updated 11/3/2006 11:43:41 AM ET 2006-11-03T16:43:41

Guests: Amy Sullivan, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Phil Bronstein, Bob Kohn, Michelle Lee, David Caplan, Jill Dobson

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, fear and loathing on the front lines of Iraq, with Iraqi leaders now taking commands from a radical Muslim cleric, while a stunning “New York Times” poll released today shows the president‘s approval ratings at near record lows, almost 30 points below where he was before the last mid-term election.  Meanwhile, a whopping 69 percent of Americans are now telling “The New York Times” that the president has no plan for getting America out of that bloody war in Iraq.

Lawrence O‘Donnell, the news out of Iraq is increasingly bleak for the president and his Republican Party.  Has this failed war and these latest polls sealed the GOP‘s fate for next Tuesday?  Lawrence?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  I didn‘t get the question, Joe.  I didn‘t hear it.

SCARBOROUGH:  I said does the increasing violence in Iraq and this new “New York Times” poll that shows 69 percent of Americans believe the president doesn‘t have a plan to get us out of Iraq—does that not really seal the president‘s fate and the Republican Party‘s fate as we go into next week‘s mid-term elections?

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s a pretty devastating number, Joe.  And it‘s the reason I‘ve been predicting all year that the Democrats were going to win this congressional election because I was just looking at Iraq and asking the simple question, When we get to November 7, is it going to be better than it is now?  And I started asking that question in January, February.

And we see that this is one of those elections where the Democrats seem to be polling well and they seem to be running ahead, certainly for the House.  And conventionally you would hear people say, Gee, if the election were held today, the Democrats would win.  And whenever you hear that sentence, the Democrats would usually like to have the election held today.  But now, every day they delay this election, the numbers actually get better for the Democrats.  I think the Democrats would win bigger if they had this election on December 7.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Lawrence, what do you think about the president coming out and actually standing by Donald Rumsfeld and basically leaving a lot of Republicans hanging out to dry who have actually demanded his resignation?

O‘DONNELL:  Boy, this is one of those situations where the president‘s had no good choice.  He certainly has gone down—much too far down the road to try to reverse course on Rumsfeld.  On the other hand, standing by Rumsfeld is standing by one of the two guys in the administration who‘s less popular than the president, Dick Cheney being the other one.

This is a really problematic situation, especially with Tom Kean, for example, running in New Jersey for Senate, disowning Rumsfeld.  It‘s about the worst thing that he could have done this week.  On the other hand, when the subject of Rumsfeld comes up, especially in front of audiences of the faithful, what else can he say except that he‘s going to stand by him?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, I want to read you what House Majority Leader John Boehner had to say to Wolf Blitzer yesterday, got a lot of Democrats angry.  He said, “Let‘s not blame what‘s happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld.  The fact is, the generals on the ground are in charge, and he works closely with them and the president.”

And within an hour of each other, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and DCCC chairman Emanuel issued statements urging the Republican majority leader to apologize for his comments.

Pat Buchanan, do you think the Republicans tack of saying Rumsfeld only followed the generals‘ orders is going to work on Tuesday?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I don‘t think it is, Joe.  Look, Iraq is a hellish mess for the president of the United States, but it‘s a hellish mess for the United States of America and for all of us.  I do agree with Lawrence, it looks like the tide is really moving heavily toward the Democratic Party.  I think they‘re going to take the House, and I think the Senate is really touch and go.  And if the wave is huge, I think they could take the Senate.

But the problem here, Joe, is, look, the Democratic Party gave the president—or half of it gave the president a blank check, including Kerry, to go into Iraq.  Rumsfeld made the mistake or the Pentagon made the mistake on the troops, but that was four years ago.  And now we are in there, and this country has got to find a way out.  And I don‘t see how we‘re going to do it with a unified country, given the bitterness of this election.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Amy, a lot of Republican candidates agree with Lawrence and others, and you know, one of those who‘s in the middle of this epic political battle for a New Jersey Senate seat has an ad out going after Don Rumsfeld.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tom Kean, Jr., change the course in Iraq, replace Rumsfeld, support our troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Replace Rumsfeld, support our troops.  And yet, Amy, the president undercuts Kean, he undercuts the Tennessee Republican candidate who says, Get rid of Rumsfeld, he undercuts the Maryland candidate, Steele, also saying, Get rid of Rumsfeld.  Why did he go out there and basically deliver the kiss of death for some of these Republican Senate candidates?

AMY SULLIVAN, “WASHINGTON MONTHLY”:  Well, you know, he‘s not just undercutting them, he‘s undercutting the very last shred of his own credibility.  And when I heard his comments about Rumsfeld, the first thing I thought is, I want whatever he‘s on, because this is a man who thought Michael Brown was doing a heck of a job and he thinks Don Rumsfeld is just fantastic.

That‘s beyond rose-colored glasses.  I mean, this is a really frightening failure to come to terms with reality.  And you know, Pat referenced the problems...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Amy...

