updated 12/1/2006 12:47:47 PM ET 2006-12-01T17:47:47

Guests: Michael Hirsch, Karen Hanretty, Rich Masters, Rachel Sklar, Matthew Felling

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to the show.  I‘m Joe Scarborough in for Tucker today.

We‘re going to tell you why Hillary Clinton may not run for president in a minute.  But we begin with President Bush‘s delayed meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Maliki.  Tensions surrounded today‘s talks after yesterday‘s meeting was postponed.

Some suspected, then speculated that Maliki snubbed President Bush because he was annoyed by an elite White House memo that was critical of his qualifications to govern Iraq.

Now, today, Bush responded to the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton commission, the group studying the United States‘ mission in Iraq, which will call for a major withdrawal of American troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It‘s in our interest to help liberty prevail in the Middle East, starting with Iraq, and that‘s why this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all. 

We‘re going to help this government.  And I‘m able to say that it is -

that we have a government that wants our help and is becoming more capable about taking the lead in the fight to protect our own country. 

               

The only way that Iraq is going to be able to succeed is when the Iraqis, led by a capable person, says we‘re tired of it.  We don‘t want violence.  We want the peace that our 12 million people voted for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH: Prime Minister al-Maliki said today that his military will be ready by next June to take over the security of Iraq.

That would open the door for the troop withdrawal recommended by the Baker-Hamilton commission.  But is it realistic?  And even if it is realistic, is it a good idea?

Let‘s talk to a man who knows, Michael Hirsch.  He‘s the senior editor at “Newsweek.”  He joins us now from Washington. 

Michael, it didn‘t sound like the president was too impressed by James Baker‘s recommendations.  Talk about the Baker report and what kind of impact it‘s going to have on this administration and Congress.

MICHAEL HIRSCH, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”: I think it‘s going to be anticlimax all over Washington.  I think it‘s going to land with a big thud, partly because from everything we‘ve heard about the draft report that was leaked this week, either the recommendations are too little, too late. 

For example, diplomatically engaging Iran and Syria at a time when those countries have really less to do with the fratricidal violence inside Iraq than ever before, and Bush, in any case, is probably not going to follow that recommendation, or because the report is going to fudge on this critical question of a withdrawal plan for U.S. troops on a specific timetable.  It‘s not going to address that.

And so that‘s going to kind of kick the ball back in the administration‘s court and they‘re going to go ahead and pursue the plan as they had been pursuing anyway. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Michael, I mean, not only does it kick it back into the president‘s court and the White House‘s court, but also the Democrats‘ court. 

It seems to me we‘ve been hearing for the past three or four weeks, whenever you ask Democratic leaders that are going to be coming in and taking control in the 110th Congress what their plans were, a lot of them would; defer to the Baker-Hamilton commission, saying it‘s a bipartisan group.  They have a lot of smart minds on there.  Let‘s see what they recommend and we‘ll follow their lead. 

But there doesn‘t seem to be a lead to follow, does there?

HIRSCH: Well, I mean, one of the discussions they had Monday and Tuesday, I‘m talking about the Iraq study group, was, “Look, if we don‘t come up with some kind of recommendation on withdrawal, we‘re not going to have any credibility with the Democrats at all,” because you have these leading Democrats, like Senator Carl Levin, Joe Biden, Jack Reed, all of whom have their specific plans for a phased withdrawal.

And so what the Democrats on the Iraq study group had to do was to say to the Republicans, the Jim Baker Republicans, “Look, we‘ve got to say something about this.  Otherwise, our fellow Democrats are simply going to throw this out the window.”

SCARBOROUGH: Michael, it seems that a lot of analysts have been looking at the Baker commission and some of the trial balloons have been floated since the election and have been talking about how Bush 43 was going to begin deferring to some of the lieutenants from Bush 41‘s administration, and, specifically, James Baker. 

Again, it didn‘t sound like George W. Bush was persuaded this morning to move that direction.  What‘s the headline coming out of this?  That James Baker‘s commission is, in fact, a bust?

HIRSCH: I think it‘s going to be a bust in that it‘s sort of consensusing itself, if I may use that verb, into irrelevance.

I think the one legacy of the Baker study group is going to be, actually, Bob Gates, the newly named secretary of defense, who, of course, was on the Iraq study group, is from the Jim Baker Republican wing of the party, and is a counsel for management over vision. 

He‘s obviously going to be in there with Condi Rice preaching pragmatism.  And so you will see some long impact there, long term.

SCARBOROUGH: Does Gates breeze through nomination process when Democrats take control of Congress?

HIRSCH: I don‘t think he‘ll have much trouble.  There will be those who will bring up all the old sores, Iran contra, what he did while he was director of the CIA, what happened in Afghanistan, for example, in the early ‘90s.  But I don‘t think he‘ll have much problem.

