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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Teflon Rove No More?; Homeless Warriors; Number of Anti-War Iraq Vets Growing?
Aired March 19, 2007 - 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, everybody. Glad to have you with us.
Out in the open tonight: the hidden scandal of U.S. troops home from the war in Iraq and homeless on the streets of America.
Also: the man President Bush's critics love to hate. Has Karl Rove's Teflon finally worn off?
Plus, a growing trend: Is it high time to end discrimination against short people?
Well, as you all know, it was exactly four years ago right now, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, that Saddam Hussein missed the deadline to clear out of Iraq or face the consequences. The bombs started falling about 90 minutes later.
As we know now, the consequences of the Iraq war have been much worse than anyone expected on that night. And support for the war has dropped steadily, from 72 percent in 2003, to only 32 percent in the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.
Tonight, I want to bring one of the unforeseen consequences of the war out in the open.
For all the talk we hear about supporting the troops, here is a shameful truth: hundreds of U.S. veterans have come home from the war, only to find themselves homeless.
We asked Kyung Lah to find out why.
KEVIN FELTY, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Here you go, ma'am. Sorry about your wait.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-six-year-old Kevin Felty fought on the front lines in Iraq. Now, just two years later, he's on a burger line. This is not the homecoming he imagined.
FELTY: And I tell people, look what I'm reduced to. You know, I was getting shot at by little kids, by pregnant women. And I'm asking, do you want fries with that? You know what I mean? It's -- it kills me every day.
LAH: This was Kevin in 2000. He joined the Army, fell in love, and married. In 2003, he was deployed to Iraq. After six months, he came home and was honorably discharged. He admits he wasn't the perfect soldier or father. After he left the structure of the military, he says life began to unravel.
FELTY: I can't place the blame on anybody but me. You know, maybe I just didn't put -- put in the effort I needed to.
LAH: Though he didn't realize it at the time, Felty was suffered from now diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. He says he couldn't hold down a job, couldn't afford an apartment. And he moved his family from couch to couch, until, eventually, they left him.
FELTY: I wasn't captured. I did my job perfectly. And I come home, I'm homeless. I have got nothing, you know, a couple bucks to my name.
LAH: Felty is one of a growing segment of America's homeless population, veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, their numbers are small, but the concern is a repeat of what the Vietnam War produced, thousands of homeless vets. But, this time, there's a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder and an economy with skyrocketing housing costs.
(on camera): Are you surprised that you're already seeing vets from this current conflict ending up homeless and on the street?
ED QUILL, VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA: I'm surprised that it's happening this fast, yes.
LAH (voice-over): Ed Quill works with the Volunteers of America, a nonprofit advocacy group for the homeless. They go out in search of vets in need, providing medical care and housing assistance.
QUILL: It makes me feel ashamed when I go home and I sit in my home, and I know a veteran who is out there and served to protect me doesn't have that same home.
LAH: This is Staff Sergeant Tracy Locket (ph), another veteran we met. Just three years ago, he specialized in chemical and biological weapons. Today, he's homeless.
(on camera): Tell me what this is again. What -- what address is this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 611 East Adams (ph) Street.
LAH: And what is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a homeless shelter.
LAH (voice-over): Advocates say the actual number is higher, but, in the last two years, the Department of Veterans Affairs counted 1,049 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who needed homeless services from the VA. PETE DOUGHERTY, HOMELESS VETERANS PROGRAMS DIRECTOR, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: What is alarming is if we didn't see some of them, and we weren't getting to them.
LAH: Pete Dougherty is the director of the VA's homeless program, and says vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are getting the help they need. For example, there are 40 percent more beds in VA shelters today than when the war started four years ago. And that's a sign the system is better equipped to help than it was after Vietnam.
DOUGHERTY: I think we, as a nation, and we, as a department, have come light years from where we used to be. I think we now recognize that the -- the best way to treat this is to go out and seek early intervention.
LAH: But activists say there's a gap between the defense department and the VA. All veterans aren't screened before getting discharged or helped with supportive housing.
(on camera): Are you glad to have a place a stay?
FELTY: Absolutely. I mean, it's better than the alternatives.
LAH (voice-over): Today, Felty lives in transitional housing. He owns virtually nothing, a few electronics, a prayer rug from Iraq, a shirt from his military days.
(on camera): When you compare the two situations, actually being in Iraq vs. the situation you are in now, which is harder?
FELTY: Probably this, because at least I had semblance of control, or at least fighting back, in Iraq, whereas, this, it's kind of a listless loneliness.
LAH (voice-over): Felty says he doesn't want a medal or money. He just wants America to see what sacrifice for country can look like once a soldier comes home to a home that's no longer there.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Cocoa, Florida.
ZAHN: And with me now are two outspoken veterans of the Iraq war. Paul Rieckhoff served in the Army and wrote about the war in a book called "Chasing Ghosts." He's the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Sergeant Patrick Campbell served in Iraq as a combat medic. He's now the legislative director for the same group.
