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MSNBC Scarborough Country - Transcript

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SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, April 18, 2004

BYLINE: Joe Scarborough; Rosiland Jordan; Carl Quintanilla; Jim Maceda

GUESTS: Peter King; Jack Burkman; Steve McMahon; Rick MacArthur; Anne Graham Lotz

HIGHLIGHT:
Bob Woodward's explosive new book and the disturbing questions it raises. John Kerry is on the attack, accusing the president of being an arrogant liar.

April 18, 2004 Sunday

SCARBOROUGH: Thanks a lot. Hey, you know, we have got Congressman Peter King from New York here tonight to talk about the Woodward interview. We also have "Harper" magazine publisher Rick MacArthur, who wrote, "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War." We also have Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, who is Howard Dean's senior adviser, and Republican strategist Jack Burkman is also with me.

Let me begin with you, Congressman. As you know, I'm a supporter of this war. I'm also a supporter of the Constitution, and I was very disturbed tonight listening to Bob Woodward, getting these accounts from Washington insiders who told them the president of the United States diverted $700 million in funds for Afghanistan to fund this war with Iraq that was still secret to you and Congress. Does that bother you?

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: First of all, I'm not sure what he is talking about as far as a secret diversion. Everyone knew during the summer-during the spring and summer of 2002 that war with Iraq was certainly a real possibility. And money was being spent. Now, he said it came from Afghan money. I'm not aware of that. I mean, there was no doubt, we knew that there was a troop build-up going on. That was being reported throughout the media. There was no doubt there were-that plans were being made in the event of there was going to be a war. I think there is a bit of hype here by Woodward as far as money being secretly diverted.

SCARBOROUGH: What was your take on the entire interview? Do you think it's going to hurt the president? Obviously, let's face it, I mean, we know how the media cycle works. Woodward launches this Sunday night, "60 Minutes," this is going to occupy the news for the rest of the week. Just like Clarke did, just like O'Neill did before. When CBS gets all these books on there that they own. I mean, it's a great book, though, I mean, it's going to make interesting reading, but how is it going to affect the news cycle over the next week? Is it going to hurt the White House?

KING: No, I don't think it is. I think you have obviously some people in the White House trying to even scores with some people in the administration, but the fact is, to me it backs up the president's position. He said all along that he relied on what the CIA told him. You have Democrats and others saying he was manipulating intelligence, but here you had, according to Woodward, the president asking questions about the quality of the intelligence, and George Tenet saying it is a slam dunk, being assured personally by the director of the CIA, which is what the president's position has been all along, not that he was attempting to manipulate the intelligence.

As far as, you know, the other, that he asked Rumsfeld to prepare a war plan, I would hope he would have Rumsfeld prepare a war plan knowing that Iraq could very likely be attacked in the next several years, of course.

SCARBOROUGH: Exactly. You know, Rick, one of the things that I still-I just can't figure out, Rick MacArthur, a lot of things I can figure out, some things I can't. One of them that I can't figure out is why George Tenet still has his job. Now, this is what Woodward said tonight when he was talking about a conversation between Tenet. "After the president saw the CIA intelligence showing the Iraqi weapon sites"-this is when he was trying to decide whether they had weapons or not-"The president said, 'this is the best we've got?' And George Tenet stood up on the coach in the White House, waving his arms, saying, 'don't worry, Mr. President, it's a slam dunk." How does-is George Tenet the Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover of the 21st century? Does he have pictures and files on everybody in the White House?

RICK MACARTHUR, HARPER'S MAGAZINE: Now, I don't want to ruin the discussion here, but by blaspheming Bob Woodward, but I have got to say that I don't trust Bob Woodward's reporting.

SCARBOROUGH: Why not?

MACARTHUR: For starters, look, this is a guy who had the bedside conversation with Bill Casey...

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
KING: OK, let me make a point here. Let's not let this Democratic nonsense go unchallenged, that there were lies (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the war. President Bush said absolutely nothing about going to war that Clinton didn't say, that Al Gore didn't say. The September before the war began, Al Gore said that he saw all the reports showing that there were chemical and biological weapons hidden all throughout Iraq. He said there was no doubt about that.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: We are going to ask the guys one at a time, and actually I'm going to have to be the one that goes here. And Peter King, as good as you are at spinning for your party, I can't believe you didn't add John Kerry into that list. He also was saying Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But you got to hold it right there, because we are going to be going live to Afghanistan next for an update on America's other war, the war on terror. And we are going to be debating the situation in Iraq more.

And then John Kerry says it's OK for Israel to kill a Hamas leader. But it's not OK for us to go after a man responsible for murdering American civilians. Why? We will debate that coming up.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
KING: What Steve McMahon is saying is it's OK for Bill Clinton to mislead the country, so long as he doesn't act on it. I mean, that is absolutely nonsense.

MCMAHON: No, no, no, that's not what I am saying at all.

