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CNN Talkback Live
Professor with Alleged Terrorist Ties Under Fire; Ann Coulter Blasts Liberals
Aired August 22, 2002 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ARTHEL NEVILLE, HOST: All right everybody, hello, and welcome to TALKBACK LIVE. I'm Arthel Neville.
If a university professor has alleged ties to terrorists, should he lose his job? That's the debate surrounding University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian. Some 10 years ago, he allegedly said "Death to Israel" on videotape. Now, shortly after those statements were made public on a national television show, al-Arian was put on paid leave.
Here to fill us in on this story is CNN's Mark Potter in Miami.
Mark -- first of all tell us who is Sami Al Arian?
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Arthel, Sami Al-Arian is a Palestinian immigrant who came to the United States in 1975. He taught computer engineering at the University of South Florida. He also was engaged in pro-Palestinian political activities.
He ran an Islamic charity and think-tank, and for years he has been under investigation by the U.S. government by investigators of the Justice Department. In fact, that investigation continues today, looking into whether the charity was used to help fund terrorist activities in the Middle East.
Now, to be clear, no charges have ever been filed, and al-Arian denies any wrongdoing, denies any involvement with terrorism. Now, the university says that it wants power to fire Sami Al-Arian. It is asking a court to determine whether that would violate his constitutional rights.
Al-Arian says it would definitely violate his rights, his right to free speech. He says it would also violate the spirit of academic freedom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMI AL-ARIAN: I am a minority, I am an Arab, I am Palestinian, I am a Muslim. That's not a popular thing to be these days. Do I have rights or don't I have rights? Right now, it seems like the majority of the people think, no, you don't have rights, because you don't agree with us, and I think that's wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP) POTTER: Now, the university's position is that Al-Arian's activities detract from the university's mission, and put the school at risk.
In a letter to him, the university president said that the university was accusing him of bringing terrorists into the United States and was helping to fund a terrorist organization.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY GENSHAFT, USF PRESIDENT: I believe that Dr. Al-Arian has abused his position at the university, and is using academic freedom as a shield to cover improper activities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
POTTER: Now, again, Al-Arian categorically denies these accusations, and points out that an immigration judge two years ago looked at the evidence and said that there was no provable link between the charity and any terrorist activities. And he vows fight the university's actions in court -- Arthel.
NEVILLE: So, Mark, this means that the university or the government at this point, neither has concrete evidence of any ties to terrorist groups with the professor?
POTTER: Well, nothing that has led to any charges. He has not been charged at all.
NEVILLE: Now, tell us about his brother-in-law, the professor's brother-in-law. I understand this morning he was deported.
POTTER: That's correct. There was a development today. His brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar was deported. He had been in jail for about nine months, arrested after September 11 for a visa violation. He was deported to the Middle East. We do not know exactly where. His lawyers say that he is going to a U.S.-friendly Middle Eastern country. They do not want to say where that is until he gets settled in, and they are sure that he is safe.
Now, he drew national attention a while ago when he was jailed for three-and-a-half years on what the government described as secret evidence. He, too, was suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, again, allegations that he categorically and strongly denied. But he was held in jail without charges ever being filed. The government never showed him the evidence and never told him the source of the evidence.
However, in court, it was presented to a judge, and in December of the year 2000, a judge ruled that his rights had been violated, and he was released. But then again, after September 11, he was rearrested on the visa charge, and now he is out of the country. He was sent out without his family. We are told that the lawyers are making arrangements for the family to join him, but right now, he has gone alone in the custody of the Immigration Service to a Middle Eastern country. NEVILLE: Mark Potter, thank you very much for filling in the blanks.
And obviously, the university and the professor sit on opposite sides of a fence. Now, who's right, who's wrong, or is that even a fair question?
Here to talk about it are Hussein Ibish, the communications director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and Phil Kent, president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation.
Welcome to both of you.
HUSSEIN IBISH, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CMTE.: Delighted to be here.
NEVILLE: OK, Mr. Ibish, you're going to be up first on this one.
NEVILLE: How do you see it?
IBISH: Well, I think that the attempt to fire this guy, because of his alleged political beliefs, because of things that are inflammatory that he said, you know, 12 years ago or 10 years ago, is an absolute violation of academic freedom. It's a clear attack on tenure. It's a violation of free speech rights. It's outrageous. It's McCarthyism.
And until, you know, the government arrests him on some charge, he has to be presumed innocent. And there is no basis for firing someone, because we don't like his political views. It's outrageous.
NEVILLE: Now, let me ask you this, Mr. Ibish. What about the allegations that the professor has financial ties to terrorist groups?