Great to have both of you with us tonight.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Sergeant Campbell, when you came home, describe to us what it was like when you hit rock bottom.
PATRICK CAMPBELL, LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Well, I didn't know I had hit rock bottom.
I mean, I -- when I got home, I kissed the ground, went and got some beers, and went out with my friends. But, about three months later, I realized that I had alienated three of my best friends in the world by treating them so insincerely.
And it took about a month before a friend of mine gave me an ultimatum, and said: I'm not going to be your friend anymore unless you seek some help.
And it was only then that I realized that I couldn't handle the problems that I was facing by myself.
ZAHN: When you say you hurt the -- the three people dearest to you, you destroyed your family, didn't you?
CAMPBELL: My family was my friends. I mean, these were the three people that, when I was over there, who were sending me letters, the people who cared most about me, and made sure I was safe.
When I came home, I just -- I was completely insensitive. I wasn't aware of what I was doing. And I figured, if it didn't kill them, it didn't bother them. And, you know, that's not an attitude you can take when you're back home. I mean, that's the type of...
ZAHN: But, Sergeant, what were you doing that was so destructive?
CAMPBELL: Well, I was lying.
I was doing things I knew would hurt people. I mean, I -- I was just being generally insensitive. I -- it's really hard -- you know, when you leave, you know, people remember the person you were. And, then, when you come back, you're a completely different person. And the people who were my friends before thought, this is not the person we knew.
And, I mean, I don't want to get into the personal details, because it was -- it would hurt those people if I talked about them. But it just -- I just did things that weren't me and things I'm not proud of. And, because of that, I lost some of my closest friends.
ZAHN: Paul, I see you're nodding in agreement. You certainly have heard this from a lot of veterans you have interfaced with. Just share with us some of those stories.
RIECKHOFF: Well, I think it starts with the untreated mental health issues and a system that's really not ready to help them transition.
And a good example of what we saw was a guy named Harold Noel (ph), who was literally in Baghdad one week and in Brooklyn the next, and, within a few weeks, found himself living in his car on the streets of Brooklyn. He was frustrated. He had post-traumatic stress disorder. He tried to reach out and navigate the bureaucracy, but, pretty soon, he ended up homeless.
And he was one of a few that came to our offices. And we have seen dozens since then. We have seen homeless people with -- who are single children -- single parents with children. We have seen young veterans, all different types. But the numbers are out there, and they're significant, and they're growing.
ZAHN: And we heard that number may be as many as 1,400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars experiencing these problems. A lot of people think it's much larger than that.
I want to put up on the screen something that Senator Barack Obama had to say, as he pushed for additional funding for homeless vets: "Each and every night, more than 200,000 of our nation's veterans are homeless." This also includes the Vietnam population. "Our government is doing far too little to help these veterans find homes and employment."
Do you think our government is disgraced by how little they're doing for vets?
RIECKHOFF: I think they should be. I think the transitional programs that aren't there would shock most Americans. If you came out of a maximum security prison, you would have somebody to look in on you. You would have transitional housing. You would have job training.
If you come out of the Marine Corps, you're not going to get that same type of program. And that's how a slippery slope develops and people end up homeless. We saw this with Vietnam. We don't have to repeat the same mistakes.
ZAHN: Paul Rieckhoff, we appreciate your time tonight.
And, Sergeant Patrick Campbell, yours as well.
We would like to get your opinions out there as well about the war. Go to CNN.com/Paula. Vote on this question: Will the U.S. still be in Iraq four years from now?
Also out in the open: as the Iraq war enters its fifth year, why a sleepy looking coffee house is a sign that the peace movement is getting bigger and may be getting traction inside the military. We will take you there next.
Out in the open later: You may not believe what one state wants to spend an entire month honoring.
We will share it with you when we come back.
ZAHN: Tonight, four years after the Iraq war started, the peace movement is out in the open. Anti-war protesters went on the march across the country this weekend, marking the anniversary. Thousands took to the streets here in New York, in Washington, D.C., outside the Pentagon, and in the streets of San Francisco.
And you may be surprised to learn how many Iraq war veterans are part of that anti-war movement.
As Jim Acosta reports, near one major military base, they're taking a page from the Vietnam era.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the snow-covered streets of Watertown, New York, not far from the 15,000 soldiers at the huge Fort Drum military base, there's something brewing inside this Internet cafe.
MATT HOWARD, IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR: We have destroyed their country. That is our legacy in Iraq.
ACOSTA: It's a lot more than coffee. Here, veterans of the Iraq war share their stories and their doubts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people of Iraq want nothing more than their country back.
ACOSTA: The vets call it a G.I. coffee house, and claim it's the first of its kind in the country -- the first of its kind, that is, since the Vietnam War, when G.I. coffee houses sprang up across America, places where soldiers who were against the war could meet. They put a veteran's face on that era's anti-war movement.
