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Transcript for Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Joseph Trento
Michael Beckner
Vicki Lawrence
Jason Isaacs

Bill: Good evening.
Welcome to "Politically Incorrect." Let me introduce you to our panel.
Over here we have Mr. Jason Isaacs.
A very big movie star about to happen.
"Blackhawk Down" opening January 18th, I see the ad.
That is going to be a big, big film.
Welcome aboard, sir.
Michael Beckner you are the creator and producer, of course, of "The Agency," Thursdays at 10:00 on another network, I won't say which.
It is about the CIA, which is very fitting because Joseph Trento, this is your book, "The Secret History of The CIA." Interesting stuff.
And, of course, Vicki Lawrence, I was just saying, massive ratings winner with your Carol Burnett special and your line, Vicki Lawrence Cosmetics available on the Home Shopping Network.
Give a hand to this panel, if you would.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Vicki: This has nothing to do with the CIA.

Bill: That's right.
You got those ratings all on your own.
All right.
Now, before we start, I just want to mention one little retraction, for once, in my favor.
I got a retraction.
If you read "Time" magazine this week, I talked to the editor and the writer today, they were very gracious and apologetic.
They wrote something in a little interview I did that is misleading.
I just didn't want people out there to think that I was misleading them for the last three months when I've been such a hawk on this war.
'Cause it implies that I'm against the bombing in Afghanistan.
And I'm the guy who said, "Give war a chance."
[ Laughter ]

So they graciously offered that retraction.
And it's the end of the year, we're all tired, we all goof, we all make mistakes, which brings me to Cleveland.
Are you bugged about this Cleveland thing? I want to talk about what happened in Cleveland.
You must have seen it the other day.
The pelting of the referees with all the bottles and stuff.

Jason: In England, that's perfectly normal at an English football game.

[ Laughter ]

Bill: That is normal, yeah.
And at soccer matches all over the world.

Jason: It's actually called football.
I don't know what you call that game that you play.
But it's just called football in England.

Bill: Well, but, you know, weren't we supposed to be the country that made a big change? Weren't we supposed to be the country that had found new priorities? And if the game is that important, I don't think anything has changed.

Michael: Were we supposed to be the country that needed to change? I'm not so sure that what happened September 11th was because we needed to change.
I'm not so sure America needed any change.
I think we were attacked unprovoked.
I don't think the towers go down and we need to change.

[ Applause ]

Bill: You mean America is perfect, and we don't have to do anything?

Michael: Not perfect.
If that stadium had been in Kabul, they would have just taken the refs out and shot them.

[ Light laughter ]

I think the Cleveland Brown fans, I'm not sure what percentage of the population they represent, they should change.
I've thrown bottles at a football game, I'm not sure that's the first and last time it'll happen, and I'm not sure the magnitude of that is hugely devastating to the country.

Jason: It could be a manifestation of how tense everybody is.
It's not showing that they're ignoring it.

Michael: Well, they wanted more beer.

Jason: People are very tense and under pressure, and people are feeling different from how they did before.

Vicki: What percentage of the crowd was female, bill? Do you know?
[ Laughter ]

You know, I always feel if women ruled the world, it would be a kinder, gentler place.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Jason: That would be like our Margaret Thatcher, the kinder, gentler Prime Minister.

Bill: Yeah, really.
You know, that theory never really holds water.

Vicki: I was just curious if there were women throwing beer bottles.

Bill: No, I don't think there probably were.

Jason: They were throwing Martini glasses, I think.
I'm not sure.

[ Laughter ]

Bill: Women don't usually sit in the dog pound.

Joseph: Don't you think that it is a great improvement for George Bush because it doesn't tell him the country is back to normal.
Our rude behavior is really back.
We've gotten over the attack.

Vicki: Don't you see it? Do you travel at all? I mean, it was so nice on the airplanes for about a month or so and now people are back to bitching about which seat they want, they don't like the flight attendant, they can't get the service they need, they want to sit by the window.
It is kind of getting back.
It kind of is.
It's kind of getting back the way it was.
The freeway, don't you see it on the freeway? Everybody was going, "Certainly, after you." And now --

[ Makes angry growl ]

We're back.
We're back.

[ Applause ]

We're back.
And I also think we need constant reminders, America.
You know, we have a very short-term memory.
That's just sad.

