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Racial Lines; POW Released; Negotiating Bergdahl's Release
Aired June 2, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
What do Justin Bieber and Donald Sterling have in common?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN BIEBER, MUSICIAN: Why are black people afraid of chain saws?
DONALD STERLING, OWNER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You can apologize all you want, but you can't un-say something like that. But who decides when you have crossed the line? That's out big debate tonight.
Also, the price of freedom. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is released from the Taliban after five years in captivity. But whatever happened to the idea that we don't negotiate with terrorists? And should he get a hero's welcome? We will look at both sides.
And, tonight, we want to know what you think. Make sure you tweet us using #AskDon.
But, first, a few words about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
The reaction to his release from enemy capture has an odd, to say the very least. Someone e-mailed me, asking if the administration timed the release to draw attention away from the Veterans Administration. Some question whether the White House broke the law. Others flat out said that they did and, on top of that, they also negotiated with terrorists.
Some immediately began to question Sergeant Bergdahl's patriotism, calling him a traitor and a turncoat who had walked away from combat and therefore did not deserve to return home safely from his family.
That military mantra no man left behind that we have heard so much since 9/11, we have not heard that much of it in the last few days from many who openly supported going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and claim to support the troops. Why is that?
Why are we so concerned right now with how Bowe Bergdahl went missing rather than how his life was saved? Listen, I don't know if Bergdahl was a deserter. I don't think anyone knows for sure but him. And unless or until he says so, to me, he is still an American, a war veteran, a sergeant who does not deserve to be left behind.
As an American, I'm happy that he is safe. I'm happy for his family. I'm going to refrain from blaming the victim. Remember, in America, it's innocent until proven guilty. Much more on that in just a few minutes.
But I want to begin though with damage control, everybody from Donald Sterling to Justin Bieber. In a wired world where everyone always seems to be listening, who gets a pass and who pays the price for what they say?
Stephanie Elam has that.
And I warn you, some of the language is very offensive.
BIEBER: Why are black people afraid of chain saws?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't even say it. Don't.
BIEBER: Run, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The joke is racist, the joke teller a then 15-year-old pop star laughing at himself. Now 5 years older, Justin Bieber is on damage control, putting out a statement apologizing, saying in part -- quote -- "As a young man, I didn't understand the power of certain words and how they can hurt."
Some of Bieber's famous friends, like boxer Floyd Mayweather, are quick to defend the singer, saying -- quote -- "We all make mistakes when we are young."
In fact, Bieber's age could be helping him. Lee Steinberg is a sports and entertainment agent.
LEE STEINBERG, SPORTS AGENT: Someone who is young, inexperienced, somewhat naive is treated in a different way than someone who is older and should know better.
ELAM: Take the case of Donald Sterling.
STEINBERG: Who particularly cares what Justin Bieber's opinion is on anything besides music? But to have an NBA owner who's in a position of control in a league that's 75, 80, 85 percent African-American is a completely different issue.
ELAM: The embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, losing the NBA team he's owned for more than 30 years because of his racist rant.
STERLING: Yes, it bothers me a lot that you wanted to broadcast it that you are associating with black people.
ELAM: But some five weeks after his rant went viral, Sterling is trying to rehabilitate his legacy, showing up at a black church in South Los Angeles. The pastor who says he asked for not so much as a dime from Sterling is reportedly -- quote -- "helping Sterling through this."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand up. Stand up. Stand up. I want to make -- people say don't do this. If I'm a Christian, I have got to love everybody.
STEINBERG: The time for Sterling to go to that church was on the Sunday following the Saturday revelation of the conversation in the first place. Too little, too late.
ELAM: Donald Sterling and now Justin Bieber proving that race is still a lightning rod, even in private.
STEINBERG: The most electric issue in American society. And that probably doesn't change any time soon.
ELAM: Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.
LEMON: Stephanie, appreciate that.
We're going to get to this dialogue right away on this subject right now.
Joining me now is CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin and "New York Times" columnist Frank Bruni. I think it's fair to say this is a dream team I have with me tonight. Thank you all for joining me. Appreciate it.
LEMON: Frank, I want to begin with you, because Justin Bieber, Donald Sterling, both were caught on tape with private racial remarks that later somehow went public. Do these tapes reveal about -- anything about what they really think?
FRANK BRUNI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's hard to say.
You raise a good point, which is a lot of us, if things we said in private were taken and made public, we would feel like our least true self was represented, not our most true self. A lot of us do sloppy, unintentional things in private. We say things off the cuff that really don't reflect who we are.