IBISH: Well, all I can do is read from the ruling from October 2000, which is not long ago, long after all of these events supposedly took place, from Judge R. Kevin McHugh, who ruled that -- quote: "Although there were allegations that ICP and the WISE, the groups that Al-Arian was involved with, were fronts for Palestinian political causes, there is no evidence before this court that demonstrates that either organization was a front for the PIJ," an alleged terrorist group. "To the contrary, this there is evidence on the record to support that conclusion that WISE was a reputable and scholarly research center and the ICP was highly regarded."
So a judge has ruled that all of this is bogus, and until we have some reason based in fact to think otherwise, I think that the presumption has to be that this is a political witch-hunt, a vendetta, and a kind of very, very ugly post-9/11 McCarthyism.
NEVILLE: So bottom line, what's the hidden agenda here? Is there one?
IBISH: I don't think there's a hidden agenda. I think the agenda is overt. I think that, you know, media criticism of Professor Al-Arian and a lot of charges swirling around created an uncomfortable situation for the university. The university had been defending him until this whole thing broke out in October 2001 in the national media. And now suddenly, the university wants to get rid of him. I think they think it's an embarrassment, and I think the easiest thing is just to fire him and get rid of him, et cetera.
The problem is the American Association of University Professors had said that if they do that, they will censor USF. And it would be the first time an American university has been censored, since the firing of professors during the McCarthy era. And that's because that's exactly what this is. It's a throw back to the ugliest days of the Red scare and the McCarthy era.
NEVILLE: OK, hang on for me. Mr. Kent, I want to get to you, but I do want to take a call right now. John is calling in.
John, where are you calling from?
JOHN: From Massachusetts. This is communism American-style. This is Bushism, not McCarthyism. This is a front on all minorities. If are not going along with their program, execute them, persecute them, or run them out of the country or send them back to Africa.
NEVILLE: John, thank you so much for calling.
Mr. Kent, do you agree or disagree with the caller?
PHIL KENT, SOUTHEASTERN LEGAL FOUNDATION: Well, I think the caller is wrong. And I am really sad to see the Anti-Discrimination committee, a group I once respected, try to defend this person, this professor. It's not a free speech issue. The man has advocated violence.
When you say "Death to America," "Death to Israel," that's going beyond words. That's going beyond just supporting the pro-Palestinian cause. Yes, maybe there should be a Palestinian state, and that's fine. You can be an activist. There are many responsible Arabs and American-Muslims. That's not the point.
This man said in a fundraising letter that he was for jihad, the holy war. These are very inflammatory, violence-prone statements.
A university, like the University of South Florida, has every right to protect its reputation. They haven't fired him yet. In fact, if I was president of the South Florida University, I probably would have fired him by now.
But they are taking appropriate steps, they are questioning him. He is an embarrassment. They have a right to protect their image.
IBISH: Well, with respect, if we were to fire every university professor who said inflammatory things or who said even silly or stupid things, there would be a huge list of people. We had Mr. Murray and Herrnstein up at Harvard write a book about how African- Americans are genetically inferior to other races. We've had... KENT: Well, he didn't say silly or foolish things. He advocates violence.
IBISH: Yes, you know, he -- and there are many professors...
KENT: You're supporting violence.
IBISH: No, I don't agree that he advocates. He just said...
KENT: "Death to America?"
IBISH: ... when he said -- no. And he said 10 years ago...
KENT: What does "Death to America" mean?
IBISH: ... "Death to Israel" does not necessarily...
KENT: What does "Death to America" mean?
IBISH: You know, I don't -- I think...
NEVILLE: He said "Death Israel."
NEVILLE: Hey, listen, guys, I'm going to jump in right here....
IBISH: I would agree...
NEVILLE: Gentlemen, I'm jumping in...
IBISH: I would agree that it's an inflammatory statement.
NEVILLE: ... because -- sir -- sir, excuse me.
IBISH: But that's why we have the First Amendment.
NEVILLE: Sir, one second, OK? Because I have to take a break right now. I love this debate. Unfortunately, I've got to break it off for a second.
But I want to know what you at home, what you think about this as well. So get in on this fiery debate and give me a call at 1-800-310- 4cnn, or of course, you can e-mail me at email@example.com.
I know you have something to say. I'll let you speak after the break, OK? Back in a moment.
NEVILLE: And welcome back, everybody. We are talking with Hussein Ibish and Phil Kent about whether a Florida professor, accused of having ties to terrorism, should keep his job or not? And apparently, we have a little bit of a sound from that tape that we were talking about where Professor Sami Al-Arian -- apparently, you can read this. He says: "Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam! Death to Israel and victory to Islam! Revolution. Revolution until victory! Rolling, rolling to Jerusalem."
Hmm. Mr. Ibish...
IBISH: Well, let me -- can I...
