1. Headline
  1. Headline
NBC News
updated 11/28/2004 12:37:51 PM ET 2004-11-28T17:37:51

Copyright 2004, National Broadcasting Company, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

PLEASE CREDIT ANY QUOTES OR EXCERPTS FROM THIS NBC TELEVISION PROGRAM TO "NBC NEWS' MEET THE PRESS."

This is a rush transcript provided for the information and convenience of the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed. In case of doubt, please check with:

                    MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS

                         (202)885-4598

                    (Sundays: (202)885-4200)

NBC News MEET THE PRESS

Sunday, November 28, 2004

GUESTS:  Former Gov. Tom Kean, (R-N.J.), Chair, 9-11 Commission; Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, (D-Ind.), Vice Chair, 9-11 Commission; Dr. Jerry Falwell, The Faith and Values Coalition; Dr. Richard Land, President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention; Reverend Al Sharpton, National Action Network; Reverend Jim Wallis, Convener, Call to Renewal, Editor, Sojourners Magazine

MODERATOR/PANELIST:  Tim Russert - NBC News

MR. TIM RUSSERT:  Our issues this Sunday:  On July 22, the September 11 Commission recommended a major overhaul of our intelligence agencies.

(Videotape):

FORMER GOVERNOR TOM KEAN, (R-NJ):  Our goal is to prevent future attacks.

We do not have the luxury of time.  We must prepare and we must act.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Four months later a group of House Republicans defied the commission, said no to President Bush and blocked any reform.  This morning, in an exclusive interview, the chair and vice chair of the 9-11 Commission rejoin the debate.  Our guests, former Republican New Jersey Governor Tom Kean and former Democratic Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton.

Then, religion, politics and moral values.  With us, Reverend Jerry Falwell of The Faith and Values Coalition, Reverend Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Reverend Al Sharpton, former Democratic presidential candidate, and Reverend Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine.

But first, the debate over reforms of our intelligence agencies.  With us, the chair and vice chair of the 9-11 Commission, Tom Kean, Lee Hamilton.  Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

MR. KEAN:  Thank you.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE LEE HAMILTON, (D-IN):  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Chairman, in July you recommended overhaul of the intelligence agencies.  The bill is now in Congress.  Two key House Republicans are blocking its passage.  What's your reaction?

MR. KEAN:  Well, I think it's going to go through, but I'm an optimist because we got the support of the president, the speaker of the House, the president of the Senate, the leaders of both parties.  And when you see that happen, I've never heard of a bill that didn't get through.  So my hope is that we can reason our way through and that it will be brought up for a vote and that it will pass.

MR. RUSSERT:  You say the support of the president.  Newsweek magazine reports that Congressman Sensenbrenner, one of the leading opponents of the bill, said he received a phone call from the president that was extremely low key.  And the president never pressured him, that he met with Vice President Cheney and Vice President Cheney did not bring up the bill but Sensenbrenner did.  But he said that's the kind of reaction he's getting from the White House.  Are you convinced the president is behind this bill absolutely, adamantly in favor of it?

MR. KEAN:  I am for two reasons.  One is Sensenbrenner also said that he didn't succumb to pressure and the president knew that, so he wouldn't try that tactic.  But the other thing is that, you know, there's one thing about this president; and I know people have suggested he's not sincere on this.  He is sincere.  He's sincere, I think, on almost every subject.  You can disagree with the president.  You can say that he's he's wrong on something.  But when he says he's for something, he's been for it, he's fought for it and he's gotten it passed.  And my belief is and my hope is that he will do the same thing with this bill.

MR. RUSSERT:  A letter that was signed by Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the Pentagon, was regarded as very influential in the House Republican Caucus.  It was a letter to Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.  And this is what it says in part.  "Dear Mr. Chairman, ...It is my belief that the responsibilities of the Secretary of Defense for the operation of these agencies, including budget preparation, execution, should be addressed.  ... It is my understanding that the House bill maintains this vital flow through the Secretary of Defense to the combat support agencies.  It is my recommendation that this critical provision be preserved in the conference."

Mr. Hamilton, what Richard Myers is saying is, in effect, let the secretary of defense maintain control of this intelligence data and not let an independent intelligence czar be the person who oversees it.

MR. HAMILTON:  Well, first, all of us agree that the Defense Department should control the tactical or military intelligence.  There's no doubt about that.  That goes to the war fighter.  It's critical.  What is at dispute is not the military or the tactical intelligence but rather the general or the strategic or the national intelligence.  I think the Defense Department understandably wants to try to control all of it, not just the military. That's the way it's been done in the past.

We don't think that's a good idea.  We think in, matter of fact, that the war fighter will be better served if the intelligence is reformed, if you have one person in charge of the intelligence community who can bring together all of the various intelligence that we have from a number of different agencies, analyze it, collect it and then make judgments about it.  So this, in effect, is who controls the intelligence assets.

And we believe, because of the vulcanized and stovepipe structure of the intelligence community today, where they do not share information, where everything has been group think, it doesn't work.  The status quo is unacceptable.  We've got to put someone in charge who can put it all together, manage it, and you'll have more effective intelligence for the nation.  The American people will be more secure.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you believe that General Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would send such a letter without the knowledge or authority of the secretary of defense, Rumsfeld?

MR. HAMILTON:  I can't make a judgment about that.  The secretary did not--the secretary has said that he supports the president.  The president's position is he supports this bill.  General Myers' letter does not go to the question of operational chain of command.  His letter really goes to how you prepare the budget.  And he wants that budget to flow up from the various intelligence agencies, through the secretary of defense, then to the director of national intelligence, keeping very much control in the DOD.  Our view is that the agency heads, the ones that actually collect the information, should have direct interface with the director of national intelligence.  And the budget should be constructed that way.  General Myers, of course, can speak for himself, but that letter is a very technical letter that relates to budget, not command.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Kean, should the president call in Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and General Myers and say, "Gentlemen, I want this bill and I want you to support me on it"?

