updated 4/26/2006 11:44:48 AM ET 2006-04-26T15:44:48

Guests: Kay Bailey Hutchison, Jeff Zeleny, Gary Berntsen, Lisa Bloom, Yale Galanter, Ana Marie Cox

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Standing room only may save money for people on airplanes, but what about those of us...

(AUDIO GAP)

oil prices go sky high, Republicans are on the run.  The president takes a stand today, but is it more of the same?  Will it help us at the pump?  And four years later, we‘re still hunting for Osama bin Laden.  Now the world‘s most wanted terrorist releases a new statement where he wants to kill just about everybody.  But what I want to know is, why can‘t we catch this guy, dead or alive?  Plus, “American Idol” alert, another scandal surrounding TV‘s biggest hit—this time, North Carolina bombshell Kellie Pickler in a plot to stuff the ballot box?  Calling Katherine Harris!  It looks like we may need a recount.

But first, for George Bush and his jumpy GOP allies, the news just seems to keep getting worse.  Low poll numbers, rising body counts, sagging approval ratings for Congress and exploding deficits make the Republican majority look more and more like an endangered political species every day.

But nothing is draining support for Mr. Bush and his party more than the political fallout from skyrocketing gas prices.  Everybody‘s talking about it, and they think it‘s brought to us in part by an oil industry that‘s believed to be connected at the hip to Mr. Bush.  And that industry seems intent on doing everything in its power to hurt its best ally in Washington.

While millions of Americans are having to cut corners to fill their gas tanks, oil company profits are at an all-time high.  Exxon raked in $36 billion last year, Shell $23 billion, BP $22 billion, and Chevron and ConocoPhillips a combined $27 billion.  Maybe that‘s why Exxon‘s retiring CEO walked away with a $400 million retirement package.  It‘s a perverse amount and another political black eye for the president.

This morning, George Bush tried to put it all behind him with a five-point plan to bring gas prices down.  But the proposals, focusing on ethanol and relaxing environmental stands, seems weak at best.

You know, September 11 called for bold action, true leadership, energy independence.  All we got today seemed to be a desperate attempt by an unpopular president to stop the political bleeding.  Will it work?

Well, you‘ve heard my take from Main Street.  Let‘s see what they‘re saying on Wall Street with CNBC‘s energy correspondent, Melissa Francis.

So when politicians on Capitol Hill get involved in trying to control gas prices—Arlen Specter‘s talking about a possible windfall tax—does that do anything...

MELISSA FRANCIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... to drive down the price of oil?

FRANCIS:  It‘s a terrible idea.  In fact, in the long run. it really drives up prices because if companies fear that they‘re going to lose these profits in the long run, then they stop spending money on exploration and production.

SCARBOROUGH:  Melissa, what do you say to Americans that are sitting at home, though, paying more than ever for gas per gallon, and they see the CEO of Exxon...

FRANCIS:  Stop driving.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... getting a $400 million pension?

FRANCIS:  I say stop driving.  Stop buying gasoline.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So you‘re blaming the victim here, though!

FRANCIS:  ... you‘re going out and buying gasoline for your car or you‘re driving your SUV, and you know, you‘re part of the problem, and you‘re putting money in his pocket.  And if you‘re really angry, you have two choices.  You can stop driving your car or you can go buy stock in Exxon and watch it go higher.

SCARBOROUGH:  But what about people that don‘t really have that choice and got to get in that car and drive to work?

FRANCIS:  Well, maybe you car pool.  I mean, I don‘t know.  Maybe you buy a hybrid.  Try and conserve in some way.  I don‘t know what to tell you, but it‘s not his fault.  He‘s not setting the price all by himself.  We‘re all out there buying it, and that‘s what‘s driving up the price.

The simple phenomenon that I watch every day down at the New York Mercantile Exchange, because of all of these factors that are going on, there‘s a bidding frenzy on the floor of the Mercantile Exchange for the last barrel of oil.  And we see that price go higher and higher.  Whoever‘s selling that barrel makes more money every time that price goes up.

But you know, it‘s not collusion, it‘s a lot of buyers out there just vying for this last barrel of oil because they‘re afraid that in the future, there‘s going to be less oil or there‘s going to be more demand for gasoline, that barrel of oil‘s going to be worth more.  But it still costs the company the same amount to make it, so they‘re making more profit on that.

SCARBOROUGH:  So you‘re saying it has less to do with supply and demand and more to do with market fear?

FRANCIS:  Perception.  Perception.  The psychology of the situation is very much a huge factor.

SCARBOROUGH:  So they‘re scared of what‘s happening in Iraq.  They‘re scared of what‘s happening in Iran.  They‘re scared of what‘s happening in Venezuela and...

FRANCIS:  Or of something like Katrina.  Last summer, I mean, we really saw a lot of oil, natural gas, gasoline come off the market.  You know, traders that anticipated that and had bought more supply really did well after that.  So their fears can be very much justified.  It‘s just a question of where they‘re willing to bet.

You know, they can also be wrong and lose a lot of money.  And that‘s what people forget and lose sight of.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Melissa Francis...

