updated 8/23/2006 10:47:35 AM ET 2006-08-23T14:47:35

Guests: Tom O‘Neil, Courtney Hazlett, Pat Lalama, Trip DeMuth, Debra Opri, Joe Tacopina, Roy Trakin, Sarah Bernard, Jill Dobson

RITA COSBY, GUEST HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we‘re here in Boulder, Colorado, awaiting the arrival of the man who claims to have killed JonBenet Ramsey.

But first, this just in to us.  We have some breaking news out of Hollywood, a stunning announcement about Tom Cruise.  It appears his crazy antics have cost him—a dramatic move against Tom Cruise.  We‘re going to have the very latest.  And the suspected killer of JonBenet Ramsey one step closer to justice, his first U.S. Court appearance.  And what happens next?  Plus, a shake-up at “Saturday Night Live,” buzz about what‘s happening behind the scenes of the show that rules Saturday night.

Good evening, everybody.  Hello from Boulder, Colorado, where the twisted tale of John Mark Karr took another turn today as he appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom just long enough to be told of the impending murder and also sexual assault charges and to agree to be sent to Colorado to now face those charges.  We‘re going to have much more on this unfolding story a little bit later in our show.

But first, some big breaking news coming out of Hollywood.  Believe it or not, Paramount fires Tom Cruise, once the most bankable movie star in the world.  Paramount studio boss Sumner Redstone “The Wall Street Journal,” quote, “As much as we like Cruise personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal.  His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.”

Well, Tom Cruise fires back and says he wasn‘t fired.  His business partner, Paula Wagner (ph), who‘s with him in his production company, says, “Mr. Cruise‘s company decided to set up an independent operation financed by two top hedge funds.”

So is Tom Cruise done in Hollywood?  Here is senior editor for “In Touch Weekly” Tom O‘Neil, and also with us, “OK” magazine senior reporter Courtney Hazlett and celebrity journalist Pat Lalama.

Tom, this is a big deal.

TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  It‘s huge, Rita.  We‘re talking about the biggest star in Hollywood history.  Tom Cruise‘s movies have brought in $3 billion domestically, $6 billion worldwide.  But in the last year-and-a-half, he went from the 11th most popular celebrity at the time the poll was taken to 197th.  A year-and-a-half ago, 59 percent of people who saw movies were looking forward to the next Tom Cruise movie.  Now more than 51 percent do not like this guy.

COSBY:  You know, Pat, are Tom Cruise‘s antics catching up with him?  I mean, we all remember what happened with Brooke Shields, him fighting about the use of anti-depressants.  Is all of this just too much for the studios?

PAT LALAMA, CELEBRITY JOURNALIST:  You know what, Rita?  I think the bottom line is this.  You can have your religion.  No one is going to damn you for that.  But to become self-righteous about it, to put down Brooke Shields for her choices, to be contentious with Matt Lauer, or let‘s just say condescending—anybody can be contentious—to espouse your beliefs, to make everyone else feel like a darn fool for not going along with you becomes too much.

But Rita, let‘s also be very wise about this.  If Tom Cruise were still number one at the box office and number one in polls, believe me, there would be lots of patience for whatever antics Tom Cruise might be disseminating to the public.  So let‘s face it, there‘s probably more to this story than we know.  And again, if he were Mr. Rising Star, they‘d be more forgiving than they are right now in those Hollywood studio offices.

COSBY:  You know, Courtney, I think Pat hits it on the head.  The success or lack thereof of “Mission Impossible 3”—is that what this all comes down to?

COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE:  Well, you know, it‘s definitely what everyone is pointing the finger at.  But I mean, you do have to give Tom credit where credit is due.  It was still a phenomenally successful movie domestically and abroad.  It took in hundreds of millions of dollars.  So I think what this is saying...

COSBY:  Yes, but Courtney, it wasn‘t as big of a deal—it wasn‘t as big a deal as they wanted it to be.

HAZLETT:  Yes, absolutely right.  It wasn‘t as big of a deal as they wanted it to be, but at the same point of time, he‘s not losing tremendous amounts of money for the studio.  All that said, I think the day has come where you just can‘t act like a totally, you know, willy-nilly off the set and still be able to be looked at as someone who can be responsible on set and for bringing in the types of dollars that the studios want.

COSBY:  You know, Tom, is this a message, too, that the public—because let‘s talk about it.  It‘s obviously the public that decides whether something‘s a hit or not.  Obviously, the studio‘s got to get behind it and sell it.  But is it a sign that the public has just sort of had it up to here with Tom Cruise?

O‘NEIL:  Oh, right, Rita.  He‘s lost his hero status.  He‘s lost his -

his mystery and allure that you need to be a romantic icon.  And to give you the actual dollars on this issue you were just talking about, “Mission Impossible 3,” this is how bad thing things have gotten.  “War of the Worlds” and “Mission Impossible 2” both brought in about $600 billion worldwide.  “Mission Impossible 3” brought in only $400 billion—million

I‘m sorry—worldwide.  That mean, of course, it dropped a third, but Paramount only broke even here.  And what we haven‘t discussed here is that two weeks ago, Paramount and Tom Cruise both acknowledged that Paramount had put a deal on the table, a drastically reduced deal from the one that he had before.  But obviously, they‘ve yanked it.