MR. KEAN:  I think I wouldn't recommend to the president the best way to do it, but I think he should call in whoever he thinks is necessary and do whatever he can to get this bill through.  This is something not only he supports, but 80 percent of the American people support.  And there's no question this bill includes so much more than intelligence.  It's got border security in it, it's got thousands of new people to man those borders; we've got nuclear proliferation stuff in there; we've got ways in which to help the home guard and bring money to the police and fire departments of this country and help their communications.  I mean, this is a huge omnibus bill.  And if it doesn't succeed, American people aren't going to be as safe as they would be otherwise.

MR. HAMILTON:  This bill sets out a counterterrorism policy for the United States.  The whole focus of the debate has been very narrow--immigration provision, DOD or intelligence provision.  The choice now is between "Do you accept the conference report or do you reject it?"  Our argument is that this is a momentous bill, it's a huge bill, it's not a perfect bill; that it should be adopted.  It can be refined in the future.  But if you reject this bill, then you go back to the status quo, the structure of the intelligence community, unchanged since before 9/11, and it is not likely to be changed for six months or more.  Al- Qaeda will not stop.  They're going to continue to be active.  Let's get this bill through.  It makes a huge number of very beneficial changes in counterterrorism policy.  Let's refine it in the future, as you do with any major piece of legislation.

MR. RUSSERT:  Governor Kean, you said Americans are not going to be as safe. Do you believe if we don't pass this bill now, you, in effect, are risking lives?

MR. KEAN:  I think you could put it just that way, yeah, because we know there's another attack coming.  You and I can't say if it's next week or six months from now.  But it's coming.  And unless we take steps now--and 80 percent of the American people want this bill passed.  Unless we take these steps now, it's going to be the new Congress going to come in; there are inefficiencies in the way the new Congress organizes, always.  It's going to take at least six months.  So six months where none of these things will happen:  not better security at the borders, not more help for local people, nothing.  Nothing.  And I don't think we can wait that long, and I think it does, in essence, risk lives.

MR. RUSSERT:  The Washington Post reports today, Mr. Hamilton, that the president has an executive order where, in effect, he puts the director of the CIA in charge of the nation's intelligence.  Your--the bill that you're supporting would have a national intelligence czar overseeing all intelligence.  Is there a conflict?

MR. HAMILTON:  There's a difference there.  Look, the CIA is a huge agency. We think the director of the central intelligence who commands the CIA has enough to do.  It's pretty obvious they've got a lot of problems.  And that's--but that's only part of our intelligence.  We have a lot more aspects to our intelligence.  So rather than having one person do really an impossible job of advising the president, running the CIA and being head of all of the intelligence community with its 15 agencies--no one can do that job.  You should have a CIA director who focuses on the CIA, corrects the problems that it clearly has today, and have a person overall to be able to get a unity of effort in the intelligence community and give the best possible intelligence to the president and to the policy-makers, and to break down this vulcanization, this stove-piping that exists in the intelligence community today.  The principle is always, in the intelligence community, the need to know.  Keep the intelligence within this group.  That's an important principle, but it needs to be balanced by principle of need to share, so that you get better information to the policy people.

MR. RUSSERT:  Is the Pentagon reluctant to give up the control they now have?

MR. HAMILTON:  I think the pentagon is understandably reluctant.  They've had this control for a very long period of time.  They have a very valid equity here, the protection of the war fighter.  Nobody wants to undercut that.  But what they want to maintain control of is national intelligence as well, and national intelligence must flow unimpeded to the president, and to the policy-maker and not be filtered through the Department of Defense.

MR. RUSSERT:  One of the opponents of the legislation, Jim Sensenbrenner, said this.  "The 9/11 reform bill is currently snagged by the Senate's refusal to address three critical issues:  Should states continue to have driver's licenses issued to illegal aliens?  Should we tighten our asylum system that terrorists exploited to such deadly effect?  Have we ensured the military chain of command is not broken in our intelligence structuring?"

We've addressed the last one of those issues, but what about the first two, issuing a driver's license to illegal aliens and the asylum where people come in and proclaim that they want to stay in the United States of America because they're political prisoners, in effect?

MR. KEAN:  We've recommended uniform systems and driver's licenses in our recommendations.  We haven't recommended the specific one that Congressman Sensenbrenner wants.  But we're very reluctant to see that whole bill held up just by this one provision.  I mean, we recognize that he wants this very, very badly.  But to hold up every single one of these other provisions to make the American people safer for this one provision or two provisions, to me doesn't make any sense.  He can put it in a separate bill.  We have no position on it under the commission because we didn't consider it.  So I just hope that he will let this bill go forward and then let us look at these provisions and maybe we'll support them as well as everybody else.

MR. HAMILTON:  It is important to have national standards on driver's licenses, passports and other identification documents.  There isn't any doubt that the hijackers use the state driver's licenses to get by a lot of checkpoints.  So standards are important here.  But the fundamental question--we can put national standards in--but whether or not, for example, you issue a driver's license, that's a state matter and ought to be resolved by the state.  And the question Congressman Sensenbrenner raises, don't give driver's licenses to illegal aliens, I think is a valid question.  It needs to be debated.  It should not be resolved, I think, in this bill.  But it should be in the future, and it certainly ought not to hang up literally hundreds of provisions, hundreds of provisions in this bill, including, for example, facilitating emergency responders' work, including improvements in American foreign policy, including border security improvements, aviation security.  We ought not to hang all of that up on a disputed provision in the immigration side.

MR. RUSSERT:  Last week on this program Michael Scheuer, who is a senior analyst for 20 years in the CIA, spoke out, and he released publicly an e-mail he had sent to your commission on July 31 which said this in part.  "I have finished my second cover-to-cover reading of your report. ... No one wants anyone scapegoated but your report seems to deliberately ignore those who were clearly culpable of negligence or dereliction.  Your report simply ignores the fact that deliberate human failures and the moral and bureaucratic cowardice of many senior Intelligence Community leaders got America to 9/11."

