updated 11/30/2006 11:31:53 AM ET 2006-11-30T16:31:53

Guests: Sarah Bernard, Jason Gay, Marc Malkin, Tom O‘Neil, Steve Adubato, Dina Sansing, Joe Klein, Michael Crowley, Tom O‘Neil, Matthew Felling

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  President Bush stood up in his summit to end the war in Iraq.  The president learns at the last minute that he has been snubbed by Iraq‘s prime minister, which led to 35 lawmakers leaving the government, while Pentagon reports admit U.S. troops may have to leave western Iraq, a region the report says we have lost to terrorists.

Meanwhile, Bush‘s former ally, Colin Powell, says Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, and a new Democratic senator gets into a verbal battle with the commander-in-chief.  These are the meanest days for President Bush, with signs out of Iraq and Washington pointing the finger to a final battle for Baghdad.

NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell is traveling with the president tonight and gives us an update on the latest news from the summit that wasn‘t.  She joins us now from Amman, Jordan.  Kelly, what do you have?

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Joe.  President Bush didn‘t find out the Maliki meeting was off until he got a phone call on board Air Force One while he was traveling here to Jordan.  The U.S.  ambassador called him to say that Prime Minister Maliki had decided, along with the Jordanian officials, that since they had had a meeting here earlier in the day, there wasn‘t a need for the three leaders to get together tonight.

But White House officials were careful to say it was not a snub, that it was not a response to the leaking of that memo written by the president‘s national security adviser that was critical of Maliki‘s government.  The White House says that the meetings with Prime Minister Maliki are scheduled to go forward tomorrow.  We‘ll be watching to see if that meeting does go forward as planned.  Joe, now back to you.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, thank you so much, Kelly.  Greatly appreciate it.

And here now to talk about another day of terrible news for President Bush, Joe Klein—he‘s columnist for “Time” magazine—Michael Crowley—he‘s senior editor for “The New Republic”—and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Joe Klein, let me begin with you.  The president of the United States is snubbed by the prime minister that his war put in power.  This is a humiliation I think that‘s rarely visited on a U.S. president, is it not?

JOE KLEIN, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  I would—I would defer to Brother Buchanan.  I mean, was there ever a summit where the other guy didn‘t show up?  I mean, this is astonishing.  And there is a real back story here that I‘m beginning to put together.  I mean, we‘ve had a number of staged leaks from the Bush administration the last of couple days.

Yesterday in “The New York Times,” there was a leak from a senior intelligence officer who said that Muqtada Sadr, the most powerful Shi‘ite militia leader, was having his people trained by Hezbollah, the Iranian-supported militia group in Lebanon.  Today we have this leaked memo from Steve Hadley expressing doubts about Maliki‘s strength as a leader.  At the same time today, we have an op-ed piece in “The Washington Post” from a prominent Saudi, saying that they are going to move in if we don‘t move on the Iranian militias.

All of this puts together—put together leads to only one possible conclusion, and that is this.  The president of the United States wants to take aggressive action in Iraq, probably against Muqtada Sadr.  Maliki, the president of Iraq, doesn‘t want to have that action taken because Muqtada Sadr is his primary source of support.  And so you have the president inviting him to a summit and Sadr saying that he‘ll drop out of the summit (SIC) if he doesn‘t go, and he goes kind of halfway to Amman.

I would love to be a fly on the wall of Maliki‘s hotel room right now, fielding the phone calls from both sides to see whether he‘s going to show up tomorrow morning.

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s the $64,000 question.  Michael Crowley, this could not be more embarrassing for President Bush.  Again, I think there just is simply no parallel to the president of the United States is stood up by a leader from a third world country.  And let‘s look at it this way.  This is a president who couldn‘t have this summit in Iraq because it was too dangerous, right?  And so then he has it in Jordan, and he‘s snubbed.  How could the White House allow this to have happened?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Well, Joe, I think we‘ve known for a while now that the White House doesn‘t really have control of anything that‘s happening in Iraq.  This is a sign that the government which Bush has sort of invested in, which has been the one sign of hope and progress he can keep referring to, that there were these elections, that they wrote a constitution, that there‘s actually a government that sort of resembles a functioning political body, barely—that was the one thing that they could point to as an achievement in this whole ordeal, and now that‘s—we‘ve lost control of that.  It looks like the government may fall apart.  You know, there‘s nothing left.

And you know, I just think it‘s just another sign that Bush‘s policy looks like it‘s just kind of spiraling out of control.  And listen, you know, maybe Bush will win this tug of war and maybe they‘ll go after Sadr.  Maybe that‘s the short-term answer.  But what happens if they get Sadr?  There‘ll be some new Sadr who rises up.  I mean, you get Sadr, I don‘t think the Shi‘ites all go home and relax and say, Well, so much for that.  So...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Michael, the bottom line is, they‘re going to have to go—if this is what they‘re going to do, they‘re going to have to go after Sadr.  They‘re going to have to go after the death squads.  They‘re going to have to kill a lot of Shi‘ites over in that country and put Sistani, another Shi‘ite, back in power because he was the one moderating force over in Iraq.