NEVILLE: Mr. Ibish, now that was -- those statements were made in 1991.
IBISH: Right, right. Very inflammatory statements. But let me point out one thing. He did not say "Death to America." It has never been alleged that he said "Death to America."
KENT: He said that in his fundraising letter.
NEVILLE: I didn't...
IBISH: Oh, no, he did not say -- no, he did not.
KENT: He called for jihad.
IBISH: Now, what he has said is...
KENT: What does that mean?
IBISH: What he has said -- it does mean -- jihad can mean a lot of things. Let me tell you. These are inflammatory statements, and I certainly wouldn't have said them. But that's why we have the First Amendment for.
This is not necessarily advocating violence, but I'll tell you who has advocated violence...
NEVILLE: No, no, no, no, hold on.
IBISH: ... is Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, who...
NEVILLE: No, no, hang on for me.
IBISH: Yes, all right.
NEVILLE: Mr. Ibish...
NEVILLE: ... stick to the point here and go back, finish your comment.
IBISH: Yes, sure.
NEVILLE: If you say that does not advocate violence, then what does it do?
IBISH: Well, it does not necessarily. I mean, it could mean a lot of different things. Calling for a jihad could mean a lot of different things...
KENT: Why is he under investigation by the U.S. attorney in Tampa?
IBISH: Why hasn't he been...
KENT: Is that a mistake?
IBISH: Why hasn't he been charged when he has been investigated for 10 years? It's been over 10...
KENT: You have to be investigated first.
IBISH: Well, 10 years of investigation has been going on. The man hasn't been charged.
NEVILLE: OK, I'm going to let...
IBISH: I mean, I would assume that he hasn't committed a crime. And until the government tells me differently, I think he deserves that presumption, for heaven's sake. In fact, our tradition is even when accused, the presumption is guilty until convicted -- innocent until convicted. You're certainly innocent until charged, for heaven's sake.
NEVILLE: OK, hang on for me. Let me let Sara (ph), who is calling in from California, jump in. Go ahead, Sara (ph).
SARA (ph): Hi. I was just saying that if somebody from an American roots with no other historical roots that was completely American had said something possibly against Afghanistan, like "Death to Afghanistan," nothing would have happened. He would have -- nothing would have happened whatsoever. But since Mr. Al-Arian has Palestinian roots, he is getting blamed for possibly terrorist roots.
NEVILLE: Right, I understand your point, Sara (ph).
Phil Kent, is this about -- is this racism?
KENT: No, it's not racism. It's about what a university and its reputation can withstand. We've heard there have been a lot of problems. The man has obviously made these statements --prone-to- violence statements. Why can't a university -- even if he hadn't committed a crime, that's not the point. He can still be removed.
KENT: Ten years doesn't mean you are protected from everyone.
IBISH: I mean, let me give you an example.
NEVILLE: Let me jump in there, because apparently, the university claims -- Mr. Ibish, hang on for a second here.
NEVILLE: I've got to get this going here.
IBISH: Of course.
NEVILLE: The university claims there have been death threats against Professor Al-Arian and the university, adding that getting rid of the professor protects his safety and that of the students. Do you buy that, Mr. Ibish?
IBISH: No, of course. It's an obvious cop-out. It's an obvious excuse. But let me make the point I've been trying to make, which is -- I'll tell you a professor who advocated violence directly. That's Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, who advocated torturing people. And he also advocated the Israelis to destroy one Palestinian village for every suicide bombing.
KENT: I'm in favor of removing Dershowitz, too, just for the record.
IBISH: You know, I really think we need to maintain our standards of freedom, our academic freedom, our intellectual freedom, and our First Amendment rights to say things, including inflammatory things, and even, yes, dumb things.
NEVILLE: OK, hang on guys, because I have with me Tia (ph), and she is -- you are a student at the University of South Florida.
TIA (ph): Just in response to what Mr. Ibish said. There were, in fact, death threats to the engineering department and other harassing phone calls. So we did have to evacuate the engineering department, so that was true. So I don't necessarily think it's all because of...
IBISH: I don't deny that.
TIA (ph): OK. I don't necessarily think it's all because of what the media said about our constitutional rights. It's just more of a safety on the university campus.
IBISH: Yes, but the answer to that is not to fire somebody. The answer to that is to beef up security. And the answer also is to call on the media to be less, you know, hysterical about this case, and to look at it more soberly as, in fact, a lot of print media, like "The New York Times" and even the "St. Petersburg Times" and others have done.
NEVILLE: OK, I have an e-mail coming in right now I want to share with you. It's from Omer in Kentucky: "Americans are entering into another McCarthy-like era. This time, though, the U.S. has targeted Islam and Arabs."
And, sir, what's your name? Excuse me, Mike.
