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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

Was 'Passion of the Christ' Snubbed by Academy?; Rice Expected to Be Approved for Secretary of State Tomorrow

Aired January 25, 2005 - 22:00   ET

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


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again everyone.
In the list of movies that received Oscar nominations this morning, two were notable by their absence, Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" and Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." We'll leave Moore for another night and spend some time this evening on Gibson, the big time star who translated his traditionalist Catholic views to the big screen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Plenty of sound and fury when it opened but thundering silence today from the academy of the movie "The Passion of Christ." What does it say about Hollywood? And does it say something else about the rest of America?

A passenger plane under fire.

RAFI MAREK, ARKIA FLIGHT 582 PILOT: I just looked to the left and I saw two stripes of smoke just coming up over the left wing.

BROWN: The threat is real but is it also a billion dollar distraction from other greater dangers?

Advise and dissent over the president's choice of secretary of state, we'll talk live to the strongest dissenter.

And, $80 billion and more lives to the cost of the war in Iraq, the election now just days away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: All that and more in the hour ahead.

We begin with a fact of politics and show business alike. The popular vote always doesn't win the race or, in the case of the Oscar nominations announced today, doing well at the box office won't necessarily get you into the race, not a new lesson where the Oscars are concerned but this year religion is part of the equation which does muddy the picture some.

"The Passion of the Christ" generated a lot of heat even before it opened and is making news again tonight by failing to garner any of the top Oscar nominations. A couple of reports beginning with CNN's Sibila Vargas. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the academy gave an award for most talked about film of the year "The Passion of the Christ" would have won but big buzz didn't translate into recognition from the academy's 5,800 voting members.

BRUCE DAVIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AMPAS: Clearly, academy members were looking at the film and showed a lot of respect for it but didn't see it as one of the absolute top artistic accomplishments of the year.

VARGAS: Mel Gibson's controversial film did get three nominations for cinematography, makeup and original score but was absent from the major categories, including Best Picture.

MICHAEL SPEIER, DAILY VARIETY: There is no way on earth that a group of thousands of people who vote for the Academy Awards or vote for the nominations or hundreds of people in any kind of organization are going to agree on a movie about Jesus Christ. That just won't happen.

VARGAS: And they didn't despite taking $370 million in the U.S. alone, the third highest grossing movie of 2004. Some are now asking if academy voters, 80 percent of whom live around Los Angeles, are disconnected from the movie-going public. Conservative filmmaker Jason Apuzzo thinks so.

JASON APUZZO, LIBERTY FILM FESTIVAL FOUNDER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, I mean power to the people. I get so much e-mail on our Web site, people posting so many comments about just this stuff. They're not talking about "Finding Neverland." You know they're just not interested, sideways nobody is interested. I'm sorry.

VARGAS: Others question if academy members rejected the film because it rekindled the argument over whether Jews were to blame for the death of Christ.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What ended up happening was a lot of people in Hollywood never even saw it and there was a lot of anger toward it because people feared it was anti-Semitic, whether or not it was became irrelevant at some point.

VARGAS: So do the nominations give way to the claim that Hollywood is too liberal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This appeared before an audience that is extremely friendly to Michael Moore and yet Michael Moore's film did not win, so you'd have to say that, no, there must be another reason. They just felt that there were five other films that should be placed before "The Passion."

SPEIER: This is just one movie out of the history of cinema that's really kind of done this and it was a phenomenon. It was an amazing motion picture in that so many people outside of Hollywood took to this film and it made hundreds of millions of dollars. VARGAS: Awards aside, "The Passion" has taught Hollywood something about films with a religious viewpoint.

Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: As we said, "The Passion of the Christ" ignited controversy long before it reached a single movie screen. It's not hyperbole to say the movie was a mission for the man who made it, the actor now producer Mel Gibson. When all was said and done in spite of the heat the public voted at the box office.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): It was pushed by a most bankable star but rejected by every major studio. Still, Mel Gibson was determined to make "The Passion of the Christ," gambling $25 million of his own money, to recreate the last 12 hours of Jesus' life.

MEL GIBSON, DIRECTOR: Because I'm passionate about it and because that's what art is and that's what making art is about. It's about sort of throwing it all out there.