While these Iraq war vets weren't even born in the '60s and early '70s...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that was taken away from me when they lied to us and they sent us to this war.
ACOSTA: ... what they're saying now might sound awfully familiar.
Matt Hrutkey says he is haunted by the memories of his one-year deployment with the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum. He never really knew whether to pity the Iraqi people...
MATT HRUTKEY, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: When you have pulled someone out of their car with their screaming kids and their wife on the side of the road, pointed a gun at a child, I don't see any way how you could come back and not have a problem with that.
ACOSTA: ... or to fear them.
HRUTKEY: This is actually a picture of my battalion's first truck that was blown up while we were in Iraq.
ACOSTA: Hrutkey says his platoon was hit by roadside bombs 22 times in the year they were in Iraq.
HRUTKEY: My question is, what is the mission in Iraq right now? It felt like we were the cheese in a mousetrap, just waiting for a bomb to explode.
HOWARD: That whole society is -- is being grossly affected by -- by daily violence, which will no doubt take years, if not decades, to recover from.
ACOSTA: Matt Howard, a member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War, hopes the coffee house will be the start of something bigger.
HOWARD: One of the things that really ended the war was active- duty resistance, soldiers laying down their arms and saying: You know what? I'm not going to do this anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: What do we want?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Peace!
ACOSTA: It's a message veterans groups are taking to peace marches across the country, like this one in New York over the weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should bring the troops home right away.
ACOSTA: Those on active duty who speak do out, like reservist Jose Vasquez (ph), are putting their military careers on the line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I opposed the war from the beginning.
ACOSTA (on camera): Why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, I just didn't think the reasons that they were giving us were, you know, above board.
ACOSTA (voice-over): These days, it's a little easier to spread the protest message. Iraq Veterans Against the War can take their cause online.
But Iraq vet Drew Cameron (ph) says the hard questions are still on the menu here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When veterans can come together, and they can be honest about the brutality that we were asked to do about other people, and we -- and we can come together say, you know what, we're not OK with that.
ACOSTA: Times have changed. But, for these vets, the mission remains the same: Stop the war. Bring the soldiers home.
Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: Let's get straight to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, Keith Boykin, who was a Clinton White House aide and now hosts the BET show "My Two Cents," conservative commentator/constitutional lawyer Mark Smith, and Air America radio host Rachel Maddow.
Glad to have all you back with us tonight.
Now, Mark, I know you think these coffee houses are a joke, but you're not going to stand here and tell me tonight that you believe these vets who have come home actually want America to lose this war, are you?
MARK SMITH, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR & CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: Look, they certainly have a right to express their views. But, to me...
ZAHN: But answer the question.
SMITH: Yes. Anybody who is basically anti-war, to me, is essentially aiding and abetting our enemies.
We need to be unified in time of war. And that's what we're facing. We're facing a serious threat from Islamic fascists. And to the extent that there are groups out there encouraging soldiers and encouraging the country to be dissuaded from this -- this noble effort, to me, absolutely is a joke.
ZAHN: These are the men and women that have served over there.
I want you all to take a look at some numbers.
SMITH: Paula, we have 3.5 million people in the armed service. You can always a few bad apples in anything.
ZAHN: A few? But hang on.
SMITH: And that's what we're talking about, Paula.
ZAHN: Before you jump in here, let's put up on the screen a survey of active-duty military members. This was done back in 2004. Eighty-three percent of troops believed at that time it was likely the U.S. would succeed in Iraq. At the end of 2006, only 50 percent feel that way.
Only -- if only half of our troops feel that the U.S. can succeed in Iraq, this can't -- it's not a joke.
SMITH: You don't win wars and fight wars with public policies and with respect to polling. Polls don't win wars. Strong leadership wins wars.
KEITH BOYKIN, HOST, "MY TWO CENTS": Well, strong leadership is debatable, because these troops are courageous -- not only courageous; they're patriotic. They reflect not only the sentiment of the American people, which are strongly against this war, but also the sentiments of the troops themselves; 72 percent of the troops, according to a poll last year, want to come home. They want to be withdrawn from Iraq.
So, I think, if anything is unpatriotic, it's to send these troops into harm's way without an exit strategy or a clear mission, and to mistreat them when they come home. That's the real tragedy.
RACHEL MADDOW, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: My issue is that the idea that, if you don't support the war in Iraq, you don't believe there's a threat from Islamic fascism, or you don't believe that we were actually caused real harm on 9/11.
I believe there's a real threat from Islamic extremism around the world. I believe that we're really targeted by terrorists. And I think that the thing that is hampering us the most in fighting that fight is being bogged down in Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, had no support to terrorists.
And we have created a problem there that's distracted us from what we ought to be doing. I don't want to be told that I'm rooting against America by thinking we chose the wrong strategy. I get to argue in this, too.
ZAHN: You talk about rooting against America.
ZAHN: Let me put up...
ZAHN: ... something else...
SMITH: Sure. Sure.