MIKE: My name is Mike.
NEVILLE: What do you say, Mike?
MIKE: I have not followed this affair closely. However, I do have a working familiarity with contract law. I think there's a problem here. Allegedly, this man has a history of inflammatory statements. Now, your note, your read-ahead does not say how long he has been at the university. When a university endows someone with tenure, it is an endorsement. First, it's an endorsement that they believe you fit in and contribute to the life of that faculty of that school.
NEVILLE: OK, and your point is?
MIKE: Secondly, to me, I view tenure as a contract. They should have thought about that before they tenured this man, since this has gone on for some time. If they had any doubts, they should have never entered into a tenure arrangement.
NEVILLE: Thank you very much.
Phil Kent, I'm going to ask you an unfair question here, which is a yes or no answer, I'm going to need. Governor Jeb Bush is publicly supporting the university. Should he be getting involved? Yes or no?
KENT: Yes. He's the governor of the state, and he's over the university system. He has a right to have a bully pulpit.
NEVILLE: Mr. Ibish, yes or no?
IBISH: No, of course not, he shouldn't be involved.
NEVILLE: OK, Hussein Ibish, thank you very much.
NEVILLE: Phil Kent, thank you very much for joining us.
NEVILLE: I'm out of time on this one, guys.
OK, listen, up next: Are lying liberals destroying the country? We have heard about the right-wing conspiracy. Is the left-wing guilty of worse?
Ann Coulter makes her case after this -- don't go anywhere, there she is. She's ready to go.
TALKBACK LIVE continues in a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BUSINESS NEWS UPDATE)
NEVILLE: And I want to you get those fingers ready to call in, because we're going to talk about a provocative, controversial and No. 1 book on "The New York Times" best-seller list. Ann Coulter is here to talk about her new book, "Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right."
Ann Coulter, thanks for being on the show.
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "SLANDER": Sure.
NEVILLE: All right, you know what? This book hasn't won you any fans on the left, to say the least. Why did you write it, Ann?
COULTER: That's OK, they weren't sending me flowers before it came out.
Because I think we aren't having serious political debate in this country, at least not between the right and the left. There is a lot of fertile argument going on among right-wingers. But the typical response from a liberal to a principled (ph) conservative argument is to accuse the conservative of planning a second holocaust. And I think there is a difference on those things.
And we're not really moving forward with any sort of serious dialogue when conservatives are constantly responded to by being calling racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semantic, you know, compared to bringing been back slavery.
NEVILLE: So you're saying, Ann, that, in fact, when liberals respond, they are basically spewing rhetoric, no facts, no nothing with -- of substance, just rhetoric?
COULTER: Right. I am glad you mentioned that. I mean, obviously I have no problem with invective, no problem with colorful commentary, but there ought to be a point.
NEVILLE: So you think all liberals are guilty of bashing conservatives?
COULTER: There are a few exceptions.
NEVILLE: All right...
COULTER: But yes.
NEVILLE: But here you are...
COULTER: I wanted...
NEVILLE: But, Ann, aren't you...
(CROSSTALK) COULTER: ... about that.
NEVILLE: Go ahead.
COULTER: One other thing I say about that is there are some exceptions. I am pleased to say, some of my best friends are liberals. But it's striking how the invective and the name-calling come from such high levels...
NEVILLE: And it never comes from conservatives is what are you saying?
COULTER: Well, no. What I am saying right now is that it comes from the president of the United States, the vice president, United States senators. It comes from news anchors, objective news reporters, whereas, you know, the closest liberals can ever come to invective on the right -- and as I say, I don't have a problem with invective per se -- is from humorists, polemicists, open controversialists.
I am quite sure that no Republican sitting United States senator has ever accused a conservative...
NEVILLE: All right, Ann, hang on.
COULTER: ... of plotting to bring back slavery. Ask Teddy Kennedy.
NEVILLE: Ann -- Ann, hang on for me. I've got a call coming in from British Colombia. Caller, go ahead, you're hot. Kelly (ph), go ahead.
KELLY (ph): Hi, there. I am just calling -- I'm hearing Ann talk a lot about colorful commentary and name-calling. I'm just wondering in her book, does she not refer to Katie Couric as "Hitler's wife" or something along those lines? I'm just wondering if that's not name-calling.
COULTER: Right, what you -- what you heard me saying about colorful commentary was that I don't have a problem with it. What you head me saying about invective was that I don't have a problem with it. I think there ought to be a point.
Yes, I referred to Katie Couric as the affable Eva Braun of morning TV. That was after quoting her statement said to the 92nd Street Y in a speech accusing Christian conservatives of near complicity in the dragging death of James Byrd. I think that's a pretty hateful statement, one of the ugliest ones I quote in my book.