BROWN: Many doubted a biblical tale would sell. Many were wrong. Opening weekend the film took in more than $83 million but not without controversy.

ABE POXMAN, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: The bad news is the film continues to be shown in its unambiguous manner blaming the Jews, blaming the Jews, the Jews being bloodthirsty, angry, vengeful.

WILLIAM DONAHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: So, for Jewish leaders to speak out, as they have, they're going to show up in concentration camp outfits today and say they're going to be pogroms of the United States is simply irresponsible. It's demagogy and it really smacks of anti-Catholicism to think that Christians are just people out there ready to get the Jews in the street.

BROWN: Beyond the charge that the film would inflame anti-Jewish feeling was the sense among many that it was too violent, simply too bloody.

JIM CAVIEZEL, ACTOR: Many people look at this and say, well, this is gratuitous violence but we don't' see it that way. It's a sacrifice and the greatest sacrifice. This is a love story between a mother and a son.

BROWN: As the outcry over Gibson's depiction of Jews during the crucifixion of Christ continued...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mel Gibson should hang his head in shame.

BROWN: ...so did interest in the film. And, early this morning, as the academy announced its Oscar nominations, the film to date had grossed more than $600 million worldwide. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Now add this to the mix. The academy can be famously quirky in its choices for Oscar nominations and "The Passion of the Christ" isn't the first box office wonder to fall short on the Oscar list. Might all of this be nothing more than Hollywood exercising its inexplicable judgment?

We're joined tonight from Park City, Utah by Sharon Waxman. She covers Hollywood for "The New York Times," and is the author of "Rebels on the Back Lot," nice to see you.

Let's start with the elephant in the room, if you will. A lot of academy members are Jewish and so could it be that the movie's reputation, the controversy surrounding it, whether it's anti-Semitic or inflames anti-Jewish feeling, impacted whether it got one of the big nominations?

SHARON WAXMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, the Jewish character of Hollywood is probably one of the most sensitive topics that exists in the entertainment industry but I don't know that that really has anything to do with "Passion of the Christ" being overlooked this year for Best Picture.

You know, generally there's not a connection between how a movie does directly at the box office to whether a movie is, in fact, nominated for Best Picture and, in fact, the highest grossing films of the year are not among the Best Picture nominees as a rule.

Of course you have a movie like "Titanic" that breaks that rule but, you know, that's not what the Oscars are about necessarily and, in general, I think that the academy doesn't feel comfortable with controversy and this episode of "The Passion of the Christ" was a very painful one in Hollywood. I mean it really touched a lot of raw nerves and it set off a very painful national discussion.

You could say a healthy one or not but it was not something that Hollywood enjoyed particularly so, you know it's not terribly surprising that "The Passion of the Christ" was not nominated.

BROWN: Just it may help people in understanding this discussion, give an example or two of movies that did great at the box office but were overlooked, if that's the right word, when it came to these nominations?

WAXMAN: Well, the top grossing movies of the year you might have a movie like "Spider-Man 2" was a huge grossing movie and, you know, it was not -- I don't think anyone expected "Spider-Man 2" to be a Best Picture nominee.

And this particularly was not considered to be a year with a lot of strong contenders. This year "The Aviator" appears to have really appealed to the academy and it got eleven nominations this morning.

But it was in the run-up to the nominations there was a lot of debate about whether smaller films, very small films, in fact in some cases, might have a shot and people thought even a movie like "The Incredibles," the Disney CG movie, might have a shot at Best Picture.

In fact, it was nominated in the end for Best Animated Feature but, you know, that's a movie that made hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, was critically acclaimed and, you know, didn't get a Best Picture nomination but we're not having a discussion about that movie.

BROWN: No, we're not. Look, Sharon, you're a reporter who writes about Hollywood. You're not a film critic as such. When you talk to critics and they looked at "The Passion," did they see a great film, a great artistic movie?

WAXMAN: I think on the whole critics did not give "The Passion" a ringing endorsement and there were -- I know certainly in my newspaper that it was not a positive review at all. So, I think that there were a lot of -- you know, by the way, there are so many films that are embraced by the public that the critics don't like at all.

And then there's a movie say that was the critics' darling this year "Sideways," the Alexander Payne film, and you just have someone saying that people don't like "Sideways" just on the reported (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That movie did get a number of nominations, important ones today but, you know, that was not a movie that was embraced by the academy.