ZAHN: ... I want you to analyze. It's an online letter with some 1,700 active-duty members who have signed on to show their support for withdrawal from Iraq.
It reads, in part: "As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home."
SMITH: History has proven that statement false.
SMITH: Since 9/11, there has not been a single terrorist attack on American soil. Why? Because we have moved the war on terror from our backyards in New York and Chicago, and we have moved it to the Middle East, which is exactly what...
ZAHN: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
BOYKIN: Thank you.
SMITH: Iraq aided and abetted and supported Islamic fascists.
ZAHN: We heard the president actually say that at a news conference.
SMITH: The war on terror has moved to the Middle East.
SMITH: We want to fight the war in their neighborhoods, in their backyards, not here in the states.
SMITH: That's why this worked.
BOYKIN: The truth is, Mark -- and you know this as well as I do -- the four years before 9/11, there was no terrorist attack in the U.S.
So, just because you go four years without a terrorist attack doesn't mean you're winning in the war. This war has gone on longer than any other war in recent history, except for Vietnam. It's gone on longer than the civil war, longer than World War I or World War II. They know it's unwinnable. That's why the soldiers are opposed to this war, because we cannot win.
SMITH: And the war is going to keep on going as long as Islamic fascists want to kill us. That's why we need to be in Iraq.
ZAHN: And we have got to move on.
Save that thought, please.
ZAHN: A lot more to discuss.
ZAHN: And if you want to join in our conversation, please send us an e-mail to NOW@CNN.com. Our panelists will look them over, won't you, please? You will get to answer the first one, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
ZAHN: And we will read some of them on the air a little bit later this hour. I won't give you the buzzer the next time.
ZAHN: One of President Bush's top advisers seems to have his fingerprints on one of Washington's hottest scandals. Out in the open next: the man some critics ball President Bush's brain. Is Karl Rove's Teflon finally wearing off?
And a little bit later on: a part of history that many people still consider a national shame. Can you believe one state wants to spend a whole month celebrating it?
We will explain when we come back.
ZAHN: Don't forget about tonight's "Quick Vote." You can see what it looks on our Web site, CNN.com/Paula. Tell us, yes or no, will the U.S. still be in Iraq four years from now?
And, while you're on the Web, send a short e-mail to NOW@CNN.com. We will read your responses a little bit later on.
Out in the open tonight: a red-hot political scandal that has Capitol Hill Democrats licking their chops, and the White house circling the wagons around one of President Bush's top advisers. You, of course, have heard his name before, Karl Rove. Until now, he has been the president's Teflon man. No political attack ever seems to stick to him.
But, this time, Rove is linked to a scandal over the firings of eight federal prosecutors. And, right at this moment, a flood of new documents about the firings has just arrived on Capitol Hill. And you can bet that a lot of eyes will be scanning them, looking for anything with Karl Rove's name on it.
Let's turn to White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, who joins me live.
What can you tell us about these documents, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Paula, as you mentioned, of course, they just arrived, the House and the Senate Judiciary Committees, boxes and boxes -- we're -- we're about 2,000 pages. So, we're all going to be combing through these to figure out what they actually reveal.
We don't know at this moment, but we are looking for anything that might, of course, point to Rove and some other players in this scandal. So far, the e-mails that have come out before really show, just after the 2004 campaign, the election, that Rove and Gonzales were very deeply involved in at least discussing the fate of these U.S. attorneys from the very beginning, even before Gonzales officially became the attorney general.
Now, there is no wrongdoing in that, necessarily. White House officials have also said that it was Harriet Miers, the former counsel to the president, who originally said, let's go ahead and get rid of all 93 of those U.S. attorneys.
Now the White House is backing down from that claim. They say, well, that's what Rove remembers; that's what he understands, and he quickly dismissed that idea as a bad one.
But, Paula, you can tell what is happening here. Republican lawmakers are just going crazy over this, saying this factual fuzziness is turning something that's a legitimate process of getting rid of these attorneys into a near scandal.
The Democrats are saying, look, this is exactly why we need Rove up on the Hill testifying under oath -- Paula.
ZAHN: Well, the one thing that no one can dispute is the fact that he's one of the president's most powerful advisers in the White House. So, should anybody be surprised to find his name in any of these e-mails regarding personnel matters?
MALVEAUX: Well, you bring up a very good point, Paula.
I mean, this is a man who the president -- the president calls the architect, boy genius. He even calls him a turd blossom, which, believe it or not, is a term of endearment, a Texas flower that actually grows in cow dung.
But this is somebody who's been by the president from the very beginning. He's involved in so many different areas. His credibility and his profile, however, have diminished to a certain extent because of the CIA leak investigation. He wasn't implicated, necessarily, but he went time and time again before that group of -- in court to testify about that, wasn't charged with anything there, but, certainly, a dark cloud over him, and, then, the midterm elections, which just did not go his way -- so, dimming a little bit of his reputation there, but he's still a very powerful figure here -- Paula.
