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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Dan Rather Steps Down; Bush Agenda Hits a Roadblock

Aired November 23, 2004 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome to PRIME TIME POLITICS. Glad to have you with us tonight.
With the post-election concern over values, consider this. Video games that reward violence, sexually charged television shows, and shock jocks thumbing their noses at the FCC, all of them are under attack, but all of them are extremely popular and extremely profitable. Go figure. That's exactly what we plan to do tonight.

Also tonight, the second-term surprise. The president hits a roadblock on intelligence reform and finds the barricades manned by fellow Republicans.

And the end of another era on TV, Dan Rather ultimately stepping down from the anchor desk.

We start tonight, though, with that contradiction. A brand new poll says a majority of Americans, 56 percent, say they are optimistic about the next four years. But in that same poll, 70 percent say popular culture is lowering the country's moral standards. So are we optimistic or pessimistic?

As Tom Foreman reports, if you judge by what's on our TVs, radios and computers, we're just plain contrary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: So meet me at the motel in an hour?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The paradox of American TV viewers is easy to see on "Desperate Housewives." Full of sexy lines and flashing skin, it has rocketed up the ratings. But when one of the stars went on "Monday Night Football" doing the same routine, media watchdogs exploded.

BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: There was no reason to do that. There was no demand for anything along those lines. But they wanted to be offensive, and they succeeded, because they wanted folks like CNN to be talking about it and folks like Brent Bozell to be criticizing it the next day. It's all publicity.

FOREMAN: The entertainment industry has angered plenty of people this year, with bawdy behavior at the Super Bowl, movies about what some call deviant sex.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIAM NEESON, ACTOR: Stimulation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Graphic violence in prime time and video games. Radio remains full of hateful talk. In Wisconsin, one host called Condoleezza Rice an "Aunt Jemima." Another called illegal Mexican immigrants "wetbacks." Both apologized. But Howard Stern has attacked the Federal Communications Commission for trying to rein in talk radio.

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don't take this personally. I don't think that you personally hate me. I think what you've been doing is dangerous to free speech.

MICHAEL POWELL, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: I don't think that, you know, we have made any particular crusade of "The Howard Stern Show" or you.

FOREMAN: Conservative groups suggest more should be done. Steven Isaac reviews TV shows for Focus on the Family.

STEVEN ISAAC, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: It's becoming harder and harder for families to simply turn on the TV and say, I wonder what's on tonight?

FOREMAN (on camera): But while Americans generally agree that there is too much sex and violence in entertainment, they keep watching and listening and rewarding the very behavior they say they hate.

(voice-over): So while 30 years ago jiggling hips were racy and "Gunsmoke" was violent, now windows are always steamy, blood is always flowing, and media analysts admit it's not for children.

ROBERT THOMPSON, PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: On the other hand, I also realize that I don't think we want to program the greatest story telling medium of all time, television, so that everything on it before 10:00 has to be something appropriate for somebody under the age of 12.

FOREMAN: The question, however, remains, are some things inappropriate for every age?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That was our Tom Foreman reporting for us tonight.

Well, today, Viacom agreed to pay a record $3.5 million fine to settle indecency allegations leveled by the Federal Communications Commission. They involve programs by Howard Stern as well as shock jocks Opie & Anthony. Viacom has already been fined $550,000 for Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during the Super Bowl. Joining me now from Boston is David Gergen, who has worked in the White House as an adviser for Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. He is now a professor of public service at Harvard.

Always good to see you, David. Welcome.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: So, is the bottom line that we're just a bunch of hypocrites in this country?

GERGEN: We've always been a puzzle to ourselves and to the world, Paula.

Historically, we've been one of the most religious nation on Earth, among the industrialized nations certainly, and yet we've always had the highest rates of violence. We make a large issue about the marriage, the sanctity of marriage, and yet we have the highest divorce rates. We have towns in this country which have churches on almost every street corner, and yet, between the churches, you'll find a lot of saloons.

This is a country that is full of contradictions. I think you will -- for the most part, Americans like it that way. It gives us part of our vitality. But what they don't like -- and I think what you're seeing in these surveys -- they don't want the violence to be thrust into their homes, into their living rooms when they've got small kids about. That's where most people draw the line.

ZAHN: Is that what you see happening?

GERGEN: I do. I think that people are in this country generally very tolerant of other people's behavior, as long as somebody else, their neighbor, doesn't inflict it on their kids.