Pat, let me ask you about that.  But first, let me ask you, historically, can you ever remember a time in recent U.S. history where an American president was snubbed at a summit by a leader of a third world country, or any country?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Offhand, I can‘t, Joe.  But I can tell you why I believe it was done.  I think Hadley‘s memo was written to be leaked.  It is an insult to Maliki.  It‘s humiliated him.  You know, in effect, it‘s like the manager of a basketball team walking out to the mound and talking to his pitcher and then letting him stay on the mound.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, but Pat, tell me—and Joe Klein—what Joe Klein was talking about...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, but what Joe Klein was talking about earlier was fascinating.  You‘ve got this Maliki leak.  They‘ve decided they‘re going to humiliate this prime minister before they meet him.  We‘ve got this report leaked out that says we have lost all control of western Iraq.  We‘re going to be sending troops...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... into Baghdad.  We‘ve got all of these different leaks coming from all different sides.  And like Joe Klein says, it seems to point to a possible final battle of Baghdad.

BUCHANAN:  Well, this is exactly what‘s happening.  You got the Marines being pulled out of Anbar province into Baghdad.  What Maliki is doing, he is insulting the president in order to maintain his base at home, which he alienated by going to see the president.  The Marines and everyone coming out—battle of Baghdad, I think, is about to begin.  My guess is al Sadr is deciding whether or not to stay with Maliki or make his move.  He now has 40,000 to 60,000 people who are warriors, far more than he had in Najaf.

Now, the question‘s going to come down to, Is the president of the United States—are they going to go at this guy first?  Because this could be—if—look, if al Sadr is going to oust Maliki and go for power now, you‘re going to have a war between them and the United States military for control of Baghdad.  If I were Mr. Maliki, I‘d start reading the biography of president Diem because I think we could be in a pre-coup situation, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  I think we are, too.  I think a coup is definitely coming.  I think a battle for Baghdad may be coming, too.  And again, it‘s all coming together at this time.  Joe Klein...

KLEIN:  It‘s much worse than that, Joe.  It‘s much worse than that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell me about it.

KLEIN:  First of all, to have a coup, you need to have a replacement, and I don‘t know that there‘s any agreement on who would replace Maliki.  Second of all, let me just correct Pat on one thing.  They‘re bringing the troops down from Mosul.  They‘re not bringing them from Anbar province.  They‘re going to continue to fight that apparently losing battle.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, but Joe, hold on one second, though, Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on, hold on, hold on!  Let‘s clarify that because yesterday, we got a report that Anbar province has been lost.  Today Peter Pace comes out in his (INAUDIBLE) says, Oh, no, no, we‘re not going to bring the troops from Anbar province.  We‘re going to have to bring them from somewhere else.  It sounds like something where, in the middle of the night three weeks from now, they bring the troops from Anbar province.

BUCHANAN:  I think...

KLEIN:  No, no, no!

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN:  But they‘ve also announced that they‘re bringing—they announced that they‘re bringing 20,000 troops down from Mosul, which isn‘t very good, either.  And the fact is that they need many more troops than that to make this thing happen.

But there‘s another question here which really conveys the incompetence of the situation.  Pat Buchanan, have you ever heard of a summit meeting that wasn‘t completely pre-cooked in advance?  I mean, that‘s the amazing thing about this.  They seem to be flying—the Bush administration seems...

BUCHANAN:  I have heard of that, Joe.

KLEIN:  ... to be flying by the seat of their pants.

BUCHANAN:  Joe, listen, we flew by the seat of our pants at Reykjavik...

KLEIN:  Oh, that‘s right.

BUCHANAN:  ... when Reagan blew the thing up.  But let me say this.  I have never seen anything like this...

KLEIN:  That was a unilateral decision on his part.

BUCHANAN:  Right, but that wasn‘t—that thing wasn‘t brokered in advance, what was going to come out of it.  But let me say—look, let me say this.  I think you‘re right.  I also think what you saw in “The Washington Post” is what I saw, and that was dramatic to see that the Saudis, in effect, saying, If you guys are going to pack it in, we‘re going in and we‘re going to protect and defend our Sunni friends here, if you guys aren‘t going to deal with this.  This—Joe, this is as dramatic a situation as I think we‘ve seen.  And clearly, we‘re headed for some kind of major climax.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The bottom line of this is, either U.S. troops take care

of the growing Shi‘ite threat and all the death squads under al Sadr, or

we‘re staring down a regional war.  And you know, it‘s very interesting,

Michael Crowley.  You have the president‘s former secretary of state saying

I mean, crossing George Bush today, saying, yes, it is a civil war, Colin Powell saying it is a civil war.  But as Joe said earlier, it may be much worse than that, and we may not just be talking about a civil war, we may be talking about a regional war between Sunnis and Shi‘ites.

CROWLEY:  Sure.  I mean, you know, it seems now that the only—the problem with the term “civil war” is that it‘s not bad enough, right?  I mean...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

KLEIN:  That‘s exactly right.

CROWLEY:  I mean, now that the debate has been broached, there are a few hold-outs on the right saying, You can‘t call it a civil war.  It‘s not that bad.  The reality is, it‘s much worse.  It‘s four-dimensional chess.  There‘s so many different factions and outside players that the term doesn‘t do justice to it.