SCARBOROUGH: And, finally, lets talk about the president that we saw this morning, the president we heard this morning.  Again, this was a George Bush whose tone and really defiance echoed more March 2003 than December 2006. 

He was very, very aggressive, talking about the need to stay the course, keeping the troop there and being very aggressive. 

Again, it sounds like a president who‘s standing alone not only with Congress and the United States, but also in the world. 

HIRSCH: Look, I think there‘s no question, first of all, we know that he‘s alone.  We know what we‘re somewhat isolated. 

But I think the conclusion of the president and the Bush administration is pretty much the same as what the Iraq study group is going to say in the end, which is it‘s not going to be either stay the course or cut and run.  It‘s going to be some sort of really ugly long-term management issue in which we try to find a middle course and we can try to get out with our scalp in tact, so to speak, over the next several years.

But no one should be fooled.  There‘s no plan for winning in Iraq.  All there can be at this point is a plan for, over the next several years, extricating ourselves with the least amount of casualties and the least amount of damage to the region.

SCARBOROUGH: And, Michael, of course, the trial balloons, again, that were floated a couple weeks ago about Iran‘ involvement and Syria‘s involvement, you‘re saying now that that doesn‘t seem—I mean, that seems more like a nonstarter, also, in part, because these two countries are now seen to have less of an impact inside the country‘s brewing civil war than previously thought.

HIRSCH: I think so.  Look, I think so.  Look, I mean, as with a lot of the problems the Bush administration had, it‘s a year or two late and $100 million short. 

It‘s basically something that could have been effective two or three years ago, at the beginning of the Sunni insurgency, before the Shiite death squads really began to develop, before you had the sectarian violence spiraling out of control that we‘ve had since February. 

Then Iran and Syria perhaps could have had more impact.  But we didn‘t engage them then and I think now it‘s just really too late for them to have much more than a marginal impact.

SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much, Michael Hirsch, “Newsweek” senior editor.  Greatly appreciate your insights.

HIRSCH: Thank you.

SCARBOROUGH: Coming up next, is Hillary Clinton bailing out on her 2008 presidential run?  We‘re going to tell you why some believe Barack Obama may be getting in the way of her plans. 

Plus, Mel Gibson feels Michael Richard‘s pain.  That‘s getting caught spewing epitaphs in a public way as a way of bringing people together.  We‘re going to tell you about Mel and Kramer‘s new bond when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back.  I‘m Joe Scarborough, filling in today for Tucker Carlson.

Well, the 10-member panel led by James Baker is reportedly recommending a gradual pull-back of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq.  But they stopped short of setting a firm timetable for the withdrawal. 

Should President Bush follow through with the panel‘s idea or continue to stay the course?  And how will Democrats respond?

For answers we welcome Republican strategist Karen Hanretty, from Sacramento, California, and, from Washington, Democratic strategist, Rich Masters.

Let me start with you, Rich.  This Baker commission report doesn‘t strike me as good news for either side, because, again, initial reaction is that maybe Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamilton laid an egg. 

So many Democrats have been talking about following the lead of the Baker commission.  What do they do now if there is nothing to follow?

RICH MASTERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Joe, I think you bring up a good point.  A lot of us have been looking to the Baker commission report for some kind of earth-shattering movement and we‘re not seeing anything earth-shattering at all.

But I think on some level, when you put together a real bipartisan group like this, sometimes consensus doesn‘t look very pretty. 

But I think in this case, we are at least talking about a gradual redeployment of those 15 units, which I think is a huge step in the right direction. 

I, for one, was disappointed, Joe, that they didn‘t set some type of timeframe.  I mean, let‘s look at what has worked in Iraq. 

You know, we set a timeframe called an election and they held an election there.  We set a timetable for a constitution.  We said we want the constitution done by this time, and those things work. 

I mean, you know, I‘m the father of two small kids and when you give them a timetable to get something done, they drag their feet, but of they know that that timetable is there, they know they‘ve got that time to get done.

And I think many of us were looking for that.  I‘m a little disappointed that they didn‘t do that.  But I think a gradual nod to Iraq that eventually, we cannot stay the course, that we‘re gradually going to start moving our people out, is definitely a move in the right direction.  Not bold enough, but at least a step in the right direction. 

SCARBOROUGH: Karen Hanretty, the president, this morning, when he was next to Prime Minister Maliki in Jordan, just appeared to be defiant. 

I‘m certainly not casting aspersions or criticizing him.  A lot of people would commend him for having a strong backbone and sticking to his guns.  However, the man is alone in the world. 

There aren‘t a lot of Schwarzenegger Republicans in California that would recommend that we stay the course.  There aren‘t a lot of conservative Republicans in Washington, D.C. that would recommend the same thing.  And, obviously, Democrats have to be concerned by his tone. 

What is the president thinking when he basically brushes aside recommendations by the Baker-Hamilton commission and also talks about staying in Iraq to promote freedom?

