SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY For May 19, 2004
BYLINE: Jim Cummins; Natalie Allen; Joe Scarborough
GUESTS: Stephen Baldwin; Jennifer Giroux; Deroy Murdock; Gary Hart; Peter King; Joe Trippi; Jack Burkman; David Kay
May 19, 2004 Wednesday
Top U.S. generals are plucked from Iraq and paraded before the Senate. Just how important is the sarin gas discovery in Iraq? Is there a downside to the religious trend in America?
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REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Yes, I think Secretary Lehman was totally out of line. I think Tom Von Essen was perfectly right.
The fact is, of course there were things that could have been corrected. But the bottom line is, that happens in every battle, every engagement, every war. And here you had a situation with 25,000 people were saved, 25,000 people were rescued, and 343 firemen and 60 cops lost their lives. Many of them were friends and neighbors of mine. So I think it was disgraceful for John Lehman to use that tone.
If he wanted to say, could this have been better, would you do this differently in the future, that's one thing. But to be using terms like Boy Scouts and scandalous, I think he should be ashamed of himself. And Tom Von Essen-I give him credit-was really right in going back at him. And I think that is a problem that the commission has to some extent.
Certainly during the Condoleezza Rice, Richard Clarke hearings, you had some of the commission members grandstanding. God knows they have an important job to do, but I really don't care about their life history or their reflections on the world. They should be asking questions and getting to the point and not making editorial comments and not judging a guy like Tom Von Essen, who was almost killed. Rudy Giuliani was almost killed.
And the fact is, this was the greatest rescue operation in the history of the world.
SCARBOROUGH: Congressman King, let me ask you the same question that I asked Senator Hart. Do you believe that New York City officials, starting with Rudy Giuliani, but going down to those that worked for the fire department, those who worked for the police department, that they did everything they could have done on September 11, 2001, to save those people that were around the World Trade Center?
KING: They did everything that could be reasonably expected. Pete Ganci was a constituent of mine. He was the chief of the department. He set up his operations base right outside the World Trade Center. Bernie Kerik has his outside 75 Barclay street. This was going. This was flowing. It was working.
You had thousands of police, thousands of firefighters coming down there. And considering everything that was going on around them, bodies flying out the windows, debris coming out the windows, buildings collapsing, they did a phenomenal job, and not just on September 11, but in the days and weeks and months afterwards. Remember, the fires did not go out at the World Trade Center until after Christmas of that year.
And yet they had this very well run operation going on. It was going on for months afterwards. And what they did on September 11, September 12, September 13, 14, those immediate days afterwards, they deserve tremendous credit. We want to find fault, you can fault Eisenhower for all the things that went wrong D-Day. You can always fault a commander. But the fact is, these guys showed guts. They showed initiative. And Rudy Giuliani, Bernie Kerik, Richie Scheirer, Tommy Von Essen, all great leaders. They did the great job. And so did this who died, like Pete Ganci, Ray Downey. You can go down the line, Bill Feehan. These were outstanding leaders.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Senator Gary Hart, of course, at the hearings today, Rudolph Giuliani faced some hecklers in the crowd, obviously some family members who were very angry. And I thought it was just-I thought it was very telling that in the 2 ½ years since September 11, you have a guy like Rudy Giuliani who goes from a national hero, "TIME"'s man of the year, to a scapegoat for some of these family members.
Do you think that these type of hearings may yield themselves to the blame game a bit too much? And is that fair for public figures, of course, yourself being one, that sometimes public figures are blamed for things that they just can't stop?
HART: Well, I don't know how else you get to the truth without these public hearings. In some ways, I think this commission should have had more time. I sat around waiting, as a former co-chair of the commission on national security that warned about terrorism, waiting for this commission to call us, and they never did.
So I got ahold of them, and finally there was some informal meeting with them about two weeks ago in which we gave them the reasons why we said America was going to be attacked by terrorists. But I think the frustration on the part of commissioners and others, and certainly the families, is not with their heroism. And Congressman King is exactly right. There was enormous heroism on the part of first-responders who lost their lives.
It's to hear that hundreds of people could have been saved if communication systems had been working, that they were told to stay in the building when they should have been told to get out. I think that's what frustrates people. And commissioners, I can't account for Secretary Lehman, but other commissioners are simply just trying to find out why that happened, without putting fingers of blame.
SCARBOROUGH: Congressman King, we've only got 30 seconds, but that certainly is a fair point. Some members-some people in one of the towers were told, stay in the tower, everything's fine. Isn't that the sort of thing that you want investigated?
KING: Yes, but, again, that was policy after 1993. It was felt it was more dangerous to go out of a building. You could have been hit with debris. You could have been hit with flying bodies. They weren't expecting the second plane to hit.
Also, my fault with the commission is that Tom Kean should control those hearings better. You shouldn't have commissioners playing to the crowd. And, by the way, I would say 90 percent of the family members are not in that crowd of booing Giuliani or criticizing the president. They want answers. But what you saw yesterday was a small and vocal minority, which is in no way at all reflective of the majority of family members that I know.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much, Congressman Peter King. And, Senator Gary Hart, thank you for being with us tonight.
HART: Thank you, Joe.