So, yes, I...
NEVILLE: And, Ann, do you ever... COULTER: But I don't have...
NEVILLE: Ann -- Ann, do you ever consider other people's perspectives?
COULTER: Yes, of course I do. I argue against them for a living.
NEVILLE: But you argue against them. Does that mean you digest it, hear it, digest it, think about it...
COULTER: Well, no...
NEVILLE: ... and then say, hmm, sometimes I didn't think about it that way?
NEVILLE: Or is just what your way is the only way?
COULTER: No, of course not. And in point of facts, that's what I find so different between the right and the left. There is a lot of argument going on among right-wingers, and consequently, all new, interesting public policy ideas for about 20 years keep bubbling up from some part of the right-wing, whether it's enterprise zone, school vouchers, strategic defense initiative, welfare reform. Basically by definition, a new idea is a right-wing idea.
Conservatives, whether they're right wingers, traditional conservatives, "Wall Street Journal" Republicans, libertarians, we argue amongst ourselves all of the time, and a lot of productive debate gets done. It's amazing how productive debate can be when...
NEVILLE: Right, so all of...
COULTER: ... constantly being called a racist.
NEVILLE: So all of the conservatives...
COULTER: But then you turn and argue...
NEVILLE: ... are our fearless leaders, and they are the ones coming up with all innovative suggestions for the country.
COULTER: Well, in fact -- in point of fact, yes, I think that's true. And then you turn and try to argue to most liberals, and what you get is nothing but invective, ideas aren't considered as ideas, and in fact, conservatives are attacked in terms that try to, you know, warn the American people, don't listen to this conservative, don't listen to this idea. This person is way...
NEVILLE: And is that not what you're doing, saying that the liberals, you shouldn't listen to them?
COULTER: No. I am saying they should stop calling names, give me an idea, and I'll argue with you about it.
NEVILLE: But you're saying, don't listen to them because they don't have ideas?
COULTER: Yes, it's not an idea to call your opponent a racist. That's nothing...
NEVILLE: Because that's all they do.
NEVILLE: That's all they do. Hmm, no substance. OK, listen...
COULTER: Well, not all of them...
NEVILLE: ... I've got to take a break right now, Ann. Hey, stick around here, because when we come back, you've heard from Ann. And so what do the liberals have to say about this? I have an e-mail that I want to share with you when I come back. We're going to get the other side also.
And you know what? Just don't go anywhere. It's going to get fun.
TALKBACK LIVE continues in a moment.
NEVILLE: And welcome back, everybody.
We've been talking with Ann Coulter about her best-seller, "Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right." And the man who very much wants to take up the liberal banner for us today is Julian Epstein. He is the former Democratic chief counsel for the House Judiciary Committee.
Welcome, Mr. Epstein.
JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC ATTORNEY: Good afternoon, Arthel.
NEVILLE: Good afternoon.
You have been listening to this conversation, I gather.
EPSTEIN: Yes, I have.
NEVILLE: And just your thoughts right off the bat.
EPSTEIN: Well, Ann's primary thesis is that liberals and Democrats and the political center-left and left engage in a more mean-spirited and a less substantive campaign.
And I think, if you've noticed, in your entire interview, she offered up very, very little what you might refer to as empirical evidence or evidence that would withstand anything of a research -- in a research nature. I think the argument is relatively silly. And I think you can see it is silly if you just examine the last 10 years in American politics. During the Clinton administration, conservatives rarely challenged President Clinton on substantive issues.
Most of what we saw during the Clinton administration was exactly what Ann complains of, which is personal attacks and ongoing -- and I am not just talking about impeachment. I am talking about long before impeachment and I'm talking about long after impeachment, just the series of investigations that ended up going nowhere legally, but were just designed to try to go after President Clinton personally.
I think, if you look at, by contrast, what's happened under the Bush administration, Democrats have had the opportunity to do that, but they have not done that. Enron has been out there. Harken has been out there. The missed 9/11 clues have been out there. A whole series incidents have been out there, where, if the Democrats wanted to play the same type of hardball, personal-invective politics that the Republicans played during the Clinton administration, they could have. But they chose not to.
As far as the argument that Democrats have not come up with useful ideas and liberals have not come up with useful ideas, again, I think that Ann just kind of makes this up and does not really offer anything that you would refer to or could refer to as any serious empirical or substantive evidence.
EPSTEIN: I can give you a list of things that Democrats came up with.
NEVILLE: Hang on, sir. I am going to interrupt you here, because I have William from Maryland with something to say.
I would like to ask Ann, why aren't conservatives more successful politically? It seems like the moderate viewpoint is winning out, and as recently as the past election here in Georgia. Representative Barr certainly did not make it. Why aren't conservatives more successful in the political arena?