And I should say also, by the way, that the box office is not something that the academy ignores. They do like to choose movies for Best Picture that have found an audience.

They don't like to pick completely obscure movies generally speaking because they don't want to be completely out of step with public taste but, you know, that doesn't mean that the biggest box officer earners are the ones that are, you know, nominated for Best Picture.

BROWN: Did the nominations surprise you at all today?

WAXMAN: Did the nominations surprise me at all today? Actually not really. I was surprised that Paul Giamatti from "Sideways" was not nominated for Best Actor because he's been, you know, widely lauded and gotten lots and lots of awards through the season.

But, other than that, I think they were pretty true to form in what the academy like, traditional, you know, traditional values, you know, heartwarming sentiment, inspirational themes. Those were kind of the movies that they picked for Best Picture.

BROWN: Good to see you. Thanks for taking some time tonight. Thank you.

WAXMAN: Thanks for having me.

BROWN: Sharon Waxman of "The New York Times," covers Hollywood for the paper.

"The Passion" clearly is a sensitive subject, sensitive for many reasons, some more distant than others perhaps, some recent enough even now to be felt by a mother or a grandfather or a friend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST (voice-over): It all came together at (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a Berlin suburb at a conference on January 20, 1942. Reinhardt Heidrich (ph), head of the security police, summoned officials from all key ministries to discuss the systematic organized killing of Jews. A 36-year-old chief of the Jewish office of the Gestapo, Adolph Eichmann was charged with implementing the plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: The plan was for the final solution and this week mark's the 60th anniversary since the liberation of Auschwitz. For many who survived, this anniversary will be one of the last opportunities for their voices to be heard, their stories, their memories, and we'll spend some time on this tomorrow night right here.

As we continue tonight, a vivid firsthand picture of a real threat but also serious questions too about whether protecting every airliner in the country against shoulder-fired missiles is a wise way to spend money in the war on terror.

Later, the boxer who is throwing some haymakers at the president's choice for secretary of state, Senator Barbara Boxer of California joins us. We take a break first.

From New York this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: You're about to see a threat to your life and the lives of anyone who boards a flight virtually anywhere on the planet. Nobody denies it. Where opinions differ, though, is over what to do.

There's a case to be made, and today researchers at the Rand Corporation made it, that for now one thing to do is nothing that addressing the problem would cost $11 billion to begin with and $2 billion a year every year after that.

A discussion on the cost in a moment, first the other side of the equation and it is a chilling one reported for us by CNN's Frank Buckley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Tel Aviv, pilot Rafi Marek is preparing to fly. It's been two years since his near miss with disaster.

It was November, 2002, Marek was at the controls of an Arkia Airlines jet with 271 people aboard as he took off from Mombasa, Kenya.

MAREK: Everything was normal until just a few seconds after takeoff we reached an altitude of about 500 feet and when we heard a bang.

BUCKLEY: Some of the passengers heard it too, the sound from two shoulder-launched missiles that just missed the plane.

MAREK: I just looked to the left and I saw two stripes of smoke just coming up over the left wing.

BUCKLEY: On the ground, authorities found the launchers but not the terrorists who fired them. In the air, most of the passengers were unaware of the attack, except for a few who wondered about the bang and the smoke.

MAREK: They asked what it was. We tried to, you know, to avoid these direct questions and we told them everything is fine and we didn't want to create any kind of panic and there an uncertainty of things.

BUCKLEY: They weren't sure if the Boeing 757 had escaped unharmed. But, as Marek and the crew entered Israeli airspace they had to inform the passengers so they wouldn't be alarmed when they saw this, an Israeli military jet which came to inspect the Arkia airliner for damage.

MAREK: It flew around us, took a look. We took our landing gear down. They checked it. Everything looked fine and he confirmed that everything is normal.

BUCKLEY: As the jet approached for landing, passengers broke out in song celebrating their narrow escape, their pilot relieved when he finally got his aircraft back on solid ground.

MAREK: When you think of what might have happened and you feel that you were lucky.

BUCKLEY: The passengers also realized how lucky they'd been this time.