And that's what they object to about Hollywood. I think one of the reasons this marriage -- the ban against gay marriage won in 11 states on Election Day was that there were a great number of quiet couples in this country who have 16-year-old daughters, and that 16- year-old daughter, as one person told me, is still their little girl, and they don't want to hold gay marriage up as a model for their little girl.

So I think that people are willing to accept and tolerate. We've come to accept. You know, we went through a whole period, of course, when we banned drinking, and we realized we couldn't impose moral standards on each other, and we backed away from that. And we now allow a lot of that. But even so, we don't like -- we don't want to have publicly claimed standards or standards that come through our television sets into our homes when the kids are up.

You know, we're fine to have Playboy Television, X-rated television on after the kids go to bed, but while they're up, it's a different thing.

ZAHN: But, David, don't you think it's a little odd that we had this great national outcry over seeing Janet Jackson's -- a part of her body when her wardrobe malfunctioned, and yet there's no great outrage about the misogyny on TV every right, where women are victimized, defiled, dehumanized, raped? People don't seem to be outraged by that.

GERGEN: I do think that there's been a degrading of the popular culture in that way. And, frankly, we're going backwards.

The "Desperate Housewives" show is sort of retro show in many ways. It shows women as sort of sex monsters. And I think we are embracing, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to argue, the lower ends of deviancy as sort of the popular norm, and I think that is very disturbing for a lot of Americans. And, by the way, they're not just in red states and they just didn't just vote for Bush. There are a lot of people who voted the other way who are equally offended.

That "New York Times"/CBS poll today showed that 70 percent of people think the moral standards are decaying in Hollywood. That's way more than the president collected. There are a lot of people out there on both sides who embrace that proposition.

ZAHN: So, David, do you think the president is content to have Americans say one thing and do something else, or do you think he really thinks it should be his agenda to try to change this?

GERGEN: I think he'd better be content with it because he's not going to be able to change the fundamental culture.

What I do think a leader can do is appeal to the better angels in the population's nature. Every culture has sort of a darker side and a brighter side. And the role of the leader is to call forward the best parts of our nature, so that we live on the highest plane possible, realizing that we're frail, we're human, understand that. We're given to our temptations. And we're going to always have that in our culture. You can't change that. You can't outlaw sex and violence in a society.

What you can do is try to make people aspire to higher goals. And I think the president is sincere in his desire to do that. There are a lot of people in this country today who did not vote for him who are frightened...

ZAHN: Sure.

GERGEN: ... in fact, that they're going to have some sort of codes imposed on them that go counter to what they believe. And that, I think -- and are not tolerant, and that's where the real -- this has been around for a long time. Pat Buchanan, after all, told us back in 1992 at the Republican Convention that we were in culture wars. Nobody believed it. I was questioning that. But we are now.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: So, David, final question for you. Quick yes or no.

GERGEN: Sure. ZAHN: Do you watch "Desperate Housewives"?

GERGEN: I watched it once.

ZAHN: Oh, once. Come on.

GERGEN: I did watch it once. But I have to tell you something. I'm tempted to watch it again.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: I thought it was funny.

ZAHN: I do, too. What can I tell you? Go figure.

GERGEN: Yes. But I do think that -- if you get into -- the hip- hop kind of stuff -- and, as you know, the lyrics to some of these songs are terribly degrading toward women.

ZAHN: Sure.

GERGEN: And I do think we ought to clean that up.

ZAHN: Well, I would agree with you on that one.

David Gergen, thanks so much. Appreciate your time tonight.

GERGEN: Thank you.

ZAHN: All this leads us to our voting booth question tonight. Is popular culture leading the U.S. toward a moral crisis? Have your say at CNN.com/Paula. The results and much more to come in this hour, including an unexpected political snag for the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.

ZAHN (voice-over): Not so fast, Mr. President. And this time, Republicans digging in their heels, stalling sweeping changes in the country's intelligence system. Tonight, a family feud, Republicans and George W. Bush, divided they stand.

And after a lifetime of reporting and a black eye or two, Dan Rather gets ready to sign off.

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: And that's part of our world tonight.

ZAHN: That and more as PRIME TIME POLITICS continues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, but that does not mean God is absent from American society. Stamped on our currency, the words "In God we trust, and we pledge allegiance to one nation under God.

Well, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia addressed that apparent controversy yesterday, saying that a government that's neutral in regard to religion does not reflect the beliefs of many of its citizens. Scalia goes on to say -- quote -- "I suggest that our jurisprudence should comport with our actions." In other words, a Supreme Court justice seemed to suggest that we get rid of the separation between church and state.

We have two viewpoints in response to Justice Scalia's position. We begin in Washington with Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United For Separation of Church and State.