MR. KEAN:  Well, you know, we've been accused of being too hard on the intelligence agencies.  He thinks maybe we weren't hard enough.  When you say the American intelligence system failed, which is what we say, failed to protect the American people along with other agencies of government, that's pretty harsh.  When we say we want to reform intelligence and change it fundamentally, making this restructuring of government one of the largest in history, we think that's pretty major.  We have to remember that we know we've got this problem with the military.  But more people died on September 11, double the number that have died so far in Iraq.  I mean, we are facing very serious problems on the home front here, and we believe the kind of recommendations we've made, the kind of criticisms we made in the report are valid and that, therefore, changes have to be made to protect us all.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Scheuer wonders why specific people were not named and held as culpable and accountable.

MR. KEAN:  We didn't see there was any purpose in that.  What we were trying to do was to make broad recommendations to change.  We were asked to tell the story of 9/11.  In the process, we said basically--and I've said that almost everyone who held government in that period is culpable in some way or other under two administrations by not putting--taking seriously enough the threat of al-Qaeda and bin Laden.  But the importance of our report was first telling the story and, secondly, making recommendations to make the American people safer.

MR. HAMILTON:  Far more important to make systemic changes, to really restructure the intelligence community so that we get it right, so that we get the information we need to the right person at the right time, far more important than it is to say, OK, this customs official or this high official didn't do their job right.  That's very cloudy judgment, very difficult judgment anyway.  Get the system right and you'll have a better chance of protecting the American people.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you believe that this reform bill will pass this year?

MR. HAMILTON:  I think it will.  It's going to be close and next week is critical.

MR. RUSSERT:  What are the odds?

MR. HAMILTON:  Oh, 60-40, I suppose if I were putting odds on it.  It's hard to do.  But look, overwhelming majority supported it.  Tom mentioned a moment ago the president supports it, the vice president supports it, the leaders of the Democratic and the Republican leaders of the Congress support it. Democratic and Republican leaders of the intelligence communities support it. The Senate voted for the bill almost unanimously, two or three dissenting, clear majorities in the Senate, and we think majorities in the House as well, overwhelming support by the families, the victims of this event and overwhelming support by the American people.  When you have those kinds of majorities as you do for this bill, it is not likely that it will be held up, I hope, and I think.

MR. KEAN:  Let me say this, Tim.  You know, this bill will pass.  The question is whether it will pass now or after a second attack.

MR. RUSSERT:  What will the president have to do to make sure it passes now?

MR. KEAN:  The president's got to go to work.  And I have great faith in this president.  This president is very successful when he's going to work on legislation.  This president's for it.  He said he's for it in the campaign. He said he's for it since.  And I believe with his support and his help that this bill will pass.

MR. RUSSERT:  Chair Tom Kean, Vice Chair Lee Hamilton, as always, we thank you for your views.

MR. HAMILTON:  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Coming next, politics and religion with the Reverend Jerry Falwell, the Reverend Richard Land, the Reverend Al Sharpton and the Reverend Jim Wallis.  They are all coming up next right here on MEET THE PRESS.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  Religion, politics and moral values after this brief station break.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  And we are back.  Welcome all.

Reverend Falwell, let me start with you.  You wrote a Falwell Confidential, a newsletter memo out right before the elections, and you said this, "It is a responsibility of every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew...and everyone in between to get serious about re-electing President George Bush."

Why was it a responsibility, a duty of Christians to vote for George Bush?

DR. JERRY FALWELL:  Because I'm a Democrat.  I don't vote Republican.  I vote Christian.  And I believe that he is pro-life, pro-family, pro-Israel, strong national defense, faith-based initiatives for the poor, et cetera.  And George Bush fits the criteria for all of them.  John Kerry met little or none of those criteria.

MR. RUSSERT:  The Sojourners newspaper took out an ad--the Sojourners magazine took a newspaper ad out, Reverend Wallis, in which this was the headline.  "God Is Not a Republican or a Democrat.  ...leaders of the Religious Right mistakenly claim that Mod has taken a side in this election and that Christians should only vote for George W. Bush.  We believe claims of divine appointment for the President, uncritical affirmation of his policies, and assertions that all Christians must vote for his re- election constitute bad theology and dangerous religion."

Explain.

REV. JIM WALLIS:  Well, Christians voted both ways in this election.  God is not a Republican or a Democrat.  That should be obvious.  The values question is critical.  The question is how narrowly or how broadly we define values. So we say that poverty is a religious and moral value.  So is the environment. So is the war in Iraq.  These are moral value that require a lot of discussion.  I welcome the moral-values conversation.  I really do.  It's the soul of our politics, the compass of our public life.  But how narrowly or how broadly we define the values is the question.

In this election, there were competing values, so a lot of Christians voted both ways because we wanted to vote all of our values, not just one or two.  I think the Democrats are often uncomfortable talking about faith values, when it's even about their agenda.  The Republicans want to narrow, though, or restrict values to one or two issues--important ones, but one or two.  I think the Democrats have to recover their heart and soul; Republicans need a broader and deeper agenda about values.

MR. RUSSERT:  Reverend Land, The Washington Post reported this:  "`I believe God wants me to be president,'" the Rev. Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, quoted George Bush as saying."

When did George Bush tell you that?

DR. RICHARD LAND:  Well, he told me that--he told a group of us that the day he was inaugurated for his second term as governor of the state in 1999.  But once again, like people in The Washington Post often do, they truncated the quote.  What he said was--and it was right after he came back from that service at the Methodist Church where the Methodist pastor had been preaching about God's call on your life.  And he said, "I believe God wants me to be president, but if that doesn't happen, that's OK.  I'm loved at home, and that's more important.  I've seen the presidency up close and personal, and I know it's a sacrifice, not a reward.  And I don't need it for personal gratification."

And that posture, it seems to me, is very much like Lincoln's posture when Lincoln said, you know, "In this war that we've been in, both sides think God's on their side.  Both sides can't be right.  Both sides may be wrong. This may be a judgment on the whole country because of slavery.  But with malice toward none, with charity for all, we're going to go forward seeking to do the right as God gives us the light to see the right."  The president believed that God wanted him to be president, but he was open to the possibility that wouldn't be true.  How many people of religious faith who ever ran for president didn't think God wanted them to be president?  Jimmy Carter certainly did.

MR. RUSSERT:  But as Abraham Lincoln said, "The key, however, is make sure that we're on God's side, not claim that God is on our side."