COSBY:  ... in fact, let me show—this is what “The LA Times”—

(INAUDIBLE) let me show you want “The LA Times” wrote because this is (INAUDIBLE) right on the head.  They speculated that Tom Cruise‘s future in Hollywood is going to fall apart if this deal fell apart with Sumner Redstone.  And in fact, they wrote, “If Cruise and Wagner”—that‘s the production company—“wind up leaving Paramount, they might be hard pressed to find another studio willing to match their current arrangement.”

Go ahead and respond.

HAZLETT:  Well, you know what? If I could jump in here really quick? 

Tom Cruise definitely had one of the biggest sweetheart deals in Hollywood.  He was well known for taking a very small salary up front and then really back—back-loading his contract with the profits at the end.  There aren‘t many stars in Hollywood who are able to just kind of look at something in the big picture and say, You know what?  I‘m going to take from this part of the profits, not the front end.  And Tom Cruise actually had that going for them.  I think this is going to change how Hollywood pays a lot of its big A-listers.

LALAMA:  You know, if I could...

O‘NEIL:  But Rita, if I could jump in here...


COSBY:  Pat, do you agree?

LALAMA:  Well, I was just going to say that some reliable sources that I have told me just recently that part of the problem is that now he‘s demanding so much salary that nobody else can really make any money.  So perhaps over time, he sort of changed his attitude.  You know, it‘s hard to say, but that‘s exactly what I‘m hearing from people I consider quite reliable.

COSBY:  Tom, what are you hearing?

O‘NEIL:  Well, the big catastrophe here is that he‘s losing the tent and the pole in tenthole (ph) pictures, which is what he makes, these blockbusters.  Paramount, of course, is a vast organization that includes both CBS television and cable channels like Comedy Central.  And I think that actually was a big issue in this decision.

Recently, this whole “South Park” episode with “Trapped in the Closet (ph),” Paramount was humiliated when Comedy Central pulled that because it looked as if—and Tom denied this, but it certainly looked as if he had maneuvered that behind the scenes.  And then, of course, it went up for the Emmy award, and it‘s now a classic in cult camp TV, but the corporation was ashamed of how it all looked publicly.


COSBY:  Pat, is this—go ahead, Pat.

LALAMA:  Well, I was just—I was just going to add to the fact that, you know, you‘ve got a guy who allegedly was putting Scientology recruiting camps on the set, sort of, like, forcing it in the environment.  I think that probably made people feel somewhat uncomfortable.  I mean, you‘ve a guy who—you know, there‘s so much mystery (INAUDIBLE) the Tom Cruise in the closet episode.  My understanding is that he said he didn‘t know anything about it, never even heard of it.

You know, every time somebody says something he doesn‘t like, he says, I got my guy Burke Fields (ph), the famous Hollywood lawyer, on him.  I like to sue.  I like to sue.  You know, I mean, I think that attitude—maybe for a while, it seems kind of fun, and, Oh, he‘s Tom Cruise, but after a while, I think people just sort of go, Eek, you know?

COSBY:  You know, Courtney, I got to ask the final question.  I‘m going to ask this to all three of you.  Courtney, let me start with you.


COSBY:  Is his career over with?  Is he still bankable?

HAZLETT:  You know, I think the Tom Cruise that we met at “Top Gun” and “Risky Business”—I think that Tom Cruise has said goodbye a long time ago.  I think it‘s going to take some sort of metamorphosis, some sort of career shift and definitely a little bit of a break away from the big screen, to get the Tom...


COSBY:  Let me bring in the other guests.  Really quick, yes, no, Tom, is his career over with?

O‘NEIL:  His career as a superstar is over with, yes, but he‘ll still be a star on the scene.

COSBY:  Pat Lalama?

LALAMA:  And I would just say (INAUDIBLE) keep doing movies like “Magnolia” and “Vanilla Sky,” which are very, very creative and a different kind of vehicle for him, and he‘s got talent.

COSBY:  All right, guys, thank you very much.  Tom O‘Neil, Courtney Hazlett and also Pat Lalama, thanks so much, guys.  We‘ll be watching.  Again, Tom Cruise dumped by Paramount.

Coming up on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we‘ll have a lot more.  The JonBenet murder mystery takes another turn.  Suspected killer John Mark Karr appeared in a California court today, and he is now on his way here—he will be soon—where I am, in Boulder, Colorado.  We are live with the very latest.

And later: All Joe did was ask a simple question about our commander-in-chief, and what he got in return was an Internet uproar.  We‘ll talk about that.

Plus: Are big changes about to hit one of TV‘s longest-running shows?  Who‘s staying, who‘s going?  We‘ve got all the “Saturday Night Live” buzz that you can handle when we come back.


ANNOUNCER:  Live from Boulder, Colorado, here‘s Rita Cosby.

COSBY:  And welcome back, everybody, to Boulder, Colorado, where we await the arrival of John Mark Karr, the man who is to be charged with the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.  He appeared in a Los Angeles court today and he waived extradition, meaning he‘s going to be sent here to Boulder to officially face the charges in the next day or two.  So did Karr kill JonBenet, or is he just a man obsessed with the case and craving attention?