Good to see you, sir. Always glad to have you on the air.

BARRY LYNN, EXEC. DIRECTOR, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Nice to be back.

ZAHN: Thank you.

So, does our country or does it not reflect a belief in God?

LYNN: Well, it's a very interesting observation, because it seems that Justice Scalia honestly does believe that separation of church and state literally should never have been considered a part of the Constitution. And his evidence, though, comes from a lot of events that happened long after the founding of our country.

For example, "In God we trust" never appeared on any of our American currency until 1864. The newly minted 2 cent piece was the first piece of American coinage that had "In God we trust." Of course, "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance didn't appear until 1954. A lot of those Ten Commandments monuments that are the subject of many lawsuits, some brought by my own organization, generally were erected in the 1960s as props for "The Ten Commandments" movie with Charlton Heston.

So these were not things the founders believed in. The founders were very clear that there should be a wall of separation. In fact, Thomas Jefferson wouldn't even declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. Talk about taking this position in a very extreme direction.

ZAHN: So what are you suggesting, that Justice Scalia says this was never even a part of the Constitution from its inception?

LYNN: Yes. I think that he fundamentally misunderstands that the essential principles of our Constitution are ones of freedom of conscience, of liberty, of autonomy, of allowing Americans to make judgments about the most intimate and personal matters in their life. Ironically, those two intimate issues are mainly religion and sex. He doesn't agree with most of the decisions of the court, even the court in which he is a part, and I think he fundamentally misunderstands what the American experience is all about. The separation of church and state, keeping a decent distance between the organizations of religious groups and those of government, is the greatest contribution, ethical principle that we've tried to communicate to the rest of the world.

And to repudiate that is a big problem.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: What is your fear, Barry?

LYNN: Well, my fear is that George Bush has recently said again that Justice Scalia is a model for future Supreme Court nominees. I think a lot of Americans, particularly those who are members of minority religious faiths, ought to be very worried if we don't have a separation of church and state in this country.

ZAHN: Why? You don't think they'll have the ability to worship and they won't be able to honor their respective gods?

(CROSSTALK)

LYNN: I think they will be made to feel like second class citizens in their own country. And I think one of the things that we also learned in this country is that, by having separation of church and state, we do have the most vibrant religious sentiment anywhere in the world.

We have the highest rate of church attendance anywhere in the Western world. More Americans believe in God than anywhere else. I think that's because government is neutral, honestly neutral, not hostile. And it allows people to make up their own judgments about what religion, if any, they're going to accept and which ones they're going to pass onto their children. That's the heart of the American experience, and I don't want to see a lot of folks like Justice Scalia sitting on the United States Supreme Court essentially ignoring this important and vital principle.

ZAHN: Reverend Barry Lynn, we're going to leave it there. Thank you for your perspective.

LYNN: Thank you.

ZAHN: There are many Americans who applaud Justice Scalia's position.

Joining me tonight from Lynchburg, Virginia, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University.

Welcome back. Glad to have you with us as well.

JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Thank you. ZAHN: When you say that we are one nation under God, whose God, Reverend?

FALWELL: Well, that is not the issue. Congress shall make no laws respecting establishment of religion means no state church, like we came away from the Anglican Church in England, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. That is, Congress cannot tell people what day to worship, where to worship, if to worship at all. And if Pentecostals want to jump over the pews, and we Baptists sleep in, then that's none of Congress' business.

ZAHN: But you...

FALWELL: But there is not a word in the Constitution, not a word, not a word, about separation of church and state. And Justice Scalia is simply building on that fact.

And I heard somebody a moment ago mention that Tom Jefferson wouldn't declare Thanksgiving as a special day. It was George Washington who introduced and, before him, of course, Bradford, but Abraham Lincoln particularly set aside this day of Thanksgiving. Franklin Roosevelt in modern times, likewise.

ZAHN: OK.

Can I come back to a point Reverend Lynn just made? He said it is his fear people who are in the minority, who perhaps aren't Christians, are going to be made to feel like second-class citizens if the Supreme Court gets stacked with more judges like Justice Scalia. Your reaction to that.

FALWELL: Well, first of all, we're not talking about Christian. We're talking about people of faith. And this Judeo-Christian ethic on which this nation was built, the principles that founded the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, gives honor to all people of faith and people of no faith.

The reason Madeline Murray O'Hare, the late head of the Atheist Society, had all the freedoms and liberties she had is because the founders established a nation under God, with a heavy Christian emphasis, no question about it. You can't look at the Mayflower Compact, President Washington's farewell address, the New England Confederation, all the state charters without knowing that much of it was lifted right out of the Bible, Old and New Testament.