KING: The fact is-the fact is-that fact is that George Bush did exactly what Gore, Clinton, Kerry said, he said what every intelligence agency in the world said. And listen, if you want to say a mistake was made, that's one thing, but to say that he lied is absolutely disgraceful and it's totally hypocritical. John Kerry (UNINTELLIGIBLE) both sides of the issue. Absolute nonsense.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: He sent George Tenet back because he didn't have enough information. And then he went to the U.N. and said that the proof is clear, we know where they are.

BURKMAN: From a raw political standpoint, I don't see how the Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

MACARTHUR: . and whether or not the U.N. was misled. What matters is that the United States Congress was misled and the American people were misled over an atomic.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on. Hold on a second, guys.

KING: That is not true. That is untrue.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: Rick, I have got to ask you this question, OK, because again, you are an honest guy, you go after both parties, of course from the left, just like I hopefully do from the center, very moderate guy here. But you have to admit that what George Bush said about weapons of mass destruction was repeated by Bill Clinton, was repeated by John Kerry, was repeated by Al Gore. In fact, in 1998 we voted on a legislation that the Clinton administration signed that said our primary objective for foreign policy was overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

MACARTHUR: You have got to separate out what weapons of mass destruction stands for, and I swore off WMD about six months ago on your show, I think it was, or four months ago.

The thing they were selling was an atomic bomb threat. The stories that were appearing in "The New York Times," on the front page of "The New York Times," which helped sell the war, let's remember, "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times," the liberal press helped sell the war, were all about if we don't-if we take too long looking for the smoking gun, the smoking gun could turn into a mushroom cloud. The whole thing was predicated on Saddam having an atomic bomb or an atomic bomb capability, which is different from chemical weapons or biological weapons.

KING: My question is, how does this relate.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: Peter King, I'm going to have you to respond, and then I am going to go to Jack Burkman. Peter King, go ahead.

KING: OK, no, real quick, in the State of the Union speech, in the debate in the Congress, we were talking about primarily chemical and biological weapons. What the president said about atomic weapons is 100 percent true, that British intelligence then and today says that there was yellowcake attempted to be bought from Niger. Totally different from Joe Wilson. Totally different from all that. And the president is 100 percent right on that.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: OK, guys, we really have to talk one at a time. And Jack Burkman, this is your time.

BURKMAN: I guess my feeling is from a political standpoint, what is the significance of any of this? The public supports the war. It supports getting rid of Saddam. It supports what the president did. All of this focused on weapons of mass destruction and whether he had them at a certain given point in time, did he-you know, he used them, he had them, maybe for a six-month window he didn't have them. He was trying to get them again.

What does any of this have to do with the '04 election?

MACARTHUR: He never had them.

BURKMAN: Washington is concerned.

MACARTHUR: He never had them, nor did he have the capability of building them. The last time he was even close to it, Colin Powell even said, after the last Gulf War that the Iraqi atomic capability was destroyed.

KING: Then why did Bill Clinton attack Iraq?

MACARTHUR: The U.N. weapons inspectors-the U.N. weapons inspectors said the same thing when they left at the end of '98.

KING: Then why did Bill Clinton-why did Bill Clinton attack? Why did Bill Clinton attack Iraq in 1998? He attacked it because there were weapons of mass destruction.

MACARTHUR: Because of Monica Lewinsky. Because he.

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What is your message to your constituents and to Americans who think that we are getting into a quagmire?

KING: Oh, we are not. I was in Iraq several months ago, and 85, 90 percent of the country is stable. And every death is tragic, every soldier wounded is absolutely tragic, but the fact is, there is no large scale insurrection. It is confined to certain areas. The overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people want us to stay there, probably stay there longer than we want to stay there. And I think it is absolutely disgraceful to say we should be cutting and running, or somebody like John Kerry who says he'd do it differently but not say how. Is he going to send in the French? Is he going to send in the U.N.?

The fact is, we have to stand together, we have to stand firm, and we will win these battles, and we will definitely-again, the Shiite-the overwhelming majority of Shiites definitely do not support al-Sadr.

MACARTHUR: How do you know the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want us to stay there? Who told you? You counted? You asked? You polled, what?

KING: No, actually, I hate to say that, I did actually rely on a BBC poll which said 71 to nine they said their lives are getting better.

MACARTHUR: No, no, no.

KING: A solid majority say they do not want us to pull out, they do not want us to pull out.

MACARTHUR: I didn't see that poll. But I-listen, I haven't been to Iraq, but I also remind you that George Ball, the only guy who got Vietnam right during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, also never went to Vietnam.

And from what I'm reading, the country is in chaos.

KING: Well, it's not chaos. It's not chaos.

MACARTHUR: The corpses are piling up, and what you are not reading about right now, reading a lot about are dead, but you're not reading about the numbers of their dead. "The Financial Times" has made the only effort I can see to really count the Arab dead, and it is around 800 in the last week, compared with our 100.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

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