updated 2/17/2006 4:16:06 PM ET 2006-02-17T21:16:06

Guests: Robi Ludwig, Anthony Griffin, Savannah Guthrie, Bill Fallon, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Claudia Rosett, Ian Williams, Peter King, Steve Rendall, Eric Dezenhall

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  And right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no charges against Cheney.  A Texas sheriff shuts down the investigation of Vice President Cheney‘s shooting accident.  But some Republicans are calling Cheney—quote—“a hate magnet” and asking if it‘s time for him to go. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required, only common sense allowed. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, thanks so much for being with us tonight. 

We‘re going to talk about the continuing fallout from the vice president‘s shooting accident.  Has he gotten too hot for some Republicans?

Plus, a United Nations report attacks the United States and asks if we should shut down the prison for al Qaeda thugs at Guantanamo Bay.  So, why is the United Nations trying to run America‘s foreign policy?  That‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY‘s showdown.  And we will have that in a minute.

And it looks like Michael Jackson could lose his kids.  His ex-wife‘s fighting for custody.  And we will have that story later in the show. 

But, first, the white-hot fallout from the vice president‘s shooting accident.  Today, President Bush made his first public comments on the issue. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I thought the vice president handled the issue just fine.  He went through a—and I thought his explanation yesterday was a powerful explanation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, the big news out of Texas today, officials there have cleared the vice president of any charges related to the shooting and shut down the investigation. 

NBC‘s Janet Shamlian is in Corpus Christi, Texas, right now, with the latest on that story.

Janet, bring us up to date?  What‘s going on tonight?

JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Joe.

Well, indeed, the sheriff‘s department has closed the investigation as of this evening into the accidental shooting of 78-year-old Harry Whittington, saying no charges will be filed against Vice President Dick Cheney in connection with the accident Saturday night at the Armstrong ranch in South Texas. 

They have included comments by Harry Whittington.  In an interview with him that is included in that report, he says that no drinking was involved and that all parties involved were wearing those bright orange safety vests.  Basically, the report follows the vice president‘s account of events that happened on the ranch Saturday night. 

They say nothing further will result from the investigation.  That investigation is now closed.  As for Whittington, Joe, he is still here.  He‘s in stable condition, but said to be doing well and could return to his home in Austin, Texas, as soon as this weekend.  So, that‘s good news from this end here in Corpus Christi—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Janet, the word in Washington, D.C., that people are whispering about, what you are seeing on the Internet, what you have heard Alan Dershowitz talk about, what people have been talking about on our show the past couple nights, what Democrats are suggesting is that alcohol was in fact involved. 

Have you heard anything down there from law enforcement officers or anybody close to the investigation that, for any reason at all, they‘re not buying this argument that Dick Cheney only drank one beer that day before the shooting? 

SHAMLIAN:  Nothing whatsoever.  They say they were the ones on the scene.  They believe the accounts from Harry Whittington, from the vice president, from Katharine Armstrong.  And they consider the case closed. 

Around here, where we have got a convergence of national media, we‘re hearing the same things that you‘re reporting from there, but they consider this case closed and will take it no further, they say. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Janet Shamlian, thank you so much for that report.  We really appreciate it. 

Right now, let‘s bring in New York Congressman Peter King, and Steve Rendall of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, and also crisis management expert author Eric Dezenhall.  He‘s the author of the new book “Turnpike Flameout.”

Let me start with you, Steve.

It certainly sounds to me, if you listen to the news coming out of Texas, that this story is over.  Do you agree with that? 

STEVE RENDALL, FAIRNESS AND ACCURACY IN REPORTING:  Well, I‘m not sure it‘s over. 

I—I think the thing that you have to take into account here is, you have the most secretive official in what might be the most secretive administration ever, who appoints a private citizen, Katharine Armstrong, to take care of the press business of the White House. 

Armstrong goes out and tells the press that, one, Harry Whittington is fine; he‘s not seriously hurt, that these kinds of accidents happen all the time, that no alcohol was involved whatsoever, that only Dr. Pepper was served at lunch.

And, most importantly, she suggests that Harry Whittington, the victim, was to blame for the shooting.  Now, I would say any astute reporter, not the sort of palace court reporters they have over at FOX News, would want to ask the vice president, Mr. President—Vice President, if you take responsibility for this shooting, how can you stand by that press policy, a press policy that left your friend, the friend you shot, Harry Whittington, hanging out to dry for three days, blamed by the account?

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Steve, you‘re not suggesting, though, that there‘s a cover-up here, are you?  Do you think—what are you suggesting, that Dick Cheney may have been drunk, and that‘s why he shot his friend? 

RENDALL:  I‘m not suggesting that.  I think that the fact that Katharine Whittington‘s (sic) story doesn‘t jibe with Cheney‘s—Cheney says he had a beer.  She said there was absolutely no alcohol there; only Dr. Pepper was served at lunch. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But she‘s not a public official, though, right? 