We‘re going to begin tonight with someone who knows the case very well, Trip Demuth.  He is the former deputy district attorney right here in Boulder, who spent years investigating the murder.  You know, Trip, you know this case better than anybody.  What‘s your gut?  Is this the guy?


gut goes back and fourth.  You know, I‘m concerned they haven‘t done the full investigation yet.

COSBY:  Yes, we‘re hearing that, in fact, the first time that they spoke to family members, Boulder authorities...

DEMUTH:  Right.

COSBY:  ... was yesterday.  That‘s the first time that they actually spoke, it sounds like, to John Karr‘s father‘s side, also the ex-wife‘s side.

DEMUTH:  Yes, you would hope they would have done that before they arrested him.  You would have hoped that they would have compared the DNA to him before they arrested him.  I‘m hoping they compared the palmprint evidence to him before they arrested him.

COSBY:  Yes, let‘s talk about the solid pieces because we‘ve heard all of his words, all of his admissions.  What would be the linchpins for you, the key DNA linchpins that could absolutely physically put him there?

DEMUTH:  Yes, the key is the DNA.  Now—and it‘s not just whether it will match to him.  There‘s a bigger question as to whether it will exclude him.  And I think that‘s the key linchpin piece of evidence and the key question here.  There‘s a second strong piece of evidence in this palmprint that was found in the area of where JonBenet was found.  And that—if he matches that, that‘s going to be compelling evidence.

COSBY:  The other thing, too—we understand that there was, they believe, what, partial pieces of rope may been missing that were used to unfortunately strangle little JonBenet.  Also the duct tape, the rest of the duct tape on that roll was missing.  What if he says, Look, I know where these things are?

DEMUTH:  Well, I mean, clearly, if he can take us to, for example, the source of the rope that was used in that garrote, that‘s going to be compelling evidence, or if he can—or—or there‘s footprint evidence, for example, and he has footwear that matches that.  You know, that‘s going to be compelling evidence, as well.  But they need something more than statements because most of the facts of this case have been discussed in the media.

COSBY:  All right, Trip, stick with us because I want to bring in the rest of our panel, if I could.  We have with us former prosecutor Wendy Murphy, also criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina and defense attorney Deb Opri.

Deb, what do you make of this guy?  Is he the real deal?  Is he the killer?

DEBRA OPRI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I don‘t think so.  For more DNA evidence, if that comes out, then it‘s an open-and-shut case.  But if this is just a guy who is confessing to crimes to get the attention, to get out of Thailand, I have strong doubts, Rita.  And I told you earlier I just don‘t see him as the perpetrator of this crime.  Of course, I don‘t know all of the details, but the DNA will make or break this case.

COSBY:  Joe Tacopina, do you agree DNA is going to be it?  Or what about the fact that he—what if there‘s some physical evidence that shows he was in Boulder, Colorado, you know, on that date, can place him here, where there‘s, you know, financial records, billing records, hotel records, phone records?

JOE TACOPINA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Rita, all of that will be important.  I mean, I think it‘s really going to be two things that are going to either put this guy in or take him right out.  It‘s going to be DNA.  Don‘t forget there was unknown male DNA under JonBenet‘s fingerprints -- fingernails—and the handwriting.  You know, although it‘s not a perfect science, it‘s a science that‘s been accepted under the Dolberg (ph), the Supreme Court standard for admission of forensic evidence.

And I got to tell you, if the DNA and/or handwriting link him to it, he‘s the guy.  If not, it doesn‘t exclude him, but you know, Rita, I mean, I think you toss his confession to the wind because I don‘t think anyone really put too much stock into it.  He didn‘t say anything in there that was not in the public domain, if you will.  So it‘s going to come down to hard evidence, not the potential ravings of a lunatic, someone who has shown indicia of mental, you know, instability and someone who‘s shown, in addition, to be fascinated with this case.

So yes, if he was in Boulder, certainly, that‘s a piece of evidence that would go further towards implicating him.  But you know, don‘t forget this was one of the most bungled crime scenes in United States history, Rita, and it‘s going to be hard pressed to make a case without some slam-dunk DNA evidence.

OPRI:  Rita, can I make a comment on...

COSBY:  You know...


COSBY:  ... it was a mess!

OPRI:  Rita, can I make a comment on the Dolberg evidence that he talks about?

COSBY:  Sure.

OPRI:  OK, first of all, and I‘m sorry to interrupt, but on the Dolberg evidence with the fingerprint—with the handwriting, it‘s a very stringent test.  And if you go into it and compare it with your handwriting analysts, I don‘t think that‘s going to be very strong evidence.  Not at all.

COSBY:  Wendy, go ahead.

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  OK.  So let‘s just get back to the basics for a moment, shall we?  First of all, there‘s no significant DNA.  Henry Lee has said that the thing we‘re talking about in the underpants not only is such a minuscule piece of DNA, it was probably from the manufacturer, MSNBC reported earlier today that they actually could match that DNA to another pair of underpants manufactured by the same company.  Remember, the pair we‘re talking about was taken from a brand-new package, so they were likely able to do that...


COSBY:  ... what do you make of it...