And as far as the Bush administration‘s ability to maintain credibility, to seem like it‘s in control of the situation, you know, it‘s devastating for them to have Colin Powell, who, despite the speech he gave at the United Nations, which has now been largely discredited, still has a lot of standing and moral authority with the American public, I think.  And so it‘s not helpful at all for them to have him out there saying things like this, but I think it‘s quite appropriate that he do so.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Joe, here‘s a key point.  Now, let me mention something.  A key question here is will Muqtada al Sadr—they have walked out.  Is this just a suspension walk-out, or are they gone for good and are they prepared to bring down the Maliki government?  Because I agree with Joe, I don‘t know who the replacement is.  Clearly, down the road, I think Sadr sees himself as it.  I just don‘t know if he‘s prepared to make that big move now.

SCARBOROUGH:  And you know, Joe...

KLEIN:  Well, the conflict...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Machiavelli, you know, said, of course, in politics, it‘s better to be feared than loved.  This president can‘t strike fear in the hearts of foreign leaders when incoming Democratic senators won‘t even talk to him at his own White House.  I mean, you have the Webb situation going on, where an incoming Virginia senator who replaces George Allen didn‘t want to talk to George W. Bush and then got in a fight with him when Bush tried to talk to him.

KLEIN:  Well, you know, I know Jim, and I‘ve known him for a long time.  And he doesn‘t—well, I don‘t want to call the president a fool, but he doesn‘t suffer people he disagrees with gladly.  He isn‘t really good on social small talk.

But to go back to this very crucial, unprecedented situation that we have right now—put yourself in Maliki‘s head.  His main source of support is Sadr.  His main—his main, you know, benefactor is the United States.  My guess is that the president of the United States, President Bush, has come to the conclusion that he can do something that will make neoconservatives happy and also make a segment of the U.S. military—people in the Pentagon, who I know have been dying to go after Sadr ever since 2004, which is to go after Sadr now.  He sends a message through this leaked Hadley memo today, Either you play ball with us about Sadr, or else we‘re going to pick up our marbles and go home or we‘re going to do it anyway without you.

BUCHANAN:  But as you say...

KLEIN:  And on the other side...

BUCHANAN:  But Joe, as you say, who‘s the replacement...

KLEIN:  And on the other side...

BUCHANAN:  ... for Maliki?

KLEIN:  Well, in Maliki‘s mind, he‘s thinking, Wait a second, those Americans are bugging out in any case.  If they‘re not doing it now, they‘re leaving in two years.  I‘m going to stick with the power.  And right now, the power is Sadr.  Intelligence sources have told me that over the last year, the Iranians, who had a very bad relationship with the Sadr family for many years, have begun to really support this guy.  They‘ve doubled down on their support because he‘s won who‘s winning the internecine battle against other Shi‘ite militias.  This is so complicated, four-dimensional chess even doesn‘t begin to describe it.

SCARBOROUGH:  It doesn‘t, and I‘ll tell what you.  It is such a dangerous situation, especially when you see the Russians being allies with the Iranians, who are allies with al Sadr.  This really could expand well beyond a civil war.  Joe Klein, Michael Crowley and Pat Buchanan and Michael Crowley, thank you so much.

And coming up next:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANNY DEVITO, ACTOR:  ... trying to, like, you know, figure out what to do with our country and our women and men in the military...

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And apparently, (INAUDIBLE) Danny DeVito apologizes for a buzzed Bush tirade on “The View.”  Is ABC allowing “The View” to become a forum for political hate speech?  We‘re going to show you DeVito‘s tirade, and also, Bill O‘Reilly‘s claim that NBC is biased.  Plus: Speaking of runaway beer (ph) talk, CNN‘s Nancy Grace hires an image consultant after a guest commits suicide.  See why Nancy‘s PR machine is reportedly spinning out of control.  And later: President Bush‘s back rub tops “GQ‘s” list of the most awkward moments of the year.  But look out, Jon Stewart, because Bush isn‘t the only target.  The full list of top moments of 2006 later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Bush-bashing takes center stage on “The View” yet again, but this time, it doesn‘t just come from Rosie O‘Donnell.  Actor Danny DeVito turned up this morning on the gabfest showing the effects from his night out with none other than George Clooney.  The apparently (INAUDIBLE) DeVito took a page out of Rosie‘s book and unloaded a partially censored tirade against George W. Bush while trying to explain why he hasn‘t visited the White House lately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANNY DEVITO, ACTOR:  I didn‘t go after, you know, (DELETED)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s the president (DELETED)

(CROSSTALK)

DEVITO:  No, I mean, you know, the guy who (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re breaking up (INAUDIBLE)

DEVITO:  ... trying to, like, you know, to figure out what to do with our country and our women and men in the military.

(CROSSTALK)

DEVITO:  (INAUDIBLE) Donald—OK.  What about a hat trick last week? 