ZAHN: You get any read on those e-mails, we will come back to you live to assess it for us.
Suzanne Malveaux, thanks.
ZAHN: We're going to move on now.
With me now is a reporter who co-wrote a couple of books about Karl Rove. Wayne Slater followed up the bestseller "Bush's Brain" with a second volume called "The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power."
WAYNE SLATER, AUTHOR, "THE ARCHITECT: KARL ROVE AND THE MASTER PLAN FOR ABSOLUTE POWER": Great to be with you, Paula.
ZAHN: Thank you.
We just heard Suzanne describe that Mr. Rove's credibility has been compromised by a bunch of these White House scandals. The fact is, his name keeps on popping up in conjunction with them. Is he really a master of dirty political tricks, or is he just a real easy target for the Democrats?
SLATER: Well, he's -- I think he's probably both.
He certainly is a prime target for Democrats. But, you know, his entire history here in Texas, and more recently in Washington, has been to be involved in campaigns where bad things happen to his opponents and very good things happen to his clients. And George Bush is only one of those.
I think what happens time and time again is, in cases of scandal or dirty politics, or maybe politics as usual, is that, once you scratch the surface, you always find Karl Rove around somewhere.
ZAHN: Why -- what makes him so good at it?
SLATER: Well, he's good. He's -- of course, he's absolutely brilliant. He's a great strategic thinker, politically.
And he's also someone who absolutely is enormously competitive. I mean, he wants to win at almost any cost. And you look at the situation in Texas, where, when he is on the one side, whether it's George Bush or other candidates, like the agricultural commissioner some years ago in Texas, past governors of Texas, other candidates, bad things happen to the people who he's against.
ZAHN: All right.
SLATER: And, very often, you don't find his fingerprints. That's why this last round is so unusual.
ZAHN: Well, let's fast-forward to what you're referring to on -- now he finds himself, of course, at the center of this controversy over the firing of federal prosecutors. And he's been accused by Valerie Plame Wilson of outing her as a CIA operative.
Is he a tremendous liability for the president? Should the president get rid of him?
SLATER: Well, he -- he is something of a political liability. He's certainly a lightning rod. The president is not likely to get rid of him.
Understand where Karl Rove came from. He made George Bush the governor of Texas. And he was instrumental in George Bush's entire political life. Back in 1990, Karl sat in this city, Austin, Texas, with a political operative, and said: I know who I can make governor of Texas. George Bush would be a fantastic candidate. He can become president of the United States.
In 1990, George Bush was the managing general partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. That relationship, Rove and Bush, began before George Bush even knew his entire political career was about to take off like a rocket.
ZAHN: Final question for you. His tactics have been compared to the Watergate era abuse of power. Is that a valid criticism?
SLATER: I think the one thing that is valid is that Rove's approach is that politics is policy. That the government is basically a large political machine. And so to the extent that some of the Watergate conspirators found themselves bending policy, what's good for the country, on the basis of what's good for Richard Nixon or the administration, you see a parallel.
We see it again and again in the case of Karl Rove. And it appears to be the pattern that we're looking at now. You turn policy in exchange for partisan political gain. If that's what the Senate finds out, if that's what's proved, it looks very much like the Watergate era.
ZAHN: Wayne Slater, thanks. Appreciate your time tonight.
SLATER: Good to be with you.
"Out in the Open" next, a part of U.S. history that some people still want an apology for. Can you believe that one U.S. state wants to spend a whole month celebrating its Confederate heritage? What kind of message does that send?
And we'd like you to join the conversation. Please send us an e- mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Our panel will read them on the air a little bit. In fact, they're going through them right now. How are they? Thumbs up? Oh, only one thumbs up. Keep them coming. You have got a little more homework to do out there, folks. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, a growing controversy in Georgia where state lawmakers are fighting over proposals to honor Confederate heritage and calls to apologize for slavery. That going on at the same time. State Senator Jeff Mullis says: "The month of April would be set aside to honor, observe, and celebrate the Confederate States of America, those who served in its armed forces and government and all of those millions of citizens of various races and ethnic groups who contributed to the cause of Southern independence." But he doesn't want to apologize for slavery, which is what the local NAACP wants Georgia to do. So apologize for slavery or honor the Confederate flag? Our panel again, Keith Boykin, Rachel Maddow, Mark Smith.
Is this a totally racist move on the lawmaker's part? Not the apology part, but to set aside an entire month to honor the Confederate legacy?
BOYKIN: It's completely unnecessary. It's ridiculous. Of course, it has some racist overtones to it. I mean, slavery and Confederacy go hand-in-hand. What the Confederacy represents is slavery. It representatives people who were traitors against the United States government, who took up arms against our own country.
How dare we honor that in a heritage month? And forget the ugly history of slavery and segregation and the South before the Civil War that it represents. We don't want to go backwards.
ZAHN: You're laughing. How can you laugh about that?