So, it's important to realize we can only divine so much about each of these individuals from what they said. I also think it's important, as the intro stated, that these are very, very different people in very, very different circumstances.
In Justin Bieber's case, we don't know that there is a long history of this. In Donald Sterling's case, this comment caught on tape came after discrimination lawsuits and a whole long history that suggested there was more than just that one comment.
LEMON: And, Sunny, the timing is interesting here as well, because TMZ apparently had these tapes for four years and chose not to release it, in part because of Justin Bieber's age. How big of a difference does his age make in this case?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it makes a difference at all.
I don't think you get a pass for making these offensive comments because of your age. I don't think Donald Sterling got a pass. People were saying, well, this is the age that he grew up in. That's why he said those things.
Justin Bieber, so what? He said it when he was 15. I think what is really remarkable is that he said it while filming a video. So, he knew that these words would be videotaped. So, I take him at his word that he didn't even realize how offensive they were, because he said it not necessarily privately, Don. I think he said it openly.
And so I think when you look at it in that sense -- I see Marc Lamont Hill doing this. But when you look at it like that, and Frank as well, I think that it is -- that we can't give people a pass for this kind of word.
BRUNI: I'm not saying he should get a pass, a total pass, but I want to say one thing about that video camera.
I suspect that if you are Justin Bieber, there are cameras rolling around you at all times, and you don't assume that every time a camera is rolling, that is going to be broadcast to the world.
BRUNI: He probably gets...
BRUNI: ... camera...
LEMON: This is 2006. This is actually before he was very popular. I think his video started coming to light around 2007. This is before actually he was very popular.
But, listen, in his apology, he says as a young man that he didn't get the full power of the N-word.
Does a 15-year-old get a pass on that, Marc Lamont Hill, you think? Sunny says no.
MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't like the word pass because it suggests that we pretend that it didn't happen and we don't have any critique of it. Justin Bieber is worthy of critique on this and many other issues.
I think we have to challenge him on this. But you can't hold someone prisoner purely to what they did when they were 15 years old. I think that would be dangerous too. A few years ago, Eminem -- a tape leaked out of Eminem -- "The Source" magazine leaked a tape of Eminem using the N-word in a rap.
Eminem is -- I don't believe Eminem to be a racist. I think Eminem used a very bad choice of words. I think he did something racist, but I don't want to reduce him to that moment. The difference between Donald Sterling and Justin Bieber is two things. One, one difference is that they're a different age. Donald Sterling was a full-grown man.
But, two, Donald Sterling doesn't just call people the N-word. He treats people like the N-word.
HOSTIN: I think it's worse, though, quite frank. I think it worse that Justin Bieber at 15, growing up in this day and age, when we know that that kind of language is offensive, that it won't be tolerated, that he is able to utter that kind of joke.
HILL: Yes, but...
HOSTIN: My son is 11 years old, and he knows darn well that he cannot use that term.
LEMON: But you have different rules, Sunny Hostin. But, see, Sunny, you are like an N-word fundamentalist, right? And I'm like the opposite, right?
HOSTIN: Yes, because you like to use the N-word. I think we should put that out there. You think it's OK for black people to use it, but not white people to use. So, Frank can't use it, but I can, which is absurd.
HILL: I don't use it in public. I don't use it on TV. That's how I keep a job. But in my house, I use the N-word promiscuously.
HOSTIN: And you shouldn't. And you shouldn't. And you shouldn't. It's offensive.
HILL: I am promiscuous with the N-word in my house and I'm cool with that.
I think there's a different set of rules for Donald -- for Justin Bieber and I think at 15 you night not know those rules. That doesn't let him off the hook. He needs to be challenged. He needs to be critiqued. And I hope he knows better than to use it now.
But I think that is different than Donald Sterling, who doesn't just use the N-word. He had discriminatory housing practices, allegedly. He had discriminatory workplace policies, allegedly. That kind of stuff is far worse than some 15-year-old kid telling a stupid joke using the N-word. It's not right.
So, listen, he -- is he treated more leniently, you think, though, because he made a quick apology, took responsibility for his comments?
Frank, is that the difference here?
BRUNI: Well, I mean, we don't know how leniently he is going to be treated over the long run, because this has just happened.
But I think the main difference isn't the quickness of the apology. It is -- I think people do take his age into account, whether or not they should. I think they should. And I think that people also look to see, was this part of a long pattern? And we don't have a bunch of other stuff like this. And, as was just said, very sagely, Donald Sterling, we had allegations of actions that were as bad as the words.
The words were a window into the way the man behaved, as best we know. We don't know that that is true of Justin Bieber.