MAREK: It was a frightening thing that you can't know where will it hit next time. It could be almost anywhere.

BUCKLEY (on camera): Which is exactly the concern of security officials everywhere, hundreds of thousands of shoulder-launched missiles have been produced since the 1970s. Thousands of them are said to be unaccounted for and some of them are believed to be in the hands of terrorists.

(voice-over): This, an al Qaeda training video showing how to use shoulder-launched missiles. This video believed to be of an actual attack in November of 2003. It was shot by insurgents as they fired on and hit a DHL cargo plane in Baghdad. The pilots somehow managed to land the badly damaged aircraft safely. But that was Baghdad, a war zone. Could this happen in the U.S.?

The Rand Corporation's Jack Riley says the potential threat is real. JACK RILEY, RAND: That seems highly likely that if they have their hands on this kind of weapon that they at least have to be thinking about how to commit this kind of attack.

BUCKLEY: But what to do about it? Military aircraft employ countermeasures, like flares, to divert heat-seeking missiles. Air Force One is believed to have countermeasures aboard.

But commercial aircraft, it's no secret, are unprotected and California Senator Barbara Boxer co-sponsored legislation to require the federal government to install missile defenses on all 6,800 commercial airliners in the U.S.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: If you can protect Air Force One, which I'm very supportive of, then you can protect a plane that my constituents fly on every day.

BUCKLEY: The Department of Homeland Security says while there is no specific credible intelligence about shoulder-launched missile attacks being planned against U.S. commercial aircraft, the department is actively pursuing countermeasures.

But a just released study by the Rand Corporation concludes that a decision to install countermeasure systems should be postponed until the costs, an estimated $11 billion just to install them, can be reduced and the systems made more reliable.

RILEY: The practical reality is, is the dollars that we have available to protect ourselves against the whole range of threats and the whole range of potential attacks, not just on aircraft but on every other kind of attack you can imagine, is limited, so we need to make the best possible use of those dollars that we can. What we're saying at this point is the technology is not there. We don't know enough about the reliability and the cost seems relatively high.

BUCKLEY: Many pilots of commercial aircraft, who have 1,001 things to think about between liftoff and landing, say for them shoulder-launched missiles are low on the checklist.

CAPT. PAUL RICE, AIRLINE PILOTS ASSN. INTL.: Where this falls in that pantheon of issues to be concerned about is well near the bottom. This is not of great concern to the pilots.

BUCKLEY: But don't tell this pilot, who actually experienced an attack, that countermeasures are too costly.

MAREK: God forbid something does happen, what would you say afterwards, well now it is worth the expense? I think everything that can be done should be done.

BUCKLEY: Frank Buckley, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: In a moment more on this question of resources and whether they're being portioned out in ways that make us feel safer than we might, in fact, be. A conversation with James Fallows, a break first.

On the security watch this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Eleven billion dollars in stinger missile defense raises questions and here's another one. Are we spending money defending America in ways that simply make us feel safer rather than spending money to actually become safer?

We're joined from Washington tonight by James Fallows of "The Atlantic Monthly," who has been raising such questions for much of his distinguished career and did so this month in the magazine in a terrific piece. It's good to see you.

JAMES FALLOWS, "THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY": Thank you.

BROWN: Just on the missile thing first, I mean I suppose there are thousands of these missiles out here and you don't need to be a brain surgeon actually to use one. They're pretty easy to use. So, why not given how much we spend, why not spend some money on this?

FALLOWS: Well, I think this is one of the many contradictions of the terrorist era. It's simultaneously true that these missiles are a big threat to airliners and probably are a much more serious threat than any future 9/11 type incident. On the other hand, the question is what you can actually do about them.

Just to put it in perspective, the total spending now for transportation security is about $5 billion and about $4 billion of that goes for airline screening now. The cost for installing these anti-missile systems is anywhere from $11 billion up to $20 billion and operating them each year would be about $2 billion.

So, just if you did all that, as this Rand survey that you quoted in a previous segment said, there still would be all sorts of other ways that a similar threat might be posed, so I think it's a real threat and it may not be something we can affordably do much about.

BROWN: One of the points you make, I mean just going back to numbers we just showed people we spend 4-point-some billion dollars on screening everyone from infants to whomever getting on airplanes and less than $3 billion on screening that which goes in the airplane, the cargo. And you make an exquisite argument that maybe we want to feel good about what we're doing but we're not really being very smart.