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I tell you what, I saw that press conference today and this was almost the Michael Brown FEMA all over again from Katrina, saying, you know, “Heck of a job, Brownie.” 

I mean, he might as well have said, “Heck of a job, Maliki” and it‘s not a heck of a job.  And, you know, President Bush has this stand by your man stubbornness, whether it was Michael Brown or Donald Rumsfeld, and now it‘s the prime minister. 

Now,  is it appropriate to go to the Middle East and stand up and say, “Well, I don‘t think this prime minister is doing such a great job and here‘s where he can improve?”  No, that would not be appropriate.  That would not good diplomacy from the president of the United States.

But I don‘t think it seconds a strong message either to the Middle East or to the American people when President Bush has really run out of political capital.  He has, you know, nearly two years left in his administration.  I don‘t know what he intends to do domestically owe those two years, but certainly on issues of foreign policy, I don‘t know who he has supporting him right now.  I think he does stand alone.

SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you that, Karen, because that seems to me to be the question of the hour, when you have the president defiantly standing up, saying, “We‘re going to stay the course in Iraq.  We‘re going to keep fighting this war.  We‘re going to promote freedom.”

He doesn‘t have Democrats with him.  The election showed he didn‘t have independence with him. 

HANRETTY: He doesn‘t have any foreign leaders with him right now either.

SCARBOROUGH: I was going to ask, also, no world leaders, but how many Republicans does he have with him?  Because I haven‘t heard a lot of Republicans speaking that way over the past six months.

HANRETTY: No, you haven‘t and you don‘t see the Republican leadership.  Look at Newt Gingrich, who may or may not be running for president.  This is all shaping presidential politics and no Republican who is serious about possibly running for president, you don‘t see McCain, you don‘t see Giuliani, you don‘t see certainly Mitt Romney, you don‘t see any of these potential Republican candidates defending the president right now, saying that yes, in fact, things maybe are not  going well.

But President Bush gives this idea that things are going to get better and that is not a foreign policy.  Newt Gingrich himself has come out and said, “Look, this is a disaster.  Iraq is a disaster.  It‘s a mess.”

And President Bush, I fear, is, in this instance, just that stubborn streak that is frustrating liberals for so long and I think is now frustrating Republicans. 

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, it‘s starting to frustrate a lot of his base. 

HANRETTY: It‘s going to have a very negative effect on the elections two years from now.

MASTERS: Karen‘s absolutely right.

SCARBOROUGH: Rich, tell me, what do Democrats do if this president continues to stay the course and Republicans in the House and the Senate continue to stand by their man, George W. Bush?

How do Democrats force a timeline on the president of the United States, when the president says, “As long as I‘m president, we‘re going to keep fighting this war in Iraq and maybe even increase the number of troops over there?”

MASTERS: Well, I mean, Joe, let‘s look at what happened.  I mean, I think Democrats, you hit it right on the head at the beginning, that a lot of Democrats were looking to the Baker-Hamilton commission to give us some guidance. 

And while I don‘t personally think that the guidance was strong enough, you now see that the president is even defying the Baker-Hamilton commission, which has come up with not a bold plan, but at least a plan to start a gradual, our redeployment and moving of the 15 units. 

So I think what you‘re going to see is the Democrats are going to gather around the Baker-Hamilton commission and they‘re going to say, “Listen, Mr. President, you set this, you personally set this out as a bellwether of how we should run this,” and I you‘re going to see Democrats go to that and maybe try to put a timetable on it and make it a little bit more bold.

But at the very least, they‘re going to have look at the Baker commission, the Baker-Hamilton commission and say, “We have got to take a step in the right direction,” because Karen said it right on the money. 

Not only are liberals and conservatives and Democrats—he is a man alone right now and it‘s going to be very difficult to sell that. 

SCARBOROUGH: He is standing alone, but, unfortunately, for Democrats, they now basically have become co-owners of this war, because they‘re going to be running the United States Congress.

They‘re going to have the ability to fund or defund the troops.  And if this president remains defiant, they‘re going to have some very, very difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks and months. 

MASTERS: You won‘t see Democrats defund the troops, though.  I can guarantee you that. 

SCARBOROUGH: I don‘t think you will, but I think you‘re going to see a lot of people in the Democratic base being very concerned about the fact that Congress is not able to do as much as they would like them to do to get our troops out of Iraq. 

Hey, stay with us, because still to come, we‘re going to be talking about an ex-KGB spy who, of course, died from apparent poisoning and, also, a former Russian prime minister who is now gravely ill.  Doctors believe he may have also been poisoned.

What‘s going on in Russia?  We‘re going to have a live report coming up from London straight ahead.  Plus, actor Danny Devito launches into an attach on the president during yesterday‘s appearance on “The View.”  Rosie O‘Donnell stepped in.  We‘ll talk to you about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH: One of the most talked about potential Democratic candidates for 2008 is, of course, Hillary Clinton.  But some are saying she may not make a run for the White House after all. 