LEMON: Frank, I think it was -- I think you were right and I was wrong, and I said it was -- it happened before he was famous. He was famous here. This was only four years ago.
BRUNI: I thought so.
LEMON: So, I got my timing wrong, yes.
LEMON: So, Frank, why are we willing to forgive some people and not others? Some are quick to -- like, to forgive Justin Bieber, whereas Sterling continues to get skewered. If we look at previous cases like Paula Deen, she still hasn't fully bounced back from her transgressions.
BRUNI: Well, I think in some cases, it depends on what we think of and what we expect from the person.
So Donald Sterling owned a business. He employed, as was said, a lot of African-American people, so for him to be talking this way, to be thinking this way, to be acting this way, it has a weight and it has a consequence that is much different from a pop star, who is -- who has a history of silly things and all that.
I mean, we don't expect the same rectitude from a 15-year-old teenybopper star that we do from someone who is a putatively responsible businessman.
HOSTIN: I actually beg to differ, because when you talk about Justin Bieber, you are talking about people that -- of that generation. They idolize him. They model on him.
BRUNI: But I'm talking about, what do they look to him for and what do they expect of him?
HOSTIN: Well, they look to him as a model, as a role model.
People adore him.
BRUNI: You really -- you really think...
HOSTIN: Yes, that age group, absolutely, they adore him.
HOSTIN: And so when you look at it in that sense, then what he says and his views are very dangerous for this new generation, what is acceptable and what isn't acceptable.
BRUNI: Whether they are dangerous is different from the question of whether he will be forgiven and why.
HILL: But I think it's also the apology.
Again, Paula Deen doubled down at first. When you accused of doing something racist, if your first response is, I'm not racist, I have got four black friends, here, let me bring them out to you, or you start explaining how you misunderstood what you heard with your own ears or saw with your own yes, that's when people get a little -- find it problematic.
Donald Sterling did not come out immediately and apologize. He didn't say, look, I was a jealous, old, crazy man and I felt some type of way because my girl was seen in a picture with Magic Johnson. Please forgive me.
LEMON: He doubled down. And then he came on television with Anderson and he doubled down again with the cameras rolling.
HILL: Exactly. That's the problem.
So, and Justin Bieber immediately -- I doubt that Justin Bieber wrote that apology, but at least someone who is very good wrote that apology for Justin Bieber.
All right, everyone, thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Marc and Sunny.
Frank Bruni, I want you to stay with me.
When we come right back, truth and consequences. From Elliot Rodger's rampage to Cliven Bundy's rant, do we know the whole stories? And would we change our minds if we did know the whole stories?
Also, the "Homeland"-style return of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Should we negotiate with terrorists? Tonight, well, we want to know what you think. Make sure you tweet us using the #AskDon.
LEMON: Welcome back.
We all have our opinions about the news of the day. And full disclosure, conversation, debate, and even argument, that's our stock and trade in cable news.
But are we letting our opinions get ahead of the facts? In his "New York Times" column on Sunday, Frank Bruni says -- quote -- "Before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and lessons drawn."
And Frank Bruni is back now with me.
OK, so, I liked the column. I thought it was very interesting, because in a way, you were talking about cable news a lot.
BRUNI: No, I was talking about myself, too, Don, because it's my stock and trade too, so I plead guilty.
LEMON: Yes. You did. You said that and you said, and I'm a sinner here, or so speak. I forget exactly what the quote...
BRUNI: It's close enough. Yes, I am a sinner in too many ways to get into tonight, but yes.
LEMON: So, Frank, you are seeing a common thread in the way recent stories are being covered, from V. Stiviano to Cliven Bundy, even to your former executive editor Jill Abramson, her departure from "The New York Times."
What is the connection. How are those subjects related, do you think?
BRUNI: Well, what I think you see happening more and more these days, because of the marketplace of media, because of the metabolism of media, is before the news story is out of the gate, the commentary about it, the opinions about it, as you read, the morals that are deduced, the lessons that are drawn, they travel so far and fast ahead of the known facts, that they leave the known facts in the dust and we end up with a whole lot more punditry and commentary than we do actual information.
LEMON: And people usually -- it's interesting. I always find that people -- even if I write something or say something, people will -- won't read entirely or listen to what I say. They will read a headline that someone else has determined what I said and that will really carry what -- the impact of the entire thing.
BRUNI: And then they will begin to react to it, right, and then people will react to their reactions.
LEMON: Right. Right.
BRUNI: And at some point in that bizarre chain, I think you will find people who can't tell you what the seed of it all was.