DR. LAND:  That's right.  That's right.  That's right.  And I think that's what the president was doing.  The president's posture--I know the president. The president's posture is he wants to do right as he believes God gives him the light to see the right.

MR. RUSSERT:  Reverend Sharpton, what do you think of all this?

REV. AL SHARPTON:  I think that what is critical is what you just said that Lincoln said.  All of us are talking about whether God is on our side.  Are we really on God's side?  And are we willing to allow people to make decisions where God gave people the right to make decisions?  I may agree with Reverend Falwell on many issues.  Where I disagree is whether we have the right to impose that agreement on other people.

And I think that where a lot of the misinformation and a lot of the debate went awry--and we're not talking about whether or not we don't share values. We're talking about whether we have the right to impose what we believe on people that may disagree with us.  Even God gives you a choice of heaven and hell.  We don't have a right to tell people we're going to force them to live in a way that we want them to live and, therefore, they're going to heaven. That's where I disagree.

DR. FALWELL:  You still owe me a steak dinner.

REV. SHARPTON:  I will give you a steak dinner.  We bet on the election.  But you will get a steak dinner, but you will also get a lecture on civil liberties while we eat it.

DR. FALWELL:  But I've waited three weeks.

DR. LAND:  As head of the Ethics Commission, I'm against all of this betting over here.

MR. RUSSERT:  What about the separation of church and state, Reverend Wallis? Is there a problem with the Internal Revenue Service for clergymen publicly endorsing candidates and urging their election and fellow Christians to vote for one candidate over another?

REV. WALLIS:  Well, the separation of church and state does not mean the separation of values from our public life.  I think we all agree with that. The question is:  How do we bring values into our public-- King did it best. He did it by bringing the purposes of God for justice and peace into our public arena.  He was welcoming.  He was inviting.  No one felt left out of that conversation.  He reminded us of this wonderful vision of a beloved community where no one gets left out and those who are always left out have a front-row seat.

I think there's a lot of common ground here.  If values can be used to bring us together, faith and value should not be a wedge or a weapon that destroys and divides, but the bridge that brings us together and finds some new common ground, and I think we can do that and should do that.

REV. SHARPTON:  You--when you said King, he's referring to Martin Luther King.  And I might add, Martin Luther King did lead a moral movement.  The civil rights movement was a movement based on value.  But he had the opposition of the church, in many cases, in the South.  And many of us have limited this argument to just sex-based arguments:  gay marriage, abortion. Can you imagine in the 21st century we're debating whether we should give women the right to choose over their own bodies?  I think that the broad issues of poverty, of disease, of health care--those are moral issues, too. We're not entering into a values discussion broadly enough, and I think that is what bothers me mostly in the religious community.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me turn to your Web site, Reverend Falwell, Faith and Values Coalition, Moral Majority Coalition.  It says your purpose is threefold platform.  "1.  The confirmation of pro-life, strict constructionist, U.S. Supreme Court justices and other federal judges.  2.  The passage of a constitutional Federal Marriage Amendment," which in effect would ban gay marriage, "and the election of another socially-, fiscally- and politically-conservative president in 2008."

Are you absolutely convinced, confident, that President Bush will appoint to the Supreme Court only someone who would overrule Roe vs. Wade on abortion.

DR. FALWELL:  I don't think anybody knows that but George Bush.  That certainly is my prayer, my hope, that he will appoint men or women to the court who will overturn Roe v. Wade.  That doesn't mean abortion stops.  It means it goes back to the states, where we have a multiyear battle, we pro-lifers, to bring and end to abortion on demand.  And unlike my friend Al, here, I think it's amazing that we're debating the right of a little child to be born, not just the right of a woman to take the life of her child, at this late date.  And I think it's unthinkable that we're debating what a family is, a man married to a woman.  They've got that right in the barnyard.  We've had that for 6,000 years and to think that we're trying to redefine families.  So we obviously have juxtaposed on those two and a lot of other issues.

But I think that it's more than just--he said sex issues.  Think it's a life issue, I think it's a family issue.  I think it is a security issue.  I think the president's doing the right thing in Iraq, he did the right thing in Afghanistan.  He think he's doing the right thing in homeland security.  I think he's doing the right thing in faith-based initiatives to minister to the poor through faith ministries, all those things.  And I agree with Jim Wallis, not on everything, but I agree that it's much broader than abortion and family.  But those are the front-burner items.  If you fail on life and family, I don't know where you go from there.

MR. RUSSERT:  This is an analysis of--by Alan Cooperman on President Bush's position on abortion.  "Bush had not actually said abortion is tantamount to murder.  Nor, according to his aides, has he ever said that all abortions should be illegal.  When asked by reporters during a 2000 presidential campaign and again late last fall whether abortion should be banned, Bush said the nation was not ready for that step, without indicating his position."

If the president appoints someone to the court whose position on abortion is unclear, will there be disappointment in the evangelical Christian community?

DR. LAND:  I think what the president must do, and I think he will do, is appoint justices and appeals court judges who are strict constructionists.  If they're strict constructionists, they will overturn Roe.  Roe was a horrendous decision.  It was a horrendous judicial overreach.  It was an attempt to judicially dictate to the American people on basic values, and that should be in the political process and it should be decided by the people.  This is government of the people, by the people and for the people, not government of the judges, by the judges and for the judges.  And the president has a very strong four- year record of sticking to his guns and only nominating for the appeals courts judges who are strict constructionists...

MR. RUSSERT:  You would then...

DR. LAND:  ...like Estrada, like Pryor, like Justice Brown in California.

MR. RUSSERT:  And then states would have the option as to whether or not to outlaw abortion in their state.

DR. LAND:  Yes.  Yes.  If Roe v. Wade is overturned, we go back to the situation status quo, ante-- before--1973, when you had about 46 states that had very restrictive abortion laws and you had four states, three or four states that had pretty permissive abortion laws.  I think that this is an issue about life.  It's an issue of--I disagree with Reverend Sharpton rather strongly.  I can't imagine in the 21st century all we know about the life in the womb now, when the heart begins to beat before the mother even knows she's pregnant, it's not the mother's body, it's a human life and I believe my grandchildren will look back and say, "I can't believe in the early 21st century we were killing an unborn baby every 20 seconds."