RENDALL:  No, she‘s not, but she was anointed by—by Cheney to do the White House‘s business, to act as a press secretary. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  She made a mistake. 

RENDALL:  Excuse me.

SCARBOROUGH:  She made an honest mistake, right?

RENDALL:  She may have made an honest mistake, but she raises issues that were not answered by FOX News and Brit Hume and the softball treatment that was afforded the—you would really need to have a press conference where Cheney answers these questions by a bunch of—from a bunch of reporters, and then you might find out, and you might also raise some issues about Cheney‘s past. 

This is a guy who had some drinking problems in college, a guy that has two drunk driving arrests, two DWIs.  These are issues that are worth asking about.  And I think that box was opened, that question was left open when Katharine Armstrong came out and said that there was absolutely no alcohol there, and Cheney admitted that he did have a beer. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Congressman King, we‘re hearing this more and more.

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  Yes, sir.

SCARBOROUGH:  We are hearing about Dick Cheney‘s two DUIs.  We‘re hearing about the fact that they started out saying that they were just drinking Dr. Pepper on the ranch.  And then it turned out into the fact that he drank one beer on the ranch.

Now many people are wondering if one beer means three beers or four beers.  And, Peter, the reason why people are still talking about this—my Republican friends don‘t like me saying it—is because they kept the vice president away from the police officers after the shooting. 

Will you admit tonight that the White House screwed up, that the vice president screwed up, and that‘s why they‘re having to hear all these conspiracy theories out there by Dershowitz, by Steve, by other people? 

KING:  Well, first of all, they are conspiracy theories. 

No, listen, Dick Cheney could have handled it differently.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But how do you know that, though? 

KING:  How do you...

SCARBOROUGH:  How do you know it‘s a conspiracy theory?

KING:  How can you disprove anything?

Joe, the fact is, if they had contacted the press on Saturday night, they could still be coming up with the same theories.  The only people who would know are the people who were there.  And they are saying that there was no significant drinking at all.  Apparently, the one statement by Dick Cheney is, he had one beer at lurch.  It was about three hours beforehand. 

Joe, I can‘t disprove a negative or prove a negative.  But the fact is, let‘s look at this.  This was immediately reported by the Secret Service to the local sheriff.  The fact is, the person was taken to the hospital.  The fact is that this all resulted because the White House press corps, which is the most self-indulgent, self-important, self-anointed group of phonies in the country, is outraged because Dick Cheney did not contact them immediately. 

It is not Dick Cheney‘s style to deal with the White House press corps.  I wouldn‘t have handled it differently.  But the fact is, this doesn‘t go to any question of morality.  It‘s a question of style. 

And the fact that Mrs. Armstrong may have had a fact different or a fact wrong or a misinterpretation of the fact, that to me the genuineness.  If Dick Cheney or anybody in the vice president‘s office was trying to cover up what was going on, you wouldn‘t send a civilian out to talk to the press.  You wouldn‘t send someone out.

You would have this thing carefully scripted.  You would meet overnight with your advisers.  You would put together a finely written-out statement, have the lawyers vet it, and then put it out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, but, Peter, when you got the—when you got the vice president of the United States shooting a man in the face, you don‘t want him to wing it. 

If you were—you know, if you were a congressman, you went out hunting, you shot somebody in the face, would you leave it to somebody on Long Island that owned some property to tell “The New York Times” what happened, or would you take control of it? 

KING:  Well, as far as “The New York Times,” I wouldn‘t care who spoke to them. 

But the...

(LAUGHTER)

KING:  Joe, all kidding aside, Joe, all kidding aside, the point I‘m trying to make is, if there was any ulterior motive here, if they were trying to cover something up, you wouldn‘t send out a civilian out to do it. 

You get all the—you know, the media mavens in.  You get the P.R.  people in.  You get the image-makers in.  You go through the statement with a fine-tooth comb and you make sure everybody was saying the same thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

RENDALL:  They acted very suspiciously.  They acted very suspiciously here. 

And these—and I did not put forth a conspiracy theory.  I‘m saying these are some of the questions that are proliferating in the silence and in the vice president‘s refusal to answer to the press.  This is not a big demand on the vice president.  Vice presidents usually talk to the press when they‘re involved in national stories. 

These are the...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Peter King, former speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote this today, that the White House may be thinking about dumping Cheney. 

She said—quote—“I suspect what they‘re thinking and not saying is, if Dick Cheney were vice president, who would be—weren‘t—who would be a good vice president?  At a certain point, a hate magnet can draw so much hate, you don‘t want to hold it in your hand anymore.  You want to drop it and pick up something else.  Is this fair?  Nah.  But fair has nothing to do with it.”

Reading that, Peter, it reminded me of Newt Gingrich, who became such a hate magnet, that we got rid of him in 1998.  You think the same thing could happen to Dick Cheney in 2006? 