MURPHY:  Let‘s stop talking about the...


MURPHY:  What is it?

COSBY:  Is this the guy?

MURPHY:  Of course this is not the guy!  I mean, for—my goodness—look, his own ex-wife says he wasn‘t there!  And we‘re talking about all these red herrings as if they‘re going to make or break the case.  This was an inside job!  Let‘s get that straight, OK?  It was an inside job!  And oh, by the way, which reminds me...


MURPHY:  ... where‘s Johnny?

COSBY:  Are you saying tonight—are you saying tonight...

MURPHY:  Where is John Ramsey?

COSBY:  ... that you still believe the Ramseys did it?  Are you saying...

MURPHY:  Of course!

COSBY:  ... that the Ramseys did it?

MURPHY:  Where is John Ramsey?

TACOPINA:  Of course?  Hey, Rita...

MURPHY:  He has been deathly silent for days!


TACOPINA:  Rita, I‘M glad we got that out of the way.


COSBY:  Wait, wait, wait!  You guys, let me interrupt you because—

Joe—Joe, I got to bring up the fact that, look, judges have looked at this.  A judge basically said it looked like an intruder, basically excluded the Ramseys years ago.

TACOPINA:  Oh, my God.

COSBY:  I mean, there‘s no evidence that...


MURPHY:  That is not true!

TACOPINA:  Wendy, pipe down!  A judge and...

MURPHY:  No!~  That is not true!~

TACOPINA:  A judge and a grand jury...

OPRI:  Yes, Wendy, pipe down!

TACOPINA:  ... Rita...

MURPHY:  A judge who...

TACOPINA:  A judge and a grand jury...

MURPHY:  A judge who did not hear...

TACOPINA:  ... excluded them.

MURPHY:  ... any of the evidence!

TACOPINA:  And Wendy Murphy—Wendy Murphy just went on national


COSBY:  Let me take Joe Tacopina...

TACOPINA:  ... and said, Of course they‘re the murderers, Rita.  Wendy Murphy just went on national TV and said, Of course John Ramsey‘s the murderer.  Well, look...

OPRI:  Defamation and slander.

TACOPINA:  ... I hope she‘s ready to back up...


MURPHY:  I said, of course it was an inside job, and you know it! 

Stop with the nonsense!

TACOPINA:  Look at that transcript, Wendy!~

OPRI:  Oh, come on!


TACOPINA:  Stop screaming, Wendy.  It‘s OK.


COSBY:  Let me bring in Deb Opri...

MURPHY:  Get a dose of common sense!


COSBY:  What do you think, is he still an option here?

OPRI:  What do I—no, what do I think about this whole thing?  I truly believe that John Ramsey, who has skipped town because this circus act has come to Dodge—I think he should be out (ph), and that doesn‘t make him a criminal because he‘s not in town.  And Wendy, we are attorneys.  We shouldn‘t be irresponsible in the allegations we set forth.  Joe, I‘m in agreement with you that it‘s DNA, and there are a lot of little factors...

MURPHY:  Try not to be irresponsible in saying that their guy...


COSBY:  Trip Demuth—Trip Demuth...

OPRI:  You can keep talking, Wendy...


COSBY:  You‘re listening here, shaking your head.  What do you think?  You know this case better than anybody.  What do you think, at this point, inside job, or is it this guy?  Does this guy maybe have information on someone else, if he‘s not the guy?

DEMUTH:  Well, I worked the case for almost two years.  I‘m intimately familiar with the DNA evidence.  And your guest who‘s relying on the DNA evidence to think the Ramseys did it has inaccurate information.

COSBY:  I mean, look, a grand jury excluded them.  A lot of people said, No way!

DEMUTH:  I‘m telling you, she‘s relying on inaccurate information.  It is not as she says.

COSBY:  And you believe it‘s an intruder.

DEMUTH:  I believe it‘s an intruder.

COSBY:  Deb Opri, finally got to ask you, real quick—this guy talked about Michael Jackson.  I got to...


COSBY:  Because I think this is fascinating.  You represented Michael Jackson, and I got to (INAUDIBLE)


COSBY:  The other day, it looked like he had black eyeliner on, like Michael Jackson.

OPRI:  Rita, I‘ve had a number of media people asked if I‘ll go to court—to the Twin Towers and see him.  The bottom line is, just because he has made a public statement that he sympathizes with Michael Jackson, in this instance, I sympathize with Michael Jackson and the Jackson family because he had to drag their name into yet another criminal case.  And I‘m very sorry for the Jackson family.

COSBY:  All right, everybody, that‘s going to have to be the last word

very spirited debate.  (INAUDIBLE) everybody, we‘re awaiting the arrival of John Mark Karr here in Boulder, Colorado, still in LA, could come tonight, could come tomorrow.  We will let you know as soon as we know.

And still to come, everybody, Bushism backlash.  How a simple question created an Internet firestorm.  Tonight, the uproar over the president intelligence.

And later, the fake news fires back.  Jon Stewart takes aim at cable news for all of our JonBenet coverage.  We‘re going to bring you his latest rant straight ahead.  You got to see this!


