updated 12/7/2006 11:21:54 AM ET 2006-12-07T16:21:54

Guests: Michael Crowley, Joan Walsh, John Kerry, Matthew Felling, Robi Ludwig, Courtney Hazlett, Marc Malkin

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, the president‘s policy pounded by a bipartisan report.  The Iraq Study Group tells the world George Bush‘s war in Iraq has led to chaos and anarchy, and it demands a dramatic change in direction.  The group‘s leaders delivered their report to the White House this morning and then had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIR, IRAQ STUDY GROUP:  The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.  The violence is increasing in scope and lethality.  Attacks on U.S. forces and U.S. casualties continue at an alarming rate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ve got an all-star panel to break it down.  NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, NBC News Middle East bureau chief Richard Engel and Massachusetts senator John Kerry.  And later, “The New Republic‘s” Michael Crowley, Salon editor Joan Walsh and Reagan communication director and two-time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

But we begin with NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert.  We discussed the Iraq report and yesterday‘s testimony of the next secretary of defense.  And I asked Tim if ever remembered seeing a president undercut in such a dramatic way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  I‘ve never seen anything like this, Joe.  You know, this morning the president said that this report was a, quote, “tough assessment.”  That‘s an understatement.

Just look back less than a month ago.  Donald Rumsfeld was the secretary of state. (SIC) The president said, We‘re make making progress.  The vice president had said within the year that we‘re in the last throes of the insurgency, and that we were winning.  And now you have a secretary of defense incoming saying, We‘re not winning.  You have the former secretary of state for Bush 41 saying we—in effect, we‘ve traded one nightmare for another, Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton saying this may not be enough, Leon Panetta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff saying this is one last chance.

And I think the most important thing said today, Joe, was that we may not have lasting influence on the ground, that events may, in fact, be slipping away, that we may be heading to complete anarchy and chaos, that this may not be enough.

This was such a sobering report—powerful, passionate, bipartisan, unanimous.  I think it‘s not only a wake-up call for the Bush White House but I think for the whole country.  We are in very difficult straits.

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you get the feeling that this panel is trying to send a signal to the president, Hey, this is your last chance, this is your best hope for saving yourself, saving your legacy, and saving this country from further bloodshed?

RUSSERT:  One of the most senior Republicans in Washington, D.C., said to me, It‘s over, and we have to convince the president that it‘s over.  We need to find a way for the Congress to come together, more important, the country to come together, and lock arms and say what‘s in the best interest of the United States to deal with Iraq.  I mean, when you sit here and read these recommendations, it is numbing how passionate, how bold they are and how bleak the assessment is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks to Tim Russert.  Here now our all-star panel.  Let me start with you, Michael Crowley.  Is this a total rejection of the Bush doctrine, of Bush‘s Iraq policy that we‘ve been following for the past three-and-a-half years?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Basically.  And not just, you know, the particulars of pointing out that Iraq is a failure but also saying, You have to go against some of your basic overriding principles, like not negotiating with the “axis of evil.”  They‘re saying, Talk to Iran and Syria.  I mean, that was one of the fundamental guiding stars of Bush‘s policy.  So they‘re saying both that, Your war and occupation is a total—is about to be a total failure, and also that you have to rethink your basic ideas about how you‘re willing to conduct diplomacy around the world.  I mean, it‘s a major rebuke.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Joan Walsh, of course, you heard the White House talking today.  Tony Snow at one point had said that, actually, it was fairly consistent with where the Bush administration was on this war, but everything I read in this report, everything I heard in this report appeared to be a total repudiation of the Bush White House‘s policy.  Am I reading it wrong?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  You‘re reading it absolutely right, Joe.  It‘s a total repudiation.  The situation is grave and deteriorating in Iraq, and it‘s grave and deteriorating for this president.

I mean, I read that report, and I did read it all, as a very political document in a very political moment.  It‘s attempting to resolve a civil war in this country over Iraq, as well as the strife in Iraq.  It‘s designed as a bipartisan document to say, We have to do this together.  And they really rejected the president in every imaginable way.  It‘s a lot stronger than a lot of people expected it to be.  You know, it was supposed to not have timelines, but it is saying all combat troops, except those necessary, out by 2008.

It also contains a very strong recommendation that the Bush administration pick up the mantle from the Clinton administration six years ago and return to the role of honest broker in the Middle East.  It also says no more new troops, which is throwing water on the hopes of some people who were saying we need, at least temporarily, more troops.

