updated 5/10/2006 11:39:08 AM ET 2006-05-10T15:39:08

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, 130,000 Americans fighting for their lives in Iraq.  The mission accomplished through an election year retreat?  Why military moves suggest the president may be planning a withdrawal from Iraq.

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

Does the White House have a secret plan to withdraw from Iraq?  The Pentagon‘s announcement this week that it‘s canceled the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops headed to that country brought about a flurry of speculation and Pentagon denials that a retreat is beginning, a retreat that many Americans would like to see in time to save the president‘s party from disaster in this fall‘s mid-term elections.

For three years now, the Bush position has been that America will stay in Iraq until the job is done.  But if you‘ve seen polls lately, the American people seem to be telling the president the job is done in Iraq.  It wouldn‘t be the first time American troops have been forced to retreat.  George Washington saved the revolutionary army with his retreat from New York City in 1776, while U.S. troops fled Saigon in 1975 to less positive results.  A drawdown from Iraq would destroy the president‘s already shaky legacy but might save him from the indignity being responsible for the loss of the Republican Congress.

There is no doubt that the president‘s smartest advisers tonight are letting him know that his presidency may come down to a simple and crude choice: abandon Iraq or face impeachment.  Staying there would ensure more bloodshed, more terror attacks, more bad news for the Republican Party, while phasing troops out now would allow the president to talk about issues Americans want their leaders to discuss.  Like gas prices, or for this president, maybe something else altogether.

But regardless of what the Pentagon says, there is no doubt in my mind that the drawdown will begin or has already begun.  The only question now for the president, for the troops and for America is how quickly our soldiers and Marines will come home.  So are the Pentagon‘s moves the first step in a larger U.S. withdrawal from Iraq?

In a minute, we‘re going to hear from one of the leading Senate Democrats, Richard Durbin of Illinois.  But first, let me bring in MSNBC military analyst Dr. Daniel Goure, also of the Lexington Institute, a think tank with close contacts with top officials at the Pentagon.

Doctor, you seem to believe that this troop deployment delay or cancellation may actually be the first step in American troops coming home from Iraq.  Why do you believe that?

DANIEL GOURE, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, for several reasons.  There were three things that we needed to do before we could begin such a withdrawal.  We had to at least fight the insurgencies—insurgency to a standstill, which we‘ve done.  We have to see to the creation of an Iraqi security capability, which is clearly in evidence and growing.  And we have to be there for the creation of an Iraqi government, which is just about complete.

So all three of the basic building blocks for the Iraqis to be able to essentially manage their own security problems and control the country are in place or are about to be in place, and so it‘s about time, as the scheme goes, for us to begin rethink at least the size of our contribution to Iraqi security and even the form of our contribution.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, stay with us, Doctor.  Tonight, I spoke with Democrats‘ number two man in the Senate, Richard Durbin of Illinois, and I asked him if he believes our troops should come home now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  The poll numbers are overwhelming.  People no longer believe that the invasion of Iraq has made us any safer as a nation.  They don‘t see any end in sight.  We passed a resolution in the Senate last year, overwhelming bipartisan resolution, and said to the president, This is the year.  This is the year for significant transition.  Start bringing the troops out.

And most importantly, let the Iraqis know this is their responsibility.  We have put over 2,400 American lives into Iraq, and 17,000 or 18,000 seriously injured, almost $300 billion.  We have deposed their dictator, dug him out of a hole, put him on trial, given them a chance for elections and a government, and now it‘s time for them to step up, govern their nation and defend their nation  so American troops can come home.

SCARBOROUGH:  Isn‘t that a Democratic—isn‘t that a message that the Democratic Party can take forward this year that not only Democrats and independents can agree with, but also some moderate conservatives?

DURBIN:  Joe, this war‘s lasted longer than the Korean war, soon longer than World War II.  People want to know it‘s coming to an end.  When the president said a few weeks ago he‘d leave it up to the next president to start bringing home the troops, it was exactly the wrong message.  I think Americans want the Iraqis to know that it‘s their country, their responsibility and their future.  We have given a lot, and now it‘s time for the Iraqis to stand and defend their own place.

SCARBOROUGH:  So do you believe that the president understands he needs to draw down the troop levels, which I believe are about 130,000 right now, needs to draw them down significantly before the election?

DURBIN:  I think he does, and I wouldn‘t be surprised to see it happening.  Some say, Well, maybe that‘s just to position Republicans for a better outcome in November.  Listen, whatever the reasoning, forget the politics for a moment, when we can bring home American troops so they can be back with their families in the safety of the United States, whatever the reason, it should be done.