COSBY:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  By now, you have probably heard every little detail about John Mark Karr‘s luxury flight back to the U.S. this weekend.  He‘s, of course, the man suspected in the killing of JonBenet Ramsey.  Well, the 24-hour cable networks were there to report on every second of it, and it didn‘t go unnoticed by Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” last night.  Take a look.


JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Nothing could be more important than our top story in the news.  It continues to be that we may or may not have solved the murder of one person in Colorado 10 years ago!  For more, we go to Fox News.

BRIAN WILSON, FOX CORRESPONDENT:  John Mark Karr, arrested in Thailand for killing JonBenet Ramsey, now heading back to the U.S. Fox has a cameraman on the plane with him.

STEWART:  Let it sink in, people!  Let it sink in!  They‘re moving this man from Thailand to the U.S. on a plane.  Obviously, this plane ride raises a million questions!  So much can happen with a Lex Luthor-like super-villain like this man, who may or may not have had anything to do with anything.  Will he take the plane down?  Has he hidden other super-villains on the plane dressed as civilians?  Will he take a dump (ph) on the drink cart?


COSBY:  Good old Jon Stewart!~

Well, coming up in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, NBC is ready to roll out its new fall line-up, but are the fireworks going on behind the scenes at “Saturday Night Live”?  The real entertainment.  We‘ve got the latest buzz on possible shake-ups at the show that rules Saturday night.

Plus, the firestorm kicked up by asking one very simple question.  We‘ve got the question and all the reaction you could ever want.  Stay with us.



COSBY:  And coming up, are big changes on the way at “Saturday Night Live”?  We‘re going to tell you why the drama going on behind the scenes at “SNL” could be enough for its own primetime show. 

Plus, Oprah Winfrey may soon have some big competition.  You‘re not going to believe which Hollywood mom thinks she should be the next Oprah.  That‘s in tonight‘s “Hollyweird.” 

Welcome back, everybody, to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I am Rita in for Joe tonight.  Those stories in just minutes. 

But first, after Linda Ronstadt called President Bush an idiot, Joe did a segment asking whether Ronstadt‘s charge was a cheap shot or a growing sentiment within the president‘s own party.  Well, the response on the Internet, cable TV, and also the newspapers has been incredible. 

Today, “Washington Post” op-ed columnist Eugene Robinson wrote this.  He said, “Even conservatives have begun openly assessing the president‘s intellect, especially its impermeability to new information.  Cable television pundit Joe Scarborough,” our pal, “a former Republican congressman, devoted a segment of his show on MSNBC to George Bush‘s mental weakness.  It‘s tempting to go there, but I‘m not sure we would get very far.”

But it has gone very far.  The segment has been seen by almost a quarter-million people on YouTube alone.  Let‘s take a look at the segment that people are buzzing about.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think—tide turning, see, as I remember, I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of turn—it‘s easy to see a tide turn.  Did I say those words? 

No question that the enemy has tried to spread sectarian violence. 

They use violence as a tool to do that.

We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we.  They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither to we.  We must never stop thinking about how best to defend our country.

I‘m the decider, and I decide what is best.

The United States of America is engaged in a war against a—an extremist group of folks.

Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.

If you don‘t stand for anything, you don‘t stand for anything.  If you don‘t stand for something, you don‘t stand for anything.

Fool me once, shame on—shame on you.  Fool me—you can‘t get fooled again.

In my State of the—my State of the Union—or a state—my speech to the nation, whatever you want to call it.

... at the high school level and find out that the illiterate—literacy level of our children are appalling.

I hear there‘s rumors on the Internets that we‘re going to have a draft.

You‘re working hard to put food on your family.

I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.

Tribal sovereignty means that:  it‘s sovereign.  If you‘re—you‘re a

you‘ve been given sovereignty, and you‘re viewed as a sovereign entity. 

And, therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.         

They misunder—underundestimate—underestimated the compassion of our country.  I think they misunderestimated the will and determination of the commander in chief, too. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Sounds like me.

So is the president intelligent?  And do we need a brilliant president or just somebody who surrounds himself with bright people?  Here to help answer that question, Lawrence O‘Donnell, a political analyst.  Also, John Fund, from OpinionJournal.com.

Now, John, this isn‘t just about Linda Ronstadt.  I‘ve heard Republicans and Democrats start saying this privately.  Liberals and conservatives, heck, Frenchmen and friends alike, talk privately about George W. Bush, and they‘re saying what these music stars and rock stars are saying, that George Bush‘s lack of gravitas is hurting America at home and embarrassing us abroad.  Is that a fair question to ask?

JOHN FUND, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM:  It‘s the wrong question.  Look, George Bush wakes up every morning and, for the whole day, he arm wrestles the English language and he often looses.  Voltaire once said that common sense is both rare and a lot more important to successful leadership than intelligence, and I agree. 

Here‘s the thing:  The author of “Bushisms,” Jacob Weisberg, who is the liberal editor of Slate.com, he has plowed through almost everything George Bush has ever said.  He concluded that Bush has a linguistic deficit, and he said that‘s no sign that there‘s any lack of mental capacity there.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, there‘s not, but, you know...