MR. RUSSERT:  If abortion is outlawed in the state and abortions are performed by a doctor in that state, who's prosecuted?  The doctor?

DR. LAND:  The doctor.

MR. RUSSERT:  The mother?

DR. LAND:  I see mothers as victims.  I've worked in crisis pregnancy centers. I've counseled women who'd had post-abortion traumatic stress syndrome.  When an abortion takes place, there are at least two victims, the mother and the unborn child.  I would prosecute the doctors.  And we're ready to battle that out in every state and let the people's elected representatives make those decisions, not people in black robes.

MR. RUSSERT:  Reverend Sharpton, this whole debate about abortion, many Democrats--centrist Democrats who are personally opposed to abortion but don't want to outlaw it, but also say to the Democratic Party leadership, we do want parental notification.  We want to know if our daughter is going have an abortion or we want an end to partial-birth or third-term abortions if you will.  Why can't the Democrats reach out on those kinds of issues, which would limit abortion but not outlaw it?

REV. SHARPTON:  I think that they will.  Let me say this first.  I think that we have the debate over civil liberties that may not, in my opinion, be given the kind of airing that we should.  I may agree.  You know, Reverend Falwell and I talk.  I have two daughters.  My marriage just ended a couple of years ago, we've changed, but I'm very much involved with my daughters, and I talk to both of my daughters.  If my daughters had an unwanted pregnancy, I would probably advise, under any circumstances, not to get an abortion.  But I don't want the state to make that decision for them.  There's a difference in values and imposed values.

Second, in terms of the party reaching out, I think as we build a new party--there's a fight now for DNC chair, Wellington Webb.  We're fighting with Congressman Greg Meeks and how active is Marjorie Harris and others that want to be key--that are reaching out to try and do this in a way that we speak to the American people but protect American values.  I think the Democratic Party has to do that.  But I don't think you can put aside that we do not have the right given personal conviction to make that law.  I think that's un-Christian.  Jesus didn't do it.

DR. LAND:  Tim, that's the very same--that's the very same argument that slave owners made in the 1860s.

REV. SHARPTON:  No, slave owners argued state's rights.  What you're arguing is state's rights.  That's what slave owners argued.

DR. LAND:  No, no, no.  Slave owners said, I wouldn't--people who supported slavery said, "I wouldn't own a slave, but I don't have the right to tell somebody else whether they can own slaves.  That's imposing my values."

REV. SHARPTON:  No.

DR. LAND:  What they forgot was slaves were people, and unborn babies are people.  And in this society, no human being should have an absolute right of life and death over another human being.

REV. SHARPTON:  May I respond to that?  Slave owners used what you're using. Let each state decide people's rights rather than have a federal government protect the rights of people.

DR. LAND:  I did--I did my bachelor's...

REV. SHARPTON:  And I think we're trying to see is the right way--I didn't interrupt you, Reverend.

DR. LAND:  ...thesis on this and the Supreme Court said slaves weren't people.

REV. SHARPTON:  Reverend, I think what we're trying to see is the right wing to try to bring this back to state's rights, and I think that state's rights is frightening to those that have been victims by it.

REV. WALLIS:  My brother--my brother...

MR. RUSSERT:  Reverend Jim Wallis, let me ask you.  You said something very interesting.  You said, "The secular fundamentalism of the left is as much of a problem as the religious fundamentalism on the right."  Would you apply that to abortion?

REV. WALLIS:  Well, this is a conversation that we're having all across the country now.  And it's again about symbols more than--I want solutions here. Pro-life and pro-choice people could unite together around working on teenage pregnancy, adoption reform, supporting low-income women.  When you support them economically, the abortion rate falls.  The abortion rate is way too high in America.

DR. FALWELL:  We're doing all those things, Jim.

REV. WALLIS:  You know, we're not--no one's pro-abortion.  How do you prevent unwanted pregnancies?  I'd like to find some common ground to work together to dramatically reduce the abortion rate.  On so many of these issues, we get in the polarized, ideological debates and then we don't talk about to solve the problem.

DR. FALWELL:  You're a preacher, aren't you?

REV. WALLIS:  "How do we make abortion"--Democrats--"safe, legal and rare?" Well, they're keeping it legal, but let's try to make abortion truly rare in the society.  That is a common ground around which I think a lot of people, pro-life and pro-choice could and should support.

DR. FALWELL:  Jim, let me ask you a question.  Did you vote for John Kerry?

REV. WALLIS:  I did vote for John Kerry.

DR. FALWELL:  Now, he is pro-choice.  How can you as an ordained minister--you are an ordained minister, right?

REV. WALLIS:  Jerry--Jerry...

DR. FALWELL:  How could you vote for some--I wouldn't vote for my mother if she were pro-choice.

REV. WALLIS:  Yeah.  You endorsing George Bush.  That's fine.  But you also called--you ordained him.  You said all Christians could only vote for him. That's ridiculous.  There are Christians who voted for deep reasons of faith for both candidates.

DR. FALWELL:  Well, I don't think--I can't command anybody.  I can only take the Bible seriously.  You're certainly going to have to--Psalm 139:13-16--believe that life is sacred from conception on...

REV. WALLIS:  And Jerry, there are 3,000 verses in the Bible about the poor--about the poor.

DR. FALWELL:  And I'm for all of those, too.  But George Bush has taken the initiative because of the Democrats

REV. WALLIS:  The Republican agenda--the Republican agenda was not satisfactory to many who support him.

REV. SHARPTON:  Well, 1.8 million people added to the poverty lines in the last four years under George Bush.  But, Reverend, I think you have the right to vote for George Bush.  I defend your right to do that even though I disagree with you.  We're talking about you not having the right to therefore bar others from exercising their personal decisions.

DR. FALWELL:  Well, I'm not barring anybody.

REV. SHARPTON:  It's strange to me, Reverend, how the right wing wants to privatize public policy and make public private lives.  I mean, people have the right to their private decisions.

DR. FALWELL:  No, I'm just trying--I'm trying to do what Martin Luther King did.  I'm trying to...