SCARBOROUGH:  And how quickly should that be done?  And how low should those troop levels be?  Again, this question—I‘m not asking you as a military person, I‘m asking you as somebody that obviously is a politician, that talks to constituents, so the realities on the ground on Iraq will match the political realities at home and what the American people want.

DURBIN:  Well, I think they want the troops to start coming home, for sure.  But you know, the exact number is hard to say.  I think we need to withdraw enough—or redeploy, as the word is—redeploy enough troops so the Iraqis know we‘re serious and they have to stand up and defend themselves.

But you know, there‘s a question here, Joe, that gets tough.  I can recall what happened to our Marines in Lebanon.  And that goes back to the early days in the House of Representatives.  We put in too many Marines to lose their lives and too few to defend our cause.  And as a consequence, we had that terrible carnage.  I want to make sure there are enough troops in the field so those remaining Americans will have enough protection.  But that comes to a calculation that I can‘t reach at this moment.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Senator Durbin.  Thank you so much for being with us.  I really do appreciate it.

DURBIN:  Thank you, Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s bring in right now MSNBC political analyst Monica Crowley and Amy Sullivan.  She‘s editor of the of “The Washington Monthly.”  Let me begin with you, Monica.  Do you believe the president is finally reading these poll numbers and understanding the American people no longer support his policy in Iraq and it‘s time to bring the troops home?

MONICA CROWLEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think that the president is not making a political calculation, Joe.  I think he‘s taking a look at two things happening on the ground in Iraq.  Number one, the Iraqi government—they‘re going to form a new government at the end of this month, at the end of May.  And that new Iraqi government needs to establish its sea legs before the American withdrawal can really begin in earnest.

And the second thing is, the training and the equipping of Iraqi security forces, which now stands at about 250,000, and Secretary Rumsfeld says that, in short order, it should be up to 325,000 troops that are ready to go.  The Pentagon is already turning over huge amounts of Iraq, huge spaces of area there to these Iraqi security forces.

SCARBOROUGH:  But we still have 130,000...

CROWLEY:  Whether or not they are ready to take over...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... troops over there, though!

CROWLEY:  ... that security—hold on, Joe.  Whether or not those security forces are ready to take over their own security without the backup of American troops is another question.  And this president is not going to start a massive withdrawal of American troops until those two things in Iraq are in place.

SCARBOROUGH:  Amy Sullivan, I‘ll ask you the same question.  You think George Bush is planning for a speedy retreat to get out of Iraq?  And is he doing it because it‘s an election year?

AMY SULLIVAN, EDITOR, “WASHINGTON MONTHLY”:  Well, I think the president is really in a no-win situation here, which is really unfortunate for him right now because he needs to make the best decision possible for our country and our troops without political calculations coming in.  But obviously, this is an election year, and so realistically, he is figuring that in.

And the tough thing is that the Republican Congress does not want to be running with some sort of quagmire situation that is driving poll numbers down.  You know, you mentioned that the public opinion polls are really quite negative about the situation in Iraq right now, but also, polls of soldiers in Iraq right now.  More than two thirds of them who are in Iraq think that we should get out by the end of the year.  And that‘s pretty tough to work against.

SCARBOROUGH:  Dan Goure, we learned in Vietnam that you cannot fight a war without support from Americans at home.  That was part of, as you know, what was called the Weinberger doctrine that was enunciated in the 1980s.  You got so many Americans that are opposing this war right now, isn‘t it the smart military move to get as many troops out as quickly as possible?

GOURE:  No, it‘s not the smart military move.  It may be the smart political move because if you, in fact, cut and run, look like you have caved in, if not to terrorism in Iraq, to political pressure, then that is going to be the calculation of every other opponent the U.S. has.  The Iranians obviously...

SCARBOROUGH:  So how many troops do we get out—how many troops do we take out by, let‘s say, the election?

GOURE:  I would bet that the number goes down to somewhere in the neighborhood of 110,000.  So we probably drop 20,000 by election day, if we‘re in good shape.

SCARBOROUGH:  Monica?

CROWLEY:  Right.  Which means that—and if Dan is right on this, that means that the very gradual staged withdrawal that we‘re talking about here is not going to redound to the Republicans‘ benefit in November of this year.  This president has never crafted American policy based on a political timetable, and he‘s not about to start now because if he withdraws...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, hold on a second, Monica.

CROWLEY:  Hang on!

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, no, no!  Hold on a second because I disagree with you there completely.  This president has never faced the specter of Speaker Nancy Pelosi launching investigations into everything he‘s done for the first five or six years of his administration.  I don‘t think it‘s overstating it to say this president can choose to do whatever it takes for Republicans to win the elections this fall or face the specter of censure or possible impeachment.