COULTER: I think they actually are quite successful, and, in particular, in the bigger issues, where the propaganda does not work, on things like presidential elections. Democrats have not able to get as much as 50 percent of the country to vote for them in any presidential election in 25 years.
And in the case you cite, Representative Bob Barr, I love him, but his opponent was more right-wing than he was. And of late, what Barr has been, I think, unlike his Republican colleagues and other conservatives on, has been in his criticism of things like the Patriot Act. I respect his opinion on that. I think he is wrong. But to say that that election is a loss for conservatives, I think it is quite the contrary.
NEVILLE: Hang on. I have got Michael. I have to let him in here for a second. Excuse me.
Because you are a special guest here. And tell us why.
MICHAEL: Well, I am a politician on the small island of Bermuda out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. And I think what is confusing for a lot of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Public is, we don't realize, we don't understand what left is and what right is and what liberal and conservatives and all that.
People just want to hear the issues. And I think, too often, politicians get up there and they try to cloud that issue. And we forget about the facts that we are talking about. And, in the end, they hope they can win it by confusing people.
NEVILLE: Do you not do that in Bermuda?
MICHAEL: I try my best not to.
And I think, if you cloud the issue, in the end, you are going to be out of office. I think the successful person, the popular politician is somebody who shoots straight from the hip, understands where the constituents come from. And that is why I enjoy politics in Bermuda. It's a small constituency base, easy to get ahold of.
NEVILLE: All right, thank you, sir, for standing up.
I have a couple of e-mails now I want to share with you.
Appio in Florida: "Conservatives claim there's a bias against them merely because they can't always get their way."
And I now have a phone call I want -- oh, we have a new e-mail from J.P., who says: "Whatever conservatives do to liberals pales in comparison to the public bashing the liberals give to conservatives."
Mr. Epstein, go ahead and respond to that.
EPSTEIN: I think the problem that I have with Ann's argument, generally, in this is that she will cherry-pick a couple of incidents and use that as a way of proving a larger thesis.
If you want to, let's look at some data. Let's look at some serious evidence here. Let's look at the 2000 election. And the Pew Institute, which is very, very nonpartisan, did a survey about which of the two candidates received more negative stories. And they found that Al Gore overwhelmingly was treated more harshly by the media.
So, I think this evidence, this accusation that there is a conservative bias, I understand why conservatives do it, because they would like to move the media to the right. But I think the evidence for it is very, very thin by anybody who any degree of independence that has ever studied this. As far as liberals coming up with new ideas, again, I think Ann really fails to show any evidence of this. I think there is a lot of good ideas on the conservative side. And I think there is a lot of good ideas on the liberal side. And I think what we should try to do is try to blend the two.
NEVILLE: I have a phone call coming in now, sir.
EPSTEIN: If I can finish for just a second, Arthel.
NEVILLE: You've got to hurry, because, see, I might be accused of being a liberal if I let you talk too long.
EPSTEIN: Well, Ann has had a lot more time than I have, which again undermines her thesis here.
NEVILLE: She has.
COULTER: I wrote a book. Write your own book.
EPSTEIN: Balanced budget, prescription drugs, welfare reform, a whole host of things occurred in the 1990s under a Democratic president, which was campaigned on by a Democratic president: 100,000 cops on the street, the Crime Bill.
If you looked on every major index, social and economic index, we had great progress under the presidency of Bill Clinton. And a lot of it had to do with the new ideas that conservatives rarely challenged him on, which is why they had to go after him personally. So, the thesis just does not hold up.
NEVILLE: Mike from Missouri is calling in.
What do you say, Mike?
CALLER: I think that both parties do it. I do not think it is unique to either side of the aisle. I just think it is the nature of politics. And a good example might be, that gentleman brought up Bob Barr a little while ago. And he ran against a gentleman named Mr. Linder. Those two went at each other with their claws open. And they are both conservative Republicans. I just think it is the nature of the beast.
NEVILLE: All right, Mike from Missouri, thanks for calling in.
I have Deborah from Kansas.
DEBORAH: I heard the interview with Larry King the other evening that Ann did. And I would just like to say that
COULTER: I did not do an interview with Larry King.
DEBORAH: OK, well...
NEVILLE: It's OK. She is in CNN land. She is thinking of Larry King. There you go.
But, anyway, you heard an interview.
COULTER: I hope I was good, though.
DEBORAH: I'm sorry, some interview that you did.
Anyway, you were very, very argumentative with whoever the host was that you were talking to. And I think you are guilty of what you are accusing people in your book of doing.
NEVILLE: Ann, do you want to respond?
COULTER: I am waiting to be called on.