SULLIVAN:  ... that were made four years ago, but there continue to be problems made.  And the problem that voters see and that they‘re reacting to is that they don‘t have any confidence that there‘s a way to get out of this.

SCARBOROUGH:  But you know, Amy, I used to always look at Democrats, when I was running against Democrats, and when I was until the House of Representatives and hearing them debate on defense issues and just say, They‘re clueless.  And I‘d say the same thing you‘re saying right now, I don‘t know what they‘re on, but I wish I had some of it because it must be fun being in an alternate state.

But here we are looking at President George Bush five days before the mid-term elections that really are going to determine his fate, his final two years and maybe his place in history, and he‘s, I think, the only man left standing saying Donald Rumsfeld is doing a heck of a job.

BUCHANAN:  What should he have said?

SCARBOROUGH:  Democrats have to love the president‘s stand on Donald Rumsfeld.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s eclipsed the John Kerry story, Joe.  This one is much more of a problem electorally than the John Kerry story was.

BUCHANAN:  You know, Joe—Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, you‘re laughing.  Why?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I‘m laughing.  But look, it‘s four days before the election.  What would you have the president do if he‘s pressed on the issue of Rumsfeld, say, You know, basically, I agree with you guys, he‘s done a lousy job?

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  He‘s got to stand beside his man.  And look...

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan...

BUCHANAN:  ... they‘re all in this together.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... as I said to you before—as I said to you before, you‘re from that Nixonian school of politics.  You guys know better than anybody else how to leave somebody out hanging to dry.  Maybe they‘ll get indicted.  Maybe they‘ll get thrown in jail.  But in this case, Rumsfeld would just have to go back to a country club.

BUCHANAN:  Well, what...

SCARBOROUGH:  The president could have allowed him to just basically be pushed to the side and say...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Joe, you don‘t do that in the last—look, if the president of the United States said, Look, I‘ve got some real problems with Rumsfeld and I‘m going to deal with him after the election, he would have driven John Kerry off the front page.  That would be the story of the weekend!  You‘ve got to play with the team you‘ve got this weekend going in, Joe.  That‘s all there is to it.  You might wish it were different, Joe, but we‘ve got to be mature.  This is the team you‘ve got.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... we‘re talking about politics.  You don‘t have to be mature, you have to do whatever it takes to have your party win.

BUCHANAN:  What would you do this weekend?  What would you do this weekend?

SCARBOROUGH:  By the president embracing Donald Rumsfeld the way he did...

BUCHANAN:  What would you do this weekend?  What would you do, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  I would leave—I would leave Donald Rumsfeld swinging in the breeze...

BUCHANAN:  How?

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and let people write articles about Donald Rumsfeld and whether the president supports him or not.  I would not say that I stand by my man, Don Rumsfeld, when most of the president‘s problem, and certainly most of the president‘s advisers...

BUCHANAN:  You see—you see, Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and even the president‘s wife...

BUCHANAN:  You know, you...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... has wanted Donald Rumsfeld...

BUCHANAN:  You know, you...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... to leave his position...

BUCHANAN:  Look...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... for a year.

BUCHANAN:  You know, you throw him off the sleigh, how long do you think that‘s going to satisfy the wolves when he hits the snow?  They‘re going to be...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat?  Pat?  I don‘t care about Wednesday morning.  If I‘m George Bush, I just care about Tuesday night.  And Lawrence O‘Donnell, if the president mishandles for the next three or four days the Rumsfeld issue and other issues, he‘s going to have Democrats in the House and in the Senate, and they may not impeach him, but they will be investigating him every day for the next two years, won‘t they.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I‘m not sure about investigating him, Joe.  But what the president should have said is something more indefinite than, Rumsfeld‘s going to be here until the very last day of this presidency.  That was a deadly way of phrasing it.  What he should have said is something like, I want, you know, him to serve as long as he wants to serve, which would have provoked exactly the stories you‘re talking about, which means is he going to ask for Rumsfeld‘s resignation after the election.

BUCHANAN:  But that is not—Larry, how...

O‘DONNELL:  He could have—he could have...

BUCHANAN:  Larry, how does that help?

O‘DONNELL:  He could have said something—well, it helps in the sense that the...

BUCHANAN:  Then everybody starts talking about, Is Rumsfeld going?  Do you want that story all weekend, for heaven‘s sakes?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Yes.  Because...

BUCHANAN:  No, you...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  As a Republican...

BUCHANAN:  Lawrence...

O‘DONNELL:  As a Republican, I do want that story, Pat, because I have to offer the electorate something—some kind of change on the horizon.

BUCHANAN:  Look, Kean is gone and Corker‘s going to win.  He‘s out there helping Conrad Burns.  You say, Listen, by the way, I‘m going to take a look at Rumsfeld after the election, you‘d explode every headline!