CROWLEY:  I don‘t—I don‘t...

SCARBOROUGH:  You don‘t think Karl Rove...

CROWLEY:  No, because—because...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... is telling him that tonight?

CROWLEY:  I‘ll tell you why I disagree with that, Joe, because I don‘t think that the president—his entire legacy now is staked on Iraq.  If he withdraws in this kind of dramatic way that you‘re suggesting for some sort of political gain in the Congress, keep both houses of Congress, that situation in Iraq is going to become a vacuum, as Dan suggested, for every terrorist organization and every terrorist in the world to go there.  You‘re going to have a Taliban-style Afghanistan in Iraq, which is going to make his presidency even worse.  It‘s going to make his poll numbers down to nil and destroy his legacy.

He is not going to stake that on the November elections.  Now, he may begin a very gradual phased withdrawal of the kind I suggested because it‘s appropriate according to the conditions on the ground in Iraq.  But he‘s not going to do it according it a political calculation.

SCARBOROUGH:  Amy Sullivan, I‘ll ask you the same question.  Do you not believe that the president‘s best advisers are telling him, You‘re getting slaughtered in the polls.  The reason—the number one reason why you are getting battered and why the Republicans may lose Congress this fall is because of Iraq.  Mr. President, you‘ve got to decide.  Are you going to draw down in Iraq enough to make a statement to the American people, or are you going to be facing Nancy Pelosi for the last two very ugly years of your presidency?

SULLIVAN:  Well, I think there are a lot of reasons that his poll numbers are going down, but you‘re right that it‘s something that‘s really going to factor into the election in November.  And this is where the tension between him and the Republican Congress comes up because he may, indeed, think of this as his legacy and not really give much of a hoot about what happens with the Congress in November, although you‘re right that he doesn‘t really want Democrats in there actually conducting oversight investigations and doing the job of Congress to find out what the administration is doing.

But it raises the question of how much is enough to really give the public the impression that you‘re drawing people out, that we are actually getting out of this situation.  And it‘s a question because if you draw enough people that it‘s a big statement, you may be leaving our troops who are left there quite vulnerable, and we can‘t afford that...

SCARBOROUGH:  And of course, like you—like you said, it‘s a difficult position whichever way he goes.

SULLIVAN:  Absolutely, it is.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks for being with us.  Dr. Goure, Monica Crowley, Amy Sullivan, I appreciate it.

I got to tell you, if the president wants to make a statement to the American people before this year‘s election, he‘s going to have to draw down these troops below 100,00.  If he does that, he can say, Hey, you know what?  We‘re below 100,000.  We‘ve drawn them down by a third.  These troops are going to be coming home.  Iraqis are going to be taking control of their future in their own country.  That may be enough to help the president move his numbers.  And as far as legacies go, forget legacies.  This president just doesn‘t want to be impeached.

Coming up next: The president‘s mess at the CIA.  Can George Bush‘s new pick turn things around, or will the Keystone Kops routine just continue at Langley?  And later, more controversy about “The Da Vinci Code” movie, from lawsuits to a hunger strike.  Some Christian activists are calling for organized fights against the movie.  Will those efforts work or just fuel ticket sales?  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The agency that‘s supposed to keep you safe has been busy enough dealing with their own scandals and personnel problems of late.  In the last 18 months, more than a dozen senior CIA officials have resigned or retired early.  Outgoing CIA director Porter Goss has been criticized for being a slacker and not paying enough attention to overseas intelligence.  The FBI is investigating whether one top official improperly steered CIA contracts through a childhood friend.  And there are new allegations tying that same official to poker parties and prostitutes with defense lobbyists.

Now, these blunders are the latest in a series of intelligence failures that have tarnished the spy agency‘s once pristine image.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH (voice-over):  For an agency that calls itself the eyes and the ears of the nation, the CIA of late has been more like the rock opera character Tommy—deaf, dumb and blind.

The latest shake-up at the agency follows decades of screw-ups at America‘s top intel organization.  There was the CIA‘s former director, George Tenet, who guaranteed President Bush that Saddam had WMDs.  Tenet called it a “slam dunk.”  Tenet‘s CIA also missed signs pointing to September 11.  That first (ph) spy chief, who was less James Bond and more Austin Powers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That is not funny.

SCARBOROUGH:  But the CIA wasn‘t much better during the first Gulf war, when the first President Bush admitted he got better intelligence from CNN than the CIA, or in 1979, when the CIA reports led Jimmy Carter to call Iran “an island of stability” right before the shah of Iran was overthrown.

During the Vietnam war, congressional hearings led to reforms that only made agents‘ jobs more difficult.  But even before those hearings, the CIA‘s bungling led to Kennedy‘s military disaster and international shame at the Bay of Pigs.

