MSNBC Scarborough Country - Transcript

By:  Pete King
Date: May 5, 2005
Location: Unknown

MSNBC Scarborough Country - Transcript


SCARBOROUGH: Wait. That wasn't my son's favorite group. That was my son's group. What are they doing booking them on "Jay Leno"? Anyway, that's tonight's issues.

From knocking the president to knocking the military, we just marked the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. And while most of those wounds have healed, the anti-war movement today is employing a modern strategy. They are suing the Pentagon in effort to ban military recruiters from college campuses. The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case which will determine if the federal government can deny funding to schools that ban recruiters.

The schools say the militaries shouldn't be allowed on campus because they discriminate against gays. The question is, is this legitimate case or another example of elites trying to keep our bravest heroes off of U.S. campuses?

Here to talk about it, we've got retired General Barry McCaffrey. He's MSNBC military analyst. We also have Congressman King, a Republican from New York. We have Kent Greenfield. He's the president of FAIR, the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, the group that is suing the Pentagon. We also have Ruth Robertson. He is of the Peninsula Raging Grannies, an anti-war group from San Francisco.

Let's start with you, General.

This is nothing new, is it? It's been probably about 30, 35 years since college campuses have tried to keep military recruiters and ROTC types off of college campuses. What do you think?

RET. GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, there's a lot of issues out there that are legitimate for a campus to debate. It seems to me, though, the fundamental question at stake is civic responsibility.

The defense of the nation is one of shared responsibility, article 1 of the Constitution, Congress, the American people, and finally, those who are privileged to wear the uniform of the United States. So, what I want us to understand is, defending the nation is not the job of Marine Corps and Army recruiting sergeants. It's the job of all of us who want to see America's institutions protected.

And any of these campuses that don't feel that way, it seems to me, our bipartisan Congress ought to tell them no federal money.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, Kent Greenfield, you run an organization obviously suing the Pentagon.


RIGHTS: Right.

SCARBOROUGH: Respond to what Barry McCaffrey says, because what the general says is something that a lot of Americans believe, that you sue under our Constitution, under our laws, under our government. You have that right because our military protects that right for you. Isn't there a disconnect there somewhere?

GREENFIELD: Well, I can see that point.

But here, in this case, what we are trying to do is actually fighting for the rights of all of our students to serve their country, whether they are gay or straight. What's happening is, the Defense Department is coming onto our campuses and wanting to recruit, but wanting to discriminate against gay and lesbian students. And what we are saying is that discrimination is wrong, and we wouldn't-we don't have to be a party to that.

We want to apply the same policy that we apply to every other employer to the military. If you discriminate, we won't help you. If you don't discriminate, we will do everything we can to help you recruit our students.

SCARBOROUGH: Peter King, that seems reasonable. Don't discriminate against gays and we will fight to allow you to recruit on campuses. How do you respond to that?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I disagree, and I will tell you why, Joe.

First of all, no one is forcing universities to take federal money. We are saying that, if they don't allow the recruiters on the campuses, they will lose the federal money. As far as the issue of gays in the military, I happen to believe the don't ask/don't tell policy is the correct one. But what I think is really unimportant. The fact is, that law was passed by the Congress, signed by the president.

It's the law of the land. And I don't believe universities have the right to use the vehicle of keeping recruiters off the campus as a way to change the law. If they want to change the law, go ahead and lobby for it, do it the way everyone else does. But, until then, that is the law of the land. If the law is changed, I would certainly abide by it.

But the fact is, it is the law now. And universities should be warned, allowing recruiters on campus, it's a question of me-to me, it's equal opportunity, that students should have the right to listen to the military coming in, to listen to the recruiters. And, as far as the law, to me, it's really a ploy to keep the military off, to be using the gay rights issue.

Again, if they feel that strongly about gay rights, that's their prerogative. Try and have the law changed, but don't take it onto yourself to violate the law .

SCARBOROUGH: Now, the coalition of law schools that are suing Pentagon to ban military recruiters from campuses says the military's policy on gays is at the heart of the debate-quote-"If, as the Supreme Court has held, bigots have a First Amendment right to exclude gays, then certainly universities have a First Amendment right to exclude bigots."

But, you know, Ruth, that's tough talk, but, at the same time, like the congressman said, you have had liberal elite campuses for years, for up to three decades, finding a different excuse year after year to keep recruiters and ROTC students off their college campuses. Isn't this issue just the latest red herring?

RUTH ROBERTSON, PENINSULA RAGING GRANNIES: You keep mentioning elite colleges.

We-our group supports students in all kinds of academic environments, high schools. San Francisco State has students who are being disciplined right now because they kicked military recruiters off campus, and we stand in support of them. So, this is happening all over. High school PTAs have come up with resolutions to limit the military's access to students, because the fact of the matter is, the military uses-they are really pushing ethical boundaries in the way they recruit.