FALLOWS: Well, I think it's understandable that after September 11th there was this kind of just a political and emotional reaction, which made us want to react to where the threat had actually come from and also the politics of the last three years has made it difficult for either party to make arguments.

A lot of security experts say that if we use that $4 billion, which is now going to passenger screening, and instead apply some of that to bridges or tunnels or busses or ports or cargo containers or all these other things which are probably more likely to be the next avenues of attack, the overall increase in security would be greater even though it might not seem as secure at the airport where everybody is taking off their shoes.

BROWN: One thing you just said, I mean I've pointed this out in the campaign, this is the thing that makes me nuts is at one point both candidates in this campaign past talked honestly and seriously about terror and our ability to end it completely and both of them said about the same thing that we can't and both of them were hammered the next day for doing that. We don't really want to talk honestly about this.

FALLOWS: That is true. If you wanted to feel pessimistic about our ability to respond to this threat, you could look at the fact that President Bush had to back away immediately from his saying there wouldn't ever be a final victory over terrorists, as there was in World War II.

And, Senator Kerry got beaten up for saying that we want to reduce this problem to the level of a nuisance, which is what, in fact, all the anti-terror experts say.

And so, when you have a kind of mutually assured destruction of the political parties, where they won't let either of them sort of say that the common sense fact it does make for certain difficulties.

I would hope the next, you know, few months or a year would be one of those rare moments in politics where there's not an election immediately at hand, which would permit some different kinds of discussions.

BROWN: Just one final area because one of the things that you do in the piece is make the argument that there is, in fact, a hugely serious issue out there and it's all these nuclear missiles or nuclear warheads and nuclear material that's in the old Soviet Union and we're not doing nearly enough to deal with it.

FALLOWS: Right. I mean this really was dumbfounding to me or impressive to me when I was doing the reporting. Every single authority I talked to said there is one place to start and it's not the place we're starting now. It's the fact there are these tens of thousands of warheads we're being very lackadaisical about locking up.

That's the one threat that actually could destroy our cities, you know, not destroy or kill tens of -- not kill thousands of people but kill hundreds of thousands of people. So, if I had a priority list I'd say, yes, the surface-to-air missiles are a problem but the emergency is making sure we can lock up these loose nukes.

BROWN: Good to see you. Thank you. Again, the piece in this month's "Atlantic Monthly."

FALLOWS: Thank you.

BROWN: Terrific piece of writing if you're interested in the security areas and, we all are to one degree or another, you might pick it up and give it a read.

Still to come tonight, the game of cat and mouse intensifies in Iraq as elections draw near. U.S. soldiers brace for an escalation of what they call the ugly war.

And, Senator Barbara Boxer is the talk of Washington. What's behind her challenge of Condoleezza Rice's credentials to lead the State Department? We'll talk with her but we'll take a break first.

This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Snow is coming our way in New York. No one in Washington has ever really doubted that Condoleezza Rice will be the next secretary of state. Most Republicans and even more than a few Democrats never expected the confirmation process to stretch out over two weeks. Tomorrow, the full Senate will vote on the nomination, approval expected, but not before some Democrats had a chance to air grievances over Dr. Rice's fitness to hold the job.

They demanded and got by Senate rules an extended debate on the floor, this despite overwhelming approval last week in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The most vocal critic of Dr. Rice is California Senator Barbara Boxer.

A look at her role tonight from Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Everybody's talking about Barbara Boxer's grilling of Condoleezza Rice.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Senator Boxer, who tackled her role on the committee with passion and with forthrightness.

HENRY: Even "Saturday Night Live" weighed in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: An eruption of lies from your lie volcano, Dr. Condo-lies-a-lies-a-lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Boxer's tough talk and her move to block Ohio's electoral votes from being counted has made her a hero of the left.

(on camera): There's one question that Democrats and Republicans are all asking. What's up with Senator Boxer?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it's just such a funny question, because I'm just being myself. I'm just doing my job. And if people like it and they think this is good, this will work and they do it, too, I'll be thrilled. If they don't, if they think it's counterproductive, that's fine.