So, let's read this. This talks about it a little bit more. We will go into depth. You said: "Something happens and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and lessons drawn."
You said: "The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it and a particular use for it. And as one person after another posits its real significance, the discussion travels so far from what set it in motion, that the truth, the knowable, verifiable truth is left in the dust."
So, we were just -- what troubles you most about this?
BRUNI: What troubles me most about is it the proportion.
Listen, I think commentary, I think what you all do here, what you and I are doing right now, what I try to do at my best in print, what my colleagues do much better than I do, I think all of that is very important. But it used to be -- the news economy used to be such that that was in a different kind of proportion with actual information gathering.
And a lot of things have happened to the economies of the business. A lot of things have happened with social media where I now see the commentary eclipsing the actual information. And I think we just all need to pause and ask ourselves what that means. And those of us who are doing commentary -- you, me -- make sure that when we are taking one those little pieces of taffy, we're not stretching it too far beyond recognition.
LEMON: But you certainly wouldn't argue that reporting is out the window, right? You look here at "The New York Times" and at CNN, if you look at what Drew Griffin and our investigative unit did on uncovering the VA scandal, if you want to take it a step further, Shinseki is out because many people called for his resignation. BRUNI: Absolutely.
LEMON: So, do opinions and commentary help create accountability, you think?
BRUNI: They do. They do. But they have to be built on the actual reporting.
What ultimate leads to someone's ouster, the sorts of changes you are referring to, they wouldn't happen if it was all opinion. They are built on a foundation of facts and on facts that, no matter how people decided to interpret them, were beyond dispute.
Yes, there is a lot of information gathering, there's a lot of news gathering out there. I'm really proud of my news organization. We do a lot of it. CNN should be very proud of itself. But when you look at the way the media has grown and where it's grown, you do see a lot of venues that are all riffing and no reportage.
And I do think that that has gotten out of proportion, as I said, and we all need to kind of watch it, be careful, and be careful about our own consumption. Make sure that what we are looking to and what we're getting what we believe is information from is information and isn't instant analysis that has actually departed very far from the facts.
LEMON: For as much criticism as we get here at CNN, I'm always very proud when something breaks out in some foreign part of the world, some corner of the world and someone will say, hey, who is that guy over there, and I said, you know what, that's where that guy is stationed every single day forever. You just don't see him because there is no news over there to cover there.
BRUNI: You should be. Yes, you should be proud. I'm proud of that with "The Times." But, unfortunately, when you stray beyond our news organizations, the number of foreign correspondents posted in key places and able to bring true expertise to bear on what they're saying, that has diminished over time.
LEMON: I want to read this real quick, because I think it's also very important.
You also write in your colleague, you said: "With just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the remote, they find something to confirm their prejudices, to validate their perspectives. And the gratification is almost instant."
So, you are talking there about social media. But you -- or it can also be -- you could also be talking about people who will watch a liberal network to have their liberal beliefs confirmed, and the same thing about a conservative network to do the same.
BRUNI: Yes. Yes. I'm talking about this irony that I have written about before, in fact, where we have more television channels than ever before. We have an infinite number of directions we can travel on the Internet, and a lot of people end up curating these options down to the prejudice they already have, what they want to believe. Instead of using all this great technology of ours to open a broader universe to themselves, they just kind of find this rut, and they stay in it because there are so many different venues that will just satisfy, vindicate, validate what they already believe.
LEMON: All right, I'm going to give you a -- a tease for you tomorrow, because I understand your column tomorrow is about Hillary Clinton, about Andrew Cuomo, about liberalism and about centrists. And that's it. That is called a tease.
LEMON: You will have to read it for yourself. Make sure you read "The New York Times" tomorrow.
Frank Bruni, appreciate you coming in.
BRUNI: Thanks for teasing me, Don.
LEMON: All right.
When we come back, stranger than fiction. You almost think that you're watching "Homeland," but this story is all too real -- the return of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl after five years as a prisoner of war. Is it proof that we should negotiate with terrorists or is it a dangerous precedent?
I'm going to ask famed attorney Alan Dershowitz next.
LEMON: Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's release after five years of Taliban captivity sounds an awful like the plot of "Showtime"'s "Homeland," where an American POW returns home after years as a prisoner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I'm an American.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Turns out he's one of ours, Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, MIA Since early 2003 and presumed dead, until now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Sergeant Bergdahl is in stable condition tonight at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. Once he is cleared for travel, he will be transported to a military medical facility in Texas. But questions are swirling about his capture and his release.
Tom Foreman has more now.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even as Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl recuperates in a hospital in Germany, for family and friends at home, celebration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was such a sense of relief and amazing -- just amazement.