First of all, I wanted to say to the Bermudan, I agree with what he said. One of the unalterable rules of politics is that Republicans are terrified people won't understand what they are talking about. Democrats are terrified that people will understand, which is why we get so much obfuscation and programs when it's all big-government programs and raising taxes. "Oh, for the children, for the children."
And I don't know. To say I am very argumentative, well, I just wrote a book. I suppose I could roll over and retract my book, but, actually, I am not going to do that. And, as Julian Epstein keeps saying, there is no empirical evidence. Well, it is hard to get it out in sound bites on TV. I just wrote a book with example after example after example.
NEVILLE: Yes, but, Ann, you knew you were coming on...
COULTER: Well, I knew I was coming on, but you can't get things out in sound bites under any circumstances, which is why conservatives have to write books.
NEVILLE: In fairness, Ann, you and I spoke just one-on-one for a good five minutes before Mr. Epstein came on.
But, listen, we're going to have more...
COULTER: I am not complaining. I am just saying I wrote a book. And to say there is no empirical evidence, I have a 200-page book with thousands of examples and 35 pages of footnotes. So, if you want the evidence, it is in my book.
EPSTEIN: There is very, very little in the book. There is very little...
COULTER: That's why it's the No. 1-selling
NEVILLE: No. 1 seller on "New York Times" best-seller -- OK, listen. Time out, people. Go to your rooms. Take a time out. We are going to have more with Ann Coulter and Julian Epstein in a minute.
But hang on, everybody, because -- listen to this -- before we take a break, I have some personal matters to attend to. I would like to say happy birthday to my mom, Doris (ph) Neville. She's in New Orleans and she's usually watching this show while on her treadmill right now.
Mom, you're the best. Happy birthday.
NEVILLE: All right, everybody. Thanks a lot for letting me do that.
More of TALKBACK LIVE after the break.
NEVILLE: Right now, we are talking with best-selling author and lawyer Ann Coulter.
And don't forget, tomorrow is "Free-For-All Friday." You never know where the show is going, but you're going to love the ride.
NEVILLE: And welcome back, everybody. I'm Arthel Neville.
We are talking to Julian Epstein and Ann Coulter. She is the author of "Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right."
OK, Ann, you get your turn to give us concrete examples of liberal slander.
When Judge Bork was nominated, United States Senator Teddy Kennedy took to the Senate floor and said he would bring back -- Judge Bork would bring back segregated lunch counters.
In this past presidential election, Al Gore said the judicial philosophy of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, supported by George Bush, was a legal philosophy that would bring back slavery. Tom Brokaw suggested that Republicans had never thought about rape until a rape victim spoke to the Republican National Convention, this coming from the people who stood by a man that most Americans in polls thought was a rapist, Bill Clinton, accused by Juanita Broaddrick.
NEVILLE: OK, Ann, I am going to jump in there.
COULTER: Oh, and if you would like thousands of more examples, buy the book.
NEVILLE: Oh, we should read the book, right? Oh, my goodness. You're right.
COULTER: That is why we write books.
NEVILLE: That's right.
OK, listen, Ann, some would say that you are intolerant yourself. For example, after September 11, referring to Muslim countries, you wrote -- quote -- "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." And this prompted, as you know, "The National Review" to drop your online column. Do you stand by those comments?
COULTER: For one thing, I don't have a problem with intolerance, especially toward terrorists who have just slaughtered thousands of my fellow countrymen. And it was not Muslim countries. It was precisely the terrorists. Throughout the column, I said our enemy are the people cheering and dancing in the streets right now.
But like I say, my complaint isn't with intolerance, especially for terrorists. My problem is with liars and propagandists, which is what the left have become.
EPSTEIN: Well, I just think Ann does not see the own inconsistencies in her arguments. I am not a fan of some of the tactics that were used against Judge Bork, what, some 15 years ago in 1987, I think it was. Although I might not have voted for him, I'm not a fan of some of those.
But many very similar tactics, unfair tactics were used on Democratic judicial appointments. And if Ann objects to what happened to Judge Bork, how is it that she can sit so silent -- in fact, she was a cheerleader during all of the investigations that proved to go nowhere legally, nowhere legally, into the Clinton administration.
And that is basically all the conservatives were about in the 1990s, were personal attacks based on very, very thin evidence, very little legal basis. This was basically what they did in the 1990s. So to turn around and say that Democrats now play much a harder ball of politics and take no prisoner, it is absurd given the experience that we had in the 1990s.
(CROSSTALK) EPSTEIN: If Bill Clinton were president right now, you would have a Web site out saying it has been 340 days since the attack and we still have not got Osama bin Laden. It would be a daily ticker. The fact that the Democrats don't do it show that your thesis is exactly wrong, that Democrats play a much softer ball game of politics than do conservatives.