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, I got to say, either you‘re on Rumsfeld‘s payroll or you‘ve suddenly become terribly naive.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  When you‘ve got Republican Senate candidates swinging in the breeze, trying to get rid of Donald Rumsfeld...

BUCHANAN:  You know...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... the last thing you want is the president of the United States going out there and saying, Hell, yes, I endorse him.  In fact, I‘m going to put my arms around him and say...

BUCHANAN:  Well...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... he‘s staying here until the bitter end.  Pat, there are a thousand different ways to handle that subtly.  Maybe the president...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Joe, you‘ve never been in a presidential campaign, and I can tell you...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, here we go!~

BUCHANAN:  No, look...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan getting condescending on me.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Look, Joe, you did OK in the Panhandle.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ve also never been...

BUCHANAN:  It‘s hard to lose in the Panhandle, Joe!

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Pat Buchanan, I‘ve never been surrounded by a bunch of cabinet members who also got indicted, either.  You have, so...

BUCHANAN:  Well, you got...

SCARBOROUGH:  Amy Sullivan—Amy...

BUCHANAN:  ... a lot of your congressional colleagues made it, Joe.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Say hello to Mark Foley for me!

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank God it was after I left town!  Amy Sullivan, finally, let me ask you—and turn Pat Buchanan‘s mike off!  He‘s a troublemaker from way back.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Amy, do you think when Americans go to the voting booth on Tuesday, they‘re going to be thinking about anything other than Iraq?

SULLIVAN:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean, we‘ve got a lot of problems, and a lot of them are connected to Iraq.  Our energy dependence is a huge one of those.  And we have domestic issues that have gone completely unaddressed because we‘ve all been distracted by this fiasco in Iraq.  But it‘s definitely the number one issue.  When I talk to conservative or independent voters who are thinking of voting with Democrats this time, that is the number one thing that comes up.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you, Amy.  Thank you, Lawrence.  And Pat Buchanan, I‘ll get you a signed picture of Mark Foley next time I see him.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  My best to your friend.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Thanks a lot.  And still ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I apologize to no one.

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Oh!  Crap!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Critics say Jon Stewart should stop pushing his political agenda and go back to telling jokes.  Is there a growing backlash against so-called fake news?

Plus, stunning news out of Hollyweird.  Tom Cruise is back in business, running a legendary film studio.  Will his new role as movie mogul revive or kill his acting career?  We‘ll ask experts.

But first, get your head out of the sand and other places.  That‘s the message from one of the outrageous political ads this season.  We‘ll show you some of the worst offenders in the election cycle coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, how did the Big Dig get $12 billion over budget?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Simply put (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Put an end to politics as usual in Massachusetts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Unless you‘ve had your head somewhere it shouldn‘t be, you know negative ad season is in full swing.  That one was from an independent candidate, Christy Mihos, running for governor of Massachusetts, just one of the many questionable ads out there.  “”Newsweek” columnist and NBC News contributing correspondent Jonathan Alter shows us the worst of the worst.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wrong on Bush, wrong on Iraq, wrong for New Jersey.

JONATHAN ALTER, NBC CONTRIBUTING CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Negative ads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s flat-out false.

ALTER:  This year, there are so many, we‘ve got negative ads about negative ads.

MICHAEL STEELE ®, MARYLAND SENATE CANDIDATE:  ... grainy pictures and spooky music saying Steele hates puppies.  For the record, I love puppies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why did you say all those things?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because they‘re true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And he has a messy desk.

ALTER:  Before they‘re gone, let‘s identify the worst of the air polluters and let you choose the nastiest of the hundreds of nasty and often inaccurate political ads this year.  And the nominees for the meanest are: Republican Kerry Healy‘s low blow against Democrat Deval Patrick in Massachusetts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If anyone you knew actually praised a convicted rapist, what would you think?  Deval Patrick did.

ALTER:  The vicious Democratic attacks on Republican congresswoman Nancy Johnson of Connecticut for not responding to a constituent with a cleft palate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I contacted Nancy Johnson‘s office repeatedly. 

She never called back.

ALTER:  And that infamous “Playboy” party ad run by Republicans against Democrat Harold Ford in Tennessee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Harold, call me!

ALTER:  We know what was the dumbest ad this year, this one run against Republican California congressman Richard Pombo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Honest Abe?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Actually, ma‘am, I‘m thinking of dropping the honest thing.

ALTER:  But how about the funniest?  The nominees are...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Since Bill Richardson some became governor, we‘ve seen some changes.

ALTER:  Governor Bill Richardson playing an old West sheriff in New Mexico.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO:  Gimme a milk.

ALTER:  John Tester‘s buzzcut in Montana.

JOHN TESTER (D), MONTANA SENATE CANDIDATE:  I‘m John Tester, and I approved this message.  I approved the haircut, too.

ALTER:  And the Kinky Friedman action figure in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can you get the Republicans and Democrats to work together?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m running for governor, not God.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now here again, we‘ve got political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell.  He‘s also a contributor to The Huffingtonpost.  Lawrence, we‘ve seen a lot of negative ads out there.  Do they work?