HENRY (voice-over): Republicans say Boxer is in denial about the election.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: The American people have chosen, but Senator Boxer and some others in the Democratic leadership do not appear to have accepted their verdict.

HENRY: Boxer says she waged the Ohio protest to highlight election irregularities and believes Rice isn't leveling about Iraq.

BOXER: What she did is to basically say, why are you impugning my integrity, which is a very good way to debate, by the way, but it doesn't answer the question.

Why aren't they leading the charge?

HENRY: If this sounds familiar, it is. Boxer first made her mark as a House member in 1991 during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Boxer led a dramatic march to the Senate, demanding that senators delay the vote to hear from Anita Hill.

BOXER: To the Senate, I wish to say that, in your hearings, you must ask any nominee the tough questions of the day and not allow a nominee to duck and hide.

The Californian says Vietnam and Watergate shaped her views and she wants the president held accountable over Iraq.

BOXER: I tell the truth. I'm a truth teller. That's what my people want. And the truth is very clear here.

HENRY: Republicans scoff, noting Boxer just used her newfound fame to fire off a fund-raising letter for Senate Democrats. With the spotlight on Boxer, many are raising the inevitable question.

(on camera): Do you want to run for president?

BOXER: No, I don't want to run for president.

HENRY (voice-over): That disappoints Republicans, who are thrilled that a firebrand liberal may be the new Democratic face.

Ed Henry, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And joining us tonight from Washington, Senator Barbara Boxer.

It's good to have you with us. I guess if you've been parodied on "Saturday Night Live" -- and I know this -- you have at some level made it in the culture. So we appreciate your time tonight.

BOXER: Well, my kids tell me that. They said, we always -- you were our hero, but now you're our idol, mom.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Look, if you say to someone -- and let me paraphrase what you said -- that your commitment to selling the policy overwhelmed your commitment to the truth, aren't you, in fact, saying you lied?

BOXER: I said it the way I said it, Aaron. And I think it was the right way to say it.

And I gave Dr. Rice every opportunity at that hearing after I made that comment to look at her statements that were made on the record and on your station, on other television stations. And she looked out at the people. She said those aluminum tubes that Saddam wants to get, they can only be used for nuclear weapons. Well, that wasn't true. At the time she said it, there was a big dispute in the intelligence community.

She still doesn't straighten out the record. And this goes on when she said there were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. The State Department a month after 9/11 said there were no cells, no operations, nothing going on with al Qaeda in Iraq. Now, unfortunately, it's a hotbed of terror. But she still won't correct the record.

BROWN: The question, I think -- let's move on from this -- is, we know now, we know there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And the question becomes, was it bad intelligence that the administration had and that members of your parties relied on, members of the other party relied on, the country relied on? Was it simply a case of bad intelligence or did they cook the books? Did they lie? Which is it?

BOXER: Well, if you look at the material that I had, and I'm sure it's too late at night to delve into it, she was -- Condoleezza Rice was telling half the story all the time.

And even on a recent issue that had to do with the torture issue, where she actually wrote a letter and asked the conferees -- and this is just three, four months ago -- to drop an anti-torture provision from the intelligence bill, she comes before my committee and said, oh, I really didn't have any problem with that, when she had written a letter to get that amendment dropped. So it's very disturbing to me.

BROWN: So what do you make of that? Actually, I did read tonight the statement that -- the lengthy statement you made where you went sort of point by point over all of the things she said and all the things you view as contradictions.

BOXER: Yes.

BROWN: And many of them are, in fact, contradictions. Do you feel like they can just come before the country and say anything they want and people will forget because, frankly, it's water over the bridge now anyway?

BOXER: It's kind of the sense you get. But, America, we have values here. And one of the values we have is to level with people and to tell them the whole story and to admit an error, a mistake, a misstatement, being held accountable, being responsible. We teach our kids to be responsible. So, this was an opportunity for Dr. Rice to do that. She didn't do that.

She knows she has the votes. She at one point said, you're impugning my integrity and then didn't answer the questions. It's perplexing to me. I think it would have been better for the country if she did. And people say, well, why is it so important to look back? And I think it's important because we don't want to go to another -- into another war that's based on hyped-up rhetoric. It would be a terrible thing.