SMITH: Yes, look, look, here's the thing. I think every day should be American history day. But now that we have this trend of making every day or every month some special event for some marginal group or discrete group...
ZAHN: This is not a marginal group, these are state lawmakers in Georgia.
SMITH: The point is now that we have this trend of making every day and every month special, then why not have Confederate history day as well or history month as well. Because think about it this way...
MADDOW: What are you, going to celebrate the shame of slavery?
SMITH: No, no. No, no, no. We have Holocaust Day right now, and you don't celebrate the Holocaust. It is to learn about the events. And bear in mind that you can't just use slavery to disqualify such an event, because otherwise you couldn't study Greek history, you couldn't study Roman history. You couldn't study American history, because every civilization and every culture has had slavery going back to the beginning of time. Slavery cannot disqualify learning about a point in history.
BOYKIN: Just a minute ago you were criticizing U.S. soldiers who were -- you called them basically traitors because they were speaking out using their constitutional rights, and now you want to defend people who were traitors against the United States government? You want to defend their right to have a holiday to celebrate people that were traitors? Who took up arms against this country to defend slavery? You want to defend the indefensible?
SMITH: First of all, I don't think they're talking about a holiday. They're talking about a month in which you learn about things. And remember, there's nothing wrong with learning about things that are bad. To learn about slavery, to learn about these things, to me, education is appropriate and good.
SMITH: Even if you learn about things that are undesirable so that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past.
MADDOW: Mark, if this were Civil War history month that they were proposing, you would be right. This is "Confederate Heritage Month." I mean, it's the equivalent of saying, let's have "lynching pride weekend." Come on, I mean, this not about remembering the good and bad about the Confederacy. This is about celebrating our Confederate heritage. This is not the same thing has memorializing the Holocaust, and you know it. And to say that it is -- doesn't have racist overtones is to be deliberately blind to what they're trying to do. Come on. You're smarter than that.
SMITH: Look, the bottom line is this is about a month in which you learn about heritage of the Confederacy. My family is from the North, so this doesn't mean a lot to me. But you cannot say that just because an institution or a cultural -- or a civilization had slavery means we can't learn about it. Because all places all over the world had slavery and we should still learn about them as well.
ZAHN: Quickly, onto what the head of the NAACP in Georgia has to say about this proposed bill. Quote: "Although the supporters of the Confederate history bill feel responsible to honor the past deeds of their ancestors, they resist all notions that they have any responsibility to apologize to their ancestors' victims. This reeks of hypocrisy."
Isn't it hypocritical?
BOYKIN: Exactly, it is hypocritical.
SMITH: Who are we going to apologize to? Who is alive -- what slave is alive to apologize to? We didn't own slaves. Well, why are we apologizing? The problem is...
MADDOW: Mark, the foundation of early American economy was the slave economy.
SMITH: ... we should be focused on today and the future.
MADDOW: We wouldn't have the economy or even the country that we have today were it not for the slave economy. We're all still affected by the economic system set up by slavery. You can't say, I'm opting out. I don't have responsibility.
SMITH: And we already apologized. We already apologized. We already apologized. It was cause to 600,000 Americans that gave their lives to free the slaves in the Civil War, that to me is enough of an apology. From this day forward, we should worry about the future...
BOYKIN: Well, you know... (CROSSTALK)
SMITH: Not 150 years in the past.
MADDOW: And we should honor the people who fought to keep slavery by this Confederate heritage month?
BOYKIN: You're denying history.
ZAHN: You get the quick final thought.
BOYKIN: You're denying history. We don't really need an apology. We need to deal with the vestiges of slavery that still exist for black people in this country. That's what we need to do first.
SMITH: And apologizing for slavery will not help today or the future.
BOYKIN: You're so wrong.
SMITH: You just need to focus on the future and not the past.
BOYKIN: I wish I had time to tell you how wrong you are.
ZAHN: And you think a simple apology is going to change the economic disparity that...
BOYKIN: No, an apology is not enough. An apology is not enough.
MADDOW: The road reparations is what you need to be on.
ZAHN: A lot more to talk about tonight. And if you want to join the conversation, please send us an e-mail at email@example.com. Our panelists will look them over and read some a little bit later on.
If you happen to be short, do you feel like the whole world is picking on you? Well, then drop us a quick e-mail sharing your experience. That address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Everybody stick around because some short people are fighting back and you're going to meet them on the other side of this break.
And while you're on the Web, remember our quick vote question at cnn.com/paula. You can see where to find the question. Vote yes or no. Will the U.S. still be in Iraq four years from now?
ZAHN: We all know we're not supposed to discriminate based on race, color, creed, or gender, but tonight we're bringing another kind of discrimination "Out in the Open." How many of us make judgments based on a person's height? Well, they call it "heightism." And there's even a push in one state to make height discrimination against the law. And if you don't think height makes a difference in your life, take a look at this report from Dan Lothian.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was good enough to be a cop and serve in the Army. But Mathew Campisi says some people treat him like a second-class citizen.