O‘DONNELL:  Some do, some don‘t, Joe.  I think the ones that—like the one from Massachusetts is ridiculous, and I can‘t imagine—as a former Massachusetts voter, I can‘t imagine anyone falling for that one, and Deval Patrick has a huge lead running for governor in Massachusetts, so it‘s going to have no effect.

I think the one against Harold Ford in Tennessee is the one we‘ve all talked about the most, and I think one of the reasons for that it‘s the kind of ad that can have an effect because it tries to play with the image of the candidate.  It‘s not very specific in terms of what—the damage it‘s trying to do, it‘s just trying to give you a negative feeling about the person.

And to whatever extent those ads jibe with some preconceived notion about the candidates, they actually do work, and also the more substantial they are, Joe.  I think there are plenty of ads that are called negative, meaning they are attacks on the opponent, but they are actually very informative.  When they‘re saying, for example, that the opponent has voted for tax increases or some other thing that is on the record, those are the most effective negative ads, where they actually have some substance to them.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Lawrence, let me show you an attack ad that‘s actually being used in an Ohio House race and get you to judge that one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  John Cranley‘s (ph) judgment ranges from bad to bizarre.  Cranley voted to allow children as young as 7 to be tased -- 7-year-olds tased with 50,000 volts of electricity!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Come on!  Tasing 7-year-olds, does that work on anybody?

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s an example of something I don‘t think works because the very first thing any viewer does when they see that is they don‘t believe it.  They go, That‘s unbelievable, that‘s crazy, there‘s got to be some distortion in that presentation, which there is in this case.

And so it looks a little bit silly.  It looks a little weird.  And you can‘t let the ad do that.  The ad has to feel as though it‘s in the strike zone, and that‘s when the negative ads will work.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Hey, thanks a lot, Lawrence O‘Donnell. 

Greatly appreciate you being with us tonight.

And coming up next, we‘re going to take a look at why fake news is coming under fire from the real deal.  Should Jon Stewart stick to jokes and keep his political agenda off camera, like Imus says?  And next, in “Must See S.C.”: John Kerry says he‘s sorry for his botched joke, but that‘s not stopping the late night comics from turning him into the human punchline.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time for a special John Kerry edition of “Must See S.C.,” some video you got to see.  The late night comedians are having a field day with John Kerry‘s botched Iraq joke.  Last night, David Letterman had an exclusive special message from Senator Kerry himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  And he‘s released this message as the official statement from John Kerry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In a speech on Monday, John Kerry made a remark that he says was meant to disparage President Bush, but opponents claim it was an insult to Americans serving in the armed forces.  That‘s why Senator Kerry is asking you to ignore the Republican smear campaign that‘s trying to portray him as a smug, arrogant jerk who looks down on the troops, and instead see him for who he truly is, a smug, arrogant jerk who has the utmost respect for all our fighting men and women.  John Kerry, an entirely different kind of (DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Meantime, “The Daily Show” shed some light on another Kerry controversy that went largely unnoticed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Was it part of a larger series of jokes, an attempt to bring levity to the campaign?

SAMANTHA BEE, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Well, it was, but it wasn‘t very good.  I mean, honestly, the senator had a bad day of entertaining all around.  Earlier, he was trying to amuse some local kids with a balloon sculpture of a snake wrapped around an alligator, but—yes.  Yes.  Yes.  As you can see—yes, he really didn‘t do the best possible job there. 

No.  No.

STEWART:  Yes, that‘s rough.  That‘s rough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh!  a rough day.  Oh, it just didn‘t work out for him.

Still ahead: Tom Cruise has a new role, but it‘s behind the cameras as a Hollyweird movie mogul.  Now, can the one-time “Top Gun” revive his acting career?  And coming up next: “Rolling Stone” calls Jon Stewart the most trusted name in news, but critics say it‘s time for “The Daily Show” to stop pushing politics, shut up and go back to telling jokes.  That‘s next when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Still ahead in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, real news anchors go after fake news anchors.  We‘re going to look at the new media backlash against Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  But first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, Tom Cruise gets back at Paramount by running his own movie studio.  Is it risky business or does this top gun have the right moves? 

Plus, is Al Qaeda targeting Brangelina?  We‘re going to look at the possible terror threat against “Hollyweird‘s” hottest couple. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Those stories in just minutes, but first, backlash against fake news.  Jon Stewart‘s “Daily Show” has hit its midterm stride, and for better or worse, it‘s a place many are going for informational reports like this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  My statement yesterday—and the White House knows this full well—was a botched joke about the president and the president‘s people, not about the troops. 

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  It was a botched joke.  He‘s got a million of them, collected on his new CD, “The Botched Comedy Stylings of John Kerry.” 

JOHN KERRY IMPERSONATOR:  ... you might be a redneck.  Unfortunately, I can‘t think of any at the moment. 