KING:  Absolutely not. 

George Bush, President George Bush, will stand by Dick Cheney.  He‘s a loyal—he‘s the most loyal person I have ever met.  And there‘s absolutely no reason at all.  Just because the White House press corps has got itself in a bad mood, just because the left-wing media hates Dick Cheney is all the more reason why George Bush will stay with him all the way.

There are so many important issues here in the world.  And the fact—

I—the point I was trying to make before, which seems—no one seems to be getting is, if these was mistakes made here, these are amateurish mistakes.  You don‘t send out a civilian to give your story if you‘re trying to cover something up. 

If you‘re vice president and you think you did something wrong in shooting someone, the last thing you‘re going to do is send out a woman who has no sophistication at all in dealing with the media.  You get your P.R.  guys in.  You get the—you know, the media people in, and then you spin the story.

You don‘t send—to me, if anything proves how innocent Dick Cheney is on this is the fact that he sent out an unsophisticated person, unsophisticated woman from Texas to speak to the media about this. 

(CROSSTALK)

RENDALL:  She‘s not an unsophisticated woman.  She‘s a very high-powered lobbyist. 

(CROSSTALK)

RENDALL:  She knows about public relations.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... high-powered lobbyist.

And I‘ll tell you what.  I don‘t buy this line at all.  And I will tell you why.  Like Einstein said, God doesn‘t play dice.

KING:  What don‘t you buy?

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t think Dick Cheney and George Bush play dice either. 

I think they‘re—they‘re brilliant.  Karl Rove is brilliant.  They know, politically, exactly what they‘re doing. 

But, Eric, let me bring you in.

You‘re a P.R. specialist.  What do you make of this fact that, you know, they send this lady out to talk about the vice president of the United States shooting a man in the face.  I don‘t know what it all means.  It just—sending Armstrong out makes absolutely no sense on the P.R.  front.  Why do you do it? 

ERIC DEZENHALL, AUTHOR, “SHAKEDOWN BEACH”:  Well, you know, the great mythology of crisis management is that there are these Machiavellian war rooms, where everybody knows exactly what they‘re doing.

The fact is, is there‘s a reason these things are called crises, because, by nature, they are an absolute mess.  And, diagnostically, I think what we have here is what I would call a catharsis.  And you have five years of frustration by the news media over an administration that many feel is secretive, that they believe should be having more news conferences, should be more forthcoming, and has justified the secrecy because of 9/11 and the war on terror. 

Finally, you have a situation that has nothing to do with the war on terror, and the administration is perceived to be secretive.  And, in the court of public opinion, it is not guilt that convicts you.  It is suspense.  It is the delay.  It is the not knowing.

And that is what is causing a lot of this hysteria.  And, frankly, while I believe that the administration has every right to be secretive on some things, when you are the vice president of the United States, you don‘t send out a private citizen to do your bidding. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Eric, you agree, though, with Congressman King that there was no great conspiracy here...

DEZENHALL:  I agree with that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... that, sometimes, in a crises, things just happen and

people make stupid decisions

DEZENHALL:  My experience with crises is that the general public loves to assume that there is an Oliver Stone conspiracy, but what‘s really happening behind closed doors is, everybody is terrified.  Everybody is an absolute mess.  And that explains behavior far more than any strategic thought. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I think you‘re exactly thought, Eric. 

And you know what?  Lawyers always say, and what I learned as a new lawyer, before I went—you know, went into court, they said, if you give the jury a reason to suspect the worst about your client, they will.  And I think that‘s exactly what happened in this case. 

Hey, Congressman Peter King, as always, thank you so much for coming on. 

KING:  Thank you, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  I always love seeing you and talking with you. 

Steve, thank you for being with us. 

Eric, also, always appreciate your insight, too. 

And when we come back, it‘s is the jail holding some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world.  So, why is the U.N. demanding that we shut it down?  Investigating whether the U.N. is getting in the way of our war on terror is coming up next. 

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Jackson embroiled in a custody dispute over his kids.  His ex-wife wants them back, which leaves us to ask, why does Michael Jackson still have any kids in his custody?  We will talk about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Kofi Annan and the United Nations picks a fight with America over the treatment of al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. 

In a scathing report released today, the U.N. says America is mistreating detainees and thumbing its nose at international law with our actions at Gitmo. 

The report goes on to say—quote—“The executive branch of the operates as a judge, prosecutor and defense counsel of the Guantanamo Bay detainees”—this from an organization which has the following nations on its human rights committee, Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Venezuela, not exactly a list of countries known for their human rights. 

But let‘s bring in Claudia Rosett from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Ian Williams, U.N. correspondent for “The Nation.”

Ian, thank you for coming back and being on with us, talking about the

U.N. 

Tell me why the United Nations has any right to lecture America when it comes to human rights?

IAN WILLIAMS, UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATION”:  Well, this isn‘t the United Nations.  This is a panel of five experts from the Human Rights Commission. 