According to the chairman of Iowa‘s Democratic Party, who will join Tucker on the show tomorrow, by the way, Clinton isn‘t getting off to a good start in the state and that leads him to believe if Barack Obama, another favorite, actually runs, she may not be in.

Back with me from California, Republican strategist Karen Hanretty, and, from Washington, Democratic strategist Rich Masters.

Rich, since this is your party, let‘s start with you.  We‘re hearing so much about Barack Obama, but Hillary Clinton still seems to me to be the 800-pound political gorilla. 

She can raise $50 million.  Everybody talks about, “Oh, she blew through $30 million.”  Hillary Clinton can raise $30 million in a month. 

Do you believe that Hillary Clinton is going to be intimidated by a guy who was a state senator out of Illinois two years ago?

MASTERS: I don‘t think she is going to be intimidate by a state senator out of Illinois from a couple years ago.  But I‘ve been saying for a good long while that I think Hillary Clinton is, no matter whether you‘re an enemy or whether you think she‘s one of the greatest things, you understand that she is a smart political leader and, more importantly, she‘s a great student of history. 

I‘ve been saying for a long time that I think if she looks at this race and if it is a slam-dunk for her to get the nomination, she‘s going to go. 

If she feels that she is going to have a really bloody kind of baptism to try to get to the nomination, that she would rather stay in the United States Senate, because she can be Senator from New York for decades and actually impact public policy to a greater extent than maybe she could even as president. 

SCARBOROUGH: Like Ted Kennedy has done in the United States Senate over the years.

MASTERS: Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH: I mean, he‘s got a remarkable record, a historical record. 

But with the process, though, front-loaded the way that it is this year, even more so than in the past, how does anybody keep up with Hillary Clinton?

I mean, Hillary Clinton could lose the first three weeks and by the time you start having 10 contests one Tuesday in the Midwest and 10 in the southeast the next week, only Hillary Clinton will have the money to survive, right?

MASTERS: She will, but, I mean, let‘s keep in mind that a lot of this has changed.  And if you look, if you really look at the results of the last election from earlier in November, there is one thing the American people said.  They want fresh faces.  They want fresh ideas.  They want a new outlook.

That‘s why I say if you look at the results from the last election, a guy like Barack Obama, who has a fresh vision for America and someone who is a fresh face on the national scene, is going to do extraordinarily well. 

And we are now in a situation where the mass media can make candidates overnight, can destroy candidates overnight, as well.  So Obama‘s going to have to really watch that.  But a guy like that, with the kind of energy, youth and enthusiasm that he brings to the table, if he catches fire, he is going to be almost impossible to stop.

SCARBOROUGH: It‘ll be interesting.  Karen, let‘s talk about the Democratic Party‘s most Republican member, and that, of course, is Jim Webb out of Virginia, who I swear is probably more conservative on a lot of issues than George Allen was. 

This is a guy we learned had a fight with George W. Bush and actually said that he wanted to punch him in the face.

What‘s going on with Webb?

HANRETTY: Well, it was interesting to me that this story even was leaked out and that Webb made this admission about wanting to be violent toward the president of the United States.

And, you know, didn‘t we just hear a couple weeks ago that Democrats come out, albeit the House Democrats, with their message of, you know, let there be peace on earth and let it begin with us?  Well, this is a rather strange way to start a relationship with the Republican administration that they need to work with for the next two years. 

SCARBOROUGH: But why does Jim Webb want that to get out?  I mean, obviously, they were the ones who leaked it.  Why would Jim Webb want people to know that he got so angry when the president, just asking, being polite, “How‘s your son doing?”

HANRETTY: Maybe Rich knows Jim Webb better than me.  It‘s almost this “you‘re not going to show me anything” attitude, but I don‘t know what he gains from that personally, unless it‘s just to make the president look insensitive somehow or as that the president doesn‘t understand the very real consequences of, you know, fathers and mothers whose children are serving in Iraq, or perhaps to create the distinction that my child is serving and yours aren‘t. 

But, again, I don‘t think that this really does anything for Jim Webb and I don‘t think it really does anything for the Democratic Party. 

SCARBOROUGH: I was going to ask you, Rich, what‘s it like having a story like this come?  And, again, no real big deal, but it‘s just one of those things, if we have nasty things said about the president, the Republicans, as we move forward. 

We have a guy that goes to the White House, is asked, “Hey, how‘s your son doing,” comes back with a political answer and then Webb is defiant and says that he wants to slug the president of the United States. 

That‘s not helpful, is it?

MASTERS: It‘s not helpful at all.  I mean, listen, Jim Webb, my sense is it‘s a rookie mistake, one that, unfortunately, they decided that they would leak to the press for whatever reason they decided to do that.