Bill: A few weeks after the attack, I don't think they would have done that because we were really, actually --

Vicki: We weren't even playing games then.

Bill: Well, for one week we didn't.
But then we came back, we played games.
I don't know whether, in early October, for example, if something happened down on the field with the refs, this would have happened, because we were still in that bubble of, "Hey, we've come together.
We're all one people.
We have our priorities.
We know what's really important, and it's not the game." Well, apparently, it is.

[ Laughter ]

Michael: To them, when they paint themselves and do that, it seems that that's their priority.
I don't know, I've never been in that crowd.

Vicki: I think, in a lot of ways, it's good we're back.

Bill: You do?

Vicki: Yeah, I think it's great that we're superficial.
If we weren't superficial --

[ Laughter ]

I wouldn't be selling any makeup on HSN.
It's wonderful that we are superficial.

[ Applause ]

Joseph: The whole American economy is based on it.

Vicki: Yeah, we wouldn't be American if we weren't pigs.

Joseph: I noticed that Jon-Benet's back in the news, too.

Bill: So we shouldn't change at all, that's what you're saying? We're globally myopic, and that's okay.

Jason: I think it's very hard --
sorry, Bill.

Bill: No, no, go.

Jason: No, it's your show.

Bill: No.
No, please.

Jason: No.

[ Light laughter ]

Bill: No, please.

Jason: I say it's very hard to maintain a state of high alert when you have the Attorney General coming on TV every week going, "We have something.
We have a big danger, tomorrow.
It may be a truck or a plane or it may not be, and I can't tell you because I don't know." And it happens every single week.
How scared are you meant to be every single day? High alert here in New York.

Bill: I'm talking about deeper kind of change where we care about what goes on outside of our little neighborhood or even our own --

Vicki: I care.
Don't you care? I am like dying to talk about why Winona Ryder did what she did at Saks the other day.

[ Laughter ]

These are the important issues of our country.

Jason: Or didn't do.

Vicki: Like why did Drew Barrymore marry Tom Green? What was she thinking?

Bill: Now aren't they splitting up?

Vicki: You know, these are the important issues of the --
we're not going to figure out the Middle East.

Bill: You know, I normally would gloss right over that.
But what is with Winona Ryder? Seriously, people.

[ Laughter ]

Vicki: I don't know.

Bill: The woman has a lot of money.

Michael: I want to know where she got the tool.
That takes a little doin' to get one of those tools.

Bill: What tool?
[ Talking over each other ]

Michael: Was that another crime she committed that no one caught her? Stealing it off the desk.

Bill: They would take that away from you on the plane.
It would be like, "Ooh."

Michael: That's right.

Vicki: Yeah.

[ Laughter ]

Vicki: It's an important issue.
I'm going to go with it was a bribe.
What do you think? I think it was a dare.
Like a dare, "I double dare you.
Here's the tool, go do it."

Bill: I see why your show got those big ratings.

[ Laughter ]

All right, I got to take a break on my little show.
We'll be right back.

[ Applause ]

Bill: Okay.
Welcome back.
Now, this is the time of year I always give out fruit baskets.
I've done this for many years.
The people at the end of the year who I think deserve them.
Now, this year, of course, without saying --
but I will say it --
that we, of course, salute all those people who responded so bravely when our country was attacked and the troops in the field now, who are making sure that they don't do it again.
But to be more specific and a little more idiosyncratic about it, I have been --
you know, I've been very hard on the muslims.
I get a lot of letters which tell me that.
I am not prejudiced against them.
I just think I see it clearly.

[ Laughter ]


Vicki: Nothing.
You've got it figured out.

Bill: Okay.
I want to give this first fruit basket to Dr. Albader Al-Hazeemi.
Now, if you read his story in the paper, he is a Saudi Arabian doctor.
He is an American citizen.
He lives in San Antonio.
He has the same name as two of the hijackers.
So on September 12th, the feds knocked on his door, searched his house, put him on a plane, brought him to New York.
He didn't have a lawyer for a week.
They interrogated him.
Pretty rough stuff.
And his Congressman said he should get an apology.
And this is what the doctor said.
He said, "With all respect, I disagree with him." Disagrees with the Congressman.
"Because it is not time to point fingers and to apologize.
It's time to cooperate with officials to conduct their investigation and hopefully get the people who are behind this." So here's a guy --

[ Applause ]

That goes to you, doc.