FOREMAN: But, in Washington, consternation. Some lawmakers are calling the swap for five members of the Taliban who were being held at Guantanamo Bay ill-advised and dangerous, even if they will be held in Qatar for a year.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There is no doubt they will renter the fight. Other ones who have been released from Guantanamo have reentered the fight.
FOREMAN: The prisoner exchange is complicated in many ways. First, some of Bergdahl's fellow troops insist he fell into Taliban hands after walking away from his post. He has been charged with desertion, but at least six Americans died trying to find him.
JOSH KORDER, FORMER U.S. ARMY SERGEANT: He's, at best, a deserter and, at worst, a traitor. Any of us would have died for him while he was with us, and then for him to just leave us like that, it was a very big betrayal.
FOREMAN: The second issue, the law. The White House must tell Congress ahead of any such deal,and some legal analysts say that never happened, but the administration insists it has talked about this exchange for years.
DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: So, this should not have been a surprise to any of the members of Congress who have been consulting about it.
FOREMAN: Third, presidents have long insisted the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. Never mind that Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton, among others, made deals that critics say violated that principle.
(on camera): This exchange has struck a nerve, the central concern, that the message being sent to terrorist groups everywhere is that capturing Americans can be a rewarding business.
(voice-over): So what does that mean to other Americans already being held elsewhere, such as Kenneth Bae in North Korea and Alan Gross in Cuba? No one knows. No one really even knows what is ahead for Bergdahl.
BOB BERGDAHL, FATHER OF BOWE BERGDAHL: Bowe has been gone so long, that it's going to be very difficult to come back.
FOREMAN: Yes, difficult, and not just for him.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)
LEMON: Appreciate that, Tom Foreman.
Lots of questions in the wake of Bowe Bergdahl's release. Probably the most heated? Should we be in the business of negotiating with terrorists, OK?
Joining me now is Alan Dershowitz. He's a Harvard Law School professor and the author of "Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law."
I promise you, it's a very good book.
So, let's move on. Let's talk about this.
Obviously, Alan, a deeply controversial issue. Where do we -- where do you stand here? What message does it send out to America's enemies that this country will enter negotiations for the return of a soldier?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR, "THE CASE FOR MORAL CLARITY: ISRAEL, HAMAS AND GAZA": Well, first of all, it should not be a political issue. It should not be a partisan issue. This is a national problem. I wish and I know many others wish that we had never embarked on the process of negotiating with terrorists. It began many, many years ago when the Germans gave up prisoners who had killed the Israeli athletes in Munich, when the British gave up prisoners and the French gave up prisoners. It was a terrible beginning, and it encouraged terrorism. It really made terrorism profitable.
I wrote a book some years ago called "Why Terrorism Works," and it works because it succeeds; terrorists get their ways. The Palestinians today have more prominence than the Kurds, then the Tibetans, then the Tartars, because they have engaged in terrorism and brought themselves into national -- international attention.
So I wish we hadn't gone down this line. But it's compelling when you have a prisoner, particular prisoner, the families, the emotional toll...
LEMON: His health was in danger.
DERSHOWITZ: His health is in danger.
DERSHOWITZ: It's so hard to resist. But if we had had a policy from day one and stuck to that policy, I think we'd have far less terrorism, and I think we'd have far fewer captures of Americans as bargaining chips to release other prisoners.
LEMON: Can I ask you this? At the follow-up, you said it should not be a political event; you shouldn't politicize this. But it has become politicized, hadn't it?
DERSHOWITZ: I think it would have been just as politicized if a Republican president had done it. I mean, some Democrats would have attacked him, too.
This is not a time for partisan name calling. This is a time to reassess American policy, and it's American policy that has been implemented by Republicans, By Democrats alike.
LEMON: Well said. Well said, Alan. Listen, I want to talk about the president, because the president is being criticized for allegedly breaking the law requiring the secretary of defense and notifying Congress 30 days before releasing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.
The GOP want hearings. But President Obama did it on, you know, on his own. He said a few people knew. Did the president break the law?
DERSHOWITZ: I don't think so. The president is the commander-in- chief. The president has full authority to implement American foreign policy. If the statute were to be construed to require the president, even in situations of emergency and imminence, to consult with Congress, that statute might well be unconstitutional as constraining a president's power.
So again, I think it's a terrible mistake to make this into a partisan issue. Let's have a real debate about whether going forward we should draw the line in the sand now and say no further negotiations with terrorists under any circumstances about captured prisoners.