BROWN: Why do you think it is that, honestly, so few members of your party, which, at the grassroots, is quite anti-war and I think quite comfortable at the grassroots with the tone and substance of your questioning, why so few of the leaders of the party have joined you in either tone or substance?

BOXER: Well, people have different ways that they view Cabinet posts. Some of them believe that the president deserves his Cabinet, and, you know, absent some incredible issue.

I would argue we have those incredible issues. But, that aside, some don't think that it makes -- that they want to be turned away from that premise, that a president deserves his Cabinet. But when you read the Constitution -- and I know "Saturday Night Live" is so funny with all my charts. I love charts. I have a chart of a page out of the Constitution, which basically says that we have the responsibility of advice and consent on these nominations.

It doesn't say we should roll over and play dead and give the president his Cabinet. And this goes for Democratic presidents and Republican presidents. Alexander Hamilton wrote a brilliant essay on the point that we need to have an independent body that looks over these nominations.

BROWN: Yes. It's good to see you on "Saturday Night Live" and here.

BOXER: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

BOXER: Thanks.

BROWN: Thank you. It's good to talk to you tonight. Thank you, Barbara Boxer, senator from California.

The vote, again, on Dr. Rice comes tomorrow.

Ahead on the program this evening, new pictures of an American held hostage for months around Iraq seen around the world, but felt especially in a small town in California.

We'll take a break first. Around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Six American troops died in Iraq today, one of wounds suffered at a bombing earlier in the week. The other five were patrolling in a town not far from Baghdad when their Bradley armored fighting vehicle rolled into a canal. They were, perhaps, the only accidental fatalities at a time when nearly all the dying is no accident and nearly all the killing is done with murderous intent.

A judge was murdered today. So were three more police officers. Another bomb went off at a polling place. That's life in Iraq, broadly speaking, at least. Life in Falluja, however, remains something else yet again.

Reporting from there tonight, CNN's Jane Arraf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Marine Corporal Beau Matiota (ph) drives up and down this highway near Falluja for hours. The 1st Marine Division's Regimental Combat Team 7 is patrolling the major supply routes to Baghdad, looking for roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices and the people who lay them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know how they work. They know how we work. And we try and just be in the spot where we know that they're going to be.

ARRAF: With elections coming, they're on high alert for suicide car bombs. Compared with the fighting in Falluja they were doing less than two months ago, this is a whole other kind of battle against an enemy that doesn't show its face. Their commander calls this fight the ugly war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reality is, is that it just takes one moment of violence, an IED or an STBID (ph), that can come out of nowhere in this place. And that's the heresy of this war. You can take something as normal as what you see around you right now and all of a sudden, it becomes extremely violent. And that ugliness comes out of nowhere.

ARRAF: This is Lance Corporal Rodrigo Sanchez's second deployment to Iraq, harder than the first, he says, when U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein and Iraqis were a lot friendlier.

LANCE CPL. RODRIGO SANCHEZ, U.S. ARMY: You don't know who the enemy and who is not. And it's hard. It's like, I don't know -- it's kind of like you try and help them, but, at the same time, I don't know how to make them understand that I'm just here to help. I'm just doing my job. I don't want to hurt nobody.

ARRAF: The most difficult thing, he says, is that they don't speak the language. So many Iraqi interpreters have been killed or intimidated many military units don't have any. The number of roadside bombs has gone down dramatically since the battle for Falluja. But when the Marines find anything out of the ordinary on the road...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We call EOD, explosive ordnance disposal. And they come out. They get paid the big bucks to walk up to it or do whatever they do.

ARRAF: On this day, a piece of trash on the highway arouses suspicion.

(on camera): We're standing on one of the major supply routes to Baghdad. Traffic is stopped on either side. There's something in the road. It could be just a bag or it could be a bomb.

(voice-over): It was a pipe bomb. It detonates before explosive experts get there. No one is hurt.

But it starts a high-speed chase by the Marine patrol we're with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, there it is.

ARRAF: They're chasing a car that sped away after the bomb went off. We race through fields and a village. People here say they didn't see the car, the attack just a footnote in the ugly war.

