SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY For April 12, 2004
BYLINE: Ken Allard; Jack Jacobs; Pat Buchanan
GUESTS: Brian Clayton; Frances Kissling; Fess Parker; Peter King; Ellen Mariani
April 12, 2004 Monday
Is a pre-9/11 memo to President Bush the smoking gun his critics have been looking for or a case of media misrepresentation and hype? A shaky cease-fire in Fallujah is maintained, as more people are kidnapped in Iraq. Are Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and the Catholic Church headed for a collision?
PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST: Is a pre-9/11 memo to President Bush the smoking gun his critics have been looking for? Or is it another case of media misrepresentation and hype?
Then, a shaky cease-fire in Fallujah today, as more foreigners are kidnapped in Iraq. The question now, how do we get out of this mess?
And John Kerry supports abortions and civil unions for gays, two things the Catholic Church adamantly opposes. So how is Kerry running as a Catholic candidate for president?
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. I'm Pat Buchanan. Joe has got the night off.
Parts of that controversial presidential daily brief from August 6, 2001, have been made public. Critics are saying President Bush was alerted to the bin Laden threat and did nothing to protect the nation.
Today, President Bush responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Had they found something, I'm confident they would have reported back to me. That's the way the system works. And whoever was the acting FBI director, had they found something, would have said, Mr. President, we have found something that you need to be concerned about in your duties to protect America. That didn't happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: With me now is Congressman Peter King, Republican from New York and supporter of the president, and Ellen Mariani, a 9/11 widow and an outspoken critic of the Bush administration.
Ms. Mariani, thanks very much for coming on. We appreciate it.
Also, Congressman King.
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Thank you, Pat.
BUCHANAN: Let me go to you first, Ms. Mariani.
Having read that August memo, do you not think that was more in the way of explaining to the president what the al Qaeda and bin Laden had done and really did not alert him to the fact that there was some imminent, grave threat?
ELLEN MARIANI, 9/11 WIDOW: Pat, why did it take 2 ½ years to get this August briefing, which was a weak briefing.
I am told and I have been made aware that there is a May, June, and July briefing that gives over 4,000 warnings. Presidential briefings, bring them on. We didn't need 2 ½ years of wasting taxpayers' money to hear the weakest briefing that he had.
BUCHANAN: All right, well, let me ask you. I want to show you an excerpt of the president's daily brief from August 6, 2001, because in my judgment, it tends to exonerate the president.
Here's what it says. It says: "The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin-Laden-related."
Now, Ellen, isn't that-if you're the president of the United States and you're being told in your daily brief and you've asked what bin Laden is doing and al Qaeda is doing, and the CIA says, the FBI has got 70 field investigations of this crowd, isn't that a memo of assurance they've given the president, wrongly?
MARIANI: I'm going to go back to what I said. Let's bring in May, June and July, and then we can really bring it all to the table and tell the truth. Right now, we've only got a little bit and it's weak.
And I object to this panel of the 9/11 Commission asking very weak questions to our president and the Cabinet. They need to be tougher now.
BUCHANAN: All right, Peter King, it seems to me, looking at that memo, frankly-I'm not the president of the United States, and neither is Peter King, of course-but if I had gotten that memo, it seems to me that the CIA and the FBI have a real measure of responsibility here, because that's a memorandum that does not talk about some imminent, grave threat, when, where, how, but gives the president in effect assurance: We've got 70 investigations out there on this thing, sir.
KING: Well, Pat, you're absolutely right. This memo shows the president did exactly the right thing.
And first, let me say, the Oliver Stone crowd has been saying for two years, wait until the August 6 memo comes out. It's going to show everything. Well, the fact is, now that it's out, they're saying, oh, there's other memos that are hidden somewhere. The fact is, this is the memo that everyone was talking about for the last two years. Now it's out. What does it show?
It shows the president that whatever activity there is in the United States, the FBI is conducting 70 field investigations. What that's telling the president is that the situation is under control. Now, that may have been wrong, but there's no way that President Bush was going to know that. He was relying on the best estimate from the CIA. This was the best memo they could put together. This was the best information they had.
And, by the way, the information turned out to be wrong. It said there was going to be an attack with explosives. There was no attack with explosives. It said that citizens of the United States were going to carry out the attacks. No American citizen carried out the attacks. And it said that federal buildings were under surveillance and no federal building were attacked.
So the fact is, this was a memo that was very sketchy. And, if anything, I were president of the United States, or if Pat Buchanan were the president, this reinforces the president's thinking that this law enforcement is monitoring what's happening. And it's really to me wrong to take the most tragic event that ever occurred in our country and try to turn it into some type of UFO investigation or Oliver Stone movie.