Don't make it an incentive for them to capture more prisoners, to put bounties on the head of American soldiers. I think the mistake took place many years ago, and the blame is broad enough to go around, unfortunately.
LEMON: So Senator Lindsay Graham called the five prisoners a Taliban dream team, and then he said that their release is a threat to national security.
"The five terrorists that were released were the hardest of the hard- core. They have American blood on their hands." He said, "And surely as night follows day, they will return to fight."
Are they a threat to national security?
DERSHOWITZ: I think one has to assume that they are probably a threat to national security. We have been promised that they will be watched carefully for a year.
But I think when you make a deal like this you have to assume that prisoners with this kind of authority with blood on their hands are zealously committed to repeating their terrorism, and they will go back and commit terrorism. We may get lucky. It may not happen.
But I think the assumption when you make the deal has to be that it may cost additional lives. And so the question is, unknown lives in the future -- we don't know who they'll be -- versus a known life. And when you have a name and a face associated with a person, that person assumes more value than some abstract people who might die in the future. That's why emotionally we're inclined to make the deal. Rationally, it's a bad deal. LEMON: All right. Alan Dershowitz, stay with me there. When we come right back, it's easy to say never negotiate with terrorists unless, of course, it's your child or your spouse's life at stake. Let's get personal with this debate, next.
LEMON: After five years as a Taliban prisoner, some say Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl deserves a parade. Others are not so sure. So joining me now is Ann Coulter. She's the author of "Never Trust a Liberal Over 3, Especially a Republican." I love the title of that book, Ann.
And then Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst and author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden." Robert Mnookin is the director of the Harvard Negotiation Research Project and author of "Bargaining with the Devil." Alan Dershowitz is back with me. I'm going to plug his book again. It's called "Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law."
So we're all authors here, and we all have books. And we're all here to discuss something that's very important. Robert, I want to get your take on this first. You disagree with your friend and colleague, Alan Dershowitz, don't you, on negotiating with the Taliban to he said, quote -- and I'm going to quote the title of your book here -- should the U.S. be bargaining with the devil?
ROBERT MNOOKIN, DIRECTOR, HARVARD NEGOTIATION RESEARCH PROJECT: Well, I think in this instance, President Obama made the correct decision.
I don't believe you can categorically say you should either never negotiate with an evil adversary or that you should always negotiate, because that's the way you can make peace. It very much depends on context and a careful assessment of the potential costs and benefits and what your alternatives are.
The war in Afghanistan for the United States is certainly winding down, and I think it is an appreciate time for us to make a deal with the Taliban. Indeed, both the Afghan government and our government in various ways has, for several years -- and Congress knows this -- been exploring whether it might not be possible to negotiate with the Taliban.
LEMON: OK. I want to get Ann. Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham have claimed that these released Taliban prisoners are the hardest of the hard-core and that they will be hell-bent on getting revenge on America. I mean, should this deal have been done, in your estimation?
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR/COMMENTATOR: It doesn't seem like a very good deal to me. I mean, I'm just basing it on what has been in the news on CNN and CBS, ABC, Daily Beast. Not only are these five of the worst terrorists to release, I do agree that Obama just wanted to get rid of them. He didn't want to give them a trial, which I think most Americans would have preferred. And either acquit them and let them go or shoot them or -- or put them in prison for a long time. But I think he just wanted to get rid of them, and I don't think the deal at the other end looks particularly good to be getting out an American, who was accused by his -- the members of his unit of being a deserter that cost Americans looking for him over the next several weeks six American lives. I don't know if you saw that the parents of one of the men who was killed looking for Bowe Bergdahl said, look, "I'm glad the parents got their kid back. We're never going to see our son, because he was killed looking for your son." And also, three days before deserting, saying he was ashamed to be an American and America was a disgusting country. Why not give him what he wants?
LEMON: I don't think that we know for sure. And as I said at the top of the broadcast, you know, no one knows for sure, except for Bowe Bergdahl, whether or not he was a deserter or not. And if so, until...
COULTER: But the e-mails are the e-mails.
COULTER: And there's nobody coming out saying that he didn't send those e-mails. And this is why there's a law requiring the president to check with Congress and to inform them 30 days before such a deal. Not such a deal but before releasing -- releasing anyone from Guantanamo...
LEMON: From Gitmo, right.
COULTER: ... and to ensure us that they're not dangerous. Well, that wasn't done, and now it looks like it was a pretty bad deal.
LEMON: OK. Peter, you know, the Taliban specifically named these five men as the prisoners that they wanted released. What does that tell us about these men?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the senior people of the Taliban in Guantanamo. This was the only deal on the table. I mean, this deal has been the subject of negotiations between the United States and representatives of the Taliban going back now for almost three years. There was no other deal. So it was either this deal or nothing.