But any true Christian wants to give everyone, nonbelievers, believers, full citizenship rights. And Justice Scalia said something today that was most significant. He was speaking at a Jewish synagogue, by the way. And he asked the question, America is not, he said, religion neutral. Europe is. And my question, he said, in the past century, have the Jewish people fared better in a religion- neutral Europe or in a religious state like America? The answer is obvious.

ZAHN: And do you understand why a lot of people were offended by that statement? FALWELL: Well, I know Barry Lynn is. He's a former ACLU operative, and I understand that. And their goal is to kick God completely out of the public square. They want "In God we trust" off the coins. And Barry has told me that. And they're fighting to get "under God" out of the pledge.

But this is a religious nation. This is a nation under God. And we have been so blessed because we have honored God, and we have not told anyone which God to serve. We have simply said, we are a nation under God. I think it will be a sad day if America goes away from that, and I hope chief justice -- I hope Scalia becomes the chief justice in the next term.

ZAHN: I think that might give Reverend Barry Lynn a heartache through Thanksgiving if that happens, Reverend Falwell, but appreciate hearing both sides of the debate here tonight.

FALWELL: Thank you. Thank you.

ZAHN: You have a good holiday as well.

FALWELL: Thank you. Same to you.

ZAHN: Big news today in the world of television. The controversial CBS News anchor, Dan Rather, decides to call it quits. His story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The face of broadcast news as we've known it for so many years is about to change. Tonight, Dan Rather announced that he will step down as the anchor of "Cbs Evening News" effective last march.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RATHER: A major new offensive is under way tonight in Iraq.

ZAHN (voice-over): Dan has been CBS' main man since 1981. His career highlights read like a history book, in Dallas for the Kennedy assassination, at the Nixon White House for Watergate, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jerusalem. As we all know, he's no stranger to controversy.

This year's scrape over President Bush's National Guard records came to lots of minds today, although he didn't mention it tonight.

RATHER: It has been and remains an honor to be welcomed into your home each evening, and I thank you for the trust you've given me. In the meantime, there's news to report, and we'll have more of it in a moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Perhaps no one knows Dan Rather better or that theme song better than his former boss, Howard Stringer, the former president of CBS News, now chairman and CEO of the Sony Corporation of America. Good to see you. Welcome.

HOWARD STRINGER, CHAIRMAN & CEO, SONY CORPORATION OF AMERICA: Nice to be with you.

ZAHN: You traveled all over the world with Dan Rather on assignment; 24 years, that's a darn good run, isn't it?

STRINGER: It's an excellent run. Considering the fragmentation of news and the way things have changed, to dominate news for as long as Dan has done, it's remarkable.

ZAHN: Yes. Most of us would be thrilled to get four years out of a cycle.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: But so much is made tonight about the timing of this announcement. How much of his leaving CBS has to do with this controversy over this National Guard story?

STRINGER: Well, I'm not at CBS News. I'm not privy to either the details of the that story...

ZAHN: Oh, but you're a news man. You work the telephone.

STRINGER: No. But I -- no, I don't, really. I'm saddened to see Dan go, but the timing, before the release of the report, may be one reason. Maybe he just thinks it's time to go. But either way, it doesn't affect his legacy, as far as I'm concerned.

ZAHN: Why has he been such a lightning rod for criticism throughout his career?

STRINGER: Well, there have been huge gaps. Don't forget, he was -- at one point, he was six share points clear of all the other evening news broadcasts and he was the dominant news anchor.

ZAHN: That was the time, I believe, when you were running the company, and I was there as well.

STRINGER: Yes. Yes. Yes. This is true.

But he had a decade of leadership. The lightning rod situation is an interesting one, because Dan was never a news reader. Dan was first and foremost a reporter. And, as a reporter, he was fiercely, always fiercely in pursuit of the truth, and that was more important to him. His reporting was more important to him. So it's that pursuit, his unwillingness to kind of sit still and be a caged tiger on an anchor chair, but out there finding stories and looking for facts and chasing information, that, I think, put him on the edge.

And he was always on the edge because that's where he wanted to be, and that's where the good reporter always wants to be. That's why he was a lightning rod, for the right reasons, because nobody cared more than Dan Rather about a story. ZAHN: You have watched a lot of good journalists at work. What made Dan so original, besides this drive you're talking about, the drive to tell the truth, the tenacity? What else?