When are it comes to the CIA, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  China, Russia and France should outlaw all nuclear weapons.  We should insist upon it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What if they won‘t, Max?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Then we may have to blast them!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  So the question is whether the CIA can protect us.  With me now, MSNBC military analyst Colonel Jack Jacobs.  Colonel Jacobs, I‘ve just—I‘ve gone over the CIA‘s history, and crack staff did some researching.  Failure of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, ‘68, missed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, in ‘79, missed the shah of Iran‘s ouster, missed the Soviets‘ invasion of Afghanistan, 1990, missed the invasion of Kuwait.  We can go on and on and on.  The president, as you know, Woodward reported in the book “The Commanders,” got better intel in the first Gulf war from CNN than from the CIA.  And it continues to this day.

Can we trust the Central Intelligence Agency to keep us safe and prevent us from another 9/11?

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, unfortunately, their job is not to keep us safe, it‘s to gain information so that the national command authority can make reasoned decisions on the information that‘s available.  The problem is that the CIA is not organized properly in order to do it, is large and bloated, runs a huge budget, a lot of which is to maintain its own large size and to administer the organization, has had a succession of people who are not particularly suited to leadership, and as a result of that, the organization has fallen not just into disrepute but to dysfunction.

SCARBOROUGH:  Colonel, it seems like we‘ve had one failure after another.  Obviously, Porter Goss had a tumultuous few years there.  Before that, you had George Tenet who was waving his arms around, guaranteeing the president that Saddam having WMDs was a slam dunk.  The whole world followed that advice.  I mean, why is it so dysfunctional?

JACOBS:  Well, for a lot of reasons, part of which is that it‘s grown too large.  A lot of its capability has been extracted from it.  We have no capability or very little capability to conduct real human intelligence, a succession of administrations has stripped out the capability, going all the way back to Jimmy Carter‘s administration, and including Republican administrations sine then, have extracted the capability to produce finished human intelligence, and instead, we‘ve relied very, very heavily on signals intelligence, listening to other people‘s conversations and radio programs and so on overseas, using technological means rather than human means.  And as a result, we have no capability to find out what‘s going on in Iran, for example, even today.

SCARBOROUGH:  I was just going to bring that up.  I remember watching “Nightline” during the Iranian hostage crisis, and I remember an expert coming on and talking about how there was a failure of human intelligence, that we had to beef up our human intelligence.  That was, what, 26, 27 years ago?

JACOBS:  Well, it‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m hearing 27 years later -- 27 years later—that we have a failure of, what, human intelligence!  Why didn‘t we get it right 27 years ago?  Now we‘ve got a situation where you and I can‘t trust the CIA to tell us how far along Iran has with this nuclear weapon they‘re developing, right?

JACOBS:  Well, we don‘t—exactly right.  We don‘t have any capability, or very little capability to find out what‘s going on inside Iran, any more than we had capability to find out what‘s going on inside Iraq before we invaded over there.  We have a policy and a strategy of hope, hoping that the students will overturn the mullahs, and so on.  But at the end of the day, we don‘t have a large number of people on the ground generating good information from which we can generate finished intelligence.

And on top of all that, we have, through the suggestion of the 9/11 commission and the connivance of the president of the United States and the Congress, generated an intervening bureaucracy to make matters even worse.  John Negroponte, as good as he is, is now in a position, unfortunately, to have a bureaucracy that to stop the flow of whatever information comes up from the bottom.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Colonel Jack Jacobs.  Frightening information.  It sounds like we‘re still searching for those Iranian moderates to save us.  It‘s not going to happen.  Didn‘t happen in 1986, didn‘t happen in ‘79.  It‘s not going to happen.  Now a policy of hope?  And that‘s not good enough.

Well, it‘s time for another “Flyover” of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where we report in stories from flyover space (ph) that the mainstream media ignores.  First stop, New Portland, Maine, where a local mom allegedly helped her teenage daughter and friend bake cookies for their teacher.  But the smooth operators added a special ingredient to the cookie, Ex-Lax.  Seems the girls were seeking revenge after the teachers gave them low grades.  Well, the teachers didn‘t eat the sweet treats, but others did, leaving the school‘s bathrooms crammed, the girls suspended, and the troubled mom behind bars.  Hey, what happened to just putting a tack on the teacher‘s chair?

From Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, where lawyers and the PC police are taking the play out of playgrounds.  The patrolling PC police have begun posting signs on Portland playgrounds declaring—and I‘m not making this up—“No running on the playground.”

Other targeted activities, tag—just way too rough—and also swing sets, which these school board boneheads have also deemed to be too dangerous for kids‘ play.  Makes you wonder what these wimps have done with clackers (ph) and lawn darts.