At the end of the day, you had two policies. One is don't leave anybody behind. The other one is don't talk to terrorists. And the question -- these are both, by the way policies. They're not laws. And the question is which one was going to trump the other? And in this case, leave no man behind trumped the other one.
LEMON: You know, Alan, you heard Ann said that most Americans, she believes, wanted at least these five to be tried. Do you think that they should have been tried, at the very least?
DERSHOWITZ: I don't know what the evidence is against them. There were certainly people who are held in Guantanamo who are terrorists who are going to go out and commit new acts of terrorism who cannot be tried because the evidence against them comes from sources that we don't want to disclose.
So we're stuck with some people who we can't release, we can't try, and we can't keep confining under the law. But I don't agree with Ann that this was motivated by a desire to get rid of these five people. I think it was motivated by a genuine humanitarian desire to bring somebody back without prejudging whether he individually was entitled to be brought back. He is an American soldier who was left behind. We have that policy.
I just wish -- and I also agree with my friend Bob Mnookin, that in general, I don't see any problem with, at the end of a war, trying to negotiate some kind of a peaceful resolution, even with the devil. What I'm concerned about is a general policy that says if you kidnap one of our soldiers, we will go into negotiation with you, and we will give you a multiple. Whether it's Israel giving a thousand prisoners back for the Gilad Shalit or whether it's us giving back five prisoners, I think that general willingness sends a very, very dangerous message.
LEMON: I want you -- I want you to hold it there and hold that thought about Gilad Shalit. Because I want to ask Ann, you know what about the soldier's creed? You know, no man left behind. Israel released a thousand prisoners, as you heard Alan say, in exchange for captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
COULTER: Well, first of all, I don't think you can quite get out of this by just saying, well, we don't know now whether he's a deserter when so many members of his unit are saying he was a deserter. I think that is a relevant part of the development.
LEMON: It is relevant, but don't you think that he should be tried for it instead or questioned about it before you come to this determination. I mean, in this country it's innocent until proven guilty. And if it is determined that he is a deserter, then we should...
COULTER: What I'm saying is -- what I'm saying is stop referring to him as left behind. He wanted to stay. He was ashamed, according to...
LEMON: But we don't know he wanted to stay, Ann. We don't know that.
COULTER: That's why. Well, OK. We don't know...
LEMON: A lot of people are unhappy about the war.
COULTER: We don't know that he was left behind. And it's not an argument to keep saying we left him behind, because we don't know that. It looks like, from the people who were there, that he walked off after saying he was ashamed and disgusted to be an American.
DERSHOWITZ: But he definitely wanted to come back. We know that from the videotapes. There came a time -- whatever his initial statements were, there came a time that he desperately wanted to be returned. At that time...
COULTER: It is not left behind.
DERSHOWITZ: It is if he wants to come back and we're not bringing him back. You have to give way for those considerations, as well.
LEMON: Robert, go ahead.
MNOOKIN: Well, I think that, in fact, we should not be deciding whether or not, for an American soldier, we're going to try to rescue him or whether we're trying to negotiate for his release by presuming some kind of guilt in terms of desertion or anything else. This man hasn't been tried. There will be an opportunity. He could still be court martialed.
COULTER: They tried to rescue him.
MNOOKIN: Well, exactly.
COULTER: And Americans died.
MNOOKIN: No. Well, let me finish. The reason they tried to rescue him is because they weren't going to prejudge him. They were going to treat him... (AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)
LEMON: Sorry. We lost him there. Sorry. We'll get him back, and then we'll get it after the break. So listen, stay with me, everyone. When we come right back, is this the case of the White House playing politics? The president promised to close Guantanamo Bay. Does this get him closer?
LEMON: It's not just the U.S. government that has been fighting for Bowe Bergdahl's release. His family has never given up on him. Back with me now is Ann Coulter, Peter Bergen, Robert Mnookin and also Alan Dershowitz.
Peter, I want to follow up a little bit on what Robert was talking about, because you have been talking to Bowe Bergdahl's father for some time now. What is he -- what has he done over the last five years to get his son back?
BERGEN: Well, he started reaching out to a number of people who are experts on al Qaeda, the Taliban in the region. And I'm one of a number of people he spoke to. I think he tried to immerse himself into understanding who had taken his son.
He, as you can see in this picture, grew a beard. As you may recall when he made the remarks to President Obama, he actually used some words of Pashtun, which is the language of the Taliban. So he made every effort, as any father would, to try and understand who had taken his son and to understand their world view.