Rumsfeld, the House and the Senate!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So is Rosie O‘Donnell turning “The View” into an open forum for Bush bashing?  Here now is Tom O‘Neil.  He‘s the senior editor for “In Touch Weekly.”  He‘s also worked with Rosie O‘Donnell on her magazine.  Also Matthew Felling.  He‘s the media director for the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

Let me start with you, Tom.  I mean, I don‘t even recognize “The View” anymore.  What is going on here?  Do people—have people seen what Rosie O‘Donnell‘s been doing and decided, like Danny DeVito, he can come on and instead of talking about his work, just bash politicians?

TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  Yes.  Yes, this is “Irresponsible View,” is what they should call this show now.  It‘s one thing if Danny wants to come on and make jokes about the president—he‘s a great comedian—or even get silly and mock the president, but do it in some way that you back it up.  He is obviously drunk on this show.  At least, that is the opinion of 87 percent of people at TMZ.com who answered a poll.  If true—and clearly, he seems to be inebriated.

The shocking thing, Joe, is that they let him on this show in that inebriated state.  You know, I run into Danny DeVito in Hollywood all the time.  His reputation is impeccable.  He‘s a great stand-up guy.  Let‘s give him a free pass for what happened here.  You know, this happens.  He was out with Clooney the night before.  Especially you could see how that could happen.  But they knew it.  When Joy Behar introduced Danny, she explained that—wink, wink—he‘s been out the night before.  So when he started acting irrationally like that, it was clear that, hey, they let this happen.  You don‘t in TV—would you let your guest go on the air drunk?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and you know, of course, you‘ve explained to us before, working with Rosie O‘Donnell, that she is out of control.  She has a terrible ego, doesn‘t have a good reputation with a lot of people who‘ve worked with her in the past.  But Barbara Walters is a completely different story.  She‘s an icon.

I want to show our viewers an image from this morning‘s “The View.”  This is just after Danny DeVito started going on his tirade, and you can see Rosie O‘Donnell there, smiling with delight, and Barbara Walters looking visibly uncomfortable.

And Tom, she said later, He‘s president of the United States.  What‘s Barbara Walters doing in the middle of this mess, letting Rosie O‘Donnell destroy her reputation?

O‘NEIL:  Oh, Rosie was clearly loving this.  And remember what Rosie did last week, which was she brought—you know, accused Kelly Ripa of all this anti-gay bashing and all this stuff.  So, you know, Rosie is eating this stuff off.  The whole show has become a circus.  It used to be—it was supposed to be a show for the responsible interchange of views of women having serious chatter, disagreeing a lot, but then bonding at the end.  That‘s not what we have anymore.  Ever since Rosie got there, the ratings have shot up because they love this carnival atmosphere.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I want to show you an apology.  According to ABC, DeVito delivered a personal apology to Barbara Walters, a good idea.  I would apologize to Barbara Walters if I had humiliated her that way.  His publicist said this, though.  Quote—I love this apology—“He has called Barbara Walters to apologize for anything that could be construed as unfortunate.”  Yes, like going on the show drunk and embarrassing Barbara Walters~!

And you know, Matthew Felling, though, when we‘re talking about bias, I got to—let‘s bring in Fox News anchor Bill O‘Reilly because he actually went after NBC News for the decision to use the term “civil war” to describe the situation in Iraq.  Take a look at Bill O‘Reilly‘s attack on NBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  NBC News has declared that there is indeed a civil war in Iraq.  Now, that‘s not shocking because NBC is the most aggressive anti-Bush network these days, as they have made a calculated effort to woo left-wing viewers.  The question is, Is NBC wrong about Iraq?  The answer is, Yes.  Of course, the American media is not helping anyone by oversimplifying the situation and rooting for the USA to lose in Iraq, and that is what some media people are doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I think that‘s insane, that he‘s suggesting there that NBC is rooting for America to lose in Iraq.  Bill O‘Reilly has had questions about this war from the very beginning.  Bill O‘Reilly knows we‘re engaged in a civil war over there.  I‘m stunned.  What is going on at Fox News?  Why is Bill O‘Reilly claiming that my network, NBC News, is rooting for terrorists?  That‘s truly insulting to me.

MATTHEW FELLING:  Yes, well, apparently, we now know of two programs that don‘t have a breathalyzer and require you to be sober when you go on the air.  It‘s “The View” and “The O‘Reilly Factor.”  This “No spin zone, the alcohol must be...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And let me tell you this, Matthew.  Hold on.  I have defended Bill O‘Reilly time and time again because I know liberals hate Bill because he speaks his mind, and he wins.  But I think in this case, it‘s over the top and it‘s very disturbing to me.

FELLING:  Well, it‘s not—it‘s not just over the top.  And Bill O‘Reilly has quoted some of the data from my group, the Center for Media and Public Affairs, as recently as three weeks ago, when we talked about how the media was covering the congressional 2006 election.  And what we found out in the data was, actually, NBC was being the nicest to the GOP and to the Bush administration of the three different networks.

And I Just have to wonder—I mean, Bill O‘Reilly—if you want to call anybody who considers it a civil war rooting for America to lose, you now have to count Colin Powell on that list.  And Newt Gingrich has called this involvement in Iraq a failure.  So these aren‘t really the “cut and run” Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi people we‘re talking about.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and you‘ve got that—you‘ve got the neocons that are saying the same thing.  And again, this isn‘t about me defending NBC News.  I go after my own network, as well as other networks.  I‘m just—

I‘m very surprised at it.  And again, I don‘t understand what‘s behind that.

