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Abstinence Education Under Fire; Interview With Jesse Jackson

Aired December 2, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome. Thanks so much for being with us tonight.
We are spending about $170 million of our federal tax dollars a year to teach children that not having sex is the only surefire way to avoid pregnancy and sexual diseases, but what are our kids learning?

Well, today, a report from a Democratic member of Congress says most of those federally funded programs contain mistakes, distortions, and misleading information. People on all sides of this issue can agree this is a matter of life and death, because this abstinence-only program may be the only formal sex education many kids get about avoiding pregnancy and AIDS.


ZAHN: Of course the issue is political. President Bush has been a strong supporter of abstinence-only education, a popular policy with religious conservatives.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will double federal funding for abstinence programs so schools can teach this fact of life. Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.

ZAHN: Congress first funded money for abstinence-only programs in 1999, and since then several million children and teenagers have taken part in them, being encouraged to just say no to sex before marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so proud to be a virgin, because I know that, in abstaining from sex until marriage, I'm going to develop a lot of other qualities in my life.

ZAHN: But a new report by a congressional Democrat says that teaching materials used to promote federally funded abstinence programs contain false and misleading information, for example, that abortion can lead to sterility, the HIV virus can be spread by sweat and tears, touching a person's genitals can result in pregnancy.

Advocates of comprehensive sex education, which includes discussion of safer sex, say the abstinence-only programs go too far and are designed to scare kids away from having sex.

BILL SMITH, SEXUALITY INFORMATION & EDUCATION COUNCIL: These programs are completely out of control. They're using millions of taxpayer dollars to provide medical misinformation, to use fear and shame-based messages in an effort to convince young people to change their behavior, and our young people deserve better than that, and I think that's what the congressman's report indicates.

ZAHN: The congressional report claims there are errors and distortions in more than 80 percent of the 13 most popular teaching programs, programs used by school districts that receive federal funding to promote abstinence.

But supporters of abstinence-only education say these programs in fact work. They point to recent figures by the Centers for Disease Control showing the birthrate among adolescents and young teen girls at a 58-year low in 2002.

Now, that statistic may sound encouraging, but kids are still having sex. The CDC also reports that nearly nine million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in the year 2000 among 15- to 24-year-olds, and abstinence-only education does not provide information on preventing these diseases.


ZAHN: And joining me now to debate this, Dr. Joe McIlhaney Jr., president and CEO of the nonprofit Medical Institute For Sexual Health, which published one of the abstinence courses in Representative Waxman's report. He also serves on the president's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Also with us tonight...


ZAHN: Good evening.

Bill Smith, vice president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

Welcome to you as well.

Dr. McIlhaney, are you comfortable with the fact that a lot of American kids think, through this training program, that HIV/AIDS can be spread through tears and sweat and that you can get pregnant by touching genitalia?

MCILHANEY: No, I'm not comfortable with that, Paula, but neither am I comfortable with SIECUS, the organization which Mr. Smith represents, saying that condoms are 99.9 percent effective in preventing the sexual transmission of sexually transmitted disease, which is a quote from some of their materials.

But that really points out the fact that all curriculum have things in them that should be changed, not only abstinence curriculum, but also comprehensive sexuality education curriculum.

ZAHN: All right, but, sir, why would you knowingly print misleading facts or -- they're not facts -- why would you print misleading information in these training manuals?

MCILHANEY: Well, I think the details of what people have in their programs certainly need to be evaluated and changed. And I think that what's happened with this Waxman report will affect that both in comprehensive sex ed and in abstinence programs.

But they totally overlook the fact in the Waxman report, Paula, that comprehensive sex ed programs have dominated for years, particularly in the 1980s, when the pregnancy rates and STD rates were rising the most in this country. And it wasn't until the abstinence program came on board in the early '90s that teen pregnancy rates started falling. And so we need to look at that bigger issue, OK?

ZAHN: I'd like to look at some numbers, Doctor, to illustrate that, and have Bill respond to them about the birthrate declining in the year 2002 from the 1990s.

Do you give any credit to these abstinence programs for the reverse of these numbers?

SMITH: Well, first of all, Dr. McIlhaney, has it a little wrong, because these abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have been around for 25 years. This is not new. We have hundreds of pages of material that document similar instances as the congressman's report has found.

ZAHN: Have they helped or not, no matter how long they have been around?

SMITH: Have they helped? We don't know. The most recent research we have seen is by Dr. Peter Bearman at Columbia University, that is pointing out that these programs may actually be harmful and that they're decreasing the use of contraception.


SMITH: The only other studies these folks refer to is from the conservative Heritage Foundation. And that is not a legitimate source for public health data.

ZAHN: Dr. McIlhaney?

MCILHANEY: Well, that is not true.

In the first place, Bearman's study showed that kids that had taken pledges delayed the onset of sexual intercourse, had fewer sexual partners, married earlier, were less likely to have those problems in their past. And, as a matter of fact, we know that when kids start sex when they're younger, they tend to have more sexual partners, which is one of the biggest risks for sexually transmitted disease.

Let me tell you, Paula, that right now today about 25 to 50 percent of sexually active adolescents are infected with human papilloma virus, and condoms give almost no protection against the sexual transmission of that disease, and it's the cause of 99 percent of cervical cancer and precancer that is impacting hundreds of thousands of people in our country today.


ZAHN: Bill, do you acknowledge that you are spreading misleading information about the effectiveness of condoms?

SMITH: Well, if we are, the World Health Organization is. The CDC is. Dr. McIlhaney just has the facts wrong.

For example, if you look at the CDC's Web site and see what they say about condoms and human papilloma virus, they say that they can be effective. Dr. McIlhaney just has it wrong.


ZAHN: Gentlemen, isn't the bottom line that too many young kids are having sex? Look at these staggering statistics that show us ranging from ninth grade up to 12th grate. look at these numbers; 61.6 percent, Bill, are having sex.


SMITH: Absolutely.

We can do better and we're doing better in this country, but to think that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have a monopoly on helping young people delay is simply nonsense.


ZAHN: But do they have a role?

SMITH: Do they have a role?

ZAHN: They may not have a monopoly.


SMITH: Not when they're censoring information that help young people protect their health in the long term.


SMITH: Listen, if you're successful in delaying sex for, let's say, 18 months, as one of these programs was, the young people in those programs were one-third less likely to use contraception when they did have sex. That's delaying a nightmare. That's not fixing the problem.

Dr. McIlhaney, you get the last word tonight.

MCILHANEY: Well, the fact is that the abstinence programs are being very effective. There are peer-reviewed published articles from, for example, Monroe County, New York, where pregnancy rates went own. There's not been a single comprehensive sex ed program in the United States that has lowered... SMITH: That's not peer-review, Joe.

MCILHANEY: Yes, it was, too.

MCILHANEY: There's not been a single comprehensive sex ed program in the United States that has lowered pregnancy rates. As a matter of fact, most of them haven't even measured that.

It's because of the ashes of the comprehensive programs that the abstinence programs have had to rise out of to offer some hope for our young people. They need a comprehensive message, which is from everyone in their community that they should remain sexually abstinent until they enter into a lifelong monogamous relationship, which in America is marriage.


ZAHN: The thought that I'm feeling as I sign off with both of you is, we as parents with adolescent children are going to have to become more empowered to take a greater role in this, given all the conflicting information out there.

Dr. Joe McIlhaney Jr. Bill Smith, thank you for time tonight.


MCILHANEY: Thank you, Bill.

SMITH: Thank, Joe.

ZAHN: And that brings us to our question of the day. Do you think abstinence-only sex education programs are a good use of your tax dollars? Give us your opinion at We'll give you the results at the end of the hour.

And there is a lot more ahead, including one very vocal Democrat on what his party needs to do to stay afloat.


ZAHN (voice-over): Caught up in conservative times, trying to weather the political storm, will Democrats take advice from a man who's always rocked the boat?

(on camera): As an ordained minister, do you think there's too much God in politics today?

(voice-over): Tonight, Jesse Jackson, the Democrats and the search for a new direction.

And as Iraq travels its violent road toward democracy, should the U.N. even be playing a role? I'll ask former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who helped draw up a proposal for a reformed United Nations.

That and much more for you tonight on PAULA ZAHN NOW. (END VIDEOTAPE)


ZAHN: Ohio was the pivotal state in President Bush's reelection, and John Kerry conceded defeat when he realized he had lost Ohio. Well, a full month later, Reverend Jesse Jackson says Kerry made the wrong move. He questions the voting process and the way votes are counted in that state.

And I spoke with Reverend Jackson about Ohio, why John Kerry lost the South and what he thinks the Democrats have to do now.


ZAHN: And the Reverend Jesse Jackson joins us now.

Good to see you in person for a change.


ZAHN: Thank you. Welcome.

What are you up to in Ohio? And what difference is it going to make?

JACKSON: Well, 30 days after the election, it is not certified. That is very suggestive. Why is it not certified? Because of a significant number of irregularities; 155,000 provisional have not yet been counted.

In the spring of the year, you could vote provisional by county. Now you have to do it by precinct. In some buildings, there may be three precincts in one building. So if you go to precinct A, your name is not there. Rather than send you to C, a provisional ballot. That is a little confusion 30 days out.

ZAHN: But the Kerry campaign made the judgment that there weren't enough votes in Ohio to put them over the top, that the numbers aren't there to change anything.

JACKSON: Kerry made a bad judgment by conceding so quickly. He promised that he would fight until the last vote was counted, and he stopped fighting much too early.

In many ways, this is his fight. But it's not just his fight. It's all of our fight, because we should not be 30 days out without a certified election.

ZAHN: What do you make of the criticism from the spokesperson for the secretary of the state of Ohio that says you're just upset because your guy lost; this is sour grapes on your part?

JACKSON: Well, sour grapes sometimes make good wine, you know?

ZAHN: Yes, it can.


JACKSON: They make good wine.

The point is, as they try to challenge me for challenging them, why would they fight for challenges to come into a precinct who don't live in that area to intimidate and to threaten people? Why would they, with all the machinery of state 30 days out not have a certified election? They do not. And that burden is upon them.

ZAHN: Do you think there's a conspiracy involved here?

JACKSON: Well, the inconsistencies raise questions.

Therefore, we want a full, thorough investigation. We really want a recount if this data holds up, and those who are in charge must recuse themselves.

Mr. Secretary of State, like Mrs. Harris, was the co-chair of the Cheney-Bush campaign, so you can't well very be the owner of the team and the umpire in the seventh game of the series. That's a conflict of interests.

ZAHN: I wanted to move on to the issue of this probably excessive examination of the red state/blue state conflict. Do you think it's exaggerated, the divide that exists between the red states and the blue states?

JACKSON: Well, in this case, the Kerry campaign made the mistake of writing off the South and not competing for it.

The South can be challenged economically, and culturally and theologically. It is the biggest region. It's the battleground region, the most working poor people, the most unemployed people, the most uninsured seniors. We have reason to fight when they've lost jobs in that region.

But economically and culturally, there's a kind of cultural racial insecurity there, an identity crisis, where people let their cultural crisis trump their economic needs, as well as their national security needs.

ZAHN: So, obviously you think it was a strategic error, but do you think in the end John Kerry could have won any of those Southern states?

JACKSON: Well, we do not know unless we try. And we have an obligation to run a 50-state campaign and not a 17-state Electoral College campaign. And that's the fallacy of this system, in fact where 17 states can determine what the other 33 states must live under. We should therefore end the Electoral College.

ZAHN: As an ordained minister, do you think there's too much God in politics today?


I think there's a lot of God talk that is in conflict with the mission. If our mission, for example, as Christians is to preach good news to the poor, then if that is our -- and to heal the broken- hearted -- then you cannot very well have huge tax cuts for the wealthy and don't raise wages for the poor. That's the rich, young rule. And that's mansion down, rather than mansion up.

In some sense, our religion obligates us to feed the hungry, to take care of the needy. And right now our country is so polarized economically, where the wealthy has so much more subsidizing by the government. And the middle class is sinking. The poverty base is expanding. There must be some sense of a moral consideration as we fight for those who are defenseless.

ZAHN: You wrote a really interesting editorial in "The Chicago Sun-Times" last summer, when you called Jesus a liberal. And I want to take a look at exactly what you wrote right now.

You said: "A conservative Christian is a contradiction in terms. Christ wasn't a conservative. He fed the hungry simply because they were hungry. He didn't require that they go to work first. He healed the sick, simply because they were sick. He didn't push them into an insurance company."

Why did the religious voters of America overwhelmingly support President Bush?

JACKSON: It's strange to me that you have this cultural identity issue trumping our moral imperative. It's strange to me how people who have lost their jobs, don't have health care, don't have adequate housing can vote for the rich people that get the tax cut.

ZAHN: Why do they do that, Jesse?

JACKSON: It seems that their cultural identity issue trumps their economic needs. That's somewhat irrational, I think. But our leaders in fact must take on the theology and the culture and the economy of the South. Clinton was sensitive to that dynamic. Carter was sensitive to that dynamic.

ZAHN: Was John Kerry sensitive to that dynamic?

JACKSON: He was not nearly enough so. Lyndon Johnson was. Those guys who came from the South, whether Johnson or Clinton or Carter, seemed to have a better sense of the integration of our culture, the economy, the culture and the theology. And one must be able to speak meaningfully to all three.

ZAHN: So if this election showed that religious ideology trumped a lot of voters' economic interests, do you think the Democratic Party gave any of those voters a reason to vote for John Kerry?

JACKSON: It's interesting that when Democrats fight for Social Security for seniors and fight to fund the Leave No Child Behind, they fight to increase the supply for adequate housing, those are the morally right positions, but often they have the morally right positions, but then use the language of the culture. And that language matters.

ZAHN: What do you think Democrats have for do to make these potential voters out there more comfortable that they're on the same page when it comes to moral values?

JACKSON: You know, it's interesting that the state with the lowest number of divorces is Massachusetts. They're highest in the most red states. That is a kind of contradiction of sorts. The states that are the most holy religiously are the most segregated racially. That is a kind of contradiction in terms.

ZAHN: How do you explain that hypocrisy or that disconnect?

JACKSON: It is a disconnect.

And of course leaders must of course find within that some comfort zone. I'm convinced, when the dust settles away, we're going to pay a big price for the illegal, immoral misadventure into Iraq. We've lost 1,200 American lives, tens of thousands of Iraqis killed, no al Qaeda connection, no weapons of mass destruction. We're just -- $1 billion a week. We've invaded. We've occupied. Now are conquering. We're going to pay a price for that, too great a price. We would not have made that mistake.

ZAHN: You mentioned the status of children in our country. And I wanted to close with some comments that Bill Cosby made to me recently about the lack of responsibility of some African-American parents when it comes to their kids.

Let's listen.


BILL COSBY, ENTERTAINER: Correctly parenting, that's what it's about. You can't blame other things yet. You've got to straighten up your house.


ZAHN: Why did he hit such a raw nerve with his take on the fact that he thinks a lot of African-Americans play the victimization game?

JACKSON: Well, I think, put it in context.

Bill is saying that it is a given that we have less education, less health care. We make less wages and really have less opportunity. So you are behind. Bill is saying that is the given. So if you're behind, Bill is saying you must run faster. If you're in a hole, you must reach for a rope and not for a shovel.

Bill is saying that you may not be responsible for being down, but must be for getting up. See, he really wasn't -- he was crying out. It was a mild appeal. Given the price we paid to end slavery, to end legal apartheid, and given how far we are behind now, those who are behind, you have not earned the right to do less than your best. You've not earned the right to not register and vote. You've not earned the right to not study. You've not earned the right to set the grade. You've not earned the right to self-destruct. So it was really a cry, an appeal on his part. And I share that appeal.

ZAHN: Too bad you don't have any passion.

Reverend Jackson, always good to see you in person.

JACKSON: Thank you, Paula.


ZAHN: so, will Jesse Jackson's ideas fly with his party? I'll ask the former head of the Democratic National Committee, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, coming up next.


ZAHN: So what's the deal with the Democrats these days?

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has some strong words for his party that echo Jesse Jackson's belief that Democrats need to get out of the Washington mind-set. Richardson is the new head of the Democratic Governors Association and he says they are determined to recapture the heartland.


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: It's time that the Democratic Party expand its base. For too long, we've been viewed as a Washington-based party and not a heartland party.


ZAHN: So is that where Democrats need to go?

Joining me now is Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. He is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

And I'm sure you really miss that job, don't you, sir?


GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: So much so that...

ZAHN: You've got a new job.

RENDELL: You couldn't get me back with wild horses.

But I do agree with what Bill Richardson said and what Reverend Jackson said. We cannot in national elections cede 30 states to the Republicans. We can compete. Look at the Democratic Governors Associations, Democratic governors in Oklahoma, in Kansas, in Tennessee, in Louisiana. All over the country, many red states have Democratic governors, because we understand what our constituents need and we understand what the issues are that are important.

ZAHN: Do you concede the point Jesse Jackson made, that you guys blew it by having no Southern strategy?

RENDELL: Oh, I think we have contested in a number of states. Now, that's easy to say. It's easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback.

But, in states like Louisiana, I think we should have been contesting very early on.

ZAHN: Why didn't you?

RENDELL: Well, I think there's a mind-set in the people who are consultants for national campaigns who are basically beltway people that there's one way of doing things and that's it, and you have to reserve your money and spend your money in those 17, 18 battleground states.

And we just ceded too much ground. Our margin for error was too slim. I knew and everybody knew going in, would win the electoral vote if we carried two of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. But we had no margin for error. We had to carry two of those three, because we were shut out in 30, 31 states across the nation.

ZAHN: Here's what I don't get.

RENDELL: And we narrowly lost Ohio and that was the election.

ZAHN: The president also relied on inside-the-beltway talent. Was the difference Karl Rove and he just had a better strategy? It's not like the president didn't rely on people who live in that neck of the woods.

RENDELL: Yes, although I think the Republicans do a much better job of listening to the grassroots, of listening to the constituents, of listening to people from all different geographic areas, and we don't.

Now, look, I'm not going to wring my hands over this election. If 9/11 had never happened, John Kerry would be president-elect today. I have no doubt about that. What keyed the election in the narrow states that we lost were security issues, the unwritten and unspoken issue that it's been three years since 9/11 and we haven't had another terrorist attack here. The Bush campaign everywhere in the last 40 days said, we're fighting terrorists abroad, not at home. That message I think was what won the election.

ZAHN: All right, but, Governor, let me ask you this.

Jesse Jackson also just said he didn't think John Kerry understood how the economy and moral issues and religious ideology came together, that he missed that completely.

RENDELL: I think he missed it to a degree. The best line I thought John Kerry delivered in the entire campaign was in his convention acceptance speech, where he said people who talk about family values should start valuing families. And that's the argument in a nutshell. There's a lot of hypocrisy on the other side. They talk about family values. And yet, when it comes to taking care of young children or putting more money into education or addressing the fact that there are millions of American children who don't have health care, well, what does the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament, teach us about that?

Jesus said take care of the most vulnerable, as you would take care of me. Well, where was that message? We didn't -- John Kerry had a great health care plan. But it's interesting. We just saw polling data today that Americans rank the economy and health care right up there with moral values. About 20 percent the electorate said that those were the three big issues, 20 percent each.

ZAHN: Right.

RENDELL: And yet the electorate said they didn't understand the positions of the candidates on the economy and health care. Good lord. Those were our two long suits and we didn't do a good job in explaining to the voters the difference. And there's a material difference.

ZAHN: All right. Well, I know from covering the campaign from here, you guys did a really good job of distorting each other's positions, too. So it's no wonder the American public, I think, was confused at various times in the campaign.

RENDELL: But on those issues, we have the traditional historical values that Americans agree with.

ZAHN: Governor, thanks for dropping by tonight. Always good to see you. Governor Ed Randell, appreciate your time.

From politics at home to the evolving military situation in Iraq, more deadly attacks, more American troops on the way. I will ask a former national security adviser where he thinks we're headed.


ZAHN: And we are back. President Bush will nominate Bernard Kerik to be the next secretary of Homeland Security. Kerik, as you might remember, was New York City's police commissioner when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center on September 11. If he is confirmed, he will replace Tom Ridge, who resigned on Tuesday.

Bernard Kerik campaigned with the president. And was a guest at our town hall meeting that focused on terrorism. That was back in October in Clarke County, Ohio.



ZAHN: Well, I can vouch for the fact that he actually finished off that at the town hall meeting, forcefully defending the Bush administration's record on terrorism. He, of course, went on to Iraq in the year 2003 at the president's request to help them train new Iraqi police officers. And in that country today, insurgents attacked a joint U.S./Iraqi military patrol in the city of Mosul killing one American soldier.

Meanwhile, 4 U.S. Senators are on a fact-finding mission in Iraq as it gets ready for elections on January 30. All four, two Republicans and two Democrats applauded the administration's decision to beef up troop strength, but they also said it should have been done a lot earlier.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE: We should have leveled with the American people from the beginning, it was absolutely inevitable. I speak only for myself. I have been saying it would be absolutely, positively necessary to do this four months ago, six months ago, eight months ago.


ZAHN: Senator Biden also said military officers told him U.S. troops will be in Iraq for as long as 7 years. Now, as you know, U.S. action in Iraq has created a lot of tension between the White House and the United Nations. And tonight's resignation of U.S. Ambassador John Danforth can make things even more different.

In addition, a U.N. internal report is calling for major changes at the world body. for example, giving smaller countries more influence on the security council, and setting standards by which nations can actually go to war.

We turn now to one of the authors of that report, Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush. It's always nice to see you, sir, welcome back.

BRENT SCOWCROFT, FRM. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thank you, Paula. It's nice to be with you.

ZAHN: So, general, if the U.N. does not reform itself, is it relevant?

SCOWCROFT: It has to be relevant, Paula, because this is a very different world. It's a different world from the time of -- when the U.N. was established in 1945, when there were only 51 members of the U.N. Now we have a different world, a world of globalization, where borders are very porous and states can't control things that come in and out the way they used to. So we have to find a way to cooperate.

Now, what our panel hopefully has done is to suggest some changes in the way the U.N. does business to bring it from 1945 to 2004. ZAHN: How would you characterize the effectiveness of the U.N. today?

SCOWCROFT: I think the U.N., to be honest, is only as effective as its principal members. When the security council works well together, and when everyone is in a contributive mood, it works extremely well, as it did in the first Gulf War. Where the members are at odds with each other, it's paralyzed, which it has been frequently.

ZAHN: Though, you would have to acknowledge a huge wedge was driven between the Bush administration and the U.N. when it failed to support this war on Iraq. Are you optimistic that those wounds will ever heal?

SCOWCROFT: Yes. I am, optimistic. Because as I say, the pressures of the world and problems of the world don't go away. And they call out for collective action, not individual action, because no state, not even so powerful as the United States, can have its way in a world that is so interconnected as this one is.

ZAHN: What does it say, general, though, about how complicated the task ahead is when even your own panel had to offer two options for how you would increase the membership of the security council?

SCOWCROFT: Well, I think that's an interesting point, Paula. But I would point out that that is, first of all, an extremely fractious issue. We had over 100 recommendations on which the panel was unanimous.

So, this is a panel which was broadly representative of all of the interests of all of the members of the U.N. And for us to come to consensus on about 98 percent or 99 percent of all of our recommendations, I think is pretty remarkable.

ZAHN: General, you were critical of this administration's going to war in Iraq, rather pointedly saying in some editorials that you saw it as a diversion from the war on terror. Do you still feel that way?

SCOWCROFT: I don't think it's very useful to go back now. We are where we are. And I think it's important that we gather ourselves together, that we focus on the job ahead, and the job is much broader than simply Iraq or simply the war on terrorism.

We have a world which is spinning rapidly in a number of directions. And we need to have a broad vision looking out ahead and we need to gather our friends and allies and nations of goodwill around us, because all these problems are dealable if we can work together. Separately, they're not.

ZAHN: That's a big if, though, isn't it, general?

SCOWCROFT: It's a big if.

ZAHN: Finally, we just heard a number of prominent members of Congress in Iraq in a fact-finding mission saying that they support these additional troops that are going to be involved in Iraq. Do you think the president misled the American public about what would ultimately be at stake here in Iraq for our troops?

SCOWCROFT: I think the president followed his best judgment at the time. And, you know, this intelligence business and drawing conclusions from it is always a chancy operation. In the end, the president followed his instincts about what had to be done based on the information that he got. Now, it didn't turn out exactly the way we had planned it, but the important thing now is to continue in a way in Iraq that it turns out to be a success and not a catastrophe.

ZAHN: General, how long do you think we'll be in Iraq?

SCOWCROFT: Well, that depends on what it is we want to accomplish. I think to be able to turn our backs on an Iraq which is stable and a productive member of the region rather than the sore that has been for several decades, I think you're probably talking maybe close to a decade.

ZAHN: General Scowcroft, always good to see you. Thanks so much for dropping by this evening.

SCOWCROFT: Nice to be with you, Paula.

ZAHN: President Bush is in the process of making a lasting mark on history. And what's happening here could be the defining factor. The fight for Iraq and a president's legacy coming up next.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Five, four, three, two, one...


ZAHN: President Bush and the first lady welcoming in the holiday season in the nation's capitol tonight with the lighting of the national Christmas tree. What a beautiful sight.

Ceremonies like that are part of a president's job description, but it is the bigger things, of course, that they're remembered for, and what happens in Iraq in the coming weeks and months will determine the prospects for that country and for President Bush's legacy.

Here to look at that, our special contributor Frank Sesno.

Welcome back. Good to see you.

FRANK SESNO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Paula, as always.

Well, you know, those coming months, they start next month. That's when Iraq is supposed to have those first elections on the path to democracy. That's when things are supposed to start changing there if Iraqis can vote.

And it's why the president is saying today there will be no postponement in the elections. It's why more troops are going to Iraq, and it's why Prime Minister Allawi is talking to the Sunnis.

The calendar matters, Paula, and the Iraqis know it. And the presidents -- the president knows it. The White House does, because the stakes are high.


SESNO (voice-over): It was exactly one month ago that George W. Bush was reelected, but it may be less the election here than the election here that shapes his legacy. Iraq is Bush's big gamble.

BUSH: It's time for the Iraqi citizens to go to the polls.

SESNO: His administration says elections there in January will proceed as scheduled, despite the violence and the calls for delay from some.

America's chief diplomat in Iraq predicts the up-in-arms Sunnis, 20 percent of the population who ran the show under Saddam, will deal with reality and opt in.

But reality is complex and ugly in the Sunni Triangle. From Ramadi to Falluja, violence continues; hostility and intimidation run deep. Suspicions about elections are epidemic, yet the Sunnis have to play if any new government is to be seen as legitimate, which is why the Sunni Triangle really is Iraq's battleground state. With apologies and a lot more complications, Iraq's Ohio, where it matters most.

A couple other high rollers in the presidential saloon have played this sort of game before. Lyndon Johnson gambled and lost in Vietnam.

LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall not cease seek and will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.

SESNO: Despite LBJ's great society programs: Medicare, the Voting Rights Act, the war on poverty, really big things, his legacy is framed by Vietnam. Lost war, lost cause.

Ronald Reagan bet the ranch, too. The way he put his and America's chips on the table sometimes made even his closest advisers cringe. Russian roulette.


SESNO: Of course, the wall came down; so did communism. Reagan won, big. That's his legacy. And the page out of history the current president prefers. If something reassembling democracy takes root in Iraq, it would be the first in a region that breeds terrorism and desperately needs reform, a region the Bush folks still believe can be reformed.

So of it works Bush becomes big, becomes the architect of a modern miracle, changes the world. If it doesn't, everyone loses with him.

So cut the deck, vote on, Iraq. We're all hoping for a royal flush.


SESNO: But Paula, here's the problem. We also know the odds of a royal flush. And the situation in Iraq, and we all know it is going to be very complicated leading up to these elections, concerns about more violence, concerns about civil war, so welcome to the casino.

ZAHN: So if it's all about gambling, what are the odds for this president?

SESNO: Well, I think the odds are better than they were for Lyndon Johnson, clearly, because Vietnam was a distant war in a distant land and Americans ultimately didn't connect with it. That's not happening here, because people still see the connection to 9/11 and terrorism. Nobody wants a failed state with oil, which is what Iraq would be if America cut and ran. I don't think anybody's looking at that.

For Reagan, he had a partner. I don't know who Bush's partner is over there.

ZAHN: You made the analogy between Johnson and the war in Vietnam and Reagan and the fall of the Soviet Union, but you didn't mention the first President Bush and the first with regard in Iraq.

SESNO: And the coalition, a real coalition, not just a coalition of the willing. But a big difference, because that war was about restoring the status quo. It was about pushing the Iraqis out of Kuwait and restoring Kuwait's borders.

Bush really is trying to change the world here.

ZAHN: The question is, what are the chances of really succeeding?

SESNO: And I think back to the calendar a minute. January is going to be a huge month. Not only are the Iraqis are voting; the Palestinians are voting. And President Bush himself, President Bush, has two very important events, the State of the Union speech and his inauguration.

How is he going to relate to those events happening over there? To what extent is he going to engage and reengage in the peace process, beyond Iraq, the stakes there, into the Palestinians and the Israelis? ZAHN: You just reminded me none of us are getting sleep, following the president in the month of January.

SESNO: Stay tuned, right?

ZAHN: Thank you, Frank.

Remember that golden oldie, big girls don't cry? Well, I don't, but times have changed since that song was a hit, especially for big guys, as Jeanne Moos found out. Tears and the man, when we come back.





ZAHN: This week we saw a famous American man let down his guard, shedding a tear in front of millions of us. He wasn't the first man to do that, but it's rare enough to get Jeanne Moos on the story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When colleagues gave Tom Brokaw an anchors away toast.

TOM BROKAW, FORMER NBC NEWS ANCHOR: It's been a great, great privilege.

MOOS: It wasn't the champagne that made him choke. Big boys don't cry? Don't count on it.


MOOS: Be it a presidential contender or a show biz legend calling it quits...

JOHNNY CARSON, FORMER HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": I bid you a very heartfelt good night.

MOOS: That break in the voice can break your heart, for instance when a shattered William Shatner spoke about his drowned wife.

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: Will remain with me the rest of my life.

MOOS: Talk about a tearjerker: imagine 300 pages on the subject of crying. You'll learn that not all tears are created equal, that emotional tears have a different chemical composition than lubricating ones.

Not that a retired coach much cares.

DICK VERMEIL, FORMER ST. LOUIS RAMS COACH: These players -- sheesh -- excuse me.

MOOS: In the old days, anchors got emotional, for instance, in announcing JFK's death.


MOOS: But Cronkite's struggle for composure came across as understated compared to Dan Rather's post-9/11 reaction.

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: We can never sing that song again that way.

MOOS: No wonder David Letterman offered a comforting hand. Dave's been there himself after his heart surgery.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": These women and women right here saved my life.

MOOS: There's even a web site called Old Men Crying that posts photo after photo of tearful men and although some are offended -- "What sort of sick freak are you?" -- the site's creator says he was inspired by his own father's tears.

So what if the Cowardly Lion did it?

JUDY GARLAND, ACTRESS: My goodness. What a fuss you're making.

MOOS: So did Rambo. And even real-life General Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf.

Honoring crying men, artist photographer Sam Taylor Wood asked famous actors to cry for her. Most did, except Paul Newman, who said he was too old to cry.

(on camera) Do you ever cry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day I cry when my wife takes my check off me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the Bears won the Super Bowl in '85, all of us were crying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big stress release.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If men weren't supposed to cry, they wouldn't have tears.

MOOS: When you were a young guy, did guys cry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Choked a little bit, but they don't cry.

MOOS (voice-over): Women seem of two minds about male tears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel I little, I guess the word would be creeped out about that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My old man, he used to shed tears all the time. The little tears would trickle down. You know, I thought that was hip.

MOOS: Back in the '50s, Johnny Ray was known as the crying crooner, the golden tearjerker. For him it's a crying shame not to weep.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Go on ahead baby and cry.


ZAHN: And that was Jeanne Moos reporting. I don't know about the rest of you women out there; I think it's a pretty healthy thing that men do cry.

And if all of this is getting you down, how about a lift from Letterman and Leno on late night TV?


LETTERMAN: Earlier tonight, Tom Brokaw, our dear friend and anchorman for the last 21 years of the NBC Evening News, retired. Earlier tonight was his final NBC broadcast. Yes, sure, Tom Brokaw, we're going to miss Tom.

Tom worked at NBC, and Paul and I, of course used to work at NBC. And I was thinking about this. Tom left NBC with honors. I left with a restraining order.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": It's not just California. This cold spell has hit the middle of the country pretty hard, too. If you live in Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, you're probably below freezing right now, which is ironic, because the red states are now turning blue. It's just a month, it's a little too late, but a month earlier...


ZAHN: And we'll be right back with the results of our question of the day.


ZAHN: And we're back with an update now on a story we brought to you last night. The United Methodist Church today defrocked a female minister, because she's openly homosexual.

A jury of Methodist clergy in Pennsylvania voted 12-1 that the Reverend Elizabeth Stroud violated church law. Now that same jury then voted 7-6 to take away her clergy status. She now has 30 dates to appeal, and has said she would continue to work for the church as a layperson.

Now on to the results of our question of the day. We asked, "Do you think abstinence-only sex education programs are a good use of your tax dollars?" Fourteen percent said yes; 86 percent say no.

That's based on responses to our web site, of course. Not a scientific poll, just a reflection of the opinions of those who logged on tonight.

And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Tomorrow night, the government may be cracking down on obscenity in broadcasting, but wait until you hear what is still getting on the air. We're going to debate that tomorrow night.

Thanks again for dropping by tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next with Sophia Loren. Good of you to join us. Good night.


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