Jane Arraf, CNN, near Falluja.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: This note from Iraq as well tonight. An undated video was released by insurgents today showing American hostage Roy Hallums pleading for his life, rifle held to his head. Mr. Hallums and a Filipino colleague have been missing since November, when gunmen seized them at their compound in Baghdad's Mansour district.

The two men work for a Saudi company that does catering for the Iraqi Army. Mr. Hallums' estranged wife had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN HALLUMS, ESTRANGED WIFE OF ROY HALLUMS: What hit me the hardest was seeing the gun to his head, that and -- I'm really sort of not here. When he mentioned that, you know, about his life, them ending his life. I don't know. We're just all devastated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Susan Hallums also urged President Bush to help her ex- husband, whom she called an American hero.

After a break, five members of the Indiana Pacers and three fans of pro basketball find themselves in court over their less-than- courtly behavior.

Around here, though, we're always Minnesota nice.

This is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: A quick look at some of the other stories that made news around the country today. The Army National Guard says it needs more recruits, so it wants to offer a signing bonus of $15,000 to active- duty soldiers to encourage them to join the Guard after their tour is up. The current signing bonus is 50 bucks. Congress must improve the increase.

It turns out last week's terrorist threat against Boston was a false alarm. The FBI says the man who called it in did so because he didn't get paid for smuggling some Chinese immigrants in from Mexico.

They've been suspended. They've been fined by the NBA. Today, five basketball players, all of them Indiana Pacers, and five fans from the Detroit area faced a judge in Michigan. They're all accused of taking part in that ugly incident last November in Detroit.

Then there is this. You can read about it in detail in tomorrow's edition of "The Washington Post." Media reporter Howard Kurtz, who works around here, has a pretty fair scoop there, another syndicated columnist with a government contract. Maggie Gallagher, who repeatedly defended the president's marriage proposal three years ago, also had a $21,000 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to do just that.

Mr. Kurtz asked her about it. "Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it," she said? "I don't know. You tell me." Ms. Gallagher is the second columnist in the spotlight in this regard. A couple weeks back, Armstrong Williams admitted taking $240,000 from the Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind Act.

Morning papers after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(ROOSTER CROWING)

BROWN: Okeydoke, time to check morning papers from around the country, around the world.

I just want to say, I'm not being paid by any government agency to do this segment. Come on, people.

"International Herald Tribune" starts us off. "U.S. Deficit Seen Totaling $855 billion." Well, yes. "Bush Prepares to Seek $80 Billion More For Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." It's a lot of different numbers, a lot of different ways to express the deficit; $855 billion is the highest way you could express it over the next decade, I believe. That doesn't include the war. It doesn't include Social Security.

"Washington Times." "Hillary in the Middle on Values Issue." Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton talked about abortion yesterday and talked about seeking common ground, the two sides seeking common ground, seemed a sensible way to approach it. "Oscar Nod Overlooked 'Fahrenheit 9/11.'" is the way "The Time" did the Oscar story. "Passion Earns Three Nominations." We did it differently, didn't we? I guess we did.

"Stars and Stripes." "Accident in Iraq Kills Five 1st I.D. Soldiers. Two Others Injured After Bradley Roles Into Canal." It's a sad story. They also -- obviously, a sad story. They put the Oscars on the front page, too. "'The Aviator' Flies Above Oscar Contenders With 11 Nominations." That movie is actually longer than the Oscar ceremonies, which are the longest things in the world.

"The Des Moines Register." This is a wacky idea. "Don't Tax Anyone Under 30. Republicans Offer Bold Proposal" -- I would say so -- "to End Iowa's Brain Drain By Getting Rid of Income Tax For Young People." Surprisingly, young people find think this is a terrific idea. "More money in my pocket," says Kyle Larson (ph) of Des Moines. I think it would help keep young people in the state. If I was under 30, I'd consider moving there.

"Cincinnati Enquirer" down in the corner. "Who You Calling Stupid?" Not us. This is a poll of where the smartest people live, I guess, Minneapolis, Boston, Denver, St. Paul and Seattle. I've lived in three of those places. I left them.

Fifteen seconds? You kidding me?

Let's quickly do the weather in Chicago then. "Extra, extra."

(CHIMES)

BROWN: There it is. Thank you.

Good to have you with us tonight. We're back here tomorrow. Hope you'll join us as well. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" next for most of you.

Good night for all of us.

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