FELLING:  No.  And I—I don‘t understand this culture warrior mentality.  He makes a lot of good points, but he has to go over—steps over the bounds, where—I mean, he said, Are they looking to lose the war?  And I‘m just—I‘m just asking him, Is he—where is he getting his information?  Everything is just in the mind, in between the ears of Bill O‘Reilly, and he just spits it out.

And I mean, I don‘t know who made a bigger—a bigger mistake, what Danny DeVito did or Bill O‘Reilly, because it‘s just misinformation that‘s patently wrong.  It‘s provable based on our data.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I really think it is.  I know there aren‘t a hell of a lot of networks out there other than Fox News that have conservatives like me on.  Finally, Tom O‘Neil, we got to go, but let‘s bounce back to Rosie, when you want to talk about somebody who really is biased.  Do you think Rosie‘s going to survive “The View” much longer?

O‘NEIL:  It all depends on what is going on in Barbara Walters‘s head.  Can she put up with it anymore?  Those ratings climb week after week after week.  The show is a solid hit.  But Barbara‘s patience has got to be absolutely frayed!

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  And certainly, Barbara Walters, of all the people that are there, she‘s got the most stellar reputation to defend.  Matthew Felling, thank you so much.  Tom O‘Neil, stick around.

Coming up next: Jon Stewart uncovers Saddam‘s long-lost weapons article (ph).  It‘s a “Must See S.C.” special next.  And later: Can Nancy Grace bounce back after being accused of driving a guest to suicide?  We‘ll show you why it may be time for Grace to fire her spin doctors that she just hired.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” some video you‘ve just got to see.  First up, holiday shopping is in full swing, and Stephen Colbert shows us why toys should stay off of Santa‘s list. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  Check out the rock on her finger there.  Check that out, OK?  The threat here is false expectations. 

(LAUGHTER)

And not just for girls.  My sisters had Barbies when I was growing up, and as a result I spent my entire post-pubescent life looking for a seven-foot-tall woman with a 17-inch waist and no nipples.  I will find you!  It‘s so disappointing when they have nipples. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, finally, Jon Stewart shows us some old footage of what was really in Saddam‘s arsenal. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  The world‘s most dangerous man had some of the world‘s least dangerous weapons.  Yes, that is a sling shot he‘s testing out, along with Molotov cocktails, a lethal game of children‘s jacks, and worst-case scenario, he was prepared to use the sex sling of death.  By the way...

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

... where was that video three years ago? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up next, CNN learns just how hard it is to stop a runaway beer truck.  We‘re going to look at why one of the best spin doctors in America can‘t help Nancy Grace‘s image problems.

And later, don‘t believe the hype.  “GQ” exposes the most overrated pop culture phenomenons of the year, and not even Jon Stewart‘s safe.  They‘re going to join us with their list, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, “GQ‘s” backlash against Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?  Well, “GQ” magazine is here with the most overrated phenomenons in 2006.

And later, Britney‘s baby drama.  Why her partying with Paris could help K-Fed keep the kids?  “E!‘s” Marc Malkin joins us for a trip to “Hollyweird.”

And welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Those stories ahead.  But first, does Nancy Grace need an extreme image makeover?  The CNN Headline News anchor went out and hired an image consultant from her own pocket to brace for the backlash after a guest committed suicide just hours after appearing on her show to talk about her missing son. 

Now, according to the “New York Observer,” the consultant pitched an upbeat story about Grace who, quote, “undaunted by the tragic fate of Trenton Duckett‘s mother, was pursuing the story” and would be going to Florida to broadcast from, quote, “an outpost called Team Trenton Headquarters, where she might even go diving in search of Trenton.”  CNN would provide the footage, of course, and Ms. Grace would happily do a video diary.  But, of course, this is from a woman who still hasn‘t apologized.  And Nancy Grace is not saying “I‘m sorry” just yet.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, CNN HOST:  I do not feel that our show is to blame for what happened to Melinda Duckett.

I did not go over Melinda Duckett.  Correction:  Melinda Duckett refused to answer questions to either myself or police about her child‘s whereabouts. 

So all the people that have been riding me like a mule about questioning her, I would advise them to, a, take a look at the presser today where the police name her the primary suspect, and, b, join us in the search to find this baby. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And O.J. is still searching for the murderer of his ex-wife.  So is an image consultant going to help Nancy Grace after all?  Here‘s Sarah Bernard, contributing editor at “New York” magazine.  We also have Steve Adubato, MSNBC analyst and Tom O‘Neil, senior editor at “InTouch Weekly.”

Steve, let me go to you first, because we‘ve been talking about this for a while.  Nancy Grace is in freefall.  You look at this “New York Observer” article, she‘s gone out, she‘s hired a top consultant, an image consultant, trying to spin this thing, but it ain‘t helping.  She‘s in trouble, isn‘t she? 

STEVE ADUBATO, MEDIA ANALYST:  Big trouble, Joe, too little, too late.  What‘s amazing about this is—as you have and I have been covering the story since it happened—I said to you the biggest problem that Nancy Grace has is that she doesn‘t seem to come across on the air with any compassion, humanity for Melinda Duckett‘s parents. 