But it‘s a rookie mistake.  I think he kind of feels vindicated by winning this race.  This was a race he was not suppose to win.  Last August, Joe, he was an afterthought.  No one ever thought he was going to win, and he came out of nowhere and actually took this race. 

And so he‘s going to have some growing pains getting into the job. 

And, listen, Jim Webb is a character.  We‘ve known that for a long time.  He‘s going to be very entertaining theater for the next 6 or 12 or 18 years, however long he is in the Senate representing Virginia. 

SCARBOROUGH: I‘ll be the first to say I like Jim Webb a lot.  I mean, he‘s my type of Democrat, one of those old southern conservative pro-gun Democrats.  But he‘s a little on the edge. 

HANRETTY: He could really set himself up as a leader in the Democratic

Party on foreign policy and international issues.  But he‘s got to get that

sort of renegade attitude under control, because he could be a real

statesman

I mean, here‘s a guy who‘s got more credibility on the issue than probably most people in D.C. right now and if he can get that under control, he can absolutely be a real leader on these issues.

SCARBOROUGH: He could be a real leader of the Democratic Party.

HANRETTY: Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH: In very short order.

HANRETTY: He could be like the Democratic version of a John McCain, but he has to get that attitude under control. 

MASTERS: I think you‘re absolutely right.  He‘s got to get the chip off of his shoulder and learn to take a larger view of it, because Karen is absolutely right.  He could be and I hope he will be a real strong leader for our party for many years to come.

SCARBOROUGH:  Maybe, maybe that‘s right. Got to get chip off the shoulder and sort of smooth off some of the round edges.  In my first campaign slogan, from the old Billy Joel song, it would be appropriate for Webb right now.

You may be right, I may be crazy but it may be a lunatic you‘re looking for.  Thank you so much Karen.  Thank you, Rich.  Greatly appreciate it.

Still to come, why are conservatives calling this seemingly sweet movie about penguins nothing more than Hollywood propaganda?  We are going to tell you when we come back and try to figure out what they need to do to get a life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Still to come, the latest plot twist in the poisoning of a Russian spy, plus we‘re going to tell you why some people are actually outraged over a cartoon movie that stars a tap-dancing penguin.

We‘re going to get to that in a minute but right now here‘s a look at your headlines.

REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC ANCHOR:  I‘m Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC market wrap.  Stocks closing mixed.  The Dow Jones average losing five points.  The NASDAQ down fractionally while the S&P was up just over a point. 

Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian sells off more General Motors stock.  Kerkorian selling 14 million shares, cutting his stake in the ailing automaker below five percent.

Wal-Mart shares putting pressure on the Dow.  The nation‘s largest retailer forecasting flat sales in December after disappointing November results.  The nation‘ other retailer reporting mixed results.  J.C. Penney and the Gap among the losers.  Saks and Target reporting November sale increases.

And Arby‘s joins the list of fast food restaurants pledging to reduce trans fats.  The sandwich chain plans to cut the artery clogging fat from French fries and most other menus by this spring.  Just in time for swimsuit season.

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.  Now back to TUCKER.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  What do you make of that, wobbly knees, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  Is he OK?

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  I don‘t know.

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  What are you doing here, boy?

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  I‘m happy, pop.

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  What are you doing with your feet?

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  They‘re happy, too.

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  I wouldn‘t do that around folks, son.

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  It just ain‘t penguin, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED PENGUIN:  OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  It just ain‘t penguin.

That was a clip from the hit animated movie “Happy Feet” which stars a tap dancing penguin which of course sounds harmless enough.  But many conservatives are calling the movie Hollywood propaganda because its heavy handed messages about the environment.

Here to talk about that and more from Washington, Matthew Felling.  He is the media director for the Center of Media and Public Affair.  And in New York, Rachel Sklar, she is a media editor for huffingtonpost.com.  Welcome to you both.

Rachael, we don‘t always agree but I think this “Happy Feet” penguin story we are probably going to side with each other.  What is the conservative complaint about a tap dancing penguin and how does it mean that Hollywood is somehow trying to corrupt the minds of America‘s youth?

RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  The conservative complaint is that God for bid there should be an environmental message in the movie.  And that they don‘t want their children to have that propaganda inflicted on them.  Which is ridiculous.  Global warming is a fact.  We know it is happening. 

Environmental messages are good.

So I think that a children‘s movie is a great place to introduce the concept of global responsibility to children.  That‘s just my opinion.  I think this is overblown and an excuse to create the myth that‘s there are two sides to the global warming issue.  There are not.

SCARBOROUGH:  But you know, Matthew Felling, they don‘t really even go into global warming that much.  They talk about the fish population being depleted by too much fishing out there.  And talk about pollution here or there.  But that‘s such a small part of the movie.  And yet a lot of commentators have really launched on this.  Michael Medved, I think, a guy that I know and like and had on the show, even talks about a pro gay agenda in here.  Because the penguin likes to dance.