And finally, another Bush breaking scandal, this time out of New Haven, Connecticut.  For years, rumors have spread across the Yale campus that the university‘s super-secret society, Skull and Bones, stole Geronimo‘s skull.  Well, now professors tracked down a letter from almost 100 years ago that confirms the dastardly deed was, in fact, done, and that the Indian leader‘s remains were hidden in the group‘s secret tomb.  The evidence points to members of the secret society stealing Geronimo‘s skull, including President Bush‘s grandfather, Prescott Bush.  Egad!  When will those crazy Bush boys ever learn that skullduggery just doesn‘t pay?

Coming up next here in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Ron Howard say no to a “Da Vinci Code” disclaimer.  Now Christian leaders are taking extreme measures, including one calling for a hunger strike to the death?  But this movie‘s outraged millions of Christians before its opening.  And are “American Idol” judges calling them as they see them, or are the judges biased toward their favorite contestants?  That‘s tonight‘s “Culture Crash (ph).” Stay with us.  It‘s straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  “American Idol” judges grab the fame and the fortune, but are they even doing their job?  Are they being fair to the contestants?  A lot of people are saying, no, that the fix is already in.  We‘ll talk about that, straight ahead.

But first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back.  And it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” video that you just got to see. 

Our first money shot is out of San Diego, where two women led police on a high-speed chase after allegedly robbing a shoe store.  So what would these boot burglars use to throw police off their track?  What else?  The stolen slippers.  The women fled at speeds of 110 miles an hour all while throwing handmade Italian shoes at the cops.  That‘s Prada, baby.  But the women were busted in the end, and their boots will walk straight to San Diego county jail. 

And up next, Tampa, Florida, where surveillance cameras were rolling while these bandits robbed a gas station, holding the clerk at gunpoint.  But not content with cleaning up the register, these armed thugs then decided to steal the working man‘s wallet, as well.  Fortunately, he wasn‘t hurt in the hold-up, but these two criminals are still out on the loose. 

And finally, to Livingston, New Jersey, were a black bear—last night‘s California variety, just like it—busted loose and is running free through the Garden State.  Police say the bear hasn‘t threatened anyone yet, but it‘s been seen rummaging through backyards.  And police are warning residents to be careful and hoping that bear makes its way to the toxic Meadowlands where long-buried contaminants will slow down the beast. 

You know, “The Da Vinci Code” is set to open next week, and the controversy surrounding the movie is reaching a fevered pitch.  Once Vatican cardinal has called for a worldwide boycott of one billion Catholics of the movie.  Another says Catholics should consider legal action.  And today, the Catholic Secular Forum called on Christians to starve themselves in protest. 

With me now to talk about it are:  Bill Donohue.  He‘s the president of the Catholic League.  Also, Phil Cooke, a producer of Christian films. 

Phil, let me start with you.  Ron Howard has said he‘s not going to put a disclaimer at the top of this movie.  It upsets a lot of Catholics.  What do you think about that? 

PHIL COOKE, CHRISTIAN PRODUCER:  You know what?  I‘m not a disclaimer person.  I mean, let‘s look at it.  Right now, we‘re in preproduction on a $100-million epic movie of John Milton‘s “Paradise Lost.”  They‘re also shooting “The Nativity,” the story of the birth of Christ that‘s going to come out in Christmas. 

If they had been successful doing the disclaimer on this, when these films that are biblically based had come out, people on the secular side of the fence would rise up and say, “Hey, we want a disclaimer on that, because we don‘t agree with that.  We don‘t think that really happened.”

So this is really going nowhere fast.  So I think the disclaimer is a bad idea all the way around here.  Let‘s just watch the movie.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, you know, Phil, though, I mean, you can understand why Christians worldwide would be upset.  This is a film, after all, that says Jesus is a fraud, that the Catholic Church is run by a bunch of brutal thugs, and the Bible is basically filled with myths and lies. 

COOKE:  Oh, yes, and I completely understand their motivation; I completely understand their frustration.  But the truth is:  Boycotts, protests, hunger strikes, things like that, it‘s just a bad strategy.  I‘ve never met anybody that became a Christian because of a boycott.  I don‘t know of anybody that‘s come to faith in God because they were humiliated or embarrassed into it.  It just simply does not work. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, asked about a possible disclaimer, director Ron Howard had this to say.  Quote:  “This is a work of fiction.  It‘s not theology; it‘s not history.  To start off with a disclaimer—well, spy thrillers don‘t start off with disclaimers.”