They‘re suffering, and all she‘s doing, after the woman committed suicide, she went on the air.  I‘ve got to tell you, Joe, no P.R. or image consultant is going to help Nancy Grace if Nancy Grace continues to come across as an unsympathetic, uncaring figure, who shows no humanity or compassion. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Steve, you know what‘s interesting, Steve, is she‘s complaining.  She‘s whining about people riding her like a mule, and yet she has been riding this dead woman who committed suicide after her interview like a mule for rating points, right?  I mean, in the end, it‘s not the interview.  It‘s not the suicide.  It‘s what she did after the suicide, night after night after night, that‘s caused her the problems, correct? 

ADUBATO:  Joe, it is disgraceful.  I hold CNN responsible for not holding her more accountable.  And, ultimately, if Nancy Grace is this crusading prosecutor that she used to be but she‘s still doing it on the air, why doesn‘t Nancy Grace be honest with us and say, “Listen, I know my image is taking a hit, so I‘ve hired someone to help me come across as more likable and someone who is a little more sympathetic, even though you don‘t see that.” 

My point is, she owed it to people to tell them, full disclosure, that she had done this.  Instead, we find out now, now it‘s unclear whether she‘s actually still working for her, this woman, Anna Cordasco.  By the way, the firm that Anna Cordasco works for, they specialize in, quote, “corporate image resuscitation.”  With Nancy Grace, it‘s too late to resuscitate her image, too late, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Maybe.  Let me bring in Sarah.  Sarah, talk about CNN.  Let‘s talk about this CNN angle, because this is, of course, a network where most—I think some of the most respected broadcast journalists get their paycheck week in and week out.

SARAH BERNARD, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  This has got to be humiliating for CNN, right? 

BERNARD:  Well, I think it really has upset a lot of people, but what‘s interesting is CNN had nothing to do with the hiring of this spin doctor, if you will.  Actually, when I first heard about this story, I thought, “Oh, they must have said, you know, you‘ve got to do something about the situation,” but really this is something that Nancy did on her own, because she obviously knew that she was upsetting a lot of people. 

And then, of course, all the pitches that the spin doctor made to a bunch of journalists in Florida just really further upset the people at Headline News and CNN.  And now...

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Sarah, of course, I mean, this pitch about Nancy Grace going scuba diving to look for the missing baby? 

BERNARD:  I know.  I know, it‘s absurd.  I mean, she really was literally pitching her as if she were Nancy Drew, going out there and going to single-handedly, you know, find the kid or find the killer. 

And it‘s really—it was just—the tone was completely wrong.  You know, as someone who gets pitches from these kinds of people all the time, you have to acknowledge a little bit of the reality here. 

But what is really interesting to me, in terms of the CNN situation, is that, while all of this is happening, while she‘s getting sued by the family, while these stories are clearly backfiring and her personal spin, the ratings are going up.  So I really do wonder what people at CNN are left to think, because the net effect of all of this is that, you know, the network is benefiting. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, it‘s benefiting in the short run.  The question is...

BERNARD:  In the short term. 

SCARBOROUGH:  .. yes, is it worth it in the long run?  You know, if this woman is being turned into a joke by what‘s been going on, it seems to me that hurts CNN, again, because it‘s such a respected network.  I want to show you what “Saturday Night Live‘s” take on Nancy Grace is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Joining me now is our night janitor, Darren.  Darren, Darren, could you explain to me—Darren, could you explain to me what your job entailed that night? 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I clean the studios. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In your cleaning, did you ever at any point move this chair? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know, Nancy Grace. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But you don‘t remember not moving it? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t recollect moving it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But you don‘t recollect not moving it? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know, Nancy Grace. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Darren, do you have a computer? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I do. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I thought so.  It‘s all coming together, isn‘t it?  When we come back, I‘ll explain why my interview with Terrell Owens had nothing to do with his attempted suicide.  We‘ll be right back. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Nancy Grace has been turned into a parody of herself, and, Tom O‘Neil, it‘s embarrassing for CNN, isn‘t it? 

TOM O‘NEIL, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  Absolutely not.  You guys are dead wrong about this.  Let me tell you, the situation of this case is this: 

This woman, Melinda Duckett, went out shopping all day back in late August with this 2-year-old son of hers, she says, to many stores, came home around 6:30 or 7:00, and put the baby to bed, and watched a video with a couple of friends.  And then, at 9:00 at night, she went into the child‘s room and he wasn‘t in his crib.  And the screen was popped out...

(CROSSTALK)  

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s not relevant, isn‘t it, Tom? 

ADUBATO:  Joe, let the prosecutors to deal with it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, let the prosecutors figure it out.  We don‘t know what happened. 

ADUBATO:  Tom, excuse me...

(CROSSTALK)

ADUBATO:  ... a prosecutor, not on the air.

O‘NEIL:  All Nancy asked was, “What stores did you go to?”

ADUBATO:  That‘s not what she did.  Joe, and I know we don‘t have time to show the original clip, she said, “Where were you?  Why are you not telling me where you were?” 