STEWART:  You know what?  Let‘s listen to another cut off that album. 

JOHN KERRY IMPERSONATOR:  Hickory-dickory dock, a woman fellated my penis. 

STEWART:  He doesn‘t have the right rhythm. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s that kind of hard news reporting that led “Rolling Stone” magazine to call Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, quote, “America‘s anchors, the most trusted names in news.”  Not everybody is laughing.  Some critics are actually saying the show stopped being funny and now is just pushing an agenda, critics like our own Don Imus. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I watched “The Daily Show” last night with Jon Stewart, who, as you know, perhaps I would like a lot, but I got annoyed last night. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Really? 

IMUS:  It was just enough, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What happened? 

IMUS:  Just be funny. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s your guy. 

IMUS:  Skip your—the agenda is just oozing...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, dripping out of the screen. 

IMUS:  And it‘s just enough.  Just be funny.  That‘s all we care about. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So should Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert just shut up and be funny?  Here now is Phil Bronstein.  He‘s the executive vice president and editor of “The San Francisco Chronicle.”  We also have Bob Kohn.  He‘s the author of the book “Journalistic Fraud.”

So, Phil, let me start with you.  Is Imus right? 

PHIL BRONSTEIN, EDITOR, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”:  No.  No, he is funny.

SCARBOROUGH:  Does Jon Stewart have an agenda? 

BRONSTEIN:  Well, here‘s his agenda:  His agenda is to be funny.  He‘s still being funny.  And, by the way, just be funny and shut up, you know, it‘s a little bit of a joke—I know it‘s a joke on your part.  It‘s kind of the Dixie Chick things, not as bad as John Kerry‘s joke. 

But nonetheless, the fact is, is that he is funny.  Jon Stewart is funny, and “The Daily Show” is funny, and it‘s appealing to people, particularly younger people, but all sorts of people, including old people like me, because his stuff has a basic premise underneath it, and that basic premise is that public officials and public anybody, public figure, you cannot take them at their word, OK?

Now, Joe, I know you used to be a public official, so no disrespect meant, but for the most part, public officials and public figures have their own agenda.  They want to create a mythology, and they want to sell it. 

(CROSSTALK)

BRONSTEIN:  And what he does is he strips away the curtain.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, because I was a public official in the past, I know they all do have agendas.  But I also know—and, by the way, I wasn‘t—that whole shut up and be funny was actually—it goes all the way back to Frank Zappa, “Shut up and play, instead of sing, but”...

BRONSTEIN:  You‘re not that old. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I know, but I do listen to music once in a while.  But you have to admit, when we talk about Jon Stewart, that he certainly is left of center.  He is not a conservative guy.  And he usually sticks it to Republicans a lot more than Democrats. 

BRONSTEIN:  Except for recently, when he was sticking to Kerry, so that doesn‘t really apply, does it? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, sure, he was sticking it to Kerry, because John Kerry screwed things up for Democrats going into the midterm elections, right? 

BRONSTEIN:  Oh, so it‘s just because Democrats are irritated at John Kerry, not because John Kerry made a stupid remark and “The Daily Show” is making fun of it, which is what they do?  You know, I‘ve seen him skewer Democrats.

SCARBOROUGH:  That is what they do, Phil.  But my question is—I just want to get an answer from you—I mean, do you think that Jon Stewart has an agenda, like Imus, has an agenda that‘s left of center?  Or do you think he‘s just straight down the middle and, if Democrats take control of the House and Senate, he‘ll enjoy going after them as much as going after Republicans? 

BRONSTEIN:  I think that he pulls back the curtain and shows that there‘s some poor guy behind there, sometimes some poor woman, trying to pull all the cords, and turn the wheels, and it‘s not the mythology that public officials would have you believe.  And I think that‘s actually a public service. 

So I think he‘s funny; that is his agenda.  I‘ve heard him skewer to the left, and I‘ve heard him skewer to the right, and I think he‘s pretty much down the middle.  And even if he isn‘t, he‘s still funny. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, yes, I don‘t think he‘s down the middle, but I think he is funny, and I think he serves a very useful purpose.  He does strip away that mythology and cuts through the B.S. very quickly.

Now, let‘s take a look at another clip from “The Daily Show.”  This is Stewart going after one of his favorite targets, Republican Senator Conrad Burns. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  It‘s a tighter contest in Montana, where Republican incumbent Conrad Burns faces Democrat Jon Tester, whose campaign has focused on the Iraqi war. 

JON TESTER (D-MT), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE:  Quite frankly, there is no plan, and there‘s no end in sight. 

STEWART:  Burns countered.

SEN. CONRAD BURNS ®, MONTANA:  He says our president don‘t have a plan.  I think he‘s got one, but he‘s not going to tell everybody in the whole world. 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  He‘s not going to tell everybody in the whole world, like the Army.  But there is a plan... 