REV. SHARPTON:  Jesus--Jesus met the woman at the well.  She was guilty of adultery.  The state said she could be stoned.  He stopped the stoning.  You would condemn her for that.

DR. FALWELL:  We have a home for unwed mothers.

REV. SHARPTON:  He wasn't condoning adultery.  He was not condoning adultery. He was saying that the state does not have that right to not say...

DR. FALWELL:  You guys talk about that.  We have a home for unwed mothers. We have a national adoption agency.

REV. SHARPTON:  That was not just a mark.  That was law on that day.  That was law.

DR. FALWELL:  You guys are great at spending somebody else's money.

REV. WALLIS:  If we really decided as a religious conviction that life was sacred...

REV. SHARPTON:  Well, I thought we decided that.

REV. WALLIS:  ...it would change all of our politics.  It would challenge right and left.  I mean, I think there are secular fundamentalists--you're right, Tim--on the left, who don't want to talk the language of values or faith or even kind of moral politics.  But there's also religious fundamentalism on the right which wants to narrow and restrict all of our ethics to one or two issues.  And that we can't do.  The Catholic bishops get it right, this consistent ethical right.  Capital punishment...

DR. FALWELL:  That means John Paul II has it wrong, right?

REV. WALLIS:  Well, the pope was against the war in Iraq.  The pope was against President Bush on the war in Iraq.  War and peace is a life issue, too.  Social justice is a moral issue, too.

DR. FALWELL:  Anyone who takes the Bible seriously believes that family...

REV. WALLIS:  If we could define these more broadly...

DR. FALWELL:  ...is one man married to one woman.  Anyone who takes the Bible seriously.  Anyone who takes the Bible seriously believes that life is sacred from conception on.

REV. SHARPTON:  And anyone that takes the Bible seriously gives people the right to disagree even with their beliefs.  This country was founded with freedom of religion.  It is unpatriotic to impose...

DR. FALWELL:  Well, then that's where we want to--why were you against slavery?  Why were you against slavery?

REV. SHARPTON:  I was against slavery because slavery imposed the will of some on others.

DR. LAND:  Well, if there's no demand, than it's the same thing.

DR. FALWELL:  To answer your question, Reverend, I do not think we have the right to impose our religious beliefs on people that disagree with you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Two interesting developments over the last month or so.  A report came out that the state with the lowest level of divorce is Massachusetts.  The states with the highest level are the so-called Bible Belt in the South.

DR. FALWELL:  Yes.

REV. SHARPTON:  That's because they watch "Desperate Housewives."

MR. RUSSERT:  Also "Desperate Housewives"...

REV. SHARPTON:  That's right.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...a widely viewed television series, particularly in the South.

REV. SHARPTON:  Because...

MR. RUSSERT:  Why is it that the red states...

DR. FALWELL:  Because the South doesn't belong to the New Testament Church anymore than the North.

MR. RUSSERT:  Right.

DR. FALWELL:  We have a responsibility to preach the Gospel.  But I would take that poll a little further.  Among born-again, Bible-believing Christians who take the Bible as the word of God, you'll find those stats are non...

MR. RUSSERT:  They don't watch "Desperate Housewives"?

DR. FALWELL:  I hope they don't.

REV. SHARPTON:  You don't know.  Look, Brother Russert, Brother Russert...

DR. LAND:  I don't...

DR. FALWELL:  I have never watched it and I've...

DR. LAND:  We're in church on Sunday night.  The point is--you know, look. He said we shouldn't impose values on others.  Look, when a mother has an abortion, she is imposing her values on an unborn child.  And it is always a fatal imposition because the baby dies.

DR. FALWELL:  Amen.  Amen.

REV. SHARPTON:  Brother Russert, I'll tell you that people...

MR. RUSSERT:  On "Desperate Housewives," Newsweek says that the creator of "Desperate Housewives" is a conservative, gay Republican.

REV. SHARPTON:  That's what I was going to say.  Do you find that...

DR. FALWELL:  Well, the fact that he's a gay Republican means he should join the Democratic Party.

MR. RUSSERT:  Conservative, gay Republican.

DR. LAND:  Obviously a fiscally conservative gay Republican, not a socially. Not socially.  Not socially.

REV. SHARPTON:  So are you saying that there's no room in your party for people that...

DR. FALWELL:  Well, I'm just glad to...

REV. SHARPTON: Well, but I think we're...

REV. WALLIS:  Here's the common ground.  I was told to get a good night sleep before the show.  I tried hard to do it.  My six-year-old was sick all night long, so I was up all night.

MR. RUSSERT:  So you watched TV.

REV. WALLIS:  I'm a tee ball coach on Friday nights.  But I want to tell you this.  Around the country, when I talk about parenting as a countercultural activity, all parents' heads nod up and down, liberal or conservative.

REV. SHARPTON:  I agree.

REV. WALLIS:  Parenting--that's the real family issue.  It's not about civil unions.  It's about parenting and the pressures on parenting.  And this is, again, where we can find some common ground.  Strengthen families by strengthening parents and parenting.  Strengthen marriage and family.  Use your anti-poverty measures.  They help families across the board.  But they could bring us together.  Again, we're having these debates and we don't get to solving problems.  That's what I want to do.

DR. FALWELL:  Well, we operate a home for unwed mothers.  We have for many years.  We operate a home for alcoholics, drug addicts.  We have a national adoption agency, a hospice for AIDS victims.  We do all of those things as a local church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

REV. SHARPTON:  And that's good.

DR. FALWELL:  And we--you guys are talking about it.  I don't know if either one of you are involved in one of them.

REV. SHARPTON:  But at--I think that's important.  But I think, Reverend, what you've got to do is convert people, not force them.  If we were spending more time preaching the conversion, we wouldn't have to worry about...

DR. LAND:  If we wanted to convert everyone, we wouldn't have the civil rights laws.  When a critical mass of the society believes something is immoral and is imposing something on someone else...

REV. SHARPTON:  That's the right that some of us fought for.  I don't think the right wing gave us the civil rights movement.

DR. LAND:  We still have segregation.