And you read out some of the countries, but the others include Britain and France and the United States.  And what they did was, they looked at what was happening in Guantanamo, and they agreed with the Supreme Court of the United States.  That‘s basically what this report says.

In 2004, the Supreme Court said the detainees in Guantanamo, despite what the administration said, deserved a fair hearing and a trial.  They still haven‘t had it.  But this report is basically a hymn of praise to American justice.  It says that these people should get the rights and privileges of the U.S. courts, which it doesn‘t query about the fairness of. 

But it does say that the United States is—the administration of the United States is violating a whole series of international treaties, which the United States has signed and the senators ratified, the Geneva Convention. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Ian, you have to understand why I and other Americans would find it laughable that a commission that had Sudan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and China on its panel would lecture us about human rights and international law. 

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS:  If you object to those countries, why is it that we, the United States, have been returning detainees to Saudi Arabia, to Morocco, to Egypt, and countries like that, to be tortured and possibly executed, without trial?

SCARBOROUGH:  And Sudan and Cuba and China? 

WILLIAMS:  Sorry.  We sent—the United States returned prisoners to places like Yemen and Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  And we can be sure that they would not be treated—there‘s no Miranda rules in those countries.  Those detainees might never surface alive. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, what you‘re saying is, things are so brutal in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, that it would be inhumane for us to send these prisoners from America to these countries who, wait a second, are lecturing us on human rights?  It all seems so confusing to me, Ian.  Where do they get off doing this?

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS:  Why do you think the administration put the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay?  Because it didn‘t think that the U.S. courts would be able to rule there.  The Supreme Court has basically accused them of trying to do an end run around the Constitution by sending these people to Guantanamo Bay, outside of U.S. jurisdiction.

SCARBOROUGH:  They‘re not doing an end run.  They‘re not doing an end run.  I mean, it‘s an American military base.  It‘s not outside of American jurisdiction. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Claudia, let me bring you in here.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS:  The administration was saying that Guantanamo Bay was not covered by the United States courts, Joe.  That‘s why they set up the prison camp there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Claudia, let me bring you in there. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about the United Nation‘s decision.  Maybe I have got it all wrong here.  But I think this human rights committee that has Sudan on its membership list, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, them lecturing us about human rights seems to me to be absolutely hypocritical.

(CROSSTALK)

CLAUDIA ROSETT, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES:  It‘s not only hypocritical.

And I would say, when Ian was mentioning countries you left out, he

omitted to mention Zimbabwe, which is one of the world‘s political problems

states.  But, no, if you pull back and ask why is this coming from the U.N. right now—and this is the U.N..  It may be a final of five whatever they are, but it‘s the U.N.  This is the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that has produced this. 

If you look at the timing of this, we are heading—the U.N.  Commission on Human Rights holds a meeting every March in Geneva, which has been a festival of hypocrisy every year because of the makeup that you just pointed out.  And the U.S. has been pushing for this to be reformed. 

In fact, on the Web site of this commission, they don‘t even have their agenda laid out yet, because everything is in this throes of their resisting efforts by the U.S. to reform them, and this whole push.

And if you look at—it‘s an interesting thing that this report surfaces at this precise moment.  One might wonder if this is a sort of U.N. bargaining chip, in trying to stop the U.S. from cleaning up the outrageous nest of dictatorial, despotic hypocrites, who claim to be upholding, you know, human rights for people who really do need it. 

(CROSSTALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ian, please, hold on.  Give me—give me a chance.  I asked you three questions.  I need to follow up with Claudia. 

ROSETT:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Because there are a lot of Americans out there that are watching right now that are asking, why in the world would the United Nations allow these dictatorial regimes to be on the Human Rights Commission?

Because, it seems to me, a cynic might say, Cuba would want to be on, Sudan would want to be on, Saudi Arabia would want to be on because they could actually shield themselves from being criticized by this so-called Human Rights Commission. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is that accurate?

ROSETT:  That is exactly accurate, because, unfortunately, that is what the U.N. is.  It‘s a very noble dream. 

But the reality is a makeup that includes all these countries, like Sudan and China and Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.  And it is both—this thing coming out precisely timed as a bargaining chip to say, no, we don‘t want to reform. 

The U.N. actually has a huge scandal using—wasting, spending your tax dollars through its procurement department right now, which the U.S.  has also been trying to clean up and reform.  And the G-77, plus China, basically, the U.N. doesn‘t want it to happen. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Ian...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS:  I agree with you and Claudia about the composition of the Human Rights Commission.

And I applaud the proposals to try and change it.  But it doesn‘t alter the key point, is that Guantanamo Bay was an attempt to end run around the Constitution and deprive people who have been kidnapped in some cases from around the world of any fair rights or fair trial. 