Joseph: It sounds like it's a guy who spent two weeks in custody who was afraid to say anything.
To me.

Jason: Sounds like a guy who got out, who was able to say that, as opposed to people who are still detained without any access to a lawyer or anything else.
If they came to knock for you and I and we were still in there in six months' time, we wouldn't make that statement when we got out.
What's great for this guy is he got out quickly.

Vicki: It sounds to me like this guy has a very large --
he sees the big picture, maybe.

Bill: The big picture.
Thank you.

[ Applause ]

He said --
he said, "Given the circumstances, my treatment was fair." And I think that's the keyword.
The circumstances.

Vicki: Right.

Joseph: What, 'cause it took them two weeks to find out who he really was?

Michael: They were rounding up a lot of them at the time.

Joseph: That's reassuring.

Michael: Two weeks is --

[ Talking over each other ]

Michael: --
You disappear.
In Afghanistan, you disappear --
for minor things.
You're gone.
You don't get out in two weeks.

Jason: Two wrongs don't make a right, though.
Detention without trial is perfectly fine, access to secret information --
if you don't have enough to justify doing it in court.
But if you don't have access to anybody that might have an overview --
are you saying that he completely trusts the intelligence services who are intelligent enough to knock on this guy's door?

Joseph: Couldn't they, like, get a phonebook?

Jason: No, I would want some access to some review just in case they knock on my door by mistake.

Bill: Yeah, but, again, the big picture here --
yes, of course, you're all right --
two weeks is too long.
Lousy things happened.
But, again, the country was kind of in chaos.
People probably had other things to do.
And what happened to him wasn't completely kosher, but he's saying, "Big picture, under the circumstances, I get it." You know, tolerance has to work two ways.
We're tolerant of the muslim community.
They have to be tolerant that we're a little more suspicious since 19 of them crashed into our building.

Michael: Absolutely.

[ Applause ]

Joseph: So are you saying that racial profiling's okay?

Bill: I'm saying it's necessary.
Of course it's necessary.

Vicki: This guy was very, very gracious and very loving and very American and obviously doesn't watch television or he would be so calling Larry Parker right now.

[ Laughter ]

Don't you think?

Michael: And the circumstances go a little beyond that.

Bill: Who's Larry Parker?

Vicki: The attorney! "I got --
Larry Parker got me $1 million."
[ Laughter ]

"Larry Parker got me --

Bill: Right.

Michael: The poor doctor had received a call from someone named Bin Laden two years before.
He was booking flights for all these people with a similar name --

Jason: One way.

Michael: One way to San Diego.
It was a bad, bad luck guy.
And he's apologizing, so I'm not gonna --

Bill: "Profiling" is a bad word.
If you called it "good detective work" --
this idea that we can check everybody, and everybody should be checked.
And our own transportation secretary said the same thing, that a 70-year-old white woman from Maine or somewhere should be checked the same way as a young muslim man.
That's insane.
We could never solve the problem.

Jason: You know what's really useful is when they ask you if you checked your bag yourself.
'Cause I'm sure they catch a lot of terrorists that way.

Bill: Oh, yeah.

[ Laughter ]

Jason: "Has anybody given you anything recently?" "I don't know.
There was a guy outside with a turban on.
I don't know if that counts."
[ Talking over each other ]

Michael: "Just a radio he wants me to deliver.
I'm not sure."

Bill: I said, "My bag is packed by Allah."
[ Laughter ]

Very wrong thing.

Joseph: We've gotten into a situation where we're basically forgetting who we are in the process of doing all this.
Look, the terror is there.
But let's look at the history of this.
The United States was once in business with Osama Bin Laden.

Bill: Oh, God.
No kidding.

Joseph: Back in the '80s.
That's back in the '80s.
But the reality is we keep repeating this behavior.
This is not new behavior.
We have to see why we keep doing this.

Bill: What does that have to do with this guy or profiling at the airport?

Joseph: Because we create some of these terrorists.
We hire them, and then we create them, and then we use them.

[ Applause ]

And the CIA --

Bill: But he says we don't have to change.
He says we're perfect.

Joseph: Yeah, we are perfect.
The CIA is just wonderful.
They didn't warn us of the attack.
They had a guy who five years ago said he was gonna fill an airplane full of dynamite, a guy named Marad, and fly it into the CIA and that there were people being trained to do this.
And we ignored him.

Jason: They get that every day.
They get thousands of those threats every day, though.

Michael: --
They were being ignored.

Joseph: Ignored by who?

Michael: Ignored by the White House.
Ignored by everyone.
Osama Bin Laden has been saying he was gonna be doing this for years.
And he's been doing it over --

Jason: When people say things every day, after awile, you tend to ignore them.

Michael: Because he's blowing up embassies and boats every couple years, getting practice for that.

Joseph: In 1992, the president of the United States gave the authority to kill Osama Bin Laden.
The CIA has been trying to do it supposedly ever since.
If this is what we're relying on to save us, I think we're in serious trouble.

Jason: One of the big problems --
he wasn't on the plane.
And all those people that we are bombing into obliteration, which we probably need to do in Afghanistan, they weren't on the plane, either.
The people on the plane were Saudi Arabian nationals, and they were Egyptian nationals, Jordanian nationals.
And they were living here.

Bill: I beg your pardon, but that is who we are bombing in Afghanistan.
And the guy in the paper today, the Afghanistan guy, he said, "You know, the only Arabs left here now are corpses."

Jason: But the people who got on those planes and did that disastrous deed on September 11th, they lived here.
They actually lived here with legitimate papers.

Bill: Yeah.

Jason: And that ease I feel from thinking that we've won the war in Afghanistan --
I have to rethink.
Because what we're after is the people who have already been trained, the tens of thousands who live amongst us, who live next door.
These guys credited their air miles when they got on the plane.
They weren't stupid, you know.

[ Laughter ]

Michael: Well, I don't know if they're gonna get that free flight.

Jason: No, but I'm saying it's not that easy to find out who they are when they're here doing legitimate jobs and they're doing legitimate student courses.
And the next phase of the war is going to be much more scary and much more insidious.
It's looking over our shoulder.

Michael: And sadly enough, that's why someone like this doctor gets picked up and held and gets released and is able to say that he was not gonna cast stones and that he was treated well.

Joseph: Michael, when are they gonna get some of the real people responsible? They're not catching anybody.
And that's something Americans oughta be talking about.
We're not finding any of the so-called "cohorts." We're not getting --

Michael: Certainly in Afghanistan, they've rounded up Al Qaeda leaders.

Jason: The people who are trained --

[ Talking over each other ]

Joseph: I wanna know about the people here.
You know, we're talking about Afghanistan.
We're dropping bombs, and it's almost like a circus act.
It's a distraction.
What's happening here? What about the people still here?
[ Talking over each other ]

Bill: Afghanistan is a distraction?

Joseph: Right now it is, because we've got active terrorist cells in the United States --

Jason: And in England, all over Europe.

Bill: No, no.
Winona Ryder is a distraction.

[ Laughter and applause ]

Afghanistan is a very necessary action, so --

Jason: Wait a second.
The newspapers are full of how many Taliban we've killed and maybe how many Al Qaeda fighters.
The reason we're after them is they have training camps where people from other countries come through, train and then come live here.
Not the people who are there.

Vicki: I have a really important question.
Is it Al Kayda or Al Kyda?
[ Laughter ]

Jason: Well, you say Al Kayda, I say Al Kyda.

[ Light laughter ]

You say potato, I say potahto.

Bill: It's Al Rider.
We have to take a break.
We'll be right back.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Bill: All right.
Our next fruit basket --
not that one, we already gave that one.
Like we're really sending these.
This one goes to --
there, this one, with wine.
It has to be wine because it's going to an Italian guy.
He's the head of the whole country, Silvio Berlusconi.
You know the guy? You're European.
Okay, I give it to him because he got in big trouble for something he said, but I agree with it.
And this is, again, where I got in trouble with the muslims.
But he said, "We must be aware of the superiority of our civilization," meaning the West.
He said, "A system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights, and in contrast with Islamic countries, respect for religious and political rights." He said, "The start of defending our civilization is believing in it." I applaud Mr. Berlusconi for keeping it real.

[ Applause ]

Joseph: Now, let me get this straight.
You want to give a fruit basket to a guy who's openly worked with the mafia, who tried to come into the United States and buy a movie studio here and could not because the FBI got on his case.
Is this the guy --

Bill: I gave one to Ted Turner last year.

[ Laughter ]

Jason: This guy is defending a civilization where women can't walk down the street without getting there asses pinched 1,000 times a day.
They've had six governments in Italy since the show began.
I think he should try to run the country, and not telling everyone else what to do.

Vicki: But at least they can walk down the street.

Jason: It's a little bit childish saying, "We're better than you.
We have always been better than you," about thousands of years of civilization.

Bill: I don't think he --

Jason: We're talking about some extremists who hijacked, maybe, Islam --

Michael: The message that we're applauding here, I think it's not the man.
You're right, the man --
from a country that gave us Mussolini, I don't know if he, personally, is the best representation of the message.

Joseph: If he came here --
would be speaking Italian.
I mean, this guy is really awful.

Jason: Speaking Italian?

Joseph: Yeah, 'cause he's goin to buy the studio.

[ Talking over each other ]

Jason: What's at the heart of the message is, "You're bad and we're good," which is where half this stuff starts anyway.

Bill:, No, no, no.
One --
he didn't talk about forever.
You said, "All through history."

Jason: He said, "Our values are better than your values."

Bill: They are.
Just take away the West or Islam.
If one civilization treated women the way they are treated in that part of the world, and it's not just the terrorists.
If in one civilization --

Vicki: You'd get your ass kicked.

[ Laughter and applause ]

Bill: Whatever I was saying.

Jason: In the short run, if someone wants to kill you, you kill them.
If someone is planning to kill you, you try to arrest them.
If you can't do that, you kill them.
In the long run, you try to stop them from hating you.
You don't get anywhere by saying, "We're better than you, all your ideas suck.
And your country sucks." It's not going to help you.

[ Applause ]

Bill: But he's just saying, if there are two civilizations, okay, "X" and "Y" --
cover them up, the peanuts, like three card Monte.
And in one civilization, the people can vote, there's pluralism, there's tolerance, women are equal citizens, and in the other civilization, none of that exists.
Are you telling me that we have to pretend that these are equal? Are you pretending that they're just different, and we can't judge.
Excuse me, I do judge.
And I judge the one civilization that believes in pluralism, and tolerance as superior.
I do.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Michael: I'll take the peanuts on the left, please.

Vicki: I had a friend the other day say, she said, "Maybe those women, maybe they're happy that way." And I said, "Oh, for crying out loud, grow up.
Wake up and smell the coffee." Where are those women? Why aren't we hearing from the women?

Joseph: Well, they're being beaten right now.

Vicki: Yeah, exactly.

Jason: They have a minister for women's affairs now in Afghanistan.

Vicki: They what now?

Jason: Have a minister for women's affairs in Afghanistan.

Joseph: What's his name?
[ Laughter ]

Bill: But, I mean, you know, this guy comes from Italy.
In the Vatican, they don't have beheadings on Friday night for adulterers and homosexuals the way the do in Mecca.

Jason: And all the men where floor-length dresses.

Vicki: Right.
You're right, Bill.

Bill: Okay.
We'll take a break.

[ Applause ]

Bill: All right.
Joseph's book, "History of the CIA," interesting stuff.
And your movie, I want to mention "Blackhawk Down," has a lot to do with what we were talking about today, about Somalia and what happened over there.
And Winona Ryder, I am going to give you a fruit basket.

Vicki: All right, yeah!

Bill: For talking about you without knowing the facts, which I shouldn't do.
But Vicki Lawrence led me astray.
And she has huge ratings, so I thought I'd follow.
All right.
Thanks, folks.
See you tomorrow.

[ Applause ]


Executive Producers
Bill Maher
Nancy Geller
Marilyn Wilson
Kevin Hamburger

Supervising Producer
Sheila Griffiths

Created By
Bill Maher

Directed By
Hal Grant

Head Writer/Producer
Billy Martin

Jose Arroyo
Kevin Bleyer
Bill Maher
Ned Rice
Kevin Rooney
Danny Vermont

Coordinating Producer
Claudia Cagan

Carole Chouinard

Associate Director
Bob Staley

Stage Manager
Patrick Whitney

Produced by
Dean E. Johnsen

Executive in Charge of Production
John Fisher

Executive Producers
Brad Grey
Bernie Brillstein
Marc Gurvitz
2001 Follow Up Productions, Inc.

Brad Grey Television

HBO Downtown Productions