversity in science and engineering, where people are presenting data about science and engineering diversity, women and men, how these things works.  He got up there without no information, with no research, with no data, and said, has anyone actually considered whether or not women are just incapable of competing for these jobs?  That‘s not a scientific idea. 


BUCHANAN:  But he‘s got data, in that they‘re not winning these awards. 

MADDOW:  They‘re not getting them at Harvard. 

BUCHANAN:  And second, there is evidence, there is evidence, Terry, that once you get passed eighth or ninth grade and it has—they‘ve studied it and studied it and studied it and tried to make the environment neutral, and this is what occurs, so he throws an opinion. 

JEFFREY:  But I think the gender of the person, Pat, applying for a position at Harvard should be irrelevant.  What should matter is their merit.  And I think...

BUCHANAN:  You don‘t think he should have been at a diversity conference? 

JEFFREY:  Well, the whole idea is so that let‘s give this group this, let‘s this group this that.

BUCHANAN:  It‘s group entitlements.

JEFFREY:  It‘s not saying God made this individual with individual merit and to be judged as an individual.  That‘s what we believe in America.


BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask you, Howard, why do we want diversity rather than—we don‘t have in the NFL...


BUCHANAN:  In the NFL or the NBA, you don‘t have diversity.  You have got excellence.

FINEMAN:  Wait a minute.

You can‘t make sure you have all the excellence possible intellectually unless you tap all the possible pools of it. 

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly right. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s the point.  That‘s the point here.  You have got to range across all of humanity.


FINEMAN:  And women historically—women historically haven‘t been motivated or pushed into the sciences. 

At Harvard right now, there‘s some absolutely brilliant undergraduates in science.  I happen to know some of them.  They want to be inspired by Larry Summers.  And I think he‘s now learned his lesson on that. 


MADDOW:  I think we ought to consider the possibility that maybe men just aren‘t cut out to be university presidents. 


BUCHANAN:  Or talk show hosts. 


MADDOW:  For example.

JEFFREY:  Or maybe it‘s a problem with Harvard.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Howard Fineman, Rachel Maddow, Terry Jeffrey, thanks. 

When we come back, the Oscar nominations announced today.  Mel Gibson‘s “Passion of the Christ” was shut out of big awards, as some of us expected.  Do the left and right get equal treatment from the academy?

That‘s next. 


ADRIEN BRODY, ACTOR:  The nominees for best performance by an actor in a leading role are Don Cheadle in “Hotel Rwanda,” Johnny Depp in “Finding Neverland,” Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Aviator,” Clint Eastwood, “Million Dollar Baby” and Jamie Foxx in “Ray.”



BUCHANAN:  Coming up, when it comes to the Oscars, will filmmakers from the left and the right be able to thank the academy?  That‘s next.



BRODY:  And finally, I‘m pleased to announce the films selected as the best picture nominees for 2004 are...


BUCHANAN:  The nominations for the 77th Academy Awards were announced in Los Angeles this morning.  Nominees for best picture were “The Aviator” “Million Dollar Baby, “Ray,” “Sideways” and “Finding Neverland.”  Missing from the list, one of the highest grossing and most controversial and popular films of the year, “The Passion of the Christ.” 

It was ignored in all the major categories, no best picture nomination, no best director nomination.  It did receive three minor nominations.  Is this a case of Hollywood just being out of touch with the public or Hollywood hostility to the message of Gibson‘s “Passion of the Christ”? 

Joining me are media critic Jeff Jarvis, a former critic for “TV Guide” and “People” magazine.  He also writes for the blog.  And, on the phone, film critic and syndicated radio host Michael Medved, who is also the author of “Right Turns.”

Jeff Jarvis, this was the People‘s Choice for drama of the year.  It grossed $360 million.  It is considered a masterpiece by many.  It‘s criticized by others.  Why not even a nomination for best picture? 

JEFF JARVIS, JOURNALIST:  It‘s a matter of taste.  The people spoke at the box office.  But I think it‘s a very bad movie.  And let‘s make clear here, I‘m a Christian, and I think it‘s a very bad movie.  Those two are not at all mutually exclusive. 