Bill Donohue, you‘ve been fighting for a disclaimer.  Ron Howard has come out and said no.  How do you respond to his assertion that, if spy thrillers don‘t start out with disclaimers, why should fictionalized accounts of church activities start out with the same? 

BILL DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, the man is not averse to disclaimers, is he, because he put one in “A Beautiful Mind.”  Sony, which is bringing out this movie, didn‘t mind putting in a disclaimer about “The Merchant of Venice,” did they, with Al Pacino?  They wanted to make sure that no one would think they might be anti-Semitic. 

So it‘s not really going to wash that these guys are against disclaimers.  And that comment that he made was in the “L.A. Times.”  We‘ve asked for verification.  We haven‘t been able to get it.  But assuming that Ron Howard wants to go down that road, as I said in March the 6th in the “New York Times” when we took out our ad, it‘s his reputation that‘s on the line.  It‘s not our reputation.  If this guy...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Bill, but I got to ask you, though:  What‘s the difference, though, between these movies that you‘ve talked about that have had disclaimers and “The Da Vinci Code”?  Do you think there‘s a bias here? 

DONOHUE:  Oh, I don‘t think there‘s any question there‘s a bias here.  And after all, if Ron Howard has to know that he took a screenplay based off a book, which is a fraud.  The begins with three facts, all of which are historically inaccurate. 

Now, let me tell you something, Joe.  I just came from Opus Dei headquarters.  And I talked with some of the people over there.  We are somewhat relieved, because there‘s been a big public education campaign by the media, because of Opus Dei and the Catholic League, a lot of Catholic and Protestant organizations, books, DVDs and videos, over the last six months and over the last year. 

There are fewer and fewer people who are going to be duped by this. 

But, yes, there are Americans who will be duped.  After all...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So why don‘t you boycott it, Bill? 

DONOHUE:  Well, look, a boycott—I think, to be prudent about it, you‘re not going to get people to boycott a movie just because of the titillation of having 45 million people buying the book.  What you have to do is to look at what you can get. 

And what you can get is to get the word out to people that this is a fable.  But, you know, we live in a world where some people think that, if you take a sleeping pill, you might be impelled to get up at 2:45 a.m. in the morning and drive into a police barricade. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK. 

Phil, I‘ve got to ask you quickly in closing, is this going to be a huge hit? 

COOKE:  You know, I‘m not sure I can follow that sleeping pill analogy.  I kind of got lost there for a second. 

I think it will probably be a big hit.  Any time something‘s that big in popular culture, popular culture is significant, because it‘s popular.  But it tells me that people are asking questions about these things, and that gives a great platform to share our faith with other people.  At my Web site, PhilCooke.com, we do a poll...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, PhilCooke.com, thank you, Phil.  Thank you, Bill Donohue with the Catholic League.  As always, we appreciate it.

And right now, let‘s bring in Rita Cosby.  She‘s host of Rita Cosby

“LIVE & DIRECT.” 

Hey, Rita, what do you have coming up next at 10:00? 

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Well, Joe, back by popular demand, we have Simon Cowell‘s girlfriend who will talk about the final four “American Idol” contestants and some of Simon Cowell‘s hidden talents.

Plus, we also have some late-breaking details in the search for one of the top 10 most wanted fugitives.  Just a few hours ago, we just got some details.  Authorities have searched a home in Denver.  Could it be tied to polygamist Warren Jeffs, who is on the run tonight?  We‘re going to have some late-breaking developments, “LIVE & DIRECT” at the top of the hour—

Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks so much, Rita.  Simon‘s hidden talents?  I don‘t know if I want to see that. 

COSBY:  No, they‘re legitimate ones.  They‘re PG-rated, so you can tune in. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Legitimate, OK.  OK, good to know.  Good to know.  All right, thanks so much, Rita.

Make sure you tune in also to “LIVE & DIRECT.”  That‘s coming up straight ahead at 10:00.  It will be great as always. 

When we come back, what matters more on “American Idol,” performance or pressure from producers?  Why some say the judges are biased. 

And just because it wasn‘t funny doesn‘t mean this Stephen Colbert tape should be banned from the Internet.  See why I got issues. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Elvis was the king of rock ‘n‘ roll, but who America‘s next singing idol will be is still up in the air, or is it?  We‘re down to the final four on “American Idol,” but it may not matter what Elvis tune the contestants select.  The judges may already know who they‘re going to crown. 

Randy Jackson was on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” recently and he said Elliott wasn‘t going to win.  So have the judges already made up their minds?  Is that really no different from previous seasons? 

With me now, we‘ve got Ruth Hilton.  She‘s from “OK” magazine.  We‘ve got Carmen Rasmusen.  She‘s a former “American Idol” contestant.  We also have Tom O‘Neil from “In Touch Weekly.” 