STRINGER: Well, I always remember during the first Gulf War when Dan was anchor and we were calling for volunteers to go there. It was very dangerous at the time. There were not very many volunteers, particularly no young volunteers. And Dan Rather and Mike Wallace were the first to volunteer.

Dan Rather would go in the field at the drop of a hat. Dan Rather would get on a plane. Dan wanted to be at the center of the action. He wanted to be anchorman, but his heart was always somewhere out there in the field. And he was never more comfortable and never happier than on location. That's who Dan is. He wants to be out there finding facts, searching it out. And he is -- whether it's in Afghanistan. He walked into Afghanistan when it certainly wasn't fashionable to do so.

And there's almost nowhere he hasn't been, Vietnam and so forth. So that's who he is. That's the Dan Rather that earned the reputation to become the anchorman of "The Cbs Evening News."

ZAHN: But he's also tweaked people along the way. There was that famous altercation with former President Bush, which alienated some parts of the CBS audience. Was that the beginning of anger towards Dan Rather?

STRINGER: I...

ZAHN: People ganging up on him?

STRINGER: You can alienate an audience if you're doing your job.

It's becoming increasingly true that it's harder and harder to be very active in your pursuit of presidents in interviews and so forth. It's much more tranquil now. Nobody goes through question time the way the prime minister of the U.K. does or the BBC goes after politicians. Times have changed. Dan wasn't personal about it. Dan felt that his obligation, it was to pursue, and Dan is about pursuit. And politicians like that less and less. But I don't think it was ever personal with Dan.

ZAHN: When you and I worked together -- this is many, many years ago -- people were talking about the end of the evening news.

STRINGER: Yes.

ZAHN: It was a dinosaur. We see Tom Brokaw exiting at the end of this month, now Dan Rather sometime early next year, I believe in March. What does that signify?

STRINGER: It's a change.

You can't really say it's better or worse. The evening news used to be a tightly crafted half-hour, beautifully done with correspondents and the best writers in the industry. But now the world is fragmented, and you've got shows like this.

ZAHN: You've got us.

STRINGER: You've got you. It's an on-demand world. People want news when they want it. They don't want to wait around for 6:30. And the audience has diminished more than 50 percent over the last 10 years, and it's a sign of the times.

People get the news all over the place. It's diluted. And the evening news is not the flagship that it used to be. So, for Tom and Dan to leave when they do is timing. They, with Peter Jennings, are the three giants. And they will have dominated each a decade that I doubt that anyone will mimic. It's just different.

ZAHN: We could have double-booked you tonight for the top of the show on the declining moral values of America, Sony corporation. How would you describe the disconnect between what Americans say they want, in terms of moral values, and what they demand and what they're watching and what they're consuming?

STRINGER: It has ever been thus. I once found a "Life" magazine that complained about the content of television. It was dated 1958. And it complained about the content of television, it said it was too much sex and violence, there was too much sex on "Dallas," too much sex on "Knot's Landing," and once I was in Cairo addressing a very sleepy group with the governor of Cairo, until I mentioned "Knot's Landing" and the whole room, Islam and all, woke up and got excited because I was the person responsible for putting "Knot's Landing" on the air. It has always been thus. The debate is always an interesting one. But isn't new.

ZAHN: Howard Stringer, great to see you. Sir Howard Stringer I should say. He was knighted not long ago.

STRINGER: Great to see you always.

ZAHN: Intelligence aside, the U.S. wants to share some information with the rest of the world, especially with news channels like al-Jazeera, but in the battle for Arab hearts and minds a former marine became a reluctant media warrior. You'll meet him next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Josh Rushing is a young man facing an uncertain future. He just quit the Marines, giving up a military career. And as he told me recently, it's all because of a low budget documentary. "Control Room" is a behind the scenes look at reporters from al-Jazeera, the Arab news channel, who were stationed at U.S. Central Command in the Persian Gulf as American forces invaded Iraq last year. As a spokesman for the military, Rushing appeared frequently on al-Jazeera, and he's featured in "Control Room." Well, it premiered in May, and its subsequent release on DVD gave Josh Rushing a certain amount of celebrity, but it also changed his life. In a moment, he'll tell us why. But first, here's a clip of "Control Room."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've gone live on al-Jazeera, and their questions were extremely combative. They are biased towards Saddam's regime. I will give you one example. When they cut away to commercial they have a -- probably a 30 to 60 second montage of video that plays. It is American war planes, American bombs exploding, American tanks going across the desert, and then a baby child with bandages on her head crying and it never shows Iraqi troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And Josh Rushing joins us now. I can't call you captain anymore. Did they throw you out of the Marines?