MATTHEW FELLING, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS:  OK.  Maybe we should refer Michael Medved to “Footloose.”  Because when I was seeing that clip earlier, it just reminded me of “Footloose.”  And I don‘t remember anti-farm messages being alleged back in the ‘80s.

You‘re right to say this was not a movie—it is not a message about global warming.  The global warming and the fish depleted supply, it is a subplot of a subplot.  It is a musical, for god‘s sake.  Let‘s take a look.  “Bambi”, NRA, “Little Mermaid”, PETA.  I took my niece and nephew out to see “Nightmare Before Christmas” right around Halloween.  I‘m sure there were some occult messages there.

So if there is some big grand conspiracy, it is something that is being ginned up.  A lot like the war on Christmas was about last year this time.

SCARBOROUGH:  And again, this has been the number one movie for the past couple weeks at the box office.  Beating out James Bond.  And certainly, parents are smart enough to figure out if the kids are victims of propaganda from Hollywood.  And obviously, they‘re not too concerned.

Rachel, let‘s talk about another network coming under fire for promoting anti-Bush propaganda.  That‘s ABC, who of course, had “The View,” Rosie O‘Donnell blasting George W. Bush for the past several months since she‘s been on.  But of course, Danny DeVito was on yesterday and said some very ugly things about the president.  Let‘s take a quick look at that clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANNY DEVITO, ACTOR:  The guy (inaudible) trying to figure out what to do with our country.  And our women and men in the military.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course, Rachel, of course, Danny is talking about the president of the United States.  But we‘re getting so much politics on “The View.”  Shouldn‘t this be a program at this time of year about how to make Christmas balls out of popcorn and pine cones?

SKLAR:  I don‘t know, Joe.  Were you recently appointed the head of programming for “The View”?  This should be a program about putting popcorn pine cones?  Who does that?

SCARBOROUGH:  It is a daytime show for women.  It is .

SKLAR:  Why shouldn‘t they talk about politics?  Let me tell you something about “The View.”  “The View” is getting some really interesting debates going.  And that is becoming a must-see.  The view is generating a lot of news and a lot of discussion.  I think the show s is doing a great job.  And it is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing which is discussing all sides of all manner of issues.  I think the thing .

SCARBOROUGH:  Nobody is ever accused me, Matthew, of being a program director for any TV show, including my own, thank God.  But it does seem to me this is a show that changed rather dramatically and become much more political, leaning leftward.  Since Rosie O‘Donnell got on there.

FELLING:  Absolutely.

And I think I share the outrage of a lot of people in America.  Except I was outraged that - I think this was the worst “Three Stooges” imitation I have ever seen in my life.

I mean, if he is going to get cocked with George Clooney the night before and make the entire world his big sobriety check point, at least give us something we‘re talking about.  It is kind of odd and it was very weird to see Rosie O‘Donnell tease him on and say, keep going, Danny, keep going, Danny, at the same time, Barbara Walter is visibly uncomfortable.  And she is just on edge.

And even Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the mute blond from “Survivor”, she comes in and says, enough about the White House.  Enough about the president.  Why don‘t you tell us about the movie?  When Elizabeth Hasselbeck is the voice of reason on “The View”, that‘s a sign that maybe Barbara Walters will have to start reeling in Rosie O‘Donnell.  Because even though it is a big buzz generating show, I don‘t think Barbara Walters is comfortable and she does run it.  Star Jones will tell you that.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Barbara Walters doesn‘t need it.  Here‘s a woman who has been a trailblazer in journalism for decades now.  She has got one of the greatest reputations in the business.  She doesn‘t need people like Rosie O‘Donnell and Danny DeVito making fool of themselves talking about the president of the United States and the White House the way they‘ve been doing over the past couple months.

Let‘s move to another network.  Fox News.  Attacking my network, NBC, claiming that we‘re actually pulling for the terrorists.  Take a look at this clip from.  Bill O‘Reilly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  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, the American media is not helping anyone by oversimplifying the situation and rooting for the USA to lose in Iraq.  That is what some media people are doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Mm-mm-mm.

Didn‘t get that memo.  Pulling for the terrorists.

Rachel, I defend Bill O‘Reilly an awful lot.  I think sometimes he gets kicked around too much by the mainstream media.  But in this case, he just seems to be disingenuous.  Because Bill O‘Reilly will be the first person to tell that you he‘s had real problems with this president and this war over the past three years.

And who in the hell does not think this is a civil war right now?

SKLAR:  This is the biggest non-story, story I can think of.  The nomenclature.  We‘re arguing back and forth about the nomenclature.  And that‘s coming from the White House, refusing to call this a civil war and going great lengths to spin it as something, when you boil it down, it is a civil war.