BUCHANAN: All right, Ellen, let me pick up on that.
MARIANI: Can I say something here?
BUCHANAN: Yes, I want you to say something here.
BUCHANAN: Go ahead.
MARIANI: Go ahead.
Jamie Gorelick, who also is a board member on the 9/11, had plenty to say. It was so bad that it would set your hair on fire. Let's hear more from Jamie Gorelick. Or will we? She's on the board.
BUCHANAN: Look, Ellen, I agree with you. It looks to me and I think it looks to Congressman King, the president is being reassured here. These guys are on top of this. There's 70 investigations out there. The FBI is looking at it, sir. If I were the president, I would have said, our guys are really on top of this thing.
Now, that memo, it seems to me, exonerates the president more than it indicts him in any way. What do these other three other memos you're talking about, April, May or June, no one has referred to them that I've seen.
MARIANI: May, June and July, sir.
And I have another question, too, that I believe Attorney General Ashcroft, John Ashcroft, is going to be questioned this week. Why did he stop flying in the summer of 2001? And then he will not declassified threat assessments and the briefings to us Americans, who warned him to not fly. That question, I want the panel to ask Mr...
BUCHANAN: Well, wait a minute, Ellen. You're not suggesting foreknowledge of this kind of attack on the part of the attorney general, are you?
MARIANI: Who warned him not to fly, him and his family both? Those are the questions that the panel should be not softly asking. These are deaths, my loved one, plus thousands of others. Yes, we want answers and we don't want to wait 40 years either.
BUCHANAN: All right.
KING: Pat, this is the insanity that taken over.
Listen, it was a tragic loss that Ms. Mariani suffered. I've known many people, many friends and neighbors of mine who were killed also on September 11.
But that doesn't allow someone to raise these ridiculous charges. And what she is that someone told John Ashcroft in advance, that John Ashcroft knew in advance that there was going to be an attack by planes, and that John Ashcroft stopped flying. He didn't tell the president, didn't tell the secretary of state, didn't tell the FBI, didn't tell the CIA, but he kept it to himself. And this is the type of nonsense, if the commission even gets into that, then they're wasting...
MARIANI: And he didn't tell my husband either. Neither did he tell my husband either.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
KING: Pat, can I say something?
BUCHANAN: Go ahead, Pete.
KING: Yes, Pat, if I could just say, we owe it to the memory of those who died to ask intelligent questions and carry out a real investigation, so this doesn't happen again.
I agree with you. I think the CIA dropped the ball. I think the FBI dropped the ball. I think the system we had with the Congress and the executive, all of that dropped the ball. There's much work that has to be done, so this never happens again. But if we're going to go off on crazy theories that the attorney general of the United States was an accomplice of...
MARIANI: That's not crazy, sir. And I want to tell you, I was flying that day, too.
KING: It is crazy.
MARIANI: It is not crazy.
KING: So was my wife.
MARIANI: And I was flying that day, too.
KING: By the way, so was my wife flying that day. And my son-in-law was working across the street. So let's not get a monopoly on grief. And I lost many friends and neighbors.
MARIANI: I will give that way.
KING: And many constituents.
MARIANI: We need firm questions, not soft questions, sir.
BUCHANAN: With due respect, I thought Condi Rice got very, very tough questions from all four Democrats on that panel. And the other Republicans did probing questions. I thought it was good testimony all the way around.
Let me talk-Pete King, look, in reading this thing, if I were the president of United States and I reread that August memo from the CIA about the FBI on top of it, I would say heads ought to role, because somebody is really pulling my chain, telling me this is being taken care of, when it wasn't being taken care of, when people weren't on top of it. Why have no heads rolled?
KING: First of all, I think heads should roll.
As far as the director of the CIA, I think the fact that the war was starting a month after September 11, we needed the CIA director in place. But, as far as I'm concerned, George Tenet, the FBI, all those top-level, middle-level people have a lot to account for. They dropped the ball here. I think the president sooner rather than later should start moving people out. And that's what I'm hoping the 9/11 Commission does come up with solid recommendations in that regard.
And, again, if there he's any criticism at all of the administration, is, the president hasn't been tough enough on those who failed him. He did his job. He did a great job. He asked for this report and he got it. And the gave the report, which obviously, they were wrong and the FBI was wrong. But the fact is our intelligence operation broke down. And that's where-that's why I feel strongly this commission has to go forward, not asking conspiracy questions. Those things are ridiculous.
What we have to do is get down to reality and find out what went wrong and go after them. And I agree with you, Pat. Heads I think should roll at the CIA and the FBI.
BUCHANAN: All right.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT