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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Scholars Examine the Life of Christ; Maria Shriver Opens Up About Life as California First Lady
Aired December 8, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
We begin this evening with the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who unexpectedly found himself on the hot seat. Rumsfeld was in Kuwait meeting with American soldiers whose preparations for war in Iraq have left some with some hot tempers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Now, the general said you could ask tough questions, and you can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So the soldiers did. They were respectful, but they pressed the defense secretary about their deployments, their pay, and their equipment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPC. THOMAS WILSON, U.S. ARMY: Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to help armor our vehicles and why don't we have those resources readily available to us?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It's essentially a matter of physics. It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: The administration has been saying for months it's been responding to every request from commanders in the field. A National Guard soldier followed up asking whether the National Guard units are getting the oldest equipment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is, what is the Department of Defense, more specifically, the Army side of the house, doing to adjust shortages and antiquated equipment that National Guard soldiers, such as the 116th Cav Brigade, the 278th ACR, are going to roll into Iraq with?
RUMSFELD: The -- now settle down. Settle down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Another soldier asked about the stop-loss policy which keeps troops in Iraq longer than they signed up for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Currently, I'm serving under the stop-loss program. I would like to know how much longer do you foresee the military using this program?
RUMSFELD: Stop-loss has been used by the military for years and years and years. It's all well understood when someone volunteers to join the service. It is that something you prefer not to have to use, obviously, in a perfect world. It's a basically a sound principle. It's nothing new. It's well understood. It's been used as little as possible. And my guess is that it will continue to be used as little as possible, but that it will continue to be used.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Also on the soldiers' minds, why some family back home were not getting their paychecks on time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The soldiers have gone, some since July, without getting travel pay, thousands of dollars. They are having creditors call them at home, call their spouses at home, threatening collection action. We have a big problem. There seems to be a problem with the Defense Finance Accounting Service.
Can you help us understand what that problem is, Mr. Secretary, or even better, can you point us to a resource that will help us get these soldiers paid?
RUMSFELD: Can someone here get the details of the unit he's talking about? That's just not right. Folks who earned money and are due money ought to be able to get the money, and they ought not to have to put their families under stress while they are waiting for the money. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: An Army chaplain even suggested a change in the troop rotation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be kind enough, sir, to put us on your aircraft today and take us to Disneyland? (LAUGHTER)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Well, all of that got to us wondering just how much of what the troops told Rumsfeld today was indeed accurate or whether his response were accurate, too.
So who better to ask -- or ask that and answer some of those questions than our own senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Rumsfeld's statement that you go to war with the Army you have is seen by critics as a tacit admission the Pentagon failed to anticipate the post-invasion insurgency and therefore didn't provide U.S. troops with enough armor to help protect against roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: What is even more shocking than the statement in many ways is the apparent lack of concern showed by the administration.
MCINTYRE: The Pentagon admits it was caught short last year and that some soldiers have jury-rigged their own armor in the past. But it says 75 percent of the roughly 19,000 Humvees in Iraq are now armored. And that while more armor kits are being rushed to Iraq, un- armored Humvees are being relegated to low threat areas.
LARRY DI RITA, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: The policy is that -- that units that are going into Iraq if they're going to drive their vehicles into Iraq, they drive in armored vehicles. If their vehicles aren't armored, the policy is that they are convoyed on other vehicles. They're put on the back of trucks.
MCINTYRE: But the soldiers are more worried about those trucks, which usually don't have armor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The flatbed trucks are not armored. That's correct.
MCINTYRE: The head of the National Guard at the Pentagon disputes the perception that Guard soldiers are treated as second- class citizens.
LT. GEN. STEVEN BLUM, CHIEF, National GUARD BUREAU: There's no other way to put. It's an old myth that needs to go away.
MCINTYRE: The Pentagon says when the soldiers move into Iraq, they will take over equipment left behind by the troops they replace.
And, Paula, that includes Humvees that are armored.
ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thanks for the update.
Joining me now, retired Lieutenant General Paul Funk, who led the Army's 3rd Armor Division in the first Gulf War. He joins us from Austin, Texas, tonight. And retired Army Colonel Robert Maginnis, a security and foreign affairs analyst, he joins us from Washington tonight.
Great to have both of you with us tonight.
BLITZER: General Funk, based on Secretary Rumsfeld's answers to a number of pointed questions, did you think he seemed in touch with what was really going on, on the ground in Iraq?
RETIRED LT. GEN. PAUL FUNK, U.S. ARMY: Yes, I suspect that some of it caught him a little by surprise.
On the other hand, it sort of true that we have been behind the power curve on some of these matters because we were in such a hurry to begin this war. So, I think -- I think the soldiers were pretty impressive in the questions they asked and the manner and the demeanor in which they conducted themselves.
ZAHN: Colonel Maginnis, do you give them credit for asking appropriate questions? After all, these are the men and women who are risking their lives for our country.
RETIRED COL. ROBERT MAGINNIS, U.S. ARMY: You are right, Paula. They asked great questions and very tough questions.
And no doubt, Mr. Rumsfeld has considered those and has had his people brief him. The reality is, of course, these soldiers are about to go into Iraq. They have listened to the radio, the television, and they have seen the pictures of the devastation that an IED, an improvised explosive device, can do.
And that's why we really ramped up the production of Humvees that are up-armored. And we are doing everything that it's reasonably possible to prepare for that. But, you know, keep in mind, back in August and September of 2003, and I was in Iraq at that time, we were only beginning to talk about the very issues of whether or not there was some sort of change in insurgency. And in fact it was.
And that's when we identified not only that we need more basically flak jackets for every soldier, but we also needed more up- armored Humvees. And we began that process right then. And now we're producing 450 a month.
ZAHN: That may be true, but, General Funk, you have I think made pretty clear in previous interviews that you think a lot of miscalculations have been made here and that you think in this rush to war a lot of what the colonel was just talking about wasn't done. FUNK: Yes, but, on the other hand, you have got to give a lot of credit to General Pete Schoomaker, who is the chief of staff of the Army, because he saw the problem early and he began to correct it.
But when you are running behind, it's very difficult -- and conducting a war -- it's very difficult to catch up. So there are reasons for this, but probably if we had waited and planned a bit better, we could have taken care of some of these problems.
MAGINNIS: Paula, keep in mind, General Schoomaker inherited an Army that was fit for Europe and conventional war. And he, to his credit, got rid of the Comanche helicopter, was burdenous by $9 billion, got rid of the Crusader, which was a heavy artillery peace that can't get in any of our aircraft for the most part.
And he started to transform. And the victories in Afghanistan, the victory -- quite frankly, a three-week victory taking Baghdad and the rest of that country was phenomenal. The insurgency, though, we didn't anticipate it evolving like this. And of course we have some outsiders in Iran and Syria that aren't terribly helpful, as Mr. Rumsfeld has indicated. So we have issues here.
ZAHN: All right. But the president himself has admitted that the administration made a miscalculation because it didn't fully appreciate the strength of this insurgency movement.
General Funk, what I need help in understanding is something that Secretary Rumsfeld said. Basically, you have to go to bar with the Army you have, not the Army you want to have down the road. Now, based on what you're saying here this evening, you believe, if the process of going to war had been slowed down, maybe the secretary would have the Army he really wants. Is that how you read that? And were you insulted by that?
FUNK: I think that's partially true.
No, I wasn't particularly insulted, although I think Mr. Rumsfeld sometimes oversimplify things and I think he probably says some things that aren't exactly what the senior leadership, uniform leadership would agree with. But let me talk about the issue of funding.
The Army in itself for years and years and the Marine Corps in the same manner have basically not had the funding thrust that the Marine Corps -- I'm sorry -- that the Navy and the Air Force had. This has caused some problems. For instance, the kid that mentioned the National Guard equipment, you bet the equipment that they have back at home station isn't as modern. Even though we have tried our best to equip those forces with the most modern equipment, the Army never has been able to afford it.
Now, I agree they will get some equipment. They will fall in on equipment that's in place. But they are concerned about what they are going north with. So I think we really need to take a hard look. If this war is going to be typical of what we're facing in the future -- and most people in OSD say it is -- then we're going to have to begin to equip the force in advance for those kinds of missions.
And that's going to lead to some very heated debate. I'd love to have the two of you to talk about -- talk and join us again, because we have to move on.
General Funk, Colonel Maginnis, thank you for both of your opinions tonight.
ZAHN: And there is a lot more here ahead tonight, including:
ZAHN (voice-over): Christians in Iraq come under fire, as insurgents attack churches in Mosul. I'll ask the Reverend Pat Robertson whether religious violence is taking a dangerous new turn.
And while two major newsweeklies question the biblical version of Christmas, we'll debate whether the Bible was ever meant to be literally interpreted.
And that's our question of the day. Do you think the birth of Jesus happened exactly the way the Bible says? Vote at CNN.com/Paula. The results and much more ahead.
ZAHN: Christians are a distinct minority in Iraq, less than 3 percent of the population there, but increasingly they have become targets of violence.
In August, at least 10 people died in coordinated church bombings in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul. And then in October during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, five churches in Baghdad were attacked. Just last month, eight people were killed in two church bombings in Baghdad. And then again on Tuesday, militants burst into two churches in Mosul, setting off explosives and wounding at least three people. All of this violence has been condemned by the pope.
Attacks on Christians in Iraq have raised concerns about the wider outbreak of religious violence.
Joining me now from Virginia Beach, the Reverend Pat Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Always good to see you, Reverend. Welcome back.
PAT ROBERTSON, AUTHOR, "COURTING DISASTER": Thanks, Paula. It's good to be with you.
ZAHN: Why do you think these Christians are being attacked?
ROBERTSON: Well, it's a combination of things.
I think this militant Islam has always been after the Christians. I think under Saddam some of that religious persecution was tamped down because he didn't allow that sectarian violence to break out. But it's breaking out now. These extremists are identifying the Christians as pro-Western. We had a reporter over in one church talking to them, and he said, would you please get out of here because if they see us talking to you, they will think we're pro-American and they will come get us.
So it's that kind of a feeling.
ZAHN: So pro-Western is extended to pro-American, which is extended to pro-occupation? They view it all the same?
ROBERTSON: All the same.
And -- but the Christians have been subject to potential persecution for years, although it's interesting. In Mosul, that's the place where Jonah, when he went up against Nineveh, it was in that area. That was 600 years before Christ. And these Chaldean Christians, or the Syrians, have been there for thousands of years, way before Islam. And they say, look, this is our country. We have a right to be here.
ZAHN: I hope you don't give me any demerits tonight, since I don't remember that from Bible school, but thank you for reeducating me tonight.
ROBERTSON: Oh, I'm sure you remember about Jonah and the whale. Come on.
ZAHN: Well, yes, I remember Jonah and the whale, but not the level of detail you just shared with me tonight.
ZAHN: What is your concern, though, about this violence spreading outside of Iraq, violence directed at Christians?
ROBERTSON: Well, we've seen it in Pakistan, where people, a gunman came into a church and began spraying automatic weapons, killing people who were there on a Sunday morning worship.
In, of course, Saudi Arabia, there's virtually no freedom at all of Christians to worship. I know of Indian believers who were put in jail for receiving Christmas cards. We are talking about, all over, the extremist Muslim faith has been anti-Christian. And there's no question about it. The persecution is very, very intense.
I talked to a fellow in Pakistan who was a Muslim. He had converted to Christianity. And he told me of beatings when they had seized him and beat him. And Anwar Sadat's son-in-law, potential son- in-law, in Egypt was thrown in jail. His arms were broken. He was badly, badly beaten. And this was years ago. So it's nothing new.
ZAHN: And I know you're talking about fundamentalists being the perpetrators here. But do you ever think we'll see a time in that part of the world where there will be peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians?
ROBERTSON: If something to be earnestly prayed for.
The Arabs are the descendants of Abraham, just like the Jews are. And we all share a common heritage. And I think, sooner or later, there's going to be a sense of love and peace. But it won't be as long as these Wahabis in their mosques in Saudi Arabia are spewing out hatred and violence. And we just have to stop that. These mullahs are the source and incitement of so much of this violence.
ZAHN: Finally tonight, I wanted to move on to the issue of the battles over political correctness, some would say gone amok.
ZAHN: Are you insulted by the fact that Christmas has been taken out of this holiday? You know in retail operations all over the country, employees are being instructed to say happy holidays, not merry Christmas. Do you understand why they are being told to do that?
ROBERTSON: It literally breaks my heart. America was founded as a Christian country. Christmas means the mass and celebration of Christ, the messiah.
We can't just have presents and Santa Claus. It's the birth of Christ. And I think Americans overwhelmingly believe in the Christmas story, according to the Bible. We believe in this. And it's part of our tradition. And there's a tiny elite that wants to strip us of these religious values. That's one of the reasons for the red state revolt, if I could use that term, when they were talking about moral values. This is just one more evidence of the assault on our Christian values.
ZAHN: But do you see it more as economically driven, because these retail operations don't want to insult, perhaps, people who worship other religious and they don't want to drive a wedge between those shoppers?
ROBERTSON: My wife just got back from Beijing. It's a communist country. They are celebrating Christmas in Beijing. If you go into Asia, especially in the Philippines, huge Christmas celebrations. And nobody is offended by it. Even the Japanese, they are celebrating Christmas.
Why in America that was founded by Christians can't we celebrate Christmas without worrying about it losing business? I think it helps business. It doesn't hurt anybody.
ZAHN: Reverend Pat Robertson, we have got to leave it there tonight. Thanks so much for your time. ROBERTSON: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: Merry Christmas.
ROBERTSON: Merry Christmas to you.
ZAHN: Tomorrow, join me for a special edition of PAULA ZAHN NOW, stories of bravery, terror and courage. Throughout the hour, I will focus on Westerners working, living and sometimes dying in a climate of terror. I sat down with a man who has a unique perspective on this, Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl, the journalist who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Pakistan. Today, Judea Pearl's anger is real, especially against the U.S. government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Does the U.S. government owe you an apology for not bringing you up to date on this investigation and sharing with you details you think are critical to understanding what happened to your son?
JUDEA PEARL, FATHER OF DANIEL PEARL: I'm an engineer. I'm not after apologies. I'm after actions and results. And I would like to know the information, get the information.
ZAHN: So you are you pessimistic, then, that you'll never know?
PEARL: I'm pessimistic, yes. It will take someone who is interested in producing the result and seeing it throughout the process. I'm going to get this information to the parents of Daniel Pearl.
And there isn't anyone who is willing to take upon themselves this other thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Tomorrow, I'll also be talking with a mother of Amy Biehl, murdered while fighting injustice in South Africa. What she has done since her daughter's death will amaze you, as it did me. And I'll also be talking with CNN's Jane Arraf, who may be one of the world's bravest women, reporting every day from the most dangerous place on earth, Iraq.
A very special PAULA ZAHN NOW, "Bravery, Terror and Courage," tomorrow at 8:00 p.m.
But, up next, an issue that has taken front seat in the war on terror, denying driver's licenses to illegal aliens. Is it a prescription to prevent terror or a tool for punishing illegal immigrants?
ZAHN: Welcome back.
Now it's up to the president. Today the Senate passed the intelligence reform bill. The vote was 89-2. That came a day after the House approved it. The reforms are based on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and will put one person in charge of coordinating all of the nation's intelligence agencies.
One thing not included in the bill, a provision preventing illegal aliens from getting driver's licenses. Congress put off that concern until next year. The government says there are at least seven million illegal immigrants in the United States, and critics worry that it's just too easy for terrorists to slip into the country, get I.D.s and blend into the population.
But with so many undocumented workers holding down jobs, denying them permission to drive could be disastrous for them and some say for their employer.
Maria Hinojosa tells us more.
MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like a lot of mothers, Fedalina Perez (ph) drives her daughter to school to keep her safe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I bring my daughter every day because I hear on the news a lot of drugs.
HINOJOSA: But 14-year-old Nancy (ph), who wants to be a doctor, has a new worry. Her mother is an illegal immigrant and New York is about to take away the driver's license she got using a fake Social Security number.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is just hard, because of the thought of having to leave here if they lose their job or anything. I don't want to.
HINOJOSA: Nancy and her sisters were born here, U.S. citizens. They are afraid that if their mother gets stopped driving without a license, their parents will be deported to Mexico, which they left 20 years ago.
MARIA PEREZ, DAUGHTER OF ILLEGAL ALIEN: I know that if they get deported to Mexico, we are never going to come back, because they don't have their papers yet and we can come back, of course, because we were born here. But I don't want to leave my parents because that's going to make me like feel sad.
HINOJOSA: Fedalina says she uses her license to chauffeur disabled people and to get to her job as a domestic, not to commit acts of terrorism like the 9/11 hijackers. They legally entered the United States and then obtained 63 driver's licenses around the country.
"We are decent people," Fedalina says, "tranquil. We would never think of wanting to hurt anyone."
HINOJOSA: But Brian DeCell, who lost his son-in-law on September 11, says, without immigration reform, terrorists can use a driver's license to board planes, rent cars and open bank accounts.
BRIAN DECELL, FATHER-IN-LAW OF SEPTEMBER 11 VICTIM: Somebody who is undocumented, it's a person that you don't know who they are, gets a driver's license, that gives them the keys to the city. That was the terrorists' favorite tool.
HINOJOSA: In New York state alone, an estimated half million people have illegal driver's licenses, but are suspected of having entered this country illegally . This taxi driver is one of them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm driving very stressed. I can't concentrate anymore because I'm getting worried.
HINOJOSA: They drive trucks and taxis, care for children and clean homes. I asked some of them how the U.S. can protect its borders if it provides them with a valid I.D., even when they entered this country illegally.
"This country definitely has to control its borders because it's dangerous to not know who is coming in," this man told me. "But by giving us an I.D. or license, then they would have a lot more control over who we are and what we do."
Rosalyn Kennedy Lewis (ph) employs Fedalina to care for her family home. She says she can't afford a legal worker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand that they are illegal, but they should take into consideration how they have lived their life, what they have accomplished with their life, and what their children are like. And it should be done on a case-by-case basis. Those people that are motivated do belong here. That's what America is about.
HINOJOSA: Losing their licenses means these workers will fade completely into the underground economy.
"We're not many terrorists," this man said to me. "Many people say we will use these licenses to do harm. And we aren't going to use them to do that. We are using them to work." And he said, "In the same way a lot of people from here died in those towers on September 11, many immigrants died in the towers as well."
ZAHN: And Maria Hinojosa joins us now.
How sensitive to the 9/11 families' concerns are these illegal workers? Do they understand why that man is outraged that you have got millions of illegal immigrants driving around with legal driver's licenses?
(CROSSTALK) HINOJOSA: I think they understand.
I think what they're telling me is, they don't understand the contradictions. On the one hand, they are here. They know they came here without papers. Many of them say, we wish we didn't do that. But they worry that, by not having the licenses, they are going to be pushed into more underground and perhaps doing other illegal actions, for example, getting somebody to get you insurance in another state so you can have a license here.
They are saying to me, we want this government to document us. We want to tell them where they are, so they can come and get us if we have a problem. They are saying, we are here. We're not going anywhere, seven million of them.
ZAHN: So we really don't know what Congress is going to do when they take this up next year. But what is the assumption by most people you talk to? If they crack down on the driver's license problem that these folks will indeed go underground like they suggested to you they would?
HINOJOSA: Well, these people said to me -- I asked all of them, will you leave if this happens? And they said, we can't leave. Many of them have kids who were born in this country.
ZAHN: Who are now considered American citizens.
HINOJOSA: Exactly. So they say, how can we leave? So they really are in a quagmire.
I think what is really incredible, Paula, is the level of stress and fear that these people are living in is something that most of us don't understand. We just don't see it. And they are really feeling it on a very human level. And, yes, they understand that this country wants to get things under control. And they say, we want to work with you. So I think that's the big question.
ZAHN: Yes. And we could understand that from your piece tonight.
Maria Hinojosa, thank you.
HINOJOSA: My pleasure.
ZAHN: Appreciate your time.
The folks at "NEWSNIGHT" are hard at work getting ready for tonight's show.
Aaron Brown, what are you doing tonight?
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Paula Zahn, what are you doing tonight?
ZAHN: Well, I have a half hour to go and I'm going home. BROWN: Good to see you. There are, think about this number for a second, 246 million children in the world who essentially are enslaved, who are forced to work for a variety of reasons, in a variety of occupations. Some of them in this country. And almost all of them making products that you use from the soccer ball that your kids kick around to the clothes that are on your back right now. We'll look at their plight through the eyes of a filmmaker who spent 7 years on the project.
It's an extraordinary piece of work. And we'll back it up with a couple of interviews from people one of whom will explain what industry is doing to try to stop some of this. And we can only wish more was being done. And an economist who will explain what we haven't thought of in some respects, if they can't work, what do they do? That and more on NEWSNIGHT at 10:00 Eastern -- Paula.
ZAHN: We'll be watching. Aaron Brown, thanks.
Christians around the world are just weeks away from their biggest holiday of the year. At the same time some religious scholars are questioning the details of the Christmas story. We're going to debate that coming up.
ZAHN: According to a Newsweek poll, 67 percent of American adults believe the Christmas story, wise men, shepherds, star over Bethlehem, the baby Jesus in the manger is historically accurate. They believe all of that, even though the gospels themselves don't agree on the details. Newsweek, and its rival Time magazine, both have cover stories this week that dive into the debate over faith versus history.
JON STEWART, DAILY SHOW: There's a major story out of the Middle East getting all kinds of attention. It's the cover story of both Time and Newsweek this week. We're just confirming now Jesus Christ is born.
ZAHN (voice-over): Jon Stewart may have poked fun at these dueling nativity covers, but it's no joke that even after 2,000 years many religious scholars and theologians disagree on the story surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Certainly, for 200 to 300 years, depending where you wan to put the stakes in our society we've been interested in the historisicity of Jesus, just for several reasons: scientific exploration, what's the truth, what are the facts, and then to really flesh this character out.
ZAHN: There's no doubt there's growing interest in this country to learn more about the religious stories and beliefs that many Americans have grown up with. We saw it earlier this year when millions of people lined up to see "The Passion of the Christ," which closely follows the stories in the 4 gospels. But within American's thirst for knowledge, another trend caught the public's attention in the telling of the story, the recent explosion of writes that counter the stories in the New Testament.
DR. REV. FRED WEIDMANN, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Just because Reverend Fred tells me that Jesus was born in the certain way, why should I believe it? Reverend Fred, why did you put it that way? What if you look at it this way? Could it have happened this way? People are much more comfortable asking these questions.
ZAHN: The most popular example of this is the best selling book "The Da Vinci Code," which among other things, portrays Jesus and Mary Magdalene as married and with a child.
Which brings us back to Time and Newsweek, both have different takes on the Christmas story. The magazines include interviews with religious scholars and theologians who question everything from the place of Jesus' birth, to whether the wise men came baring gifts. They even question whether Mary was a virgin.
All of this bares the question, is the story of the nativity historically accurate. And in the end, does it really matter?
ZAHN: I'm joined now by 2 people with very different points of view, the Reverend Dr. Hal Taussig, professor of the New Testament at Union Theological Seminary, and a founding member of the Jesus Seminar. Reverend Taussig says the Bible is not historically accurate.
On the other side of all this, Reverend Doctor Macom Yarnell III -- that would Malcolm Yarnell III, director of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Good to have both of you with us.
Dr. Taussig, what proof do you have the Bible is historically inaccurate?
REV. HAL TAUSSIG, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: I don't have proof. I just have a way of reading it that notices that there are actually two different stories in the Bible about Jesus's birth. One in the Gospel of Matthew and one in the Gospel of Luke. And they do not agree in their story.
For instance, in the gospel of Matthew, Mary and Joseph are living in Bethlehem. In the gospel of Luke, they are living in Nazareth and they have to travel to Bethlehem. In the gospel of Matthew, it's Joseph that receives the message from God. In the gospel of Luke it's Mary.
There are a number of these very different takes in the two different gospels. So it seems to me that we need to read both of those gospels carefully, and not take them just as, shall we say, a journalistic report, no offense to you, but as another kind of language that's deeply religious and makes meaning. ZAHN: Doctor Yarnell, are you troubled by the fact that you do see these inconsistencies in the gospels?
MALCOLM YARNELL III, SOUTHWESTERN SEMINARY: Well, first of all, I don't see inconsistencies in the gospels, Paula.
ZAHN: So what Doctor Taussig just says you don't buy at all?
YARNELL: No, ma'am, I don't, with all due respect to Dr. Taussig. I was glad to hear he said that he had no proof for his view.
I look at it this way. The gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are more like a choir, and they each sing a different part. Matthew singing as a soprano, Mark as an alto, Luke, you know, singing another part a tenor and John as a bass.
And each one of them are singing a different note and yet they are all in harmony, because they are all inspired by the holy spirit who is one, to say the same thing but maybe at different times. I do not see a disagreement whatsoever.
ZAHN: Doctor Taussig, I see you nodding, does that mean that the overall message of Jesus then is not changed, if you have these different voices talking about his life?
TAUSSIG: Well, I think we need to take into consideration a couple of other factors when would we talk about whether these gospels are historically accurate. For instance, the gospel of Luke says that there was a census of everyone in the world at the time of the birth of Jesus. The problem is, we have no record of that in any of the Roman empire's records. The gospel of Matthew says there was a massive slaughter of innocence around the town of Bethlehem at that time. The Roman's kept great records of their military efforts. There's no evidence of either of these events.
YARNELL: Let me...
ZAHN: Is that evidence important to you at all?
TARNELL: Well, the evidence in the surrounding culture is always important to analyze.
The problem I think we have in our modern culture, where we have access to so much information off of the Internet and off of computers, is that we think that the information that is out there is immediately available. When you're dealing with information from the classical world, you're dealing with information that is 20 centuries old.
And to be honest with you, the data that we have concerning the life of Jesus is pretty much restricted to the four gospels, and those four gospel writers were very clear about their search for accuracy in what they told us.
And so I do have to say this: in some ways they were like a journalist, because they were seeking, at their best, to record and to give us the facts. But they went beyond what a journalist does, because they were also writing so that people would believe and have faith in Jesus Christ.
ZAHN: And meaning to what they were saying.
Well, doctors, I appreciate both of your joining us tonight. I'm sure you will spark some heated debate out there tonight as both of these articles did in "TIME" and "Newsweek." Thanks again.
We also want to thank the Metropolitan Museum of Art for letting us show their annual Christmas tree display and the nativity scene.
Once again, our question of the day is, "Do you think the birth of Jesus happened exactly the way the Bible says it did?" Vote now at CNN.com/Paula.
A little bit earlier we mentioned "The Da Vinci Code," that best- selling novel that poses some rather unorthodox theories. When we come back the other woman in the life of Christ, the focus on Mary Magdalene.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
Let's focus for a moment on the two Marys: Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. And their roles, as described in the Bible, an accurate reflection of history?
Well, this coming Sunday night, CNN Presents a very special program that tries to answer that question, especially when it comes to Mary Magdalene, a woman whose role many now believe deserves reexamination.
SIGOURNEY WEAVER, NARRATOR, "THE TWO MARYS": Mary Magdalene has become a media star, the lynchpin character of a mega selling novel says she wasn't just Jesus' apostle, but his wife and the mother of his children.
PROF. AMY JILL LEVINE, VANDERBILT DIVINITY SCHOOL: "The Da Vinci Code" is appropriately shelved in books labeled fiction.
REV. GERALD O'COLLINS, S.J., PONTIFICAL GREGORIAN UNIVERSITY: Have I read it? I would give it prize one for historical misinformation.
WEAVER: Those reviews haven't stopped new Magdalene fans from going to places like London's Temple Church. According to the novel this was home base to the Knight's Templar, who fought crusades to keep the truth about Mary Magdalene's marriage to Jesus a secret for centuries.
REV. ROBIN GRIFFITHS-JONES, TEMPLE CHURCH, LONDON: We must now have 50 visitors or more every day coming into the church and asking the verger on their entry, "Have you read the book?" The verger still naively assumes they mean the Bible, but of course they mean the other Bible, "The Da Vinci Code."
WEAVER: This change in perception among both scholars and the public, that Mary Magdalene was a leader and not a sinner, is nothing short of seismic, especially for Christian women, who filled the pews but not the pulpit and who now want their due.
PROF. KAREN L. KING, HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL: Some people are very threatened by this, precisely because it may be that the results of this work are going to show that women were leaders in the early church. It's going to ask people, I think, to rethink some really fundamental things about Christian theology, life and practice. And that can certainly be threatening.
PROF. MARVIN MEYER, CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY: One cannot alienate half of the human race and get away with it. That's not what spirituality is all about. These issues must be addressed, and they will have to be addressed if the church is going to survive.
ZAHN: It's a special with a lot of impact. CNN presents "THE TWO MARYS," narrated by Sigourney Weaver. Yes, that was Sigourney's voice you heard a little bit earlier on. That happens Sunday night at 8 eastern. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Maria Shriver has been a long-time correspondent for NBC News. But just over a year ago she became first lady of California. And Tuesday Maria and her husband, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, opened the 18th annual California Governor's Conference on Women and Family. More than 11,000 women were there.
And during a break Maria had a chance to talk with me about how she's adapting to her new role.
ZAHN: The last time we spoke you described your role as first lady being a work in progress. Do you still view it that way?
MARIA SHRIVER, FIRST LADY OF CALIFORNIA: Still -- still view it that way. And I hope, actually, I continue to view it that way as long as I'm in this job.
One of the great things about this job is that you're out meeting all kinds of people from all different walks of life every day. And in order, I think, to be open to them, to be able to listen to them, you have to be a work in progress, because you never know what a day is going to be like. You never know what a situation is going to be like.
And I hope I continue to treat it as a reporter would treat it, which is always looking for the right story, always keeping my ear to the ground.
ZAHN: The last time we spoke you were going through a bit of a rough transition, because you couldn't work at NBC anymore. Are you more comfortable with this phase of your life now, or do you still miss being on the tube?
SHRIVER: Oh, no, I miss -- I miss my work at NBC. That's the flat-out truth. I miss my role as a journalist. I miss the camaraderie that I had with the people there: my friends, producers there, the crew. I liked all of that.
