The question from panelist Lester Holt seemed simple enough: Did President Bush lie to the American people about the war in Iraq, and if so, why?

"Well, first of all, I think that if he did know he was lying and was lying, that's even worse," Al Sharpton explained. "Clearly, he lied. Now if he is an unconscious liar, and doesn't realize when he's lying, then we're really in trouble. Because, absolutely, it was a lie."

As the audience began to murmur and laugh, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) was caught on camera trying unsuccessfully to stifle a chuckle. Sharpton was just getting warmed up.

"They said they knew the weapons were there. . . . So I hope he knew he was lying, because if he didn't, and just went in some kind of crazy, psychological breakdown, then we are really in trouble. Clearly, you know, I'm a minister. Why do people lie? Because they're liars. He lied in Florida; he's lied several times. I believe he lied in Iraq," he concluded, to heavy applause.

Undaunted, Holt, of MSNBC, sought clarification. "Why would he lie?" the panelist asked.

After another long response, Sharpton said the definitive account should be left to Bush: "I think we should give him the rest of his retirement to figure that out and explain to us."

-- Jonathan Finer