REV. SHARPTON:  The right wing was opposed to the civil rights movement.

DR. LAND:  Martin Luther King Jr.  is a personal hero of mine, Al.

REV. SHARPTON:  Good.

DR. LAND:  And he imposed his moral values on Lester Maddox and George Wallace, thank God.

REV. SHARPTON:  No, no, what he did was fought against the Southern conservative values of those days.

DR. LAND:  No, no.  He passed a law that made it illegal.

REV. SHARPTON:  Don't rewrite history, sir.

DR. LAND:  No.  He passed a law that made it illegal.

REV. SHARPTON:  He fought the Southern Convention that you represent.  Dr. King fought that convention.  Let's not rewrite history.

DR. LAND:  Al, you know, you want a right wing...

REV. SHARPTON:  Are you going to deny that the Southern Baptist Convention was for segregation?

DR. LAND:  No.  We've apologized for it.

REV. SHARPTON:  So don't say that Dr. King...

DR. LAND:  And we...

REV. SHARPTON:  Don't distort that history.

DR. LAND:  Dr. King passed a civil rights law...

REV. SHARPTON:  Had to fight your convention to do that.

DR. LAND:  He passed a civil rights law.

REV. SHARPTON:  And he had to fight your convention to do that.

DR. LAND:  All right.

REV. SHARPTON:  And I'm fighting your convention to keep people...

MR. RUSSERT:  All right.  All right.

DR. FALWELL:  Give the little babies the right to vote.

MR. RUSSERT:  All right.  We're gonna take...

REV. SHARPTON:  And I want those babies to have a good life, but I don't want them not to have civil liberties.

MR. RUSSERT:  We're going to take a break.  Peace, peace, peace.  We'll be right back.

REV. SHARPTON:  How can you say peace with these folks?

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  And we are back.

We can try to find common ground, but there are differences, and I want to see just how profound they are.  The Southern Baptist Convention in 1998 passed this statement on the family:  "...A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband...  She...has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household..."

And, Reverend Land, you went on to explain it this way:  "If a husband does not want his wife to work outside the home, then she should not work outside the home."  Is that your vision of America?

DR. LAND:  It's my vision for Christian families.  I don't think that the law has anything to do with it.  That was a statement about the theological belief of Southern Baptists.  And, you know, George Will had a real great answer for that when somebody asked him, "Where'd they get this stuff?"  And he pulled out the Bible and turned to Ephesians, chapter five:  "He got--we got it from Ephesians, chapter five."  We almost needed to footnote the Apostle Paul when he said that "Husbands should love their wives the way Christ loves the church," which means husbands will always put their wives' needs above their own.  And they are to be the head of their home, which means that they're responsible.  It's a servant leadership role.

And my wife, who you met, has a PhD in marriage and family therapy and has worked outside the home since our youngest child was in kindergarten.  That was our mutual choice.  We're not against women working outside the home unless the husband believes that it's not the right choice.  Now, remember, this is a husband who loves his wife the way Christ loves the church and is going to always put his wife's needs above his own.  But I would certainly not want to make that a matter of legislation when you-- that's about marriage. It's about what goes on in a marriage and about what we believe is the ideal for the family.

MR. RUSSERT:  But you understand that a good Christian woman could disagree with her husband and want to work outside the home?

DR. LAND:  Sure.

REV. SHARPTON:  Does your Bible have Esther and Ruth in it?

DR. LAND:  Sure.  Of course.

REV. SHARPTON:  I mean, do you have the whole Bible?

DR. LAND:  I do.

REV. WALLIS:  My wife is an ordained...

DR. LAND:  And I would vote for a woman as president.

REV. WALLIS:  ...minister, a priest.

REV. SHARPTON:  As long as her husband said she could go to work.

DR. LAND:  Especially if it were Margaret Thatcher.

MR. RUSSERT:  I want to ask Reverend Falwell about something and broaden the conversation.  We talked about Iraq and the war on terrorism.  Something that you said two days after September 11, when you were with Reverend Pat Robertson:  "I fear...  that [September 11th] is only the beginning.  ...If, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve ...  I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle ...  all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say `you helped this happen.'"

DR. FALWELL:  And I went on to say in a sleeping church, a lethargic church likewise is responsible.  I do believe, as Ben Franklin said, that God rules in the affairs of men and of nations.  I believe that when God blesses a nation, as he's blessed America for a lot of reasons, things happen that don't happen other places.  I believe when we defy the Lord, I think we pay a price for it.  So I do believe in the sovereignty of God.

In our house, for example, my wife of 47 years and our three children, eight grandchildren, we begin every day in prayer.  We ask the Lord's blessings. This morning in the shower I prayed for all 15 of our family by name, by need, because I want the curtain of God's provision upon them and protection along the highways and decision-making, God's wisdom.

And I do believe that corporately God deals with a nation.  Second Chronicles 7:14--you've just written a new book on that, Richard--"If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves, pray, seek my face, turn from their wicked ways," he promised three things.  "I will hear from heaven.  I will forgive their sin.  I will heal their land."  And I believe that conversely works if we don't do that that I believe that God can judge us.

REV. WALLIS:  But, Jerry, when you say things like what you just quoted, and you say God is pro-war, and so many things that you sometimes say...

DR. FALWELL:  No, no.

REV. WALLIS:  I...

DR. FALWELL:  I said there is a just war in a theological position.

REV. WALLIS:  You said God is pro-war.

DR. FALWELL:  I don't believe God loves war.

REV. WALLIS:  There are millions...

DR. FALWELL:  Everybody hates war.

REV. SHARPTON:  But you said it was pro-Christian.

REV. WALLIS:  Jerry, there are millions and millions of Christians who want the nation to know that you don't speak for them...

REV. SHARPTON:  That's right.

REV. WALLIS:  ...that Jesus, our Jesus isn't pro-rich, pro-war and only pro-American.  We don't find that Jesus anywhere in the Bible.

DR. FALWELL:  I don't believe that either.  But I was also against Adolf Hitler, and if you had been...

REV. WALLIS:  Well, most of us were.

DR. FALWELL:  If you had been the president in World War II, we'd all be speaking German now.