On this commission, which includes Manfred Nowak, who was actually, only last year, in China, reprimanding the Chinese for torture, in fairly strong terms, is now saying he looks here and Guantanamo Bay is not in the full traditions of American justice.  It does not live up to America‘s own commitments under the Geneva Convention. 

You know, in 1946, at Nuremberg, we hanged General Alfred Jodl for refusing—or for refusing commandos fair trials and allowing them to be shot and imprisoned out of hand.  We hanged him for pretty much what is now happening in Guantanamo Bay.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Ian, who are you suggesting that we hang how? 

WILLIAMS:  I don‘t believe the death penalty for anybody, whether in China or the United States.

I have to say that.  And that‘s one of the reasons why I really agree with you and Claudia that the Human Rights Commission certainly needs reforming, and some minimum standards of human rights should be demanded of its members. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we will—we certainly agree on that, Ian. 

Thank you for being with us. 

Claudia, thank you for being with us.

And I have just got to say to all you, friends, the reason that I don‘t understand why anybody listens to the United Nations anymore is, you just look at their track record over the past 10 years.  A million people killed in Rwanda, the U.N. does nothing.  Two million killed in Sudan, the U.N. does nothing.  Kosovo, the U.N. stays on the sidelines. 

Bosnia, U.N. stays on the sidelines.  Torture in Iraq, more people killed in Iraq than any other country in the Middle East, under Saddam Hussein, the United Nations does nothing. 

And these people are going to come to us and lecture us about trying to figure out what happened on 9/11 and what is happening right now with people that are trying to kill you, your families, and your neighbors in America today.  They‘re trying to do it.  And because we‘re trying to get information from these terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, we are the target of attacks from a corrupt bureaucracy that shouldn‘t even be able to stay in New York City another day. 

Now, coming up next, does the mother of Michael Jackson‘s children want custody or cash?  And do we have to even ask this?  I‘m going to just ask this as a sort of rhetorical question.  Hey, you think Michael Jackson‘s really fit to be a father?  Coming up next, we‘re going inside that nasty custody battle. 

And if you have ever heard of dress for success, how about having plastic surgery for success?  Does it give you an advantage in the workplace?  It‘s a growing trend.  And we will tell you all about it when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up next—and you can tell I have had it—oh, my God.  That‘s plastic surgery gone wrong.  That‘s not exactly going to help you get ahead in the workplace, but some people are using plastic surgery to get ahead in the workplace.  And we will show you that in a second. 

And, please, take that video down now.  Take it down now.

But, first...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hide the children, and tell your auntie, it‘s time to wake up.  The newest trend out there, plastic surgery to help people climb the corporate ladder.  Coming up, the host of “Extreme Makeover” shows us why people are taking such desperate measures to get ahead.

And what kind of kid pays to get out of the gym?  More importantly, what kind of teacher charges?  You‘re going to find out in a “Flyover” country story that hits a little too close to my home.

Hey, welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘re going to be talking about those stories in just minutes. 

But, first, could Michael Jackson lose control of his children?  Does Michael still have custody of his children?  And, if so, why?  Well, the gloved one‘s ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, is trying to get back custody of their two kids.  And a California appeals court agrees with her.  The case dates back to 2001, when Rowe gave up her parental rights, saying—quote—

“Michael has been a wonderful father.  I want to forever give up any and all rights pertaining to the children.”

But it seems she has changed her mind. 

With me now to talk about it, Court TV correspondent Savannah Guthrie, from Los Angeles, special correspondent for TMZ.com, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and former prosecutor Bill Fallon. 

Savannah, let me begin with you and ask the question, why does Michael Jackson still have custody of his children? 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, COURT TV:  Well, for one thing, there‘s a mother, Debbie Rowe, who, as we all know, never wanted custody of these children until now.

And let‘s be fair.  There‘s never been an allegation against Michael Jackson that he has harmed these children whatsoever.  Now you‘re showing the video of him dangling that other child over the balcony.  And while we all may wonder, “What was he thinking?” those aren‘t the children that are mothered by Debbie Rowe.  Those aren‘t the children at issue in this custody battle. 

I think the appellate court decision today really sets the stage now, though, for child welfare officials for the court to investigate the parenting of these children, Michael Jackson‘s parenting skills, and maybe they will come way and decide that he‘s not fit to be a good parent. 

On the other hand, they may think these kids are getting excellent care. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill Fallon, is Michael Jackson fit to be a parent? 

BILL FALLON, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well, certainly, he‘s not fit to parent my kids, I would say.

And, Savannah, you may say the kids were looking—the court was only looking at two kids, not this other kid.  But, as you know, they have opened an important door here.  Now, Michael Jackson might still get some kind of custody. 

What worries many of us is that he had complete custody.  I think that they wanted to say, you know what?  There‘s something rotten in Denmark there.  We don‘t like the way Michael Jackson treats children.  Now, you say we don‘t know what happened.  And the court says we don‘t know what‘s happening with his own children. 