SCARBOROUGH:  And you know, Rachel, actually, the story is much bigger than that.  It is much worse than a civil war because we‘re talking about Sunnis killing Shiites.  Shiites killing Sunnis.  This could expand beyond Iraq and engulf the entire region.

SKLAR:  The whole thing is terrible.  And I think that dismissing it as kind of, as a conflict that doesn‘t engulf the entire country is trite and it doesn‘t face the problem head on.  I think it just, at this point, it makes sense.  Let‘s call it a civil war and then move on.  The point is not what you call it but it is addressing the problem and not burying your head in the sand.

As for O‘Reilly, it is ridiculous to say the people in the media, NBC or anywhere are rooting for the U.S. to lose the war.  That‘s just preposterous.

SCARBOROUGH:  I think it is absolutely preposterous.

Matthew Felling, obviously, this decision was a difficult decision for NBC to make because they wanted to be very cautious.  I would suggest that they could have made the call three, four, five months ago.  And again, I am a person that is supported this war and the commander in chief since February of 2003.  I felt we should have gone into Iraq.  I supported the war.  I thought the press had been too negative.

But after you had Zarqawi blowing up the golden mosque in Samarra, at that point, civil war broke out.  Even the most conservative conservatives on Capitol Hill will tell you, Iraq is in the middle of a civil war.  Why does Bill O‘Reilly go on TV and say if you believe Iraq is in the middle of a civil war, you‘re somehow pulling for terrorists.

FELLING:  Yeah.  You‘re an evil doer if you agree with NBC News.  Sometimes I get idea that Bill O‘Reilly wakes up and spin the wheel as to what is wrong with America.  Is it going to be secular progressives today?  Is it going to be Hollywood?  Is it going to be people who know the difference between a loofah and a falafel.

Well, yesterday, the other day it ended up on NBC News.  And it is just patently wrong.  NBC has actually been, according to CMPA data, where I work, the most favorable network towards the GOP, towards Congress.

And as you said, this isn‘t really a cut and run Nancy Pelosi type of an argument.  We have Colin Powell yesterday coming out saying, I have to face realistically what‘s happening around me.  And he called it a civil war.  And not only that, Newt Gingrich called this effort a failure.

SCARBOROUGH:  He called it a civil war.  Newt Gingrich has called it a civil war.  Republicans and Democrats I‘ve talked to behind the scenes in Congress have been calling it a civil war for the past six months.

SKLAR:  Can I just interject?

I don‘t think that it matters who calls it a civil war.  Just the fact that more conservatives decide, OK, they‘re not going to call it a civil war doesn‘t make it more or less a civil war.  That is not the metric we should be using to apply to this in terms of determining what is going on there and whether or not it qualifies as a civil war.  That Newt Gingrich finally decides to acknowledge it, fine.  But I think this is not—facts are not an issue of liberal or conservatives.  Facts are an issue of facts.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right, but Rachel, I guess the bigger point is that Bill O‘Reilly is not calling Newt Gingrich, who is a Fox political analyst somebody who is pulling against our troops and pulling for the insurgency, the terrorists over in Iraq because he thinks it is a civil war.  It is ridiculous.

Lets talk finally very quickly about Mel Gibson.  Now if you are Mel Gibson‘s agent, do you tell him to go out and defend Michael Richards?  Rachel, I‘ll start with you.  This is an easy question.

SKLAR:  Well, I mean, I don‘t know what Mel Gibson is doing.  I don‘t think it does anybody any favors to align themselves with each other.  Both of them just were absolutely horrific in their statements and their actions.  And both should be united in their shame.  And I just don‘t think—I‘m sure Michael Richards wasn‘t crazy about the fact that Mel Gibson was all of a sudden on his side.  This is just not a good move for anyone.

SCARBOROUGH:  Keep to yourself, Mel.  Probably in everybody‘s best interests.

Thanks a lot, Rachel, thank you, Matthew.  Greatly appreciate it.  A quick run around the media world today.

And coming up next, the plot thickens in the bizarre story of a former Russian spy who was poisoned to death.  Who was behind it and could unsuspecting airline passenger have been contaminate by the same deadly chemical?  You know, for 30,000 British Airways customers may have been exposed to the radiation.

We‘re going to have all the details when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Like a page out of an old Cold War novel the investigation into the death of a former Russian spy has taken another dramatic twist.  Now it has been confirmed that at least four but possibly five British Airways planes may have been contaminated with radiation.  ITV‘s Juliet Bremner has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JULIET BREMNER, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  British Airways flights between Moscow and Heathrow continued as normal day while it was revealed that five planes are now being examined.  The radiation alert has triggered a huge passenger recall.  So far, over 2,000 people have contacted B.A.  Those traveling today seem unconcerned, even a man who had flown on two out of the four highlighted dates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All the other tests that they‘ve done, it‘s been—there have not been any cases one him himself so I would hope that they‘d tell us if there were anybody else affected.