FUND:  There are two different problems here.  He‘s inarticulate, but he is not stupid.  And I have to tell you, you know, our foreign policy may be in a little bit of trouble right now, but we‘re presiding over a nation with 4.8 percent unemployment and 2.5 percent inflation.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, you‘re talking about foreign policy, though, John.  One of the president‘s former aides who worked with the president on foreign policy, has been close with him for a long time, told me recently that he‘s intellectually shallow and one of the most incurious public figures this man had ever met.  We hear that from congressmen.  I hear it from the senators.

FUND:  Joe, let me tell you what I hear...

SCARBOROUGH:  We hear it from staff members.  Shouldn‘t that concern us?

FUND:  Yes.  Let me tell you two things that do concern me.  Someone once told me a long time ago George Bush is a great guy, but the smirk is real.  There‘s a smart aleck nature to him.  And I would say, while he‘s intelligent, he is not always imaginative.  And I wish there were a little bit more imagination and curiosity.

SCARBOROUGH:  And I agree with you.

And you know, we‘re not the only ones who‘ve noticed George Bush‘s blunders.  Recently, “The Daily Show” picked up on his obsession with food.


JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  President Bush was overseas in Germany as events unfolded.  Here is his press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany, where he wasted no time addressing the many troubling developments.

BUSH:  I‘m looking forward to the feast you‘re going to have tonight. 

I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig.


STEWART:  I‘m just going to assume that that is some sort of euphemism for solving the Middle East crisis.

BUSH:  And I guess that‘s about all.  We‘ve discussed a lot of things, in other words.  And thank you for having me.  Looking forward to that pig tonight!

QUESTION:  Does it concern you that the Beirut airport has been bombed?  And do you see a risk of truly a wider war?  And, on Iran, they‘ve so far refused to respond.  Is it now past the deadline, or do they still have more time to respond?

BUSH:  I thought you were going to ask about the pig.



SCARBOROUGH:  If you look at clips of George Bush, though, when he was governor of Texas, he seemed so much more confident.  He seemed so much more self-assured.


SCARBOROUGH:  And it‘s almost like the more he stumbles over his tongue, the more he realizes that he‘s maybe overmatched by the English language.  And it seems he‘s losing confidence by the day.  He‘s getting worse instead of better!

O‘DONNELL:  It looks like he‘s overmatched by the job.  It looks like he‘s overwhelmed by it and it‘s just out of his league, especially ever since Katrina. 

FUND:  Joe...

O‘DONNELL:  From Katrina onward, his imagery feeds a level of incompetence that is very unusual.  And so everything he does now, he‘s allowed no margin of error on these kinds of gaffs now.  Whereas, if he‘d had a bunch of real policy successes to point to, and if Iraq—look, if Iraq was a real policy success, that guy could fall down everywhere he went and he would be getting standing ovations.


SCARBOROUGH:  And nobody is...

FUND:  Joe, ultimately, we‘re having this conversation, because...

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait, hold on one second.  I want to ask you this,

though, John.  You can talk about that, but also talk about how Republicans

it seems like most Republican presidents—we just showed a shot of Gerald Ford.  You know, he was painted as a dunce.  Ronald Reagan painted as a dunce.

FUND:  Eisenhower.

SCARBOROUGH:  I remember Eisenhower, hearing how stupid Eisenhower was, which, of course, the guy was about as shrewd and calculated as you could be.  And now they‘re saying that about George Bush, but I think George Bush is in a league by himself.  I don‘t think he has the intellectual depth as these other people, but do we need that as a president?

FUND:  Well, I think we would be a lot better off criticizing the policies.  I‘ve criticized many of the policies.  But, you know, let‘s put this into perspective:  You mentioned all the Republicans that have developed a reputation for being dimwitted.  I just have a question.

Obviously, intelligence is not congregated just on one side of the political spectrum.  Can anyone name me a well-known Democrat, in modern history, who‘s ever developed a popular media image as being stupid or dimwitted?  You can‘t come up with one; they‘re aren‘t any. 

So it‘s only Republicans who develop this dumb image.  Some of them really are dumb.  But some of them is just a substitute for argument, because you don‘t want to argue their policies so you just dismiss them as being stupid.  There are no Democrats who have this image.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know what?  This is a fascinating conversation.  I‘d like to continue it later.  Lawrence O‘Donnell, John Fund, thanks for being with me.


COSBY:  And earlier today, Joe was on MSNBC‘s “DAYSIDE” responding to criticism that he‘s gotten over that segment.  Take a look. 


SCARBOROUGH:  I never called George Bush an idiot.  I simply asked the question that somebody else called him an idiot, and I don‘t think he is.  And I‘ve been very clear that I don‘t think George Bush is an idiot. 

But what makes this an important story politically is the fact that members of the president‘s own party and conservatives in particular have been asking these questions for the past six months or a year. 


COSBY:  Why do I have the feeling we‘re going to be talking about this for a long time?  I think so.  Not the end of the it.

Coming up, everybody, it is one of TV‘s longest-running programs, but are big shake-ups about to hit “Saturday Night Live”?  We‘ve got the latest buzz on what next season‘s cast could look like. 

And if you thought Britney‘s wardrobe choice for the Teen Choice Awards was very strange, wait until you hear what she has came up with now.  That is straight ahead in tonight‘s “Hollyweird.”  We‘ve got some good ones tonight.