BUCHANAN:  Why is it a bad movie? 

JARVIS:  It‘s sadistic.  It‘s simplistic.  It goes overboard with what it tries to do.  I think that, as a Christian, the message isn‘t of the grace and redemption of Christ.  I think that...

BUCHANAN:  You don‘t like the message? 

JARVIS:  I don‘t like the message, the movie, the making, much about it at all, no. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I mean, you just didn‘t like the movie.  But there‘s

a lot of films I‘m sure that were made—“Birth of the Nation,” a lot of

people, Americans, don‘t like the message, but now they do say this was a -

·         as a film goes, it was probably the best film of that year.


JARVIS:  I disagree with that.  I think it‘s a bad movie, Pat. 

BUCHANAN:  Michael Medved, what do you think?  Why do you think, first off, that “The Passion of the Christ” didn‘t get nominated for best picture or best director?  And secondly, what‘s the source of the hatred of the movie, the hostility to it that we see in Hollywood? 

MICHAEL MEDVED, FILM CRITIC:  Well, I think the reason it didn‘t get nominated is because Hollywood has shown it‘s deeply uncomfortable with religious content. 

This is not a movie that was shunned because it‘s anti-Jewish.  I happen to be Jewish and religious and proud of it.  This is a movie that was shunned because it was pro-Christian.  And the truth of it is, when you‘re looking at a movie for Academy Awards, one of the things you want to be thinking about is, what movies will be seen 50 years from now? 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

JARVIS:  There‘s very, very little chance that “Finding Neverland” will be seen 50 years from now.  But “The Passion of the Christ” certainly will be and should have been nominated. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, more with our guests in just a moment.  We‘ll be back. 


BUCHANAN:  Back now with media critic Jeff Jarvis, who writes the blog, and, on the phone, film critic and syndicated radio talk show—or radio talk show host Michael Medved.  We‘re talking about “The Passion of the Christ,” which wasn‘t nominated in any major Oscar category today. 

Michael, I want to go back to you, because you had a piece in “USA Today.”  And you used a phrase about Hollywood, which is deeply secularist and hedonistic and all the rest of it.  But you said they have a pathological discomfort over “The Passion of the Christ.”  But if people are secularists, they don‘t believe in God, they think it‘s all nonsense, I don‘t understand the visceral hostility and the recoil in the reaction.  That suggests that “The Passion” is trampling on your deepest beliefs.  It doesn‘t suggest secularist difference.

MEDVED:  Well, it doesn‘t.

Look, I think secularists are far more threatened by religious faith than religious believers are threatened by secularism.  And part of the reason for that is, there‘s a feeling on the part of a lot of secularists, particularly the militant storm troopers of secularism who occupy a lot of positions of authority in the entertainment media, there‘s a fear that, well, what if religious people happen to be right? 

I mean, I think part of the distaste for “The Passion of the Christ” really was its very vividness and intensity.  It puts the story of the crucifixion and the torture of Jesus right up against you.  And it‘s that immediacy that I think makes it such a remarkable film.  I‘m glad it got nominated for best cinematography and for best musical score and for best makeup. 

But, for goodness sakes, if you‘re going to nominate Leonardo DiCaprio for impersonating Howard Hughes adequately, then Jim Caviezel, who went through torment to play Jesus Christ, the most difficult role imaginable for an actor, he absolutely deserved a nomination for best actor.  And it‘s a shame he didn‘t receive it. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Jeff Jarvis, how do you explain this?  You obviously disliked it intensely, but how do you explain the recoil of these folks, the question I asked Michael, who seem to be secularist, indifferent?  If you don‘t believe in God and you think it‘s all nonsense and the Christians can believe all that if they want to, why not just ignore it and say, look, we made a lot of money and we got a lot of attention, got a lot of people into theaters, overall, it‘s a good thing? 

Why didn‘t they react that way?  Why this—they reacted like Satan would have reacted to a crucifix.

JARVIS:  Well, I don‘t know where you‘re getting this “they” said this and “they” said that. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I read the reviews.  The reviews are unbelievable. 

JARVIS:  Yes.  I have one review in “The New York Post” that called it fetishistic and obsessive about violence.  That‘s the right-wing “New York Post.”