(on camera): What do people say to you? What do they call you?
MATHEW CAMPISI, NATL. ASSOC. OF SHORT STATURED ADULTS: Well, I've been called a runt, a pipsqueak. Whenever some is mad at me, the first word is that little you know what.
LOTHIAN: That little what?
CAMPISI: That little, you know, SOB or...
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Campisi is a 5'5'' building inspector in Pensacola, Florida. He says while some people may think twice about making fun of those who suffer from dwarfism, they think nothing of discriminating against someone who is merely short.
CAMPISI: People will definitely insult me and not feel any qualms about it, any problem with it.
ELLEN FRANKEL, AUTHOR, "BEYOND MEASURE": It's so rampant and yet so invisible.
LOTHIAN: Ellen Frankel (ph), at 4'8 1/2'', says she faces heightism almost daily.
FRANKEL: A lot of, oh, you can't have children. You look like a child. They use you as an arm rest.
LOTHIAN: This Massachusetts wife and mother of two has enough stories to fill more than 250 pages of her new book, "Beyond Measure."
FRANKEL: Now everybody wants to feel that they're seen in this world. Everybody wants a true sense of power, of being respected. And when you're hearing those kind of comments from strangers and friends, it's hard.
LOTHIAN: All the jokes, the embarrassment and the helplessness has led some short people to commit or consider suicide.
(on camera): Did it ever get that bad for you?
CAMPISI: I came close, you know.
FRANKEL: I know for myself, it led to struggles with eating issues. And I know for many other women it has come out in similar ways. LOTHIAN: For many, it's painful just to do something as simple as walk out the door every morning, to be confronted by a public that is taller and full of bad jokes.
I can only imagine what they're dealing with because I'm 6'1'', 6'2". When I walk around town, unless I run into some NBA players, I rarely have to look up to anyone, or get referred to as the little guy.
But the name-calling only scratches the surface. In a nation where the average male is 5'9'', or 69 inches, and the average female is 5'4'', or 64 inches, measuring up is a constant struggle in life and in the workplace, where some say short people have a harder time moving up the corporate ladder or getting paid like their taller colleagues.
(voice-over): In a non-scientific speed dating experiment conducted by CNN more than year ago, some compelling evidence. Seven single men equal in most ways except height, set out to go on 20 dates in less than 90 minutes. The short men ended up with four matches. The tall men had nine.
But what's more, when all the men were rated by the women, the tall men received higher marks on who was more confident or who would be a good leader or good provider.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People who are taller are perceived as better leaders.
CAMPISI: There is a glass ceiling for short men.
LOTHIAN (on camera): Some lawmakers want to help out. I'm here at the State House in Boston to meet with Representative Byron Rushing. He has a new bill that will, among other things, make it illegal to discriminate against people based on height.
And you want to offer a recourse?
BYRON RUSHING, MASS. STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I want to offer a recourse. I want people who are discriminated for those reasons to be able to say, oh, no, you can't do that.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Massachusetts would become only the second state after Michigan to offer this protection. Campisi, who also heads the National Organization of Short Statured people, is not only hoping for more laws, but for a public more aware of the injury their jokes can inflict.
CAMPISI: When I look in the mirror, I see a fully capable human being, you know, somebody that deserves just as much respect as somebody taller.
FRANKEL: There you can see the little wind coming off the summit of Everest.
LOTHIAN: Frankel, who takes her story to schools and conferences, has gained confidence by hiking around the world's highest peak, Mount Everest, she says, is the great equalizer.
FRANKEL: It really didn't matter if they were 6'4'' or 4'8''. You realize how little these inches really mean.
LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.
ZAHN: One more thing. What about human growth hormone to make short children grow taller? Both the people in our story are outspoken critics of growth hormones. They want to stop discrimination, not make people taller.
Our panelists will be right back with some of your e-mails. It isn't too late to drop us a line about any of the subjects we've covered so far. Keep them coming. The address is email@example.com. Coming back at you in a couple of minutes.
ZAHN: We're bringing heightism "Out in the Open" tonight, talking about whether discrimination against short people should be banned. Back to our "Out in the Open" panel, Keith Boykin, Rachel Maddow, Mark Smith.
I guess I have to confess, between all of us, probably an average, six feet tall. We needed to explain that to our audience. But let's talk about this legislation that is being considered in Massachusetts. Isn't it a slippery slope to start fining people if they are discriminating against short people or not?
MADDOW: Well, I think that discrimination on the basis of any morally neutral characteristic, whether it's race or gender or height or disability or lack thereof, any of those things is ugly and cheap and we ought to try to get rid of it. The question is whether legislation is the right way to do that.
I don't know that, you know, if we started looking on people like Napoleon and Danny DeVito and as great moral upstanding models for life, maybe that would do more than banning heightist discrimination. I don't know.
SMITH: There are plenty of short people that are extremely successful and are very famous and have changed the world for the better. So to me, talking about discrimination against short people is just silly. And all it can possibly do, frankly, is to encourage more lawsuits in a nation that already has too many of them.