O‘NEIL:  Right.  And isn‘t that a valid question? 

ADUBATO:  It‘s not only the question; it‘s the tone; it‘s the situation that she put her in.  She‘s not a prosecutor, Tom.  She used to be a prosecutor.  She‘s a journalist.  She‘s a talk-show host.  It‘s a different medium. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But you think, Tom...

BERNARD:  But that‘s her style. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Tom, you think—yes, and Sarah says that‘s her style.  Do you think that‘s her shtick and so...

(CROSSTALK)

ADUBATO:  Then why does she need a P.R. person? 

O‘NEIL:  Well, because people like you guys are going after her.  And you bring up a valid point, but I think Nancy is always showing great compassion on her show.  I think that‘s her trademark. 

(CROSSTALK)

ADUBATO:  I don‘t know what you see, Tom.

O‘NEIL:  ... one of those TV people who is always bonding with the viewer, and she really cares about this missing child.  And now suddenly she‘s involved in the case, and so she‘s standing up squarely to face her accusers.  But I don‘t think she did anything wrong.  And this woman, as Nancy said here on your show in the clip, is the chief suspect in this case, according to police. 

ADUBATO:  That‘s for prosecutors, Tom, not for Nancy Grace. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ve got to go, but, Sarah, I‘ll give you the last word.  Go ahead. 

BERNARD:  I really think that the question is whether anyone is going to want to come back on her show and face her, because they know that what they‘re going to get is more of an emotional whipping every single time. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, again, that‘s her style, that‘s her shtick, and that‘s fine.  I‘m just surprised that CNN is allowing her to do it. 

Sarah, thank you for being with us.  Steve, Tom O‘Neil, I appreciate you coming here to defend Nancy Grace.  You‘re one of the few. 

Coming up next, “GQ” joins us with lost footage from Bill Clinton‘s interviews with FOX News, that and the magazine‘s top moments of 2006, next.

And later in “Hollyweird,” will partying with Paris hurt Britney Spears legally?  Will she lose her kids because of it?  We‘re going to ask “E!‘s” gossip king, Marc Malkin, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  As 2006 winds down, the folks at “GQ” magazine are ranking the top pop culture moments of the year.  “GQ‘s” senior editor Jason Gay fills us in on the good, the bad, and the overhyped. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON GAY, SENIOR EDITOR, “GQ” MAGAZINE:  There was a movie that came along this summer called “Snakes on a Plane.”  And for months, we were just hit with hype after hype throughout the blogosphere about this movie and the fact that the studio had actually gone back and added dialogue to placate people on the Internet.

SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR:  I‘ve had it with these (bleep) snakes on this (bleep) plane. 

GAY:  And then the movie comes out, doesn‘t really do a heck of a lot of business.  You know, it didn‘t really live up to all the hype that had been coming into it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, you also talk about some other overhyped people, Rachael Ray.  Why Rachael Ray?

GAY:  Well, I think Rachael Ray is somebody who benefited from a great deal of exposure when her show opened up this year. 

RACHAEL RAY, HOST:  ... to go.  You can go to our Web site and download us... 

GAY:  Obviously, got a lot of attention, but I think people got a little bit tired of seeing her face and seeing her interviewed.  I mean, she was somebody who was really sort of served up to the American public, not pun intended, in large spoonfuls, heading into her talk show debut.  So I think we all got a little bit tired of Rachael, but it certainly doesn‘t seem to be hurting her ratings whatsoever. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And speaking of overhype, we‘ve been talking about the “Daily Show” and the “Colbert Report,” talking about how these two men are forces that certainly, I think, had an impact on the 2006 election in some way, but others think that they‘re overhyped.  Where do you all fall on Colbert and Jon Stewart? 

GAY:  Well, I think you‘re right that people wonder when the hype is going to end with these guys.  I mean, they just keep, you know, surfing from one glorious media appearance to the next.

COLBERT:  America sending a clear message tonight:  His days are coming to an end. 

STEWART:  I‘m assuming this is some sort of metaphor for you and I here, Stephen.  Is that the situation? 

GAY:  Jon Stewart is hosting the Oscars, and they‘re together appearing on a recent cover of “Rolling Stone,” and you would think that eventually there would be some backlash.  To date, it hasn‘t happened.  Jon Stewart, as you said, remains a political force.  Stephen Colbert is a huge success.  This year, he‘s really sort of the political talk show story of 2006.  And, you know, you have to wonder when that luster is going to wear off, but it hasn‘t yet. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about George Bush‘s most uncomfortable moment this year. 

GAY:  We‘re talking about a massage.  It‘s specifically a massage that the president gave to Chancellor Merkel during a summit, and if you look at the photographs and the video from that moment, she looks quite uncomfortable as the president is laying into her upper body and trying to ease her tension.  It was a pretty odd moment for an international president. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talking about uncomfortable moments, some of the people over at FOX News were very uncomfortable when Chris Wallace was confronted by Bill Clinton.  You actually say Wallace should have leaned in even more and asked tougher questions.

GAY:  Well, look, if you‘re going to have an awkward moment with the former president, why not go the whole distance?  And so we have additional questions for Chris Wallace to ask Bill Clinton.  The first of which is, “For the last time, Mr. President, can you walk us through the entire Whitewater thing?” 