NEVILLE: All right, Julian Epstein, I am jumping in here with Charles from Pennsylvania.
CHARLES: My question to Ann would be, is, how could she possibly know where the middle is, when she is so far to the right?
COULTER: I don't understand the question. Does that mean a black person can't tell what a white person is?
CHARLES: Well, I feel like you are so far to the right, how you could possibly know where the middle is? I think it's a very simple question.
COULTER: Does that mean a black person does not know what a white person is? The premise of your question is inane.
NEVILLE: I'll tell you what. I am going to go to an e-mail from Ernest in Arizona: "Liberals blame everything bad on conservatives and take all of the credit for anything that remotely appears successful to the masses."
Which one of you would like comment on that, Julian or Ann?
EPSTEIN: I think, again, these blanket statements -- and I think Ann engages in just a few too many -- are false and phony and sophistry.
I think both parties -- let's be honest about this -- both parties try to take credit for things that are good. Both parties try to assign things that happened badly to the other party. Both parties, to some extent, engage in the politics of personal destruction. But I think, if you look back at the record, you'll see it happened more on the conservative side than the liberal side. The fact that the liberals are not doing -- the Democrats are not doing that now is just more evidence of that.
NEVILLE: Time for another break. We'll be back in a moment. TALKBACK LIVE continues. Don't go anywhere, please.
NEVILLE: And welcome back, everybody. I'm Arthel Neville.
We are talking with Ann Coulter and Julian Epstein.
I want to hear what you both have to say about whether the U.S. should invade Iraq. And does Saddam Hussein have to go?
Let's listen to what President Bush said yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am a patient man. When I say I am a patient man, I mean I am a patient man, in that we'll look at all options and we'll consider all technologies available to us, diplomacy and intelligence. But one thing is for certain, is that this administration agrees that Saddam Hussein is a threat. And he will be -- that's a part of our thinking. And it hasn't changed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEVILLE: Ann Coulter, should the U.S. invade Iraq?
COULTER: Absolutely. He is a madman with weapons of mass destruction. He slaughters his own people and would love to see the total annihilation of the United States. We should. And I'm quite confident we will.
NEVILLE: Mr. Epstein, are you two going to agree on this?
EPSTEIN: I'm more agnostic about it.
I think Henry Kissinger is right, that the administration has not made the case to the public the way it should have. I think some of Brent Scowcroft's criticisms are valid. I think, look, what the administration should be doing is making the case to the public right now. It's not doing it.
Instead, what it is engaged in is an open war within the administration, where they're trashing Colin Powell, which I don't think is particularly helpful. And they are discussing quite openly prospective battle plans. I think they have got it exactly backwards. You don't do those things. You do make the case to the public.
Saddam Hussein is a terrible man. He is as bad as they come. There is no question that it would be preferable for to us to take him out. He's very different from the al Qaeda regime, for a number of reasons, the al Qaeda terrorist group, for a number of reasons.
One is, his intentions are more regional than they are international. He is more concerned with consolidating his regional power. Secondly, the administration really -- as bad as a guy as he is, the administration has really not produced evidence that he was tied to the September 11 attacks. And, thirdly, al Qaeda terrorists, the fundamentalist Muslims, really dislike this guy, because is a secularist. He does not believe in the fundamentalist Islamic revolution. So, there are great differences between the problem that this guy poses and the problem that the al Qaeda terrorists present.
Now, I think there may be a strong case for going in and taking him out. But the administration has failed to do it. And they've failed to do the very important thing, which is to bring the world community on to our side in doing this. And I think, if we are going to fight international terrorism, we have got to do it as an international effort, with multi -- many countries involved and our allies involved.
So, I don't think it's quite as simple as Ann puts it.
NEVILLE: OK, listen -- Ann, by the way, you can jump in at any time you would like.
In the meantime, I am going to go to Steve from California. But feel free to jump in, OK?
And, as a matter of fact, sir, you are getting interrupted, because I have to toss to Judy Woodruff, who is now going to toss to the president.
(INTERRUPTED FOR BREAKING NEWS)
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush is in Southern Oregon today, where he just got a firsthand look at the largest wildfire still burning in the country. Now he is about to announce a plan that he says would help keep forests healthy.
Mr. Bush wants to make it easier for timber companies to cut down trees in national forests that are fire-prone. The man you see speaking right there before the president is Senator Gordon Smith, Republican. The president is there to campaign for him, as well as make this speech about protecting America's forests.
We should tell you that environmental groups are protesting the president's plan. They say that it puts the logging industry in charge of protecting the nation's wilderness.
Let's listen a little to Senator Smith as he introduces the president.
(INTERRUPTED FOR "LIVE EVENT")
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