He has paid millions of dollars for what he‘s done, or allegedly done, to other children.  We now have a mother who says, for whatever reason, I was forced into giving up the rights to my children.  The court is now going to look at what‘s in the best interests of his children. 

Nobody is going to—I will tell you, even if he seemed to be a perfect father, I think the courts are saying, you know what?  Maybe parents shouldn‘t be forced into this situation.  It‘s an unusual situation for somebody to say, just giving up those rights because the other parent is so good. 

I think they‘re going to come down with a split-the-baby, and I think they‘re also going to say—Michael Jackson is going to try to come up with something so that he doesn‘t have to have a full hearing of his involvement.  Debbie Rowe is going to get at least some custody of these kids, or Michael Jackson might lose everything.

SCARBOROUGH:  Jane Velez-Mitchell, Michael Jackson doesn‘t want the court to go into all the things he does as a parent, does he?  Because, if he does, as Bill says, he may risk losing everything. 

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, TMZ.COM:  Absolutely not. 

I spoke with somebody who‘s very close to the Jackson family just a little while ago.  And he described this as an absolute disaster, a catastrophe for Michael Jackson.  First of all, at the very least, it means bye-bye, Bahrain, because, at the very least, Debbie Rowe now marches back into court with parental rights. 

That means she‘s probably going to get, at the start, some visitation.  That means, if Michael Jackson wants to be with his kids, he has to leave Bahrain, come back to the United States, so that that visitation order can be fulfilled.  Even if the judge says, she has the right to visit these kids twice a month, if he wants to be with the kids, he has to be here in the United States. 

Now, if he decides to thumb his nose at that order and remain in Bahrain, then they could issue a bench warrant for him, and it‘s a big embarrassment and a big legal problem.

And what is especially galling is all the millions of dollars he has spent to try to get full custody of these kids.  TMZ just reported today they have obtained documents which show the actual separation agreement, $4 to $5 million up front for Debbie Rowe, plus a mansion in Beverly Hills, plus $900,000 a year, which she got until he claimed that she violated the confidentiality agreement by doing an interview. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And is that—is that why she has changed her mind and wants to be with these kids.

Not to be cynical, but she‘s not getting the $900,000 a year, Savannah, so maybe that changed her mind, and now she wants to be mommy? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, there are a lot of people who look at Debbie Rowe that way. 

I mean, it‘s hard to understand what this woman‘s motivations are.  This is a woman who stopped visiting with her kids, then wanted to terminate her parental rights.  And then people say, when the money dried up, that‘s when she went back into court, seeking custody of these children.

You know, she testified at Michael Jackson‘s criminal trial for the prosecution, although, if you were there, you started to feel that she was actually still in love with this guy.  But she testified these kids even—never have called her mother.  They do not think of her as their mother.

So, when the court starts looking into what‘s in the best interest of these children, they‘re going to look at what kind of parent Michael Jackson is, but they are also going to look at what relationship, or lack thereof, there is with Debbie Rowe. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, how does it end, then, Bill, if they‘re both lousy parents? 

FALLON:  Well, I don‘t think anybody...

GUTHRIE:  Well...  

FALLON:  They might have some DSS or some social services in their life forever. 

Savannah, I‘m not sure that I think that he‘s—she‘s going to get custody.  I just think that it is unusual for one parent to have no visitation, no custody.  I think that‘s what was being held over her.  And I think that‘s going to change. 

GUTHRIE:  And I don‘t even think she‘s asking for custody.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And, Joe, let me say that this

I have spoken to people who are very close to this whole situation.  I have spoken to bodyguards who have actually seen Michael interact with these kids.  And the irony of all of this is, all the people I have spoken to say, these kids are remarkably well-adjusted, despite the scarves and all the crazy things that go on. 

They‘re articulate.  They‘re glib.  They seem very well cared for.  And, for all we know, they‘re just on an exotic adventure in Bahrain, having fun with kids, and not actually suffering.  Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. 

FALLON:  Jane, Michael Jackson is too odd—too odd an adventure for me, too exotic an adventure.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON:  And I‘m just telling you, if I‘m a judge, I want a hand in that.  And, if Debbie Rowe says she wants a hand in it, that‘s the way for somebody to look.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Is Debbie Rowe much better?  She got on national television and said:  Here, take them.  I gave these kids as a gift to Michael Jackson. 

I mean, really.

FALLON:  Jane, I would take them away.  I would take both—all the kids away from the two of them, but that‘s not my call here. 

GUTHRIE:  The person that knows them best is Grace, the nanny. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  We are going to have to leave it there.

FALLON:  Priscilla Presley will take them.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  You don‘t give kids to strangers. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you all so much.  We greatly appreciate it. 

Savannah, Jane, and Bill, appreciate your insights and input.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘m joined now by a man who would gladly adopt any and all of Michael Jackson‘s children.  He is, of course, Tucker Carlson, the host of “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”

Tucker, you have got eight or nine kids yourself, don‘t you? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  At least. 

At least.  There are about half that, about four.

SCARBOROUGH:  That you know of.

CARLSON:  I got to disagree with one thing I just heard.

I have no trouble understanding Debbie Rowe‘s motivation.  One word. 

It‘s greed.  That‘s it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is greed, Tucker.  Hey, what‘s on your show tonight?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, the media in the United States still refusing, by and large, to run those cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.  They‘re too offensive to other cultures, they say. 

We‘re going to talk to an editor tonight who is running brand new pictures from Abu Ghraib, from that torture case, certain to inflame anti-American hatred.  Those are OK, but the cartoons of Mohammed, no, that would be—that would be wrong, insensitive to multicultural concerns.  Irony alert.

SCARBOROUGH:  Who‘s your editor?  Who‘s your editor?

CARLSON:  Actually, a woman named Joan Walsh.  She‘s the editor of “Salon” magazine, who is smart and articulate...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  ... I‘m sure has a reason for—for doing this.  We will find out what it is. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  I can‘t wait to hear it. 

Tucker, thanks a lot. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  And make sure you tune into “THE SITUATION,” coming up next, at 11:00.  A lot of people not happy with Tucker for stepping on the long tails of American media.  But he‘s been doing it.  And he‘s going to keep doing it until he gets answer.

Now, coming up next, forget nip and tuck, forget Botox.  The hottest new plastic surgery obsession is to help get people up the corporate ladder.  We will get at that one when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

Oh, good, more bloody pictures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  When you think of plastic surgery, you think of really pretty movie stars and aging nightclub singers, and talk show hosts. 

But, more and more, people are opting to go under the knife as a way to get ahead at the office.  If your features start to droop, or you have got a nose that looks like this, the theory is, your career will go sour. 

With me now to talk about it, we have got Dr. Anthony Griffin.  He is a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills and star of “Extreme Makeover.”  Also with us, Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist. 

Thank you all, both, for being with us. 

DR. ANTHONY GRIFFIN, “EXTREME MAKEOVER”:  Thanks for having me, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Griffin, tell me, what‘s going on in our culture, where so many people are deciding to get plastic surgery to help themselves get ahead in the workplace? 

GRIFFIN:  Well, we‘re in a competitive, youth-oriented, visual world right now.  And everybody needs every little edge they can get.  And so people are starting to turn to plastic surgery. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How common is it? 

GRIFFIN:  Well, it‘s quite common. 

Actually, the statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has shown that, over the last couple of years, men have been actually one of the fastest-growing groups of getting plastic surgery. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Robi, what‘s going on here, with more and more Americans deciding to—to go under the knife to make themselves look younger, better, hotter? 

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST:  I think, in part, we have advanced technologies, which is making it more available to people and safer for people. 

The other thing is the Hollywood effect.  I mean, we‘re comparing ourselves—instead of comparing ourselves to beautiful people in our family or beautiful people who live down the street, we are actually comparing ourselves to billboards and—and visions of beauty that are probably altered by cosmetic surgery.

So, when people look at these images, they tend to look at themselves differently in a more negative way.  So, we‘re comparing ourselves to an anatomical anomaly, if you will. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Sort of the Barbie complex.  Little girls get Barbies when they‘re young, and, at a very early age, have this image of what a woman is supposed to look like that‘s really next to impossible to live up to. 

How—how negative is that, Doctor, to have that self-image? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead.

GRIFFIN:  It can be quite negative.

And, of course, we actually screen patients to be sure that they‘re psychologically ready for this and this is not a whimsical thing.  A lot of the things that have happened, in terms of explosion of technology, has been without the knife.  There‘s been fillers, collagen, Restylane, lasers.  So, a lot of these technologies don‘t even actually involve a surgical procedure.

And, so, I think a lot of it is driven by the fact that there‘s been this amazing explosion of different modalities to treat aging. 

LUDWIG:  Well, that‘s—I mean, that‘s true.

And also there‘s this fear of aging and what does it mean.  and the fact of the matter is, still in our society, the story that we tell ourselves is that, if you‘re aging, then you‘re invisible.  And so if you want to be competitive and well received in the workplace, there is something to be said about being as beautiful as you can be.  People who are attractive or perceived as attractive are seen as having more positive qualities, being smarter.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Robi, Robi, that‘s not just with modeling; that‘s not just with TV; that‘s not just with acting.  You‘re saying that‘s with just about any business that you‘re in, right? 

LUDWIG:  Absolutely.

And we know this even in the classroom, how beautiful children are sometimes more popular...

GRIFFIN:  Right. 

LUDWIG:  ... perceived as more intelligent.

So, this is nothing new, the desire to look more beautiful.  I guess it‘s just manifesting in a slightly different way because of medical technology. 

GRIFFIN:  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Griffin, I will ask you the same thing.  We go beyond modeling.  We go beyond acting, TV.  Would you agree that plastic surgery is going to help just about anybody in any professional field they go into? 

LUDWIG:  Well, it really does. 

And one of the things—I think of plastic surgery in two phases.  One is the vanity surgery, where somebody who‘s attractive, they want to be more attractive.  And I think that‘s what we traditionally think of when we think of plastic surgery.

But then there‘s what I call self-esteem surgery, people who have a distraction or something that doesn‘t allow you to focus on them or what they have to say.  And I think that‘s where we are seeing the biggest increase.

Somebody has a big nose or a bunch of bags underneath their eyelids, where, you know, they give off the signal that maybe they‘re not as energetic or perhaps they‘re not as ambitious as some younger—younger co-worker.  So, I think that—building self-esteem can be achieved through plastic surgery. 

Now, it‘s not the only thing.  You still have to do the inside work, but, certainly, there‘s a—a place for surgery on the outside. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, so, Dr. Ludwig, help me out here.  OK, I have got a big nose.  I was born with a big nose.  It‘s the first thing people see when I walk into a room, if they‘re looking at me.  When—when should I decide to get my nose cut down to size a bit?  I mean...

LUDWIG:  I think you look fabulous just the way you are. 

SCARBOROUGH:  God bless you.

GRIFFIN:  I would agree, Joe. 

I think he looks great.

(CROSSTALK)

LUDWIG:  But, you know, it‘s very interesting you bring up this point, because many men, according to the studies, will look at themselves in the mirror and say, you know what?  I look pretty good. 

So, women tend to be much harder on themselves, in terms of the looks department, because I guess it‘s more important to a female‘s sense of success, that she looks good.  Listen, if you...

GRIFFIN:  That‘s true.

But, also, females are—are the hardest on them.  I mean, it‘s not men being hard on women.  It‘s really like...

LUDWIG:  Oh, no, I wasn‘t saying that.  I was thinking, you know, for men, to be gorgeous, it‘s not that essential for them to be successful. 

But, you know, I think the important thing here is, if you feel that you can make yourself better, and you have a mentally healthy attitude, and you say, listen, I would like to make this change.  I realize it‘s not going change the rest of my life, I will just feel better, then, hey, there‘s nothing wrong with that.  But if you...

(CROSSTALK)

GRIFFIN:  And that‘s the best candidate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, Robi, that‘s the point—that exactly the point I was hoping you were going to make.  There are so many people out there that go back and forth.  Should they get plastic surgery or not?  If their happiness depends on it, it seems to me, that‘s a problem. 

But if they want to do it just to make themselves feel better, and it‘s safe, I don‘t see what the harm is. 

Hey, Dr. Griffin, thank you for being with us. 

At, Robi, thank you so much for being with us, also.

GRIFFIN:  Thank you. 

LUDWIG:  Thanks for having me.

SCARBOROUGH:  We will be right back with “Flyover” of SCARBOROUGH

COUNTRY.

Look at that nose from the side.  It‘s...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time for another “Flyover” of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  These are the stories, of course, that may have fallen under the mainstream media‘s radar, but not ours.      

Our first stop, my backyard, Escambia County, Florida, where a middle school teacher allegedly let his students skip gym if they paid him $1 a day.  Twenty-eight-year-old Terence Braxton is accused of accepting $230 from a half-dozen students.  But a sheriff‘s spokesman said he actually may have collected thousands of dollars from the kids, all just to get out of P.E. 

And, next up, Fresno, California, more wonders of science.  The coroner‘s office has identified the remains of the frozen airman who disappeared in 1942.  His name was Leo Mustonen.  And he—and climbers discovered his remains in a block of ice last October in California Kings Canyon National Park. 

Forensic scientists compared DNA samples from the remains to living family members of the airman, and they made their match.

And, finally, New York, where Senator Hillary Clinton secured a firm spot at Madame Tussaud‘s wax museum.  You can now, friends, see a life-sized figure of the former-first-lady-turned-politician.  And, as part of the premiere, employees staged a full campaign rally with the Clinton likeness.

The figure is part of the new Hillary Clinton exhibit, where visitors go into a voting booth and are asked, would you ever vote for a female president and will Hillary Clinton be the first female president?  And, of course, her wax figure husband, former President Bill Clinton, is standing nearby, watching your every move.  And I‘m sure she will be watching his every move in the museum. 

We will be right back.

And, remember, friends, wake up grandma, because “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON,” it‘s just minutes away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Finally, tonight, your generosity is really making a great difference in the lives of our troops and their families. 

You know, you helped so much in Katrina and for the USO.  We‘re asking you to do it again and help our fallen heroes at www.fallenheroesfund.org.

That‘s all the time I have with you tonight. 

But stick around, because “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now. 

Hey, Tucker, what is the situation tonight?  What editor are you going to kick around on your show? 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  We will be nice, as we always are.  Thank you, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Always.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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