LEMON: Robert, President Obama made a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay. Is this just part of moving forward on that promise if he can get one man back in exchange, all the better? MNOOKIN: I don't think this decision was made on the basis of wanting to close Guantanamo. He certainly remains of the view that it should be closed.
I think this was done on the merits. I think there appeared to be an opportunity, finally, to make a deal with the Taliban. Obviously, people could disagree about whether the price was too high or not. It involved some speculation about what these middle-aged guys might do in the future.
But my own view is that it was a perfectly plausible decision to make. And I -- I guess I can't -- unlike Alan, I think a categorical notion that you're going to never negotiate with an evil adversary, because the incentive -- because the incentive effects may be too great. Just the empirical evidence doesn't bear it out. No one has been a worse offender, as Alan says, than the Israelis for Shalit. They traded a thousand people. They traded 65 people in 1998 for the remains of one dead Israeli.
Robert -- we get the point.
But I hear Alan saying that's not my -- that's not my belief. I want you to clarify.
DERSHOWITZ: My belief is that -- not that we should never negotiate, regardless of what the issue to negotiate is. My point is that we shouldn't have a policy of being willing to exchange prisoners for people who have been captured. And I think the Israeli experience is a case on point. It has not helped Israel. I think it's been a serious mistake to do that with Israel.
I'll tell you an interesting story of what happened in Israel. Some years ago, there was a big debate about women should be able to fly as air force pilots. And the brass said no, not because they were concerned about women's competence. They're extraordinary pilots. But the fact that, if a woman were captured, the stakes would even go up higher, because the emotional need to bring back a woman, who might be subject to sexual abuse, et cetera, makes the price even higher.
And right now, I think we're going to see more bounties on the heads of American soldiers, more efforts to try to capture American soldiers. We've sent a message to the Taliban. The more you can capture, the more people will go free. And the more they will negotiate with you. That's a very bad policy.
LEMON: Alan. The Taliban is always trying to capture American soldiers. That's kind of what they do. I don't know if that's more of an incentive. But Ann, if we...
DERSHOWITZ: But if we had never negotiated with them, if we had never freed anybody, I'm not sure they'd be prioritizing in terms of going after American soldiers if they knew...
LEMON: Point taken.
DERSHOWITZ: ... that they wouldn't get anybody in return. LEMON: All right. Point taken. Point taken. Listen, last week at this time, we were knee deep in the V.A. scandal. And there's some murmuring about the timing of this deal. It comes on the heels of that scandal, effectively knocking an embarrassing story off the front page. Is that fair?
COULTER: I don't think it works. I think this is -- this is in many ways worse. And it's really captivated people's attention to have Bowe Bergdahl's father standing in the Rose Garden speaking in Arabic and thanking Allah. And straight out of the chute, the first -- the first group of people he thanks isn't the United States. It's the government of Qatar.
It's just -- the trade was not a good deal here. I mean, I don't know that I have a clear position one way or the other. Yes, I think our policy should be we don't negotiate with terrorists for hostages. Sometimes the heart strings will be pulled. And when it is done it should be done the way that Reagan did it, working with a cutout and going through various countries. But here, it's just an awful deal. And I think Obama stepped on a rake, and it hit him in the face.
LEMON: We've got to go. Thank you everyone. Ann Coulter, Peter Bergen, Robert Mnookin and also Alan Dershowitz. Appreciate all of you.
When we come right back, what just might be the nastiest primary battle this season, so far anyway.
LEMON: Before we go, we have some breaking news out of California. The hunt for a San Francisco man accused of having explosives at his home is now over. The FBI says Ryan Kelly Chamberlain II is in custody, though they say they don't know his intent or motive yet. Law enforcement tells CNN that he was arrested near the Golden Gate Bridge.
Now it's time for "CNN TONIGHT Tomorrow," the stories that you'll be talking about tomorrow.
First up, President Obama has departed Washington on a four-day trip to Europe for the G-7 meeting. The bloodshed in Ukraine and Russia's role in supporting armed separatists there are high on the agenda.
Meanwhile, here at home, voters in eight states head to the polls in primary elections tomorrow. In Mississippi, the longtime GOP senator, Thad Cochran, is battling Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniels in one of the nastiest races so far this election season.
And also tomorrow I'm going to be talking to the great actor, Morgan Freeman. He is back with a new project and asking a provocative question: Is poverty genetic? Morgan Freeman tomorrow right here on CNN TONIGHT.
That's it for us tonight. I'll see you back here tomorrow. I'm Don Lemon. "AC 360" starts right now.