CAPT. JOSH RUSHING (RET.), U.S. MARINE CORPS: They didn't throw me out of the Marines. I resigned my commission after 14 years.

ZAHN: Why?

RUSHING: It was time for me to move on. But there was kind of a lot of controversy about the movie "Control Room."

ZAHN: Kind of a lot. You were the lightning rod.

RUSHING: I guess I was in a sense. And the Marine Corps decided to not let me comment on my role in the film. That kind of created an entire series of stories about me and why the Marines were silencing me or muzzling a Marine and that kind of thing. It's pretty frustrating to hear the dialogue go between the media and the Pentagon and me not being able to comment about it. So I finally just resigned my commission and can now speak for the first time.

ZAHN: And what was it that the Pentagon objected to the most? Was it the role you played in this film or the fact that you wanted to talk about your participation in it?

RUSHING: Ironically, I heard they made the decision without having seen the film. So I think the decision -- and I don't know completely because they never really conferred with me much about it -- came from a story I did before the film was even out. It was during Abu Ghraib, and the reporter was wondering what we should see during war, and I made a comment about al-Jazeera shows it all. And there's some value to that in a sense that it reminds us all of how horrible war is. Anything that slows the drum beat to war, I think, is good for our nation. That goes against the administration's policy about not showing the flags on the coffins and a lot of those kinds of things which I was kind of...

ZAHN: Showing civilian deaths.

RUSHING: We should see all of it. We should see the consequences of our actions. If it makes us sick, we should talk about it and make sure those are the right actions. But to not see it, to put it away and still take those actions, I think is unhealthy. In America, war tends to have its own branding. People think, when you say war, they think of F-16s over Yankee Stadium and sailors kissing his girlfriend in Times Square. These things have very little to do with what combat is actually about. So it's far too easy for America to go to war.

ZAHN: You can understand though people in our audience who think al-Jazeera is completely biased, anti-American wondering how you could think al-Jazeera was doing anything right.

RUSHING: Al-Jazeera is biased. The Arab perspective is the fodder that created 9/11. We've got to understand this war is about bigger things than Iraq. It's about the way Arabs perceive us. We have to acknowledge why they perceive us a certain way, why they perceive that way. The biggest shaper that we can be involved with for Arab perspective is al-Jazeera. So we have to be on there. We have to be engaged in the dialogue.

ZAHN: There is a fascinating sequence in this film where you're trying to stay on message and convince a bunch of really skeptical producers that it was the right thing for the United States to go to war with Iraq. Let's watch that clip right now together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSHING: We believe that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, that they had the will to use them against us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When?

RUSHING: What do you mean when?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did they use them against you?

RUSHING: That they have the will to use them against us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How, when? I mean, do you think Saddam...

RUSHING: When you say someone has the will...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam was threatening the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction?

RUSHING: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When? That's news to me. I'm sorry.

RUSHING: We believe he had the will to give them to forces to use against us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Now turns out there were no weapons of mass destruction, at least the evidence doesn't point to that right now. Do you feel like you misled your audiences?

RUSHING: I never felt like that until I saw Colin Powell say something to the effect of some of the information he gave at the U.N. was incorrect and appeared to be intentional manipulated to achieve a desired result. And I thought, wow, that hurts. Because I watched him speak at the U.N., and I thought this is so important that I printed it out for everyone at Centcom to read so we all understood exactly why we were going to war and what the evidence was about. So I was repeating him verbatim, and now I realize I was repeating incorrect information and intentionally manipulated information. Yes, I think on some level I probably felt a little duped.

ZAHN: How duped?

RUSHING: How duped? I still hope in my heart that we're doing the right thing in the long run for Iraq, in terms of one generation from now it will be multi-ethnic, democratic, a real kind of pillar of stability for the region. And I can't let go of that hope because it's just too hard to watch what happens every day over there if I do.

ZAHN: Well, we appreciate your dropping by to share your story with us. Best of luck to you, Josh,

RUSHING: Thank you for all your time, Paula.

ZAHN: Any chance you're getting back in the military?

RUSHING: I'm currently unemployed and looking to go anywhere with honest work. So if they'll have me back, but I doubt it. I think I'm going to move and do something else.

ZAHN: OK, thank you. Doesn't seem like there's any shot of that happening any time soon.

When we come back, the blame game, power politics and our nation's security, or lack thereof. Josh Rushing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The political battle over reforming the nation's intelligence system continued again today. The White House says President Bush is trying to persuade House Republicans to revive the bill they blocked over the weekend.