COSBY:  And welcome back, everybody.  “Saturday Night Live,” an American treasure and the launching pad for some major comedy stars, is facing some dramatic changes this fall.  Four cast members are reportedly about to be fired.  And the undisputed star, Tina Fey, will not return to “Weekend Update” while she works on the NBC comedy “30 Rock.”

So what does the new makeover mean for one of the longest-running and most successful entertainment programs in television history?  Is this good news?  is this bad news? 

Here now is Tom O‘Neil, senior editor for “InTouch Weekly.”  Also, “New York” magazine reporter Sarah Bernard.  And Roy Trakin, he‘s the celebrity biographer and also senior editor for “Hit” magazine.

Tom, first to you.  You were in the press conference section with Lorne Michaels today, right?  What did he reveal? 

TOM O‘NEIL, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  Well, there will be no new faces added for the first time in a long time, which is unusual, in addition to these four people that will be trimmed.  And instead of a newly anointed host for “Weekend Update,” what they‘re going to do is rotate hosts. 

But this whole thing really is a panic about Tina Fey leaving.  You know, how much of a creative force was she behind the show?  She wasn‘t merely a dominant face on the show; she was co-head writer.  And when she leaves now to do “30 Rock,” which is a parody of “Saturday Night Live,” I think the great fear everybody has is the parody, if this is all about Tina, could actually be better than the original. 

COSBY:  And, in fact, we‘ve got a little clip.  Tina Fey is, of course, getting up to do this particular thing, “30 Rock,” which looks kind of fun.  Let me play a little clip. 


TINA FEY, COMEDIC ACTRESS:  The movie, “Brokeback Mountain,” opened this week.  The movie is making history as the first western ever where the good guys get it in the end. 


Let me tell you this:  That joke was sent to me by my 72-year-old father, Don Fey.  That‘s true. 




COSBY:  That, of course, is Tina Fey doing her famous routine there on “Saturday Night Live.”  You know, Sarah, when you see that, she was really a big part.  I mean, she‘s so memorable.  Isn‘t that going to have an impact on the show? 

SARAH BERNARD, “NY” MAGAZINE:  I really think that the show is going to be OK basically for two reasons.  One is Amy Poehler and the other is Adam Samberg (sic).  They really proved themselves last season.  I mean, Amy Poehler, I think, arguably could do “Weekend Update” herself.  And Adam Samberg got so much mileage out of his “Lazy Sunday” “Chronicles of Narnia” rap that—that was all over the Internet.  I think it‘s going to bring in a whole new really generation of people that probably hadn‘t really watched the show, thought it was kind of tired.  They‘re going to tune in this October when it starts again just to see what he‘s going to do. 

COSBY:  You know, Roy, we were looking at a little history of past changes.  One was, what, in 1980?  I was reading another one in 1995.  The changes didn‘t fare so well, though, back then.  But couldn‘t this add—just maybe add some freshness, be different? 

BERNARD:  Absolutely, I mean, it‘s just...

ROY TRAKIN, “HIT” MAGAZINE:  Yes, no, I mean, they‘ve been predicting the demise of “Saturday Night Live” since Chevy Chase left after the first season.  I think in this case “Saturday Night Live” has been pretty resilient. 

I mean, in this case, the brand name is actually—you know, has lasted more than all the cast changes through years.  And, you know, I agree that, you know, last year Andy Samberg broke out.  They always seem to be strongest when they bring in the young talent rather than talent from elsewhere, like Billy Crystal, or Robert Downey, Jr., or Anthony Michael Hall.  Those were the weak years.  But they‘ve managed to break out, you know, one new star after another through the years.  So the brand has been resilient. 

COSBY:  Roy, what do you make of the fact that Tom was saying no new faces added?  How do you read that?  Is that a good sign, bad sign? 

TRAKIN:  Well, I always thought the cast was a little over-stuffed.  I mean, the speculation now is, who are the four that are going to be leaving?  You know, let‘s hope it‘s not Horatio Sanz or, you know, Jimmy Parnell (sic), or any of those guys, because I think they‘re very strong.  But...


COSBY:  Let me bring in Sarah.  Sarah, do you have an idea who is leaving, Sarah?

BERNARD:  Well, I think it‘s clear who‘s going to stay, exactly.  I think that, you know, Chris Parnell was actually fired once, I think in 2001, and then asked back halfway through that season, so I hope they‘ve learned their lesson with him and they‘re not going to let him go.  Horatio is also a big name.

And I was wondering what‘s happened to Maya Rudolph, since she hadn‘t been on the show all that much.  I wondered if she was interested in staying.  But it‘s going to be really a different kind of show, because there‘s usually sort of a core group and then a whole bunch of people that kind of fade in and out.  And I guess really they‘re just going to work these 10 feature players really, really hard every week, whoever they may be. 

COSBY:  Tom, real quick, real quick, Tom, could they be bigger and better?  I love “Saturday Night Live.”  Could it be bigger and better?  Real fast.

O‘NEIL:  I think this is a great opportunity for it to be bigger and better, if this talent that has been repressed because Tina was so dominant around there—but I think they‘ve got a great lineup.  And these past dips you talked about I think happened when they were clearing the decks.  They...