And this job, you know, the fact is I could work 24/7 in this job and not even scratch the surface. But I've set a standard for myself in this job. I want to do it elegantly. I want to do it gracefully. I want to do it intelligently.
And at the end of the day I want people to know that I was there and that I tried to make a difference. And only then do I deserve to have my picture on the wall with the other first ladies.
ZAHN: You've been very forthcoming about the toll that political life takes. You talked about growing up in a family where politics ruled, unfortunately, taking your parents away from you at critical times in your life.
And I know one of your concerns when Arnold mentioned when he was going to run for governor, that you wanted to protect your children from some of the isolation you felt. How is that going for you?
SHRIVER: Actually they've learned to bend into the change of this past year, just as I have. And I said to them, you know, if you're in a family, we have to support people's decisions in the family, even if it's not exactly what we had in mind.
And one of the great things Linda Ellerbee talked about today, the only thing worse than change is not having change and not learning from change. Not being open enough to experience change.
And I have a great quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that sits above my computer, that says, "Try to do something every day that scares you."
So much of this new job has scared me. And it has been, you know, nerve-wracking to me. I didn't want to make a mistake. I thought what are people going to think? What am I going to do?
And you know what? A year and a half or whatever later, I'm OK. I'm sitting, but actually I'm still standing in it.
ZAHN: In "Vanity Fair" this month you also talk candidly about some of the allegations that surfaced in your husband's governor's campaign. And you talk about instituting news blackouts in your home to protect your children from some of the rumor and innuendo.
How painful was that period of time for you and your kids and your husband and your household? SHRIVER: I think I addressed it in that. I think anybody is foolish to think that when things are said about people it's not painful to the people. I think most people just say, oh well, you know, it doesn't bother them. Move on. But I think the truth is anybody will tell you that things like that are difficult or much of public life is difficult.
But you learn to know your own truth, your own life. You persevere, because life is about persevering. You cannot -- every time you hit a road bump, every time everybody says something about you, whether you're in high school, middle school, college, or as a grown-up, you cannot be deterred by what other people say about you or people in your family. I learned that as a child.
ZAHN: But what you've also learned along the way is you can't completely control your fate. If the Constitution is changed, do you think your husband would consider a run for the presidency?
SHRIVER: You know, I don't ever think about it. And you know, I try to do the best I can in this job. I want to, you know, raise good citizens. I want to get my kids out of high school and survive my girls' teenage years. That's what's on my radar. I don't think about other stuff like that.
ZAHN: You're not going to let a fellow journalist let you get away with that dodge, are you?
SHRIVER: Yes, I am. That's the truth. Girlfriend, that is the truth.
ZAHN: But is it, you know...
SHRIVER: I always tell you the truth, Paula, and that is the truth. It's not in my -- it's not in my power, and it's not in my life. It has nothing do with the way I live my life. I never -- I have to say I never think about.
I only think about when people like you ask me about it. Then I deflect it and I try to move on, because I don't want to think about it. It has nothing do with where I'm at in my life.
ZAHN: Maria Shriver, always great to see you. Good luck to you. We'll be watching with a lot of interest from here.
SHRIVER: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Take care.
SHRIVER: Thanks a lot. OK, bye-bye.
ZAHN: And we are going to be right back with a few laughs from late night TV, straight out of the break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Now on to the results of our question of the day. Thirty- four percent think the birth of Jesus happened exactly the way the Bible says. Sixty-six percent do not.
It's interesting but again, not a scientific poll, just a sampling of those of you who logged on to the web site.
So the revolving door at the White House has been keeping the late night comics very busy. Here's one take on the comings and goings in the president's cabinet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Meanwhile, back in Washington it was time for yet another episode of "America's Next Top Cabinet Official.:
Do you recall last week, Tom Ridge was booted, bringing to seven the number of cabinet members who have already said their sad farewells.
All right, here we go. The latest cabinet official to be booted is -- Tommy Thompson. Oh, congratulations. Elaine Chao, you are still in the running to be America's next top cabinet official.
Thompson used his farewell press conference to charm the press corps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I for the life of me cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Well, why can't you understand that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMPSON: Because it is -- it is so easy to do. And we're importing a lot of food from the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: It looks like Hamas has designs on our hummus. A fatwa on our falafel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Oh, Jon. And don't touch that dial because the Jon Stewart, the real Jon Stewart, happens to be Larry King's special guest. He's up next.
But tomorrow night we have a very special broadcast, incredible stories of uncommon bravery and courage, and we hope you will join us then. Thank you again for dropping by tonight. Good night.
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