REV. WALLIS:  Well, Jerry, that's--let's move beyond this.

DR. FALWELL:  And that DNC ad that you pay $125,000 for a full-page ad to attack me on the war position, had you and Tony Campolo and a lot of other alleged evangelicals...

REV. SHARPTON:  No, no, no, no.  I think...

REV. WALLIS:  There were over 200 evangelical theologians who said...

DR. FALWELL:  That was one day ahead of Election Day...

REV. WALLIS:  ...we were concerned about the war.

DR. FALWELL:  ...but anybody reads into either the DNC or a DNC surrogate...

REV. SHARPTON:  I think...

MR. RUSSERT:  Reverend Sharpton, before--let me just show an ad that Religious Leaders for Sensible Priorities took out, signed by Reverend Wallis, and it says, "It is inconceivable that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior and the Prince of Peace, would support this proposed attack [on Iraq]."

REV. SHARPTON:  And see I think that's the point.

MR. RUSSERT:  Both sides claiming they know how Jesus thinks.

REV. SHARPTON:  I think the point is that for one to disagree with the right or to say that people have the right to disagree with us is like we're not Christian.  I believe in Jesus.  I'm saved.

DR. FALWELL:  You guys says that.

REV. SHARPTON:  May I finish?

DR. FALWELL:  I've never said that.

REV. SHARPTON:  May I finish?  May I finish?

DR. FALWELL:  I'm just saying you're wrong.

REV. SHARPTON:  I believe in Jesus personally.  I pray and I fast and I take my religion very seriously.  But I also believe in a Jesus that went to the cross to uplift people and not condemn them, a Jesus that forgave people of their sins and converted them and didn't use the state to beat them down and force them to go in a different direction.  And that Jesus is real.

DR. FALWELL:  And a Jesus who drove the money-changers out of the temple.

MR. RUSSERT:  What about people in this country who don't believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and savior?

REV. SHARPTON:  Absolutely.

MR. RUSSERT:  There are now more Muslims and Jews in the United States.  Where is their place?

REV. WALLIS:  Well, there is no--people who are religious, need I make very clear that we don't think religious people have a monopoly on morality.  There are people in this country who have deeply held moral values who aren't affiliated in any religion.  What we need is a serious moral conversation about things like Iraq, a moral discussion.  What would Jesus do is a fair question for all of us.  But other citizens have other compasses that they use.  But let's have a moral conversation, talk about the soul of politics.

DR. FALWELL:  Jim, I'm old enough to remember how much you fought--you and Sojourners, fought Ronald Reagan and his peace through strength initiative and had you been successful, the Soviet communism of the world would still be prevalent and existing.  You fought Ronald Reagan.

REV. SHARPTON:  But we could argue all morning on that.

DR. FALWELL:  You're just anti-America.

DR.  LAND:  Can I ask you a question?  I think that this is a country that has always been a very religious country.  It's going to continue to be a very religious country.  But it has always said there's room for people of all faiths and no faith.  And they have a perfect right to public opinion, to the public marketplace, to public ideas, to bring their ideas to bear.  And what we don't want, and I think that this is where we need to start and this is where I think the values question has really done a good thing.  We don't have the right anymore to let the secular fundamentalists say if your views are based upon your religious beliefs, you are to somehow set them aside and not bring them to bear on public policy.  We have the right to bring our religiously informed opinions to bear on public policy.

Now, I supported the war.  It's interesting.  That ad says how can anyone say Jesus would be for this war?  That seems to be saying that they think Jesus is on their side.  I think there can be a disagreement about where Christians should have been on that particular war.  I believe it met just-war criteria; Jim didn't.  That doesn't mean that I'm not saying he's not a Christian.

MR. RUSSERT:  And he's not a Christian?

DR. LAND:  And he's not saying I'm not a Christian.  We disagree about that particular war.

MR. RUSSERT:  Fifteen seconds.

REV. SHARPTON:  I think that we must try to come together on real, broad, moral issues--Sudan, poverty, things like that.

DR. FALWELL:  Amen, amen.

REV. SHARPTON:  But I think we must--I'm happy for your amen, Reverend.

DR. FALWELL:  Amen.

REV. SHARPTON:  But I do think that we cannot impose that on others.  We have to respect other people's religion.

DR. FALWELL:  I want you...

REV. SHARPTON:  And I believe that we can be in harmony...

DR. FALWELL:  You can join my coalition...

REV. SHARPTON:  ...as we disagree.

DR. FALWELL:  ...my Faith and Values...

MR. RUSSERT:  To be continued.

REV. SHARPTON:  Let's do it.

DR. FALWELL:  ...faithandvalues.org...

REV. SHARPTON:  Let's do it.

MR. RUSSERT:  We have to take a break.  We'll be right back.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  That's all for today.  We'll be back next week.  If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

More on TODAY.com

  1. Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

    Play nice: 4 ways to teach kindness and raise kids who aren't jerks

    7/24/2014 7:05:14 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T19:05:14
  1. Watch the full ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trailer: What we couldn’t show on TV

    “Fifty Shades of Grey” fans, you’ve come to the right place. 

    7/24/2014 12:30:07 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T12:30:07
  2. video ‘Fifty Shades’ stars give first look at steamy film

    video Stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson offer TODAY viewers a sneak peek at the highly anticipated film. When Savannah Guthrie told Dornan that viewers had asked if he'd do the interview shirtless, he said, “I would have considered it.” 

    7/24/2014 5:22:44 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T17:22:44
  3. Not a date movie: Why ‘Fifty Shades’ a girls’ night hit

    Even though the film is opening on Valentine's Day — the biggest date night of the year — women are likely to turn the movie into a social event.

    7/24/2014 1:22:41 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T13:22:41
  4. Universal Pictures
  1. Air Algerie Flight AH5017 plane wreckage found   

    General Gilbert Diendere says the wreckage of Air Algerie Flight AH5017, which went missing with 116 people on board Thursday, has been found in Mali. 

    7/24/2014 2:47:05 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T14:47:05
  1. 5 things I wish my boss knew about fatherhood

    7/24/2014 6:28:13 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T18:28:13