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I dodged a bullet. 

GAY:  Hey, how is Mark Rich doing? 

CLINTON:  If you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this. 

GAY:  Care for a glass of Sudanese baby formula? 

CLINTON:  I love it. 

GAY:  Chelsea and I are in love.  We intend to marry.  And can we get your blessing?

CLINTON:  That‘s just a bunch of bull.

GAY:  Can you autograph this affidavit from Ken Starr? 

CLINTON:  That sounds sort of morbid when you say it like that. 

GAY:  What do you think of Sascha, our 23-year-old production assistant? 

CLINTON:  I tried and failed. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell us what your quote of the year is?  And, of course, it comes from that famous incident on the West Coast in Malibu from Mel Gibson? 

GAY:  It is a quote from Mel Gibson, and, no, it‘s not the ones that got him into the most amount of hot water. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.

GAY:  But it‘s a question that he allegedly said or he asked when he was booked in Malibu, and he turned to an officer and he said...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you think you‘re looking at, sugar(bleep)? 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, ugly.  Thank you so much, “GQ‘s” Jason Gay. 

“Hollyweird” is coming up next with “E!‘s” Marc Malkin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell your agent you want $30 million for your next picture, because it‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, Britney Spears.  Could her new best friend, Paris Hilton, cause problems for the pop princess in her custody fight with K-Fed?  Here now, deputy West Coast editor for “US Weekly,” Dina Sansing.  And also, we have E! online columnist Marc Malkin.

Marc, let‘s start with you.  We hear this could cause some problems for Britney hanging out with Paris Hilton in the middle of the day for her babies. 

MARC MALKIN, E! ENTERTAINMENT:  I do not think it‘s going to cause her any problems.  You know, it doesn‘t help the fact that she‘s been partying and keeps giving us shots of her private parts?  But I don‘t think that Kevin Federline is one to say, “You‘re a bad mommy, and I‘m a really great daddy.”  They did do a show together called “Chaotic,” which really showed the two of them as really splendid parents. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Splendid parents. 

And so, Dina, what are you hearing about this?  Is there actually a possibility that K-Fed could use this as leverage to try to get custody of the children? 

DINA SANSING, “US WEEKLY”:  Well, it‘s true that Britney‘s been out and about partying every night with Paris, but at the same time, it‘s not like Kevin is at home with the children.  He‘s been on a tour.  He‘s been out.  He‘s been in Vegas.  He‘s been at clubs.  You know, he‘s not the ideal father, either. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And isn‘t he dating a porn star? 

SANSING:  There‘s reports that he was actually dating a porn star before he broke up with Britney, you know?  This guy isn‘t this clean-cut guy that we, you know, expect from a dad. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m shocked.  I‘m shocked.  I always thought K-Fed was a model citizen. 

You know, Marc, we‘re hearing reports that Tom Cruise may have needed a little help fitting into his wedding suit.  Gossip columnist Janet Charlton reports say that Cruise wore a girdle while tying the knot with Katie Holmes.  Come on, Marc.  Tell us that ain‘t so. 

MALKIN:  You know what?  Here‘s the thing.  I don‘t want to think of Tom Cruise in a girdle.  It‘s just a weird image.  But I could tell you, though—I did find out what kind of underwear he was wearing during his wedding. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Please tell us.

MALKIN:  He spent $300 on Gilia La Perla (ph) underwear that he bought at a place called “Le Bra” lingerie shop (ph) here in Hollywood.  But it‘s all Egyptian cotton.  He was very comfortable.  As for a girdle, you know, sometimes you just want to really look your best, and your Wedding Day is a day to do it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Dina, is that the case?  I mean, he looks taller. 

Maybe it kind of squeezed everything up.

SANSING:  Well, we actually heard something different.  The photos were released wide, but we put it to the experts and said that there was a little Photoshopping that was involved, that they actually took some away from his behind to make him look slimmer in the photos. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Really?  So they do that for Katie Couric and Tom Cruise.  How exciting.

SANSING:  Exactly.

SCARBOROUGH:  Speaking of exciting, actor Ben Affleck tells “Hot Dog” magazine he really wants to direct.  And if his Hollywood bosses won‘t let him, he‘s going to star in a “Baywatch” movie.  Marc, first David Hasselhoff, then Ben Affleck?

MALKIN:  OK, we‘ve already seen Ben Affleck in tights playing Superman, when he played George Reeves on the original “Superman.”  I do not want to see Ben Affleck in a Speedo with a really hairy chest.  It doesn‘t excite me.  I don‘t think it excites anyone.  I think he should stick with maybe “Knight Rider.”  I think that‘s the way to go.  Stay away from “Baywatch.”

SCARBOROUGH:  Dina, we‘ve got to do, but do you agree with that assessment? 

SANSING:  I wouldn‘t fight seeing him in Speedos.  I don‘t think it could be all that bad. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  My vote is:  Stay out of Speedos, Ben. 

Hey, thanks a lot, Marc.  And thank you, Dina Sansing, as always.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Here from Rockefeller Center in New York City, I‘ll see you tomorrow in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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