Tom, I‘ll start with you.  Is the fix in?  Are these judges biased? 

Do they already know who they want to win? 

TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  Well, they certainly know who they want to win, and, let‘s face it, it‘s part of their job to critique the performances.  We expect them to be harsh and ruthless, whether they‘re good or bad, but they are so obviously biased and lying when these—for the past two weeks, Elliott Yamin was terrific and they had nothing nice to say about him. 

And as you mentioned, you can tell that Randy already dismissed his chances on Ellen‘s show.  Earlier this week, when Simon was on “Good Morning America,” he didn‘t even mention Elliott as a contestant.  Well, tonight Elliott hit it out of the park.  He was magnificent.  There was nothing they could do to stop him.  So what did Simon do?  He changed his sights and went gunning for Katharine McPhee. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So why were they gunning for Elliott?  Why do they select people that they want to knockout? 

O‘NEIL:  They just have their own biases, the same way that we do.  And they‘re not necessarily based on reason, which is the problem.  For example, the notorious year between Ruben and Clay, “Newsweek” magazine caught Simon saying, “We must stop him,” referring to Clay.  “At all costs, we must stop him.” 

Well, that‘s not your job, Simon.  Your job is to critique his music. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And they did stop him. 

Ruth Hilton, you know, why is it that these three judges can basically start gunning for a contestant and do whatever they can to try to knock him out of the winner‘s position? 

RUTH HILTON, “OK” MAGAZINE:  Well, that‘s their job.  It‘s their job to entertain the audience at home, as much entertainment it‘s got from me or anyone else at home shouting at the TV, saying, “Simon, you‘re wrong,” or, “Randy, you‘re wrong.”  I‘m going to vote for the person I think is the best. 

That‘s the drama of the show, and that‘s what makes it America‘s number-one television format.  I think it‘s fantastic.  Obviously, each of these judges has their different scenario.  Simon is an A&R man.  You know, Paula is a incredibly successful pop star.  And Randy is an amazing producer.  So each of them come at what the skills required to be an “American Idol” are at a different angle.

And isn‘t it brilliant that we have this diversity and that these three, you know, can argue so much, and we can argue against them so much?

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, when your—obviously, you‘re a former “Idol” contestant—when you‘re up their singing, do you know which of the judges hates you, which of the judges like you?  I mean, has it always been like this, where the fix is in from the very beginning, they select their favorites and then they try to push audience members one way or the other? 

CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Absolutely.  And it varied for me night for night who hated me and who liked me.  But the judges absolutely have a bias. 

You have to keep in mind, Simon is not just a judge.  He‘s not just critiquing the show.  He‘s working with BMG and RCA to promote an artist.  And so he wants to get someone who is completely different from the past year‘s contestants. 

There‘s never been another Kelly Clarkson.  There‘s never been another Ruben Studdard or Fantasia or Carrie Underwood.  They‘re all from different genres.  So now who are they pushing?  The rocker, because there‘s never been a rocker before.  They want him to win, because they want to sell a lot of records.  And if they get someone atop the pop charts, atop the rock charts, R&B charts, country charts, then they‘re flying high. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, though, I mean, Carmen, that sounds sort of discouraging if you‘re the wrong genre in the wrong year.  It‘s kind of like—when I went to University of Alabama, they had this thing called the machine, and they picked the president out of a fraternity five years ahead of time.  It doesn‘t matter who the best was or the worst was.  Sounds like they‘ve got a machine going here. 

RASMUSEN:  They absolutely do.  It doesn‘t matter if you‘re the best singer; it doesn‘t matter if you‘re the prettiest, if you have the most charisma.  They are looking for someone who will make them the most money and who is different from the past years. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom O‘Neil, what do you think of that? 

O‘NEIL:  I think she‘s wrong on one point.  Of the four winners that we have seen on “American Idol,” the one they have ruthlessly pushed out of the running, the one they ruthlessly pushed, Ruben is the only one who has not paid off on the pop charts.  Clay has, of course. 

So what does that tell us?  That they‘re not necessarily right here.  And now we‘re entering the finals, and my heart breaks for Katharine McPhee, because this is a terrific singer.  And you just see that Simon doesn‘t like her, that he hates those big power ballads that are done on Broadway, the kind that Clay sang and she sang. 

And what I love about her performance a few weeks ago, when they did country music, she turned on him.  And on national TV, she said, “Simon, you just don‘t get it, do you?  You don‘t like country music.”  And that chutzpah I hope carries her all the way to the end. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Ruth Hilton, do you think that Simon is going to be gunning for her?  Because we‘ve learned through some of these polls that are taken that 50, 60 percent of the people who vote listen to Simon and let him influence their vote.  So is she in trouble?  Is she a marked woman? 