If the bill eventually passes, the Pentagon would lose some turf to a new national intelligence director, and today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tried to play the good soldier.

Here's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Pentagon is worried that the rapid flow of real time battlefield intelligence, the kind U.S. military commanders used to win a swift victory in Falluja, could be more cumbersome if a separate national security czar is in charge.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who opposed the plan, insists once President Bush decided to support it, he saluted smartly.

RUMSFELD: Needless to say, I'm a part of this administration. I support the president's position. MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld bristled at charges leveled by Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays that he blatantly opposed the Senate version of the bill supported by the White House and flatly denied a "New York Times" editorial that said, "Despite Mr. Rumsfeld's denials, it seems obvious he lobbied against the president's stated policy."

RUMSFELD: "The New York Times" is wrong. The Congressmen who are saying that I had blatant opposition to the bill is incorrect.

MCINTYRE (on camera): Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers did support a House version opposed by the White House, which keeps Pentagon control of battlefield intelligence.

(voice-over) In a letter requested by and sent to Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, Myers writes, "The House bill maintains this vital flow through the secretary of defense. It is my recommendation that this critical provision be preserved."

But General Myers, unlike Rumsfeld, is required by Congress not to allow politics to influence his military advice.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: Chairman Hunter called and asked for my opinion on a certain matter that related to intel reform. And I was obliged to give him my opinion. And I did that.

MCINTYRE: The White House says neither Rumsfeld nor Myers are in any trouble, because both expressed their concerns properly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that report was from our own Jamie McIntyre.

The intelligence reform bill is a result of the recommendations of the final report of the 9/11 Commission. But even some family members of 9/11 victims disagree on the proposed reforms.

Joining me are two people who lost family members to the 9/11 attacks, Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband was killed, and Joan Molinaro, who lost her son.

Thank you. I know how hard it is for both of you to relive all of this debate.

I know, Kristen, you're unhappy this bill hasn't passed. Why?

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW: Because our nation is still at great risk from terrorist organizations.

We had a president who supported this bill. The 9/11 families supported this bill. We had all of Congress, all of the American people supporting this bill. And because two rogue congressmen in the House decided to add on poison pills, it didn't get done.

So we lay at risk at this time of a transition period, with the UBL tape coming out a couple of weeks ago, with the holidays coming up, with people at the CIA dropping like flies, and we are at great risk because our intelligence community is broken and it needs to be fixed.

ZAHN: Joan, do you think this bill would make all of us safer?

JOAN MOLINARO, SON DIED ON 9/11: No.

ZAHN: Why?

MOLINARO: Because it's lacking in immigration reform and driver's license reform, which were among the issues that the 9/11 Commission reported that we needed reform in.

The problem isn't intelligence. It was there before 9/11. They knew the possibility of planes being used as missiles, and nothing was done about it. The information was there.

Condoleezza Rice said, "If we had known that they would do this, we could have done something." Well, they did know, but because al Qaeda didn't give them a date and time, I guess the intelligence figured they didn't have enough information.

You need to keep the people out of the country to protect this country because, once they're in here, they're lost. We can't find them. We cannot have another visa express.

ZAHN: Do you think the bill would have been stronger if it included some of the things Joan's talking about?

BREITWEISER: I think the bill actually did include immigration reform. It included...

ZAHN: But Joan clearly didn't think enough.

BREITWEISER: It included reallocation of budget to the border control. What it didn't include was the driver's license provision, and that is a very hotly debated topic.

You're talking about using a driver's license, something that we use to let people drive cars, and turning that into a national I.D. That is something that needs lively debate. It needs -- the public needs to get involved with that. And it's stalling this very important bill.

And the bottom line is Joan is correct on saying that we lack a strategy. We lack someone to task people like Condoleezza Rice and the FBI and the CIA to say, "Tell me more about these people. Vet everything. Let me know what your files say about planes being used as missiles. What is border control telling us?"

With a DNI, with this legislation, we would have this person.

ZAHN: Do you think this national intelligence czar would make it easier for the whole intelligence community to connect the dots? Because in her testimony, Condoleezza Rice said, "Yes, we knew some of this stuff, but we could not put it all together." MOLINARO: No, I don't see why creating another figurehead is going to make connecting the dots a possibility. They should have been connected before. The people in the intelligence before 9/11 failed to do their job.

BREITWEISER: You had Condoleezza Rice testifying and saying that no one told her to tell the FBI to look in their files. A DNI would tell Condoleezza Rice, our national security adviser, to look into these things. That's why we need a DNI.

And what we need is the president to make his stand clear on where he stands on immigration reform and where he stands with regard to DOD. Dennis Hastert needs to bring this to a vote and let the American people see how each one of our elected officials votes on this issue.

ZAHN: Joan, a final thought on what it's like for your families to have to relive this and to find yourselves having to debate each other, those of you who have been touched so deeply by this horrible tragedy.

MOLINARO: It's very hard. And the one thing you don't want to do is go against another 9/11 family member.

But not all the 9/11 family -- families support the Senate bill. And 9/11 Family Members for a Secure America applaud Sensenbrenner and Hunter for having the backbone to stand up for a correct bill, not any bill, but a just bill.

ZAHN: My heart goes out to all of your families. I know that your feelings are still raw and to have to continue to debate this on a daily basis cannot be easy. I hope you find some peace during this Thanksgiving holiday.

BREITWEISER: Thank you.

ZAHN: Thank you, Joan. Thank you, Kristen.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: As you've seen in the last hour, people in our society are hungry for values, hungry enough to go to extremes.

You might remember last week we told you about the media sensation over a grilled cheese sandwich that actually looked like the Virgin Mary. Make that a very expensive grilled cheese sandwich.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANA DUYSER, SOLD GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH ON EBAY: I'm just grateful.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You'd be grateful, too, if your grilled cheese just sold for $28,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a hell of a cheese sandwich, right?

MOOS: Watch your language. That's the Virgin Mary's face, burnt into the toast, or so believes the seller, Diana Duyser.

DUYSER: I think, you know, it's time to get rid of it and share it with the world.

MOOS: But first she shared it with eBay, an online casino called GoldenPalace.com put in the winning $28,000 bid. Already, they're selling T-shirts emblazoned, "The Passion of the Toast."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a paranormal phenomena that you just can't overlook.

MOOS: But if you look it over closely...

(on camera) Does it look like the Virgin Mary to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Heavens no. Heavens no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she looks more like Madonna.

MOOS (voice-over): Well, she did sing...

MADONNA, SINGER (singing): Like a virgin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marlene Dietrich?

MOOS: Marlena would not appreciate being called toast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The one with the bow lips, Clara Bow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate to say it because she's a good actress. She's not cheesy, but Michelle Pfeifer.

MOOS: I even grilled a few of my CNN colleagues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: LaToya Jackson.

MOOS (on camera): You silly thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fanny Brice or one of the old time movie stars from the '20s or '30s. Lillian Gish, someone I was madly in love with until I discovered I wasn't born yet.

MOOS (voice-over): Whoever this is, she's about to go on tour. The new owners are designing a special grass enclosure for the ten- year-old grilled cheese.

(on camera) You know, like a sacred sandwich, I think they call it. And they're going to get a bus and they're going to put this picture on the outside of the bus. And they're going to go to all these small towns.

(voice-over) Headed eventually for Las Vegas and then the world. And Diana Duyser is going along for the ride. The casino company hired her for a bit more than the $28,000 they paid for the sandwich.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, lord almighty. Jeez, I tell you, how in the world can you see the Virgin Mary in there?

MOOS: Guess your eyes have to be bigger than your stomach.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Well, at our home we kind of burn things evenly, so you never can read any faces into our sandwiches.

We're going to be right back with the results of tonight's "Voting Booth" question after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Nuclear weapons and immigration, they are both laughing matters on late night TV. Here's an example.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Iran -- this is a little frightening. Iran supposedly is working on a nuclear missile. Isn't that a little scary? That's chilling.

The good news is, however, they have to drop it from a camel. How bad can that be?

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Well, in a speech at the big summit in Chile, President Bush said he will work hard to have a major guest worker program with Mexico. He says this way we can fill the empty jobs here that nobody wants, like in his cabinet, you know, something like that.

And while he was in Chile, President Bush said he really wants the people of South America to show how much he likes them. In fact, he even changed the name of his plane for the flight. Can we show the plane? See, it's now Air Force Juan. See?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And here's the result of tonight's "Voting Booth" question: "Is popular culture leading the U.S. toward a moral crisis?" Fifty-four percent said yes; 46 percent said no.

That's simply a sampling from our web site. Not a scientific poll by any means. But we always appreciate your logging onto our web site.

And that's PRIME TIME POLITICS for tonight. We really appreciate your joining us. Tomorrow, the most intense military action since Vietnam. You're going to hear about the battle of Falluja from those who fought it. That's tomorrow night.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next with the fan accused of starting last Friday's NBA brawl and Bill Maher. Have a good night. Thanks again for dropping by.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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