And that's of primary concern to us in the Peninsula Raging Grannies.

SCARBOROUGH: But, again, at the same time, though, General, it's an issue of tax dollars, right? If they are offended by the military being on campus, then they can throw the military off and forgo tax dollars, right?

MCCAFFREY: Well, yes, sure.

But, again, back to the important point. The important point is the defense of this country. Right now, we have got about 1.5 million men and women in uniform. They're volunteers, the best armed forces we ever produced. The responsibility for bringing them into uniform is not Marine and Army recruiting sergeants. It's the responsibility of high school principals and anchor people on TV.

We have got to understand our civic responsibility is to impress upon our young people that we will respect and honor these recruiting sergeants and facilitate their work.

ROBERTSON: I would like to question the...

MCCAFFREY: The follow-on question to that is, should they get federal dollars if they don't agree? And the answer, clearly, both parties ought to say, no federal dollars, research, educational or whatever, if you won't help us defend the nation.

ROBERTSON: I have to disagree with you, Joe.

GREENFIELD: Let me explain the First Amendment argument that we are making here, because I think that is at the core of this case.

What we are saying is that the Defense Department is forcing us to speak. They want to come onto our campuses and want us to gather the crowd and hold the microphone. And we are saying that that's essentially coercing our speech and coercing us to be a conduit for a message that we disagree with.


SCARBOROUGH: But, Kent, Kent, let me just ask you that about the message, though. There are so many messages on so many college campuses that offend so many people. Isn't that what the free marketplace of ideas is all about?
I mean, there are some pretty extreme messages on both sides of the ideological spectrum on most college campuses.

GREENFIELD: Yes, except that almost every law school in the country has said that one of our core educational philosophies is the equality of our students and the refusal to discriminate.

So, when an employer, whether military or nonmilitary, wants to come on to recruit, but only a subset of our students, we will say, no, we are not going to help you. You can come on. They can come on and give speeches or come on by invitation of suitor groups, but we are not going to we do not want to use our resources, affirmatively, to help a discriminatory employer. And that's what the First Amendment...


KING: The fact is, the military is fully complying with federal law. If these gentlemen are opposed to federal law, then go and change the law, but until then...


GREENFIELD: Well, no. The federal law is the Constitution.


GREENFIELD: The First Amendment would trump the statute, right? And the question is whether the First Amendment trumps the statute. And we believe it does.


SCARBOROUGH: Hold on. Let the congressman respond. And then we will go to you, Ruth.

KING: No, but the fact is, you should know, until that law is declared unconstitutional, it is constitutional. It's presumed constitutional.

GREENFIELD: That's why we are bringing the case.

KING: That's right. But I am saying, in the meantime, to me, the universities have no right to be taking them off campus.


GREENFIELD: We are not excluding them.

KING: And I hope that the Supreme Court does affirm the law.

And if it does at that time, then, fine. Then I assume that the universities will become the recruiters on campus and give then the same courtesies and prerogatives that are given to private companies.

GREENFIELD: Of course.

Just to be clear, law schools are not excluding military recruiters right now. We are obeying the law. But we are doing what Americans do if we think the law is wrong. We are going to court, and we are saying that it's our First Amendment right to not obey. But we are obeying the law until the Supreme Court rules.

SCARBOROUGH: Ruth Robertson, let me let you in.

ROBERTSON: Yes. Yes, the-to say that the federal funds, just give up the federal funds, that amounts to, in Alan Dershowitz's word, extortion and is probably illegal.

Universities rely on these federal funds. And federal funds are there because our government supports academic institutions' right to set their own educational objectives. And that's what they are doing, is stating their own educational objectives. And the 3rd Circuit found that, when that-that military recruiting is actually an expression, and that when universities find that expression in direct conflict with their own stated educational objectives, that they have the right to ban recruiters from campuses.


ROBERTSON: And we hope that the Supreme Court will uphold the 3rd Circuit's decision.

SCARBOROUGH: General, is it extortion?

MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, I don't want to be rude.

I think that's '70s twaddle of the worst sort.


MCCAFFREY: You know, we have a civic responsibility, 290 million of us, to back up these brave young men and women in the armed forces. These universities and high schools have legitimate issues. You know, my view, the gays in the military argument is probably within a year to five of disappearing anyway.

I think the Supreme Court ruling has trumped it. We are going to end up doing away with that don't ask/don't tell policy. But so, it's not the issue that's important to me. It's, do we understand it is our collective responsibility as parents and administrators and political leaders to defend America? And if you don't agree with that viewpoint, then you shouldn't be taking our collective federal dollars. Go do your own thing.

SCARBOROUGH: All right, General.

And, General, thanks a lot for adding a new word to the SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY lexicon, or a phrase, '70s twaddle. I love it.

General McCaffrey, Congressman King, Kent Greenfield, and Ruth Robertson, thank you so much for being with us tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.


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