BURNS:  We‘re not going to tell you, Jon.  We‘re not going to tell what our plan is because you‘ll just go out there and blow it. 

STEWART:  So on Election Day remember:  A vote for Jon Tester is a vote for blowing the president‘s elaborate, secret-saving-Iraq plan which totally exists. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, Bob Kohn, you‘ve got to admit, that is funny stuff, right? 

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR:  It‘s not just about comedy.  What he‘s providing is news analysis and commentary on this show, and it happens to be excellent, and it‘s very funny.  And, you know, every joke has both a setup and a punch line, and the news comes in the setup, and the analysis comes in the punch line.  He does an excellent job of it. 

But I think Don Imus has a point.  When it‘s all one-sided, when it‘s always the joke—if the Republicans are always going to be the butt of the joke, if it‘s going to be coming at the benefit—if the...

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Bob, obviously, a lot of people would say, because Republicans own the world right now, it‘s kind of hard to make fun of Henry Waxman when Henry Waxman and, you know, other Democrats aren‘t in control of anything, right? 

KOHN:  But, you know, I think he‘s been—over in the past, he has been balanced, but when he hasn‘t been balanced, over the past six months, there are a lot of good things going for the Republican Party right now, but he‘s following the basic agenda that‘s been established by the mainstream media.  And he‘s providing the satire at the expense of the Republicans. 

Now, when he does that, like Don Imus is suggesting, he‘s no longer funny.  He‘s going to lose half of his audience who really might lean to the right, might be Republicans, and he‘s also going to lose his credibility as a fair source of criticism of both sides, so he‘s not going to be funny anymore.

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Bob, you agree with Imus then that an agenda is oozing off the screen. 

And, Phil, I want you to respond to that.  But also, though, I want you to look at a quote from “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams.  He weighed in on “The Daily Show‘s” role, and he said this.  Quote, “Jon is the vitamin supplement.  We are the main meal.  We always have been; we always will be.  I love the show, but the day it becomes a primary source for news, then the diet is out of whack.”

Phil, where do you fall here, with Brian Williams or with “Rolling Stone” that says that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are the most trusted names in news? 

BRONSTEIN:  Well, it‘s hard to fall with Brian.  I think if I were a network anchor and I had a vested interest in making sure that, you know, the slide in the viewership of network news stopped, then I would agree with Brian, except what you‘re saying is, you know, the grass is green, but it ought to be yellow. 

The fact is, this is where people are going.  This is how people are getting their information.  You just have to accept it; you can‘t just wish it weren‘t so.  And in terms of the “Rolling Stone,” the most trusted men in America, the fact is, is that people—if you feel something in your gut, for instance, this notion that public officials have this agenda that‘s not, you know, based in reality, and you feel it in your gut, and you‘ve got a guy on television telling you, you know, this is the way, they don‘t have...

KOHN:  Joe, really, seriously, the viewer...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, hold on.  I‘ll let you respond, but let‘s play one more clip from “The Daily Show‘s” Indecision 2006 coverage, which has been hilarious.  Here Stewart goes after another Republican, Senator Rick Santorum.  And this may have actually been what...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  ... we turn our Senate spotlight on Pennsylvania.  It seems to have gotten stuck.  All right.  Anyhow, Senator Rick Santorum, down by double digits in the polls, has taken to casting himself as the hero in a Billy Joel song. 

SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  I‘m a passionate guy.  I‘m tough.  I‘m a fighter.  But you know what?  I mean, I‘m an Italian kid from a steel town. 

STEWART:  I‘m just an Italian kid from a steel town who thinks being gay is like (bleep)ing a dog.  “And he‘s living there in Allentown”...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, Bob Kohn, I‘ll give you the last word. 

KOHN:  Well, you know, I think it‘s an excellent source of commentary, but when it‘s just one-sided, it ceases to become funny.  And he‘s going to lose his credibility with the entire audience, because he doesn‘t want to become like an Ann Coulter on the right or he doesn‘t want to become like a Maureen Dowd on the left, continually demeaning and demonizing people like Cheney and Rumsfeld.  That‘s not funny anymore. 

But if he‘s balanced, people are going to see it for what it is:  good social commentary, good political commentary.  And I hope it goes back to the way that it was before these last six months.  He really is leaving a bad taste in a lot of people‘s mouths.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Phil Bronstein, we‘ve got to go, but obviously if Democrats take control of the House or the Senate, we will see Jon Stewart going after Democrats also, right? 

BRONSTEIN:  Predictions are great.  Predictions are wonderful, except none of us really know how to make them, and we‘ve got about a 50 percent chance of being right in some these things. 

KOHN:  Well, Stewart‘s always going to be right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Thanks so much, Phil.  Thank you so much, Bob Kohn. 

Appreciate you all being with us. 

And coming up, some say his career has jumped the couch, but it‘ll take more than a few good men to stop Tom Cruise from making films and lots of money as the movie star becomes movie mogul. 