HILTON:  I don‘t think it‘s a good thing when Simon turns against you, because he does have—in spite of how much people, you know, dislike him at points, he really does have huge authority and a huge sway with people‘s minds. 

But, I mean, this guy is earning, I think, what, $30 million a year from this, so he doesn‘t need to make all the money out of the singles at the end.  You know, he‘s becoming a television personality and a television star and a creator even more than he is now in the music industry.  So, you know, he‘s got it worked out.  But good luck to all of those kids. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Carmen, let me ask you in closing about Taylor Hicks.  Here‘s a guy that has a huge fan base.  We get flooded with e-mails from his supporters every time we show his picture.  Talk about how fans will just attach themselves to these stars like they attached themselves to you while you were going through it. 

RASMUSEN:  Oh, it‘s insane.  These people act like they‘re his brother or they‘re best friends.  And they completely support them 100 percent, and it‘s awesome.  I love Taylor.  I think he‘s got a great, quirky personality.  He has a fabulous voice.  And it‘s insane to see how the fans really stick with you all the way. 

I still have people come up to me and tell me how they voted for me two hours every single night.  And that‘s “American Idol.”  It creates an instant fan base for you that will last even years to come. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s right.  And I‘ll tell you what:  The best thing about him, he‘s from Birmingham, Alabama.  Roll tide, baby.

Thank you so much, Ruth.  Thank you, Carmen.  Ruth has no idea what that means.  It‘s a redneck thing.  And thank you so much, as always, Tom O‘Neil.  Greatly appreciate it. 

When we come back, see why the U.S. Border Patrol—nothing wrong with being a redneck; I‘m one of them—see why the U.S. Border Patrol is giving me issues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back.  I‘m Joe.  I love Bam (ph), and I‘ve got issues. 

First up, I‘ve got issued with the feds spying on the Minutemen.  That‘s right.  While Minutemen volunteers work to stop illegal immigrant crossings, the group is being spied on by its own government.  Our U.S.  Border Patrol is reportedly keeping tabs on the Minutemen who are spread along the border, and then the agents are reporting their locations to the Mexican government. 

You know, it just proves once again that our leaders in Washington are siding with lawbreakers when it comes to the immigration issue.  Hey, Mr.  President, how about telling the Border Patrol to focus on illegal immigrants, not law-abiding Americans?

Next up, I‘ve got issues with C-SPAN.  The TV channel that drove Homer Simpson to disconnect his illegal cable service is now demanding Internet sites remove clips of Stephen Colbert‘s controversial White House performance.  C-SPAN said the material was theirs and not for use on the Internet, even though they already had an agreement with Google to make the video publicly available on the Internet.

Come on, C-SPAN, lighten up.  Your video‘s now part of a huge public debate.  It‘s part of TV history, and your logo is all over the clips.  Just think of it as free advertising.

And, by the way, the video we‘re running now, shot by MSNBC. 

And one more thing.  I‘ve got issues with Congress not wanting to give Americans the same health care plan that they enjoy.  Senator Mike Enzi, the Republican from Wyoming, he wants to allow small businesses to negotiate better and cheaper insurance policies, similar to health plans that Congress have, which sounds good in theory, except that this bill would eliminate state mandates that require insurance policies to cover specific tests and procedures for diseases like cancer. 

Here‘s what Senator Dick Durbin, the Democrat from Illinois, had to say about that plan. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  I find it hard to explain to my colleagues in the Senate why in the world they would be promoting a plan which has less coverage and less protection than we offer federal employees.  It‘s exactly what Senator Enzi‘s plan would do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, of course, Dick Durbin has a plan that would guarantee that the American people could get the same health care plan that Congress gets.  You know, and I agree, that what‘s good enough for Congress should be good enough for the American people. 

We‘ll be right back with tonight‘s mail bag. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time to wake grandma, because it‘s time for a little segment we call “Hey Joe.”

We got an e-mail from Stuart in Minnesota.  He wrote in, “General Hayden, the new man at the CIA, has years of intelligence experience, but politicians on both sides are criticizing him.  Is there a connection between appointing a non-political hack and an uproar from politicians?”

And Wade that‘s in Georgia says, “Joe, oil companies have used every excuse in the book to boost their profits.  The government should mandate they build more refineries with part of their huge profits.  We‘re being ripped off by greed right here at home.”

Now, friends, I want to hear from you.  Send me an e-mail, and you can send it to Joe@MSNBC.com.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Stick around, because it‘s Rita Cosby “LIVE & DIRECT” starts right now.

Hey, Rita, what you got?

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

END   

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