BOYKIN: Well, I disagree with what you said there because there are plenty of black people who are famous and have money, but that doesn't mean that black people don't suffer discrimination. The same thing with all of the other groups of people who suffer discrimination. You have to look at more than just the isolated cases. Of course there's discrimination against people who are short, the question is..
ZAHN: Do we need legislation, though?
BOYKIN: Yes. The question is, what do you do about it? And that is not really clear. And I think that's what Rachel was saying. It may not be the best way to tackle the problem, but there is a problem, don't deny it.
ZAHN: I want to move on to our quick vote question that we posted a little bit earlier tonight. Do you think the U.S. will still be in Iraq four years from now? Seventy percent of you said yes, 30 percent say no. Interesting results, although we need to make it pretty clear this is not a scientific sampling.
You're not surprised by these numbers, are you?
SMITH: No, no. And I actually...
ZAHN: Do you think we will be in Iraq four years from now, and how many, how many soldiers?
SMITH: I think we will be in Iraq for four years. I don't know the numbers, but I can tell you that we need to have boots on the ground in the Middle East for decades to come whether we like it or not, because the Islamic fascists that declared war on us, we need to be in their backyards in the Middle East, and Iraq is as good as any other place in the Middle East for our soldiers to be.
MADDOW: Just any place that are the Arabs? Then it is OK? Really? I mean, any place in the Middle East? Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on us.
SMITH: The mother lode where the Islamic fascist threat comes from is the Middle East whether we like it or not. We need to be...
MADDOW: Just the Middle East generally? We should all just be -- we can all be in Bahrain and we'd be...
SMITH: We can be in Saudi Arabia. We can be in Iraq. Perhaps we should be in Iran.
SMITH: I'm willing to let our military leaders make the decision, but we need to be in the Middle East where Islamic fascists threat comes from.
MADDOW: Mark, how about a country where four-fifths of the population doesn't want us to leave? How about a population where the people who live there think that us leaving would make them more safe. If we can pick anywhere in the Middle East, really, then let's pick a place that would love to have us. Right now we've got a lot of bases in a lot of places where they're not dying to get us off of their soil. You've got to be kidding me.
ZAHN: All right. I want to move us along. Because I know this will get even a hotter response to some of the e-mails we've gotten from you tonight. Our first one comes from Thor. And this was responding to a story we did at the top of the hour about Vietnam and Iraq War veterans coming home, how they're treated and current soldiers being critical of this war effort.
He writes: "I'm so sick of soldiers who voice out their opinions against the war in Iraq on news. As soldiers we are not allowed to choose our wars, we just perform out duties. Another thing I'm so tired about is CNN always constantly shadowing grim reports on Iraq. Those soldiers who protest against the Iraq army, either in or out of uniform, are a disgrace to their uniform."
ZAHN: You would argue they were traitors earlier on.
SMITH: Well, look, you know, John Kerry became a presidential candidate because he became famous by protesting the Vietnam War. Obviously one person...
ZAHN: He fought in the Vietnam War.
SMITH: Right. Obviously one path to political success is...
BOYKIN: He was also a U.S. senator, remember that.
SMITH: That's right. And how did he become a U.S. senator? In part because of his fame that he got from being anti-war and opposing the Vietnam War. Not a bad political strategy for John Kerry. It worked for him. It may work for others.
BOYKIN: Well, obviously it didn't work for John Kerry in terms of getting elected president. But the issue here is bigger than this, because the truth is, when you send people to war, you don't give them the support they need, you bring them back to the country and you put them in rat-infested hospitals and then you let them survive homeless on their own. I mean, we don't really care about our soldiers. That's a disgrace. And this administration should be ashamed of its policy toward the U.S. troops. That's not support.
ZAHN: Have to close it on this note, you got one from a young man who says he thinks you should go sit back at some desk in a corner as you have not served in Iraq and you are not qualified to comment on the men and women who are risking their lives for our nation.
SMITH: Well, you know, I never served in the DEA, but I oppose illegal drug use. Just because you didn't serve doesn't mean you can't have an opinion that's educated.
ZAHN: All right. Got to leave it there. Keith Boykin, Rachel Maddow, Mark Smith, thank you all. We are just minutes away from the top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE." Larry's guest for the hour, Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And we have some breaking news to finish off tonight within the growing scandal over the firing of the U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration. In just this hour, a batch of administration documents reached Capitol Hill. It is now in the hands of congressional investigators. Our Dana Bash has confirmed that these documents include e-mails and memos regarding the U.S. attorney firings.
Among the things a number of legislators are interested in is the extent to which Karl Rove may have been involved in these personnel matters. He of course is probably one of the most prominent people within the administration advising the president. We'll have the latest for you as we continue to get the facts.
Until then, have a great night. Thanks again for dropping. We'll be back same time, same place again tomorrow night. Until then, good night.
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