And later in “Hollyweird,” some goofy fashion tips from the Hoff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom Cruise proves no mission is impossible today.  He went from out-of-work actor to running his own movie studio.  Now, this is a guy who jumped on Oprah‘s couch and got dumped by Paramount Pictures, but he‘s now going to be in charge at MGM‘s United Artists.  That‘s right, the same studio that brought us Hollywood legends like Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Howard Hughes, and Walt Disney.  But that‘s now going to be in Cruise‘s control. 

NBC‘s George Lewis has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It‘s a completely different role for Tom Cruise:  movie mogul, bringing back United Artists.  Cruise will make films for the studio and own a big piece of it.  One of the guys who brokered the deal:  high-powered Hollywood lawyer Bert Fields. 

BERT FIELDS, ENTERTAINMENT ATTORNEY:  This is certainly a triumph.  I mean, it is a tribute to his talent, to his hard-working ability. 

LEWIS:  The last United Artists movie Cruise made was “Rain Man,” co-starring Dustin Hoffman, 18 years ago. 

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR:  You never touch this steering wheel when I‘m driving, do you hear me? 

LEWIS:  The problem for Tom Cruise is that he has been steering his movie career on an erratic course without anybody else touching the wheel.  There was that episode when he jumped on Oprah‘s couch to profess his love for fiancee Katie Holmes. 

MATT LAUER, “TODAY” SHOW HOST:  But aren‘t there examples where it works? 

CRUISE:  Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, you don‘t even—you‘re glib.

LEWIS:  And then sparring with Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” about psychiatry.  His last movie for Paramount Pictures, “Mission Impossible III,” opened as Cruise faced a firestorm of bad press for his behavior.  And then Paramount dumped Cruise, but those who thought he was toast were wrong. 

CRUISE:  Show me the money!

LEWIS:  With hits like “Jerry Maguire,” Tom Cruise has shown Hollywood plenty of money, his films grossing $6 billion.

PETER BART, “VARIETY”:  Tom Cruise has proven that you can still make a very rich deal if you‘re a big star. 

LEWIS:  And that‘s why his backers are now giving him his own studio to play with. 

CRUISE:  Show me the money!

LEWIS:  George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  So does Cruise get the last laugh?  Here now to answer that, we have “Star” magazine‘s deputy New York bureau chief David Caplan and also executive editor of “InTouch Weekly,” Michelle Lee. 

David Caplan, it seems like Cruise did get the last laugh and won out over Sumner Redstone, right? 

DAVID CAPLAN, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  No, he definitely did.  This is a huge shock.  After Paramount dumped him, no one thought he was work again or have difficulty, and this is huge news.  Tom is back, and everyone in Hollywood is shocked and wondering, what are the movies he‘s going to produce with Paula?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, this came out of left field.  And as you said, the word was that Tom Cruise was toast in Tinseltown.  How did he turn it around?  And who was willing to turn their movie studio over to this guy? 

MICHELLE LEE, “INTOUCH” MAGAZINE:  Well, you know it, it really did seem like Tom was toast for a while.  Everybody remembers him jumping the couch, you know, calling Matt Lauer glib, but this really could be a turning point for him.  The interesting thing, though, Joe, to me is that it wasn‘t just like somebody is telling him, “Yes, we trust you again.”  There was money involved in this also that Tom and Paula brought to the studio to kind of buy his way into it, so it should be interesting to see how this is perceived by Hollywood. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Michelle, they did bring money to the table, obviously, a lot of money to the table.  But at the same time, Cruise had to undergo an image makeover.  He had really embarrassed himself, embarrassed people associated with him, and had been keeping it a little more conservative over the past several months.  Do you think he had to take care of that part of his personal and public life before he was able to strike a deal with United Artists? 

LEE:  Absolutely.  Tom has been on major damage control for the past couple of months.  You know, now his wedding to Katie is going to happen later this month.  He‘s been doing so many different things, and he‘s kind of been laying low.  You haven‘t really seen him on Oprah acting crazy lately, so in a way he really did have to just like disappear for a while to be able to make this type of deal and to really shock everybody like this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, David, though, putting this in proper perspective, though, United Artists, it‘s a movie studio and it is a great success for Tom Cruise, but it ain‘t exactly Paramount, right? 

CAPLAN:  Yes, I mean, definitely.  United Artists in no way has the sort of stature that Paramount does.  It definitely doesn‘t have the pull in Hollywood. 

However, I mean, this studio has a huge history.  It‘s very iconic in Hollywood, so it‘s shocking that Tom Cruise is following in the footsteps of Charlie Chaplin, of Mary Pickford.  So this is interesting. 

And the thing I love about this is that we‘re seeing the normalization of Tom Cruise.  He‘s got a job, and in two weeks he‘s going to be married. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How exciting, mainstreaming Tom Cruise.  And, of course, Cruise‘s old boss, Sumner Redstone, told “Vanity Fair,” quote, “His behavior was entirely unacceptable to my wife and to the rest of the world.  He just didn‘t turn one woman off; he turned off all women and a lot of men.”