COSBY:  OK, that‘s going to have to be the last word.  We‘ve got a hard break.  Everybody, we‘ll be right back.


COSBY:  Roll out the red carpet.  It is time to take a trip to “Hollyweird.” 

First up, Lindsay Lohan‘s mom says she is the new Oprah.  That‘s

right:  Dina Lohan saying she did such a good job raising Lindsay she wants

her own talk show so she can give advice to other people now.  Joining me

now with all the wild Hollywood buzz, editor at large for “Star” magazine -

it‘s the magazine that broke this story—Jill Dobson.  And still with us, “OK” magazine‘s senior report, Courtney Hazlett.

Let me start with you, Jill, because you guys broke this.  First of all, how did this come about? 

JILL DOBSON, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  Well, we actually spoke to Dina.  We were at an event where Dina‘s daughter, Ali, who is Lindsay‘s little sister, was in a recording studio.  She‘s working on an album, also.  And Dina said that she‘s interested in starting a talk show.  Lindsay‘s friends call her the white Oprah, because they all confide in her.  And Dina Lohan is also writing a book on show biz and how to succeed in the business.  And you have to give her credit:  She does know how to help someone succeed in the business.  Lindsay‘s become a huge superstar.  So I think Dina in a lot of ways knows what she‘s talking about.  I think she‘ll be pretty successful. 

COSBY:  You know, Courtney, did anyone want to get advice from the woman who basically raised Hollywood‘s number-one party girl? 

COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE:  I know.  It seems a little bit contradictory.  And you know what?  Every girl needs somebody to talk to.  I‘m glad that the young ladies of Hollywood have Dina Lohan to look up to. 

But, quite honestly, last time I checked, I didn‘t see anyone, you know, writing her in, in the mom of the year ballot.  She‘s made some questionable decisions.  I know my mom would be appalled if I were dragging her out until all hours of the morning to every hot nightclub between here and L.A.  So I think it‘s something that people are kind of just shaking their head at a little bit. 

COSBY:  All right, you guys.  Next up on the docket here, queen of the tabloids, Britney Spears, says she wants to be buried with her dog, Lucky.  Is this just another wacky chapter, Jill?  Why does this woman keep talking? 

DOBSON:  That is my exact question.  You know, Britney...

HAZLETT:  I couldn‘t agree more.

DOBSON:  Britney had a good move when she presented at the Teen Choice Awards, when she walked onstage, presented Kevin, introduced him to the audience and then he performed.  And, you know, it was nice to see her there supporting her husband.  And I thought, “OK, good, she‘s getting back on the right track.  I‘m happy for Brit.”  But then she had to say this, and I was like, “Why would you tell people you want to be buried with your dog?”  It‘s just weird.  Just quiet down for a while, have your baby, and let us hear you on your album when it comes out. 

COSBY:  Courtney?

HAZLETT:  In terms of celebrity news, you know, Britney definitely is the gift that keeps on giving right now.  I mean, one thing that comes out of her mouth is just wackier than the next it seems.  I think what we have right here is a woman who‘s under a lot of pressure.  She‘s really under the spotlight, the microscope.  She‘s about to give birth, reportedly in a month or so.  And I just think she should take this time for herself, and chill out a little bit, and just let the dust around her settle.  And it probably will do her a lot of good, P.R.-wise.

COSBY:  Absolutely.  Now, finally, a story that is just outright weird.  According to the “New York Post” newspaper, singer Whitney Houston has a surprise fan:  Osama bin Laden.  Osama bin Laden reportedly loves Whitney and has considered putting a hit on her husband, Bobby Brown. 

Jill, this is just outright wacky. 

DOBSON:  Yes, I know.  You know, I live in New York.  I survived 9/11.  And I would just like for Osama bin Laden to be caught and for justice to be brought.  And for him to say things like this just shows what a hypocrite he is.  So many of these terrorists say, “Oh, we hate America.”  But they love our movies.  They love our music.  They love stars like Whitney Houston.  So you know what?  Stop hating America.  You know you love us.  Just leave us alone. 

COSBY:  Courtney, should Bobby Brown be worried? 

HAZLETT:  Well, you know what?  First of all, I didn‘t know that the caves where he‘s been hiding get such good Internet and radio reception.  I mean, I don‘t know he‘s kind of tuning in here.  And that said, Whitney Houston‘s star has decidedly fallen quite a bit in the last few years, so, I mean, on one level, she might just be glad that she‘s got a fan out there who‘s really standing by her.  I don‘t think Bobby Brown has too much to worry about, though.  I‘ll eat my hat if he actually comes out and asks her on a date, as he‘s threatened. 

COSBY:  Then we can all swarm in.  All right.  Thanks, guys, very much.  And that is all the time we have for tonight, everybody.  I‘m Rita Cosby here in Boulder, Colorado, where, again, anticipation is definitely building as authorities are waiting for the arrival of John Mark Karr.  He is the man who says he killed JonBenet.  Earlier today, Karr agreed to be returned from Los Angeles. 

Stay with us, because “MSNBC INVESTIGATES” is right now.



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