BREMNER:  The home secretary insisted that the risk was still low even though the search now involved more planes.

JOHN REID, BRITAIN HOME SECRETARY:  I would stress that the Health Protection Agency continues to reassure members of the public that the risk of exposure to this substance remains low.

BREMNER:  The latest developments into the inquiry into Alexander Litvinenko‘s death seem to strengthen the links to Moscow.  During a business meeting at the Millennium Hotel in London, where more traces of polonium were discovered, Litvinenko met two Russian businessmen.

Both Andrew Lugavoy (ph), a former KGB agent seen on the left here, and Dimitri Koftan (ph) took flights from Moscow to London between the specified dates.  Friends who attended Mr. Litvinenko‘s inquest today say it strengthens their theory that the polonium came from Russia.

ALEX GOLDFARB, FAMILY FRIEND:  Because the police is looking at the planes that were flying between London and Moscow, five days prior Alexander was contaminated himself.  So he couldn‘t be the source of this radioactivity.

BREMNER:  Evidence of polonium on the planes may point to Moscow but it doesn‘t clarify who may have responsible.

Juliet Bremner, ITV News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Juliet, of course reporting for our British partner.

So passengers on the four British Airways in particular from Moscow and Heathrow are being asked to contact the airline.  Just a week of Litvinenko‘s death there‘s word of another possible poisoning.  Doctors in Russia believe a former prime minister there may have been also been poisoned.

With me now in London with the very latest is NBC‘s Ned Colt.  Ned, this gets more complicated by the hour.  Talk about the number of passengers that may have been exposed to this radiation.

NED COLT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s hard to say how much were exposed.  We do know that these four, Juliet was saying five, we know at least four, there may have been as many as five that are being looked at by investigators here in the U.K.

One of those planes is still on the ground in Moscow.  Another is a Transaero (ph) aircraft which is Russian aircraft, that is on its way or may have already landed now at Heathrow Airport.  So they are looking at all of those who may have flown onboard those flights and we are talking about a minimum of 33,000 people.

A colleague of ours here Joe just last night got a call at 3:00 a.m. from British Airways saying you indeed were on one of those flights, come on in, you should be checked out, talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms that are involved with radiation poisoning.

So there is some concern but by and large, the idea is that the threat level, the health threat level is minimal right now in terms of those who may have been on the flights but they want to be safe.

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s the attitude in Great Britain towards Russia right now with this high stakes spy game being played on British soil?  Is there any anger or the possibility of growing anger towards Russia as more evidence points to possible involvement of at least that country, possibly the government?

COLT:  Well, as Brits could say in their own words, it‘s early days yet, but clearly as one individual we interviewed last night, John Lorridge (ph) who is a radiation expert, is saying all roads seem to be leading to Moscow or east of Moscow, to where this polonium-210 may have come from.

But nobody knows for certain right now.  So yes, there‘s concern but is there anger directed at the Kremlin, at leaders in Russia?  Not at this point.  There is some concerned voiced on the part of some of the newspapers that are twirls (ph) and so on that Prime Minister Tony Blair has not called Vladimir Putin at this point to say, do you know anything?  What‘s going on?  Share this with us.

Because as we‘ve been reporting over the last few days, all of this is going down in the Russian media which is by and large a government run media, or controlled by some extent, is going down as being that there were poisonings that went on and it may have suicide attempts.  That sort of thing.  Nothing pointing to the Kremlin as being remotely possibly involved in this, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  NBC‘s Ned Colt from London.  Thank you so much.

A killer whale goes after his trainer at Sea World and humans are once again shocked to see an animal acting like an animal.  We‘re going to show you the incident when you get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you loved him as a kid and you trust him as a mother. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Willie Geist to tell you about when whales go wild. 

Willie?

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  A mother, Joe, I‘m not sure what you mean by that.

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s an old Kool-Aid commercial.

GEIST:  I‘m sorry.

Thanks for filling in today.  We‘ll keep your resume on file, by the way.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much.

GEIST:  Visitors to Sea World in San Diego got an upsetting surprise yesterday when Kazaka (ph), a 5,000 pound killer whale grabbed her trainer and pulled him under water twice during a show.  Witnesses say the whale had her trainer pinned at the bottom of the tank for a little less than a minute.

Despite the horror of that scene, the trainer suffered only a fractured foot and is listed in good condition.

And Joe, thank goodness for that, but I‘m always amazed when humans are outraged when dangerous animals act like dangerous animals.  Remember when Siegfried and Roy, the tiger went after Roy.  Chris Rock had a great line.  He said, “Everyone is saying the tiger went crazy.  The tiger didn‘t go crazy.  The tiger went tiger.”

Well this killer whale went killer whale.

SCARBOROUGH:  Killer whale Kazaka.  Thank you so much Willie Geist and Kazaka, we hardly knew ye.

That‘s our show.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.

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

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