But, Michelle Lee, in the end, it‘s all about putting seats in seats in movie theaters, and obviously there are a lot of people out there who still think that Tom Cruise can do that. 

LEE:  It‘s true.  I mean, honestly, most women are not turned on by Tom anymore.  I can say it as a woman.  You know, in his personal life, he doesn‘t necessarily do it for me, but I saw “Mission Impossible 3,” and it was a hot movie.  It was great; it was exciting.  There is still something so magnetic about this man on screen. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much.  I greatly appreciate you being with us, Michelle Lee and David Caplan.  We‘ll talk to you soon. 

And coming up, is Osama bin Laden—a mysterious question, because they think so—is Osama targeting Brangelina?  Details on the bizarre security threat, coming up next in the appropriately titled “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, do me a favor.  Call your assistant—buzz her, actually—tell her to cancel your face peal, because it‘s time, my friends, for “Hollyweird.”

First up, the “Financial Express,” a foreign tabloid, is reporting that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have increased their security in response to a threat from Al Qaeda.  Here now to talk about it, “Star” magazine‘s editor-at-large, Jill Dobson.  And with us again, executive editor of “InTouch Weekly,” Michelle Lee. 

Jill Dobson, first Russell Crowe, then Bill O‘Reilly, now Brangelina? 

What can you tell us about it?

JILL DOBSON, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  Well, Brad and Angelina are in India shooting a film about the life of Daniel Pearl, and they couldn‘t shoot the film in Pakistan because of security concerns, but apparently now the danger has traveled to them in India.  They‘ve been threatened reportedly by Al Qaeda and have groups of British security experts that are with them at all times to protect them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Jill, some of these Hollywood stars obviously have an inflated sense of self, but what is it about Brad and Angelina and, I guess, Russell Crowe before right?  Russell thought that he was also a target of Al Qaeda.  Does anybody stop and ask why Osama bin Laden would really care about a Hollywood star? 

DOBSON:  Well, in this case, it seems to be about the content of the movie.  It‘s about the life of Daniel Pearl, so Al Qaeda won‘t be reflected very favorably, since Daniel Pearl was executed as a journalist, and so therefore this isn‘t a movie that‘s good for Al Qaeda P.R.  So they think to put a death threat on Brad and Angelina, and that will make them look good.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, Michelle Lee, as we found out on 9/11, Michelle Lee, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda real concerned about bad P.R., right? 

LEE:  Oh, yes, definitely really interested in that.  It‘s just kind of funny.  Like, you can only imagine, like, the leaders of Al Qaeda sitting around thinking, “OK, we could hit the Capitol.  We could hit the Pentagon.  We could hit the U.N.  No, let‘s go for the world‘s sexiest couple.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why not?  And of course, we‘ll be following up with this.  We called their publicists, didn‘t get a response, but I‘m sure we‘ll have a response by tomorrow.

Let‘s talk about Ben Affleck.  Now, this guy says he‘s done playing superheroes because he doesn‘t like the tights, which is great, because a lot of people don‘t like his films.  Michelle Lee, what‘s in the future for Ben Affleck? 

LEE:  Well, apparently, no more Lycra for Ben.  Anybody who saw Ben‘s really awful movie where he wore this hideous outfit can say to him, “Please, please, please, don‘t do it again,” and Ben, thank God, knows that it was a really big mistake for his career.  I mean, this was way worse than George Clooney playing Batman with, like, the nipples on the outfit. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, no doubt about it.  My sons were big fans—at least my younger son was a big fan, but he was alone in that, probably not alone just in our family, but also in America.  Let‘s talk about Cameron Diaz right now.  She‘s telling “W” magazine she wants a nose job.  What can you tell us about that, Jill Dobson? 

DOBSON:  Well, Cameron Diaz is beautiful.  We all agree on that.  She has a little bit of a bump in her nose, which kind of makes her unique and beautiful.  But, however, that bump is the result of breaking her nose four times.  She says she‘s having trouble breathing through it, so she‘s going to go ahead and get it worked on so that she can breathe better, even though she‘s fine with how she looks, as she should be. 

SCARBOROUGH:  As she should be.  You know, that nose has done well enough by her, so I wouldn‘t go changing to try to please me there. 

And David Hasselhoff is telling “Elle” magazine he wears a goofy hat to avoid calling attention to himself.  Take a look.  I think he needs a lot more than a hat to hide what‘s underneath those sunglasses, right? 

LEE:  Oh, that‘s totally inconspicuous.  You know, all these swarms of fans who want to run after him are totally not going to notice this, like, seven-foot-tall man with tons of, like, chest hair walking around in a goofy hat. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, it‘s ugly, very ugly.  Hey, Michelle Lee, thank you.  Jill Dobson, appreciate it.  And we‘ll see you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

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

END   

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