JARVIS:  You know, Pat, let me just say, this is not a case of religion...

BUCHANAN:  Why did they react that way?

JARVIS:  Let me finish. 

This is not a case of religion here, in terms of saying, oh, if you don‘t like this movie, you must be godless.  That‘s illogical, even offensive.  Neither is it right or left Hollywood.  Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 9/11” got blanked, for good reason.  I think it was also a really crappy movie.  This is a matter of taste and choice.

And individuals can have their own taste about this movie without being labeled as secularist gangs or godless.  Individuals can have their own taste and view and perspective on religion without being condemned by one person or another.

BUCHANAN:  Well, I‘m not condemning you at all.  But I‘m just—the reaction, see—Michael Medved, let me go back to you. 

Now, I read all those reports.  Before the show, they said, look, if people see this show, they‘re going to go out.  There‘s going to be pogroms and Jewish folks are going to be attacked and beaten up. 

When you come out of that film, your sentiment, for me, coming out wasn‘t anger at anybody.  It was anguish.  And it was a just a riveting, powerful film.  And you sort of drove home quietly after it.  And so I think all this talk that somebody was going to be beaten up covers up something else.  And I haven‘t been able to figure it out. 

MEDVED:  It does.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MEDVED:  I think what it covers up, again, is the fact that Hollywood is very inhospitable to religious ideas.  And, by the way, it‘s not just shutting out “The Passion of the Christ.” 


BUCHANAN:  It didn‘t used to be.  It didn‘t used to be. 

MEDVED:  No, it didn‘t used to be at all. 


BUCHANAN:  You had “Quo Vadis.”  You had all of those films, “The Ten Commandments.”

MEDVED:  And they got tremendous Oscar attention. 

“Ben-Hur” won 11 different Oscars.  It used to hold the record.  The point about this is that you also have in this same Oscar nominations, in this batch of nominations, a movie that is not a boxing movie, a movie that‘s an assisted-suicide, right-to-die movie called...

BUCHANAN:  “Million Dollar Baby.”

MEDVED:  ... “Million Dollar Baby,” got seven different Oscar nominations.  Another right-to-die movie, “The Sea Inside,” was nominated for best foreign language film.  A movie glorifying abortion, “Vera Drake”, won three crucial nominations, including best actress and best director. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me take that right to Jeff Jarvis. 

Jeff Jarvis, they have “Cider House Rules” and other films, “Philadelphia Story” or “Philadelphia,” and they celebrate—films that celebrate homosexuality, that portray abortion in a very positive light, and now we get assisted suicide and “Million Dollar Baby.”

JARVIS:  You do see conspiracies everywhere, Pat.  It‘s not just about agenda.

BUCHANAN:  No, I don‘t see conspiracies.  I see...

JARVIS:  Not everything is agenda. Sometimes it‘s just a matter of taste.

BUCHANAN:  It‘s not agenda?  It‘s not an agenda when a film about Christ, which -- $360 million and considered a masterpiece, gets nothing and all these other values are celebrated in these movies? 

JARVIS:  Some say masterpiece.  Some say it‘s a bad movie.  That‘s a matter of taste. 


MEDVED:  Look, Jeff Jarvis...


BUCHANAN:  Jeff Jarvis, 50 years from now, do you think “Sideways” or “The Passion of the Christ” will be watched by more people?

JARVIS:  The question is how they‘ll be watched and what will be said about them.  And I think “The Passion of the Christ” will be seen as a bad movie in history.  It is a bad piece of cinematography. 


BUCHANAN:  Michael Medved, quick ending?

MEDVED:  It‘s an enormously important piece of filmmaking.  And, as such, it deserved more recognition than it received. 

BUCHANAN:  Jeff Jarvis, Michael Medved, thanks very much for giving us the time. 

We‘ll be right back.


BUCHANAN:  Over the next five days, MSNBC will be bringing you a series of reports leading up to the Iraqi elections on Sunday.  And all day Sunday, MSNBC will have live coverage of the results. 

I‘m Pat Buchanan.  Thanks for watching. 

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”



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