So it‘s really a thorough-going rejection of the administration‘s policies, and it‘s got to be pretty sobering.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, yet George Bush is holding up that report, said he‘s reading it, he‘s taking it all in.  The White House is saying it‘s fairly consistent with where they‘re standing on the issuing of Iraq.  But Pat, there‘s a timeline in this report.  It‘s something that a lot of people are brushing past right now, but they say get the troops out in the next two years.  What does that mean for the war?  What does it mean for the troops?  What does that mean for George Bush?  What does it mean for this country?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Joe, what they‘re saying is President Bush‘s military and diplomatic strategy have both failed the country.  We are losing the war in Iraq.  However, we may be able to pull something of a victory out of the jaws of defeat if we adopt a strategy whereby we pull out all our combat brigades by early 2008 and then we train the Iraqi army and police to succeed where the greatest army in the world has failed in four years.  And they call that realism.

Joe, I think there‘s no doubt that they are very tough and hard-line and realistic on the situation America faces and the president faces right now.  But these folks, in my judgment, have no solution for that problem that has any kind of realism attached to it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Why is that, Pat?  What happens if we pull out in two years?

BUCHANAN:  Well, if you pull out in two years, who are you going to leave there in that Green Zone, Joe?  Are you going to leave all those contractors, all those civilians there?  And who protects them if Muqtada al Sadr rises up and says, Maybe it‘s time to pay these Americans back after their combat brigades are gone?

WALSH:  Well, maybe they have to leave, too, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  What...

WALSH:  Maybe they have to come out, too.

BUCHANAN:  What happens to the Americans who are embedded with those Iraqi units when the American combat brigades are gone, and suddenly, the Iraqi units turn on them?  This is a formula for a disaster!

CROWLEY:  Somebody pointed out in the paper the other day, Joe, and I think it may have been an adviser to the commission, we have these embedded guys, we have these trainers.  What happens when the first batch of them gets kidnapped, you know, and God forbid, there‘s another one of those horrible execution videos?  It really seems like a prescription for leaving these guys out on the vine and terrible things happening.  And it‘s hard to see how you can kind of do it halfway.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I don‘t think you can do it halfway, and I think that is the problem with this report.  I think you either try to win the war or you get out.  And I just think a halfway prescription is—again, it leaves us in a no-man‘s land.  And I‘ll tell you—I want to show you all some clips of President Bush because he‘s continued to insist, up until the election, that we‘re winning in Iraq and that the United States could continue and stay the course.  Run this clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will never back down.  We will never give in.  And we will never accept anything less than complete victory.

Because of our military, the people of Iraq are free.

Iraq is getting rid of the days of dictatorship, terror, and is moving toward a future of stability and freedom.  And life is returning to normal.

We‘re not going to lose in Iraq.  As a matter of fact, we will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course.

I know we‘re making progress.  We‘re winning.  And it‘s my job to continue to try to reassure them we are winning and the stakes are worth it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Crowley, just everything he said there was countered today and yesterday by this Baker report and by his next secretary of defense.  I mean, this president is in a no-man‘s land himself, isn‘t he?

CROWLEY:  Well, I mean, that‘s a devastating montage of clips, Joe.  And I think that we know now—you know, as time goes by, we‘re starting to learn what people were doing and saying a few months before and a few months before.  And I think it—you know, it‘s not like Bush thought we were winning.  I think it‘s been clear for a long time that sensible people knew things were spiraling out of control.

There‘s something to be said for a kind of gung-ho, you know, tough-talking American spirit of can-doism, but it reached the point with Bush were it was just dogma.  It was just total denial.  And I think it did a real disservice to the country.  He was just much to slow to be honest about what was happening, to share with the public what people were saying privately, and now we‘re left with this disaster.

BUCHANAN:  Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Speaking of denial, Joe, look, isn‘t this commission in denial?  I mean, do you really think the Iraqis, whom they described as in terrible shape, their army and police are going to be trained well enough and get the spirit and the will to defend the Maliki government and go out and fight insurgents and al Qaeda and sectarian militias the way the United States Army has been unable to do, and they‘re going to do it in one year?  The truth is, Joe, the whole establishment of the United States has failed this country in Iraq the way it did in Vietnam.

SCARBOROUGH:  Joan?

CROWLEY:  What establishment, Pat?  The media...

BUCHANAN:  The Democrats voted for this war and gave the president a

blank check to go on this idiotic crusade!~

CROWLEY:  They did.

BUCHANAN:  They did nothing to stop him.

WALSH:  They did, Pat, and we‘ve talked about this before.  It‘s awful what they did, and it‘s awful what the president did, but the point now is, how do we get out?  And listen, the commission is a lot more sober about this than the White House is.  What I found most disturbing and sobering about the report is that it is shot through with references to, There is no guarantee that this will ensure success.  This is not a magic formula, this is not a magic bullet.

BUCHANAN:  But Joan, they‘re going to talk to Iran and Syria.  I