FRANCIS:  Thanks for having me.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... thank you so much for being here.  Greatly appreciate it.

And since most working Americans can‘t give up driving, Washington politicians are going to have to come up with different options.  Some lawmakers like Arlen Specter want to tax oil companies‘ massive profits.  Others are focusing on the big five CEO salaries, and I say for good reason.

James Mulva, the top dog at ConocoPhillips, came in at just under $17 million for his salary last year.  David O‘Reilly of Chevron collected more than $29 million.  And Lee Raymond, the CEO of ExxonMobil, who got that $400 million retirement package, received $51 million in compensation last year.  Good work, I guess, if you can get it.

Now, for three years—three months, I‘ve been asking these top oil CEOs to come on this show and justify their salaries, or at least explain why their oil company profits explode during energy crises.  They refused.  And this morning, the “Today” show issued the same challenge.  Again, the CEOs refused.

Well, one leader not afraid to talk to us least, Texas‘s senior U.S.  senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison.  Earlier tonight, I spoke with Texas Sen.  Kay Hutchison, and I asked her if she thought there was any price-gouging going on at the pump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON ®, TEXAS:  I don‘t think so, but I certainly think we ought to look into it, so that the American people have a comfort level.  But I think what we‘re seeing, Joe, is a huge demand from newly industrialized countries, and it has made the supply more scarce and demand higher.  And we‘re now having to deal with that, and we‘re also having to deal with the inability of the—of our country to explore and drill for oil on our own shores to the capacity that we have and to look for other sources of energy, like nuclear power.

SCARBOROUGH:  Who should Americans blame tonight for their problems in making ends meet because gas prices are so high?

BAILEY:  Well, I think that, first of all, it is the industrialization of China and India, and other countries that are consuming more energy, that has caused this spike.  Secondly, we have some pretty unreliable sources of oil and gas, and we have not sufficiently gone out and used our own resources.  I think that we should have done more a long time ago to say—to stand up to the people who said no more nuclear power plants.  We haven‘t built one in 25 years.  It‘s environmentally safe.  It is the cleanest form of energy.  And once you get them up and going, it‘s the most efficient form of energy that we can possibly have.

Renewable energy, which we are just now beginning to start really using in any amount, solar energy, and wind energy, are possible.  But we‘ve got to have the ability to drill on our own shores.  Oil and gas is the bread-and-butter energy source.  If we are going to have a competitive economy, we‘ve got to have lower prices on energy, and that means a lot of diversification.  And it means drilling for oil where we have it in America.

SCARBOROUGH:  What would you say to Americans who are upset over the CEOs‘ salaries—and of course, it‘s been in the news for the past year or so—where you have ExxonMobil‘s CEO  Getting $51 million in 2005, ConocoPhillips, getting $16.8, Chevron CEO David O‘Reilly getting $29.3 million.  Do you think that those—those salaries are fair salaries?  Do you think that, as far as the marketplace goes, they‘re justified?

BAILEY:  Joe, I wouldn‘t single out the oil industry.  I think a CEO making $16 million a year is outrageous.  For a publicly owned company, I just think it‘s outrageous.  But it‘s not just oil companies, it‘s drug manufacturers, it‘s across the board.  I just think we have gotten way out of kilter in these compensation packages for CEOs.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, as always, thank you so much for being with us.

BAILEY:  Thank you, Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, off-camera, Republican pollsters will tell you, like they tell me—and congressmen and senators off-camera tell me—that gas prices this year could be the third rail of American politics, a fact not lost on the president, or we assume, Karl Rove.

Earlier today, George W. Bush tried to put the best spin on a bad situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Americans understand, by and large, that the price of crude oil is going up and that the prices are going up.  But what they don‘t want and will not accept is manipulation of the market.  And neither will I.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Will the president‘s tough words be enough to calm the teeming masses?  And is Mr. Bush now a burden to Republican candidates who are fighting for their very political lives this fall?

Let‘s bring in Jeff Zeleny.  He‘s from “The Chicago Tribune.”  Jeff, you‘ve written about this.  Specifically, you‘ve writing an article about how Republican candidates this year may be running away from George W. Bush the way Democratic candidates were running away from Bill Clinton back in 1994.  Talk about it.

JEFF ZELENY, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  And Joe, this certainly gives them one more reason to at least consider that, as if there weren‘t enough already.  You have the Iraq war.  You have the federal budget deficit.  And now you have gas prices.  So a lot of Republican candidates around the country are thinking twice about campaigning with the president.  But you know, they cannot run from one thing, and that‘s the price of gas.

The Republicans that I talked to this week, after they came back from their recess, say they heard one thing over and over from voters, and it was the price of the pump.  So the president can do his four-point plan, and it‘s certainly something he has to do, but you know, one thing that a memo cannot solve is, is the number that they see at the gas station, which every voter drives by several times a day.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Jeff, the one thing that Bill Clinton understood was how important gas prices were to his political future.  There were stories of Bill Clinton following the price of gas as it went up very closely.  You say Republicans are getting bombarded when they go home to their districts.  Do they believe right now that if it continues this way, they‘re going to lose the majority and there‘s going to be Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Majority Leader Harry Reid running the Senate at the beginning of next year?

ZELENY:  I think we still have six months to go until the election, so it‘s a little premature to say that.  And there are other factors weighing in here, as well.  For one thing, in the House, the Democrats need to win 15 seats.  It sounds like a small number when there are 435 members of the House, but these districts are so gerrymandered (INAUDIBLE) and in a lot of places, there aren‘t good Democratic candidates running.  Some there are.

So you know, there certainly are other factors going into this year, but it is their top concern because, you know, say you what want about the war, say what you want about other things, there‘s nothing that affects voters more personally than gas prices.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  Jeff Zeleny with “The Chicago Tribune,” thank you so much for being us with.

And Jeff‘s exactly right.  When people go to the ballot box, they‘re not thinking about what‘s happening over in Iraq specifically or what‘s happening on the other side of the globe, but they are thinking about how much a gallon of gas cost them that morning when they got up to go and place their votes.  And if it keeps going in this direction, it is the president and it is the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate who are going to suffer.

But still ahead: Is the prosecutor and the Duke rape investigation determined to go after the Duke lacrosse players, even when the evidence points the other way?  Why is he now filing charges against more of them?  Maybe because of the elections next week?  And it looks like there could be a scandal brewing on “American Idol,” a plot to stuff the ballot boxes.  Could Kelly Pickler be in a big trouble?

We‘ll be talking about that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Another day, another terrorist recording released.  Today, al Qaeda posted a new videotape featuring terror mastermind al Zarqawi.  The video‘s believed to be the first to show Zarqawi‘s face.  Of course, he‘s leading al Qaeda‘s operations in Iraq.  This comes just days after a new audiotape from Osama bin Laden that promised attacks against, well, just about everybody.

Osama‘s latest appearance, his first in three months, has opened up a new round of questions about how dangerous he still is, how dangerous al Qaeda is, and why Osama bin Laden is still on the loose.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  It‘s not easy being the toughest-talking cowboy in town, but that‘s a pose President Bush struck after September 11, when he let Osama bin Laden know that it wasn‘t wise to mess with Texas.

BUSH:  I want justice.  And there‘s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, Wanted dead or alive.

SCARBOROUGH:  Four years later, the most wanted outlaw is still on the run, while all the president‘s men can‘t tell you whether bin Laden‘s in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Disneyland.  Congress has done its part, giving the Bush administration $117 billion this year alone to win the war on terror.  And yet, we‘re no closer today to tracking down the 6-foot-5 Arab terrorist than we were on September 12.

BUSH:  The thing we‘re certain about is that he‘s on the run, that he‘s hiding in caves (INAUDIBLE) hiding at all.  And the other thing I‘m certain about is we will bring him to justice.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tough words from a president who may live to regret ever uttering those cocksure words.  But like President Bush, bin Laden is responding to his latest challenges by tossing out tough words.  His platform to followers: Kill the Russians, kill the French, kill black Sudanese, kill moderate Muslims, kill Salman Rushdie, and oh, yes, kill the Danish cartoonists.  With this latest Osama tape, it looks like George Bush is going to have to put another bullet in his six-shooter, and listen to his wife before he starts talking tough again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s bring in now former CIA officer Gary Berntsen.  He‘s the author of the book “Jawbreaker.”  He was the CIA‘s field commander for the Jawbreaker team that was sent to hunt down Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora.

And you know, Gary, a lot of Americans tonight want to know why we still haven‘t been able to catch this terrorist, the guy that, after all, is responsible for 3,000 Americans‘ deaths.

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA FIELD COMMANDER:  Well, his presence currently in—you know, the Afghan-Pak border area, most likely on the Pakistan area, has made it very difficult.  It is an area where there‘s not much infrastructure.  You know, he‘s put out these tapes, and the tapes are sort of a struggle for him to maintain relevance among worldwide jihadists.

I think the president and the administration—we‘ve done a good job of stopping additional attacks within the U.S., but you know, bin Laden‘s presence in that area has reduced his ability to conduct additional attacks against the United States.

SCARBOROUGH:  So you‘re saying the fact that he‘s harder to find also makes it harder for him to project his power globally.

BERNTSEN:  Clearly, he‘s lost a lot of capability.  He‘s lost command and control.  His—as you stated, his hiding, his—you know, the fact that he‘s been on the run has diminished his ability to conduct offensive operations against us.

SCARBOROUGH:  Obviously...

BERNTSEN:  And that‘s good news for us.

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s obviously—the bad news is he‘s able to still launch these videotapes.  Of course, the day after this last videotape came out, there were the killings in Egypt.  He said, Go after moderate Muslims.  It appears that‘s exactly what al Qaeda may have done.

So what do you say to Americans who want this guy caught, as the president said, dead or alive?  What‘s it going to take?  Do we need to get out of Iraq?  Can we not do two things at the same time?  Do we need to spend more money in Afghanistan?

BERNTSEN:  More money won‘t help on this.  And I can assure you that the U.S. government has got a lot of resources in Pakistan working on this, and working from the Afghan side, also.  But you have to remember, we do not want to destabilize Pakistan.  It is a nation with 160 million people.  They possess nuclear weapons.  And keeping—making sure that Musharraf survives politically is important to us to make sure that we don‘t have huge growth of jihadist circles in the cities throughout Pakistan.

SCARBOROUGH:  And of course, that was yet another goal of Osama bin Laden, to kill Musharraf.  Musharraf runs Pakistan.  Pakistan has nuclear weapons.  It is one of the most—I‘d say Iran and Pakistan are the two most dangerous states in the world right now.

Let me bring in right now—stay with us, Gary, but let‘s bring in MSNBC terror analyst Evan Kohlmann.  Evan, did we make too big of a deal about Osama bin Laden back in 2001?  Is he the single most important man for us to capture, or is it just a big PR game now?

EVAN KOHLMANN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Well, I would say he‘s the single most important leader left in al Qaeda.  But is his capture or death going to end al Qaeda as we know it?  Certainly not.  As we‘ve seen from new recordings from people like Zarqawi in Iraq, there are now wings of al Qaeda.  There are factions of al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda is becoming a cross between an ideological organization and structural (ph) organization, a real organization.

And I think we have to be careful when we say that bin Laden doesn‘t have the ability to coordinate attacks anymore.  Certainly, it seems that a lot of the recent terrorist cells are being motivated more by ideology than by orders.  But let‘s also remember that al Qaeda has specifically told us, in the case of the July 7 bombings in London, that those bombings were carried out, organized and conceived by the highest levels of al Qaeda‘s organization.  And as far as we have the evidence to prove it so, it seems that they are telling the truth.

SCARBOROUGH:  Evan, what do you—what do you make of this extraordinary tape from Osama bin Laden, where he basically put a target on everybody‘s head?  It seems to me he hasn‘t made this sweeping a statement since 1998.  And of course, over the past three to six months, he‘s been actually talking about a truce with the West.  Looks like those halcyon days are long past.

KOHLMANN:  Look, he‘s building up the tension right now.  He‘s building up the confrontation.  He‘s saying, We‘ve offered the West a truce.  Then we offered Europe a truce.  Both those truces were rejected.  So now it‘s time for to us go to war.

Now, bin Laden has said this before.  There‘s nothing to distinguish this from his previous calls to war.  But let‘s keep it mind right now that there‘s a lot of stuff going on in the background, and I think if we look at what‘s gone on even recently here in Sharm-el-Sheik, in El-Bahad (ph), in these various resort towns in the Sinai, it‘s clear that there are people that are being motivated by bin Laden, if not by direct orders, then at a minimum, ideologically.

SCARBOROUGH:  Certainly from the propaganda.  And if you can in 15 seconds, let me know, Gary, do you think we‘re capture Osama bin Laden in the next few years?

BERNTSEN:  Yes, I do believe that we‘ll capture him in the next—or kill him—more likely to kill him in the next few years.  We‘re continuing to put pressure on him, continuing to work on it.  He‘ll eventually make a mistake.  We got a lot of other cases in history where we‘ve—it‘s taken a number of years to capture people or kill them, and I believe we‘ll succeed here.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Gary Berntsen.  Thank you so much, Evan Kohlmann.  As always, we greatly appreciate you being with us.

And now time for another “Flyover” of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  First up, a California county is going crazy for cats and dogs, attaching official legal status to anybody that owns a pet.  It seems Santa Clara, California, officials will soon designate current animal owners as, quote, “pet guardians,” attaching with that name increased legal burdens for pet owners who don‘t show Fluffy enough love.  I wonder if it means you can‘t throw cats off of decks (ph) anymore to see if they really do always land on their paws.  Oh, yes, kids, don‘t try that one at home.

Next up: Houston, Texas.  And speaking of things kids shouldn‘t try, don‘t try to have sex at your school‘s Valentine‘s Day dance.  But if you do have sex at your school‘s Valentine‘s Day dance, for God‘s sake, don‘t tape it.  But if you got to tape it, please, please don‘t try to sell it to other students at your school.

How do I know these actions could put a dent on your high school transcripts?  Well, not because I did it, but that‘s what students at a Houston school did earlier this year.  And while the kids‘ acting careers may have earned them a few bucks, it got their principal kicked out of school, while the district administrators are investigating.

And finally, from Fresno, California, where a former saleswoman for a fire alarm company sued her bosses for, quote, “spanking” her when she didn‘t reach her sales quotas.  The company‘s response: It ain‘t sexual harassment if you spank men, too—especially if they beg (ph) for it.  That‘s employment law 101 for tonight, kids, and it‘s another “Flyover” of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Coming up straight ahead: Talk about shooting from the hip, a new head-to-toe portrait of Bill Clinton has a lot of people shaking their heads.  Who thought this was a good idea?

And this is something you have to see, Jim Belushi having the time of his life.  “Extra” TV was there.  The story is tonight‘s “SCTV Special.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The prosecutor in the Duke University rape investigation is going after more players, but not for what you think.  Is this guy just out for blood, or is it all about winning votes? 

And is there a new scandal in the world of “American Idol”?  Egad, a plan to stuff the ballot boxes?  Is nothing sacred?  We‘ll tell you which contestant may be in a heap of trouble, in just a little bit.

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Those stories straight ahead, but first it‘s time for “Must-see SC.”  And first up, Jim Belushi takes a tumble.  And our friends over at “Extra Entertainment TV” were there to catch it.

Belushi was having the time of his life at the opening of a new nightclub, in Los Angeles, owned by Cindy Crawford‘s husband.  But it seems Belushi may have been having a little too much of a good time, as you can see.  Took a tumble.  He didn‘t get hurt.  Got right back up, and kept on dancing, just like the Energizer bunny that he is. 

And talk about “Wild Kingdom.”  This is an amazing scene.  It‘s an anaconda that probably has a stomach ache after eating a baby hippo.  Believe it or not, the giant snake is regurgitating the hippo in one piece. 

Speaking of not pretty to watch, our third story in “Must-See SC,” oh, wait, this is so good, we‘re going to show you number one again, Jim Belushi taking a tumble at the new Cherry nightclub in Las Vegas.  Don‘t worry, kids.  He‘s fine.  It‘s just his ego that may be a little bruised.  We may have to play that again coming up. 

But first, let me catch you up on a serious note with the very latest in the gang rape investigation at Duke.  The district attorney there may be trying to lean state misdemeanor charges against 15 players who could have broken the law by underage drinking, unless they can prove they weren‘t at that March 13th party.

Tonight, the D.A., Mr. Nifong, and the other candidates running for Durham County district attorney had a heated debate.  Also today, one of the two Duke lacrosse players, who is accused of rape, was in front of a judge in Washington, D.C., on another assault charge. 

But the big news tonight is that the prosecutor is going after more players.  NBC‘s Michelle Hofland is live in Durham with that. 

Michelle, get us up to date with the very latest down there. 

MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Lots of things going on right now.  Good evening, Joe. 

Right now, it appears that the district attorney is just targeting one of the other Duke lacrosse players in these misdemeanor charge thing that‘s going on right now, but, according to the “Raleigh News and Observer,” other players could be in front of his target very soon. 

Right now—OK, I want to show you this.  This is a stack of some of the misdemeanor charges against the Duke lacrosse players.  These are old misdemeanor charges that range from everything from public urination, underage drinking, noise violations, and even misuse of a Duke meal card. 

Well, right now, what the district attorney says is he‘s focusing on the team captain, David Evans.  And why is that?  That‘s because the party where the alleged rape took place last month, that‘s where David Evans lived, and that‘s why he‘s targeting him. 

Right now, what he‘s doing is saying that he‘s reinstating this plea deal with him and he is going to—and these are charges with him that were underage drinking and also noise violation.  And he says that, if the other players do not come forward and say that they were not at that party, that he is going to reinstate these charges, as well. 

So we are waiting, and finding out, and seeing what‘s happening with that.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Michelle Hofland. 

Greatly appreciate it.

Let‘s bring in right now Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom.  Lisa, it seems to me that this D.A. figured out finally that he arrested the wrong guys.  Now he‘s circling back around and he‘s trying to go for these lesser charges to squeeze them.  Why doesn‘t he just admit before this election that he screwed up? 

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR:  No, the two are completely unrelated, Joe.  What these other Duke players have done is they have violated the law by underage drinking and these other misdemeanor crimes.  They had to plead guilty in order to have deferred prosecution. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But this is all about the rape case, though, Lisa.

BLOOM:  Yes, but what deferred prosecution means, Joe, is you got to keep your nose clean for between six months and two years.  If they‘ve been involved in other crimes, i.e. more underage drinking, he has the right to pull away their prior agreement and prosecute them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So what he‘s going to do is he‘s going to threaten them, say, “You either turn on these two players,” one of which has an air-tight alibi, “or we‘re going to throw you in jail,” right? 

BLOOM:  Joe, I‘m surprised a law-and-order guy like you would want to be soft on underage drinkers, because that‘s a serious crime, and...

(CROSSTALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re not talking about underage drinking. 

BLOOM:  That is what we‘re talking about. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what bothers me, Lisa? 

BLOOM:  That is what we‘re talking about.

SCARBOROUGH:  If this guy had just waited until his election was over to bring the charges, he would have found out that Reade Seligmann had an air-tight alibi.  He would have figured out that the...

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM:  You know, Joe, I can‘t believe, Joe, that you would pre-judge the case before a shred of evidence has been presented in a court of law. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A shred of evidence?  We‘ve got phone records.

BLOOM:  What you have the...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We have ATM records.  We‘ve got eyewitnesses—we‘ve got the neighbor, the next-door neighbor, saying he saw the guy left.  We‘ve got pictures that are time-coded.

BLOOM:  If I may respond, Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on one second.  We‘ve also got the swiped card of this guy going into his dorm room at the time the D.A. says the rape was occurring. 

BLOOM:  And I‘m sure, Joe, and I‘m sure you‘ve seen all of that evidence with your own two eyes.  In fact, you haven‘t seen any of that.  What you‘ve heard is defense leaks.  What you have not heard are prosecution leaks, because this prosecutor hasn‘t spoken to the press in over three weeks. 

Why?  Because he was criticized early on for doing that.  But people like you don‘t criticize the defense for doing exactly the same thing.  Shame on you for prejudging this case.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yale Galanter...

BLOOM:  ... this is a serious case, and it should be decided in court, not by defense leaks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yale Galanter, should I believe Lisa or my lying eyes? 

BLOOM:  You haven‘t seen anything. 

YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, listen, Lisa is putting a great spin on it for the prosecution, but the truth of the matter is, Joe, is these are the facts. 

There are two unrelated witness:  one, Kim Roberts; the other is the complaining witness.  These are the facts.  Kim Roberts was arrested for embezzling $25,000 from her lawyer.  She sends an e-mail to the P.R. firm saying, “I want to put the best spin on this for me.”  And she tells the Associated Press that she‘s looking to make a profit. 

BLOOM:  So therefore her friend can‘t possibly have been raped, Yale? 

That‘s ridiculous.

GALANTER:  The complaining witness gives a lap dance to a taxi driver, takes the Durham police on a chase through this event...

BLOOM:  Two to three years ago.

GALANTER:  And today, the complaining witness‘s mother meets with a very high-profile civil lawyer in an effort to try and sue to—ca-ching, ca-ching- - get money.  And those are the facts.  That‘s what happened.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM:  You know what, Joe?  You‘re right.  No woman should ever come forward with a rape charge in this country unless she has a perfect history, and she certainly shouldn‘t go up against somebody who has more money...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second.

BLOOM:  ... media behind them. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second, Yale.  Hold on, Lisa. 

Lisa, you‘re presenting a false choice here.  I‘m not talking about whether this woman was raped or not; I‘m talking about a district attorney who got the wrong man because he was in a rush... 

BLOOM:  You don‘t know that, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know that‘s the case. 

BLOOM:  You‘re prejudging the case. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lisa, you‘re talking like a lawyer now.  You know that‘s not the case. 

BLOOM:  No, I don‘t know that, Joe, because I haven‘t seen it with my own two eyes, and neither have you. 

(CROSSTALK)

GALANTER:  ... public urination, underage drinking, and the felonious, you know, unauthorized use of a meal card?

(CROSSTALK) 

BLOOM:  You guys are buying the spin of Bill Bennett and the other high-priced lawyers.  This young woman is running and hiding in fear.  She‘s got death threats.  She‘s got KKK fliers left on her parent‘s lawn. 

GALANTER:  She‘s got nothing.  She‘s got no evidence.  This should have never gone to a grand jury.

BLOOM:  She doesn‘t have high-priced representation, and she doesn‘t have the media behind her. 

(CROSSTALK)

GALANTER:  ... knows he‘s making a Hail Mary pass to try and get elected next week, and that‘s the only reason he went to this grand jury.

BLOOM:  And, Yale Galanter, you‘re an attorney, and you would prejudge this case before any evidence is presented in court? 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, hold on a second.  Let me ask you this, Lisa, OK, and I will give you this:  You are a very good advocate for the prosecution. 

BLOOM:  I‘m not an advocate for the prosecution.  I‘m an advocate for the system and not prejudging the case. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You are an advocate for the prosecution tonight.  OK.  So you do not think tonight, Lisa, that this D.A. has stepped out on a limb? 

BLOOM:  You know, I think this defense team, headed by Bill Bennett, who represented Clinton, has done nothing but smear this victim since they got involved, leaking information to the press that none of us have seen, except a couple of blurry photos.  The press has jumped on the defense side. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.  All right, Yale. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yale, I‘ll ask you the same question. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on, Yale.  Answer Lisa‘s question.  I mean, it was implied.  Is the defense employing a sluts or nuts strategy against this woman? 

GALANTER:  Not at all, Joe.  Everything that the defense has shared with the media has been backed up with receipts, time-dated pictures, prior records.  Name one thing that the defense has said that has turned out to be not true.

Meanwhile, Lisa, I can give you a list of 20 things that Mike Nifong has said that wasn‘t true.  He goes to a court, has a judge bring all of these boys in to give DNA samples and says, “Listen, judge, it will either inculpate or exculpate the guilty or the innocent,” and then, when it comes back negative, he goes ahead to a grand jury anyway, presents only his side, and gets these boys indicted. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, he does it, again, a week before the election.  Thank you, Lisa. 

GALANTER:  Exactly.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you, Yale.  I greatly appreciate you being here tonight. 

And, Lisa, for being—we‘re on the same side a lot of times, but not tonight. 

Let‘s bring in Rita Cosby.  Now, she‘s host of “LIVE & DIRECT.”  Rita, you‘re following this Duke story tonight, and I just want to be very clear here:  I‘m not saying this woman wasn‘t raped.  I‘m just saying this D.A.  may have rushed to judgment before his election. 

What do you got for us tonight on Duke, though? 

RITA COSBY, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, we‘ve got something on the other end, Joe.  In fact, we have the accuser‘s father.  We did an exclusive interview with the accuser‘s father, and you may think differently after you hear from him, Joe.

For the first time, we‘re going to hear what he says really happened in the bathroom that night, what those allegations are based on, why there may be no DNA evidence after all.  And he also answers the question:  Is his daughter thinking of dropping the case?  What is going on behind the scenes? 

We‘ve got an exclusive interview with the accuser‘s father, with some revealing details.  And I also asked him:  Does she have any mental history, any problems in her past?  Remember, the defense is going after her character.  He‘s going to talk about that and a lot more, Joe.  You‘ve got to tune in tonight, top of the hour.  You may think differently after you see his interview.

SCARBOROUGH:  I always do, Rita.  It sounds like a fascinating story.  And once against, you get the great interview.  I‘m looking forward to it, at 10:00.  Thanks so much. 

Make sure you tune in to Rita‘s show, “LIVE & DIRECT” coming up just in, what, 20 minutes.  Go to University of Alabama, and I can still add.  That‘s pretty good. 

Still ahead, there‘s a brewing scandal in “American Idol.”  Kellie Pickler, one of everybody‘s favorites, could be in hot water because of a ballot-stuffing controversy.  How could she do it?  And she‘s a southern girl!

And if President Clinton didn‘t shoot from the hip while he was in office, I guess you‘d say he looks like he does now, at least in this controversial new presidential portrait that we‘ll show you, coming up next. 

But first, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY‘s “Heroes and Villains.”  Our villain tonight comes from deep in the heart of Texas, Houston to be exact.  That‘s where we find Enron founder Ken Lay.  He‘s standing trial in Houston for the collapse of the giant energy company. 

But he says it‘s not his fault.  Today, he told the jury that the “Wall Street Journal” was on a, quote, “witch hunt” against him and Enron.  Yes, such a liberal paper.  And the paper is responsible for undermining investor confidence in the company. 

We wish we could bring you a hero tonight, but, no, more villains.  We‘re staying on top of those senators and congressmen who are gutting congressional pension reform plans by loading it up with special perks for companies in their home districts. 

Two groups of people that have been gutting people‘s pensions, Ken Lay, congressmen and senators.  That‘s tonight‘s “Villains.” 

I‘ll be right back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Culture Clash.”  And if you look at the “New York Post,” it looks like Bill Clinton is once again—can you believe that headline?  The “Post” can get away with anything.  It looks like Bill Clinton is back in the news. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH (voice-over):  The presidential portrait.  It‘s always been a way for the American people to remember their leaders.  Washington‘s stoic stare, Lincoln‘s pensive pose, Roosevelt‘s strong stance, and Reagan‘s optimistic grin, and, of course, George Bush, Sr.‘s, warm gaze.

But Hubba Bubba?  Take a look at the portrait unveiled yesterday at the Smithsonian.  It‘s Bill Clinton playing Elvis the Pelvis, and it‘s one for the history books. 

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I must say, I had reservations about having a large portrait.  First of all, there‘s something—if you grew up as I did, portraits were pictures of dead people. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Portraits of dead people or people with extended pelvises.  With me now to talk about the provocative pose, Ana Marie Cox, former editor of Wonkette. 

Ana Marie, the stars have lined up for you, dear.  Talk about Bill Clinton‘s new presidential portrait. 

ANA MARIE COX, FORMER WONKETTE.COM EDITOR:  I know.  When‘s the last time I thought I was going to be able to talk about Bill‘s pelvis again?  It‘s quite a treat, really. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I know.  The gift that keeps on giving. 

COX:  I think that‘s what he‘d like to us think, definitely.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Wasn‘t that—and you notice, when the unveiled the portrait and Bill Clinton was speaking, that was the mantle—not that one.  There‘s another shot of him in from of a mantle.  It was the mantle where he was wagging his finger saying, “I did not have sex.”  Look the mantle.  It‘s right there.  That‘s the Monica Lewinsky mantle.  Maybe they should have got him with a dog out on, like, the back lawn or something.

COX:  You know, it‘s true.  Like, I actually have to say that I was talking to some Democratic consultant today, and they‘re very upset about this portrait.  They‘re worried that this is the going to be thing, sort of the image, the indelible image that people are going to have of Clinton throughout the ages. 

I told them, actually, I think it‘s probably going to be that, you know, testimony, the videotaped testimony that‘s going to be the indelible image we have from him through the ages.

But this is certainly quite an astonishing portrait.  I looked at it, and I thought—well, I had two thoughts.  One is, how much did he pay for that suit?  Because the whole thing is very Men‘s Wearhouse, kind of like the whole JC Penney catalog.

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s off the rack. 

COX:  Yes, totally off the rack.  And then speaking of racks, you know, he has this sort of gaze into the middle distance.  You kind of wonder what it is he‘s looking at.  And then there‘s that finger in the belt loop, which you referenced. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s that about?  Yes, what‘s that about?

COX:  Well, it‘s unsavory, I think.  You know, as some people have mentioned, like, it looks like he‘s throwing a gang sign.  Some people thought maybe he‘s pointing at something.  I kind of think maybe he‘s looking for a quick-release catch.  What do you think? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I don‘t know.  I do know this, though, that for probably 30 years, Ted Koppel reigned as the sexiest man in Washington.  Look at the comparisons here between Clinton and Koppel. 

Remember “Spy” magazine, “Separated at Birth”?  What‘s this about?  I just don‘t understand.  This is a man who‘s been trying very much to refurbish his image.  I don‘t know that this is the portrait that‘s going to do that, do you? 

COX:  It‘s very Bubba.  It‘s very Arkansas, right down to the blue shirt.  I mean, like, the blue shirt for a formal portrait?  Does he work at Blockbusters?  You know, what is he thinking when he thinks about going down in history this way?  Maybe I shouldn‘t use the phrase “going down.” 

But, you know, I think it‘s been said that he had the final approval of this portrait, and he chose the person who painted it.  But I think—have you seen the Hillary portrait that was unveiled the same day? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I did.  And it was an unfortunate juxtaposition where she was staring.  There it is.  I just I don‘t understand who set this up.  Do these people not have handlers?

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  Apparently they don‘t. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Apparently they don‘t.  Ana Marie Cox, thank you for being with us tonight.  Thank you so much for also making my mom turn off the TV set when you talked about going down...

COX:  Glad to help.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and insulting all of my friends in Arkansas.  That‘s a triple play.

Coming up, it looks like there could be a new scandal in “American Idol,” friends.  Kellie Pickler, she‘s at it again.  Wait until you hear what she‘s done with the ballot box. 

And talk about a bizarre love triangle.  Denise Richards, Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora and Charlie Sheen.  You can hear what they say -- I mean, you hear this happening in Hollywood all the time.  You‘re just not going to believe this story, though.  We‘ll give it to you when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We have breaking news tonight.  And for it, let‘s go to David Gregory.  He‘s NBC‘s chief White House correspondent.

David, what do you have for us?

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, a lot of talk about the next move at the White House, as you know, Joe.  And tonight, NBC News has confirmed that tomorrow morning, it‘s expected the president will announce that Tony Snow, a conservative columnist and commentator, a figure who‘s certainly well-known to the Bush family, is expected to be named press secretary to replace Scott McClellan.  Again, we‘re expecting that announcement in the morning from the president. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, David, a couple of things about Tony Snow.  Obviously, he works for FOX News.  Also, he worked for the first Bush administration, did he not, as speechwriter.

GREGORY:  He did.  And certainly, being close to the family and having a relationship with George W. Bush, President Bush, was an important fact here.

But I think more significant now was the fact that he was an outsider.  There were a lot of people who felt that what the White House needed now in this role was a fresh face, not only somebody with new energy, but somebody who could assertively and aggressively make the case for the president at the time when—you know, let‘s be unvarnished about—they‘re in a political crisis. 

The president‘s approval rating is at the lowest level of his presidency.  They need new blood; they need new ideas; and they need, in this case, a new spokesman. 

I mean, the president, sources have told me, is not happy to see Scott McClellan go.  Certainly, he‘s known McClellan a long time, but there were Republicans advising this White House saying that they did got feel McClellan was the most effective person for the time, didn‘t feel like he hit it off with the press corps.  Scott certainly had a good reputation among all of us who covered the White House, but certainly was in that job during a difficult period for this president. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, David, at the same time, though, Tony Snow is a guy that a lot of people in the press corps knows.  They‘ve worked with him.  They know he‘s been a columnist, despite the fact he was in politics first.

Tony Snow, what‘s your opinion of him as a man?  Isn‘t he a likable person that may walk into this job with a bit more respect than Scott McClellan, who really was an unknown when he started the job?

GREGORY:  Yes, I mean, you know, Scott was certainly known to those of us who were covering the campaign back in 2000, so we had that level of relationship with him. 

You know Tony Snow, I think, better than I do.  He certainly has a good reputation.

And yes, look, I think, for people like me in the job that we‘re doing, somebody like a Tony Snow, who has some sense of what are needs are, where we‘re coming from, can be very helpful.

But let‘s not be misguided here:  There‘s one man who sets the tone for the kind of job that Tony Snow is going to do, and that‘s the president.  And it‘s the president who has very set views about how to engage the press, and he‘s had those views since he advised his father, when his father was president and throughout the election of ‘92.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

GREGORY:  And the president believes and has believed in keeping the press at arm‘s length, even though he‘s got good individual relationships with reporters.  He has not up until now seen the utility in engaging the press a great deal.  And that‘s why a lot of get frustrated at how, you know, Ari Fleischer and then Scott McClellan did that job.  It was a function of the tone that the president set.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, David...

GREGORY:  By bring him in, they did a little bit of change there.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, David, we‘re going to have to leave it there. 

Thank you so much, and we‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And now it‘s time for Rita Cosby, “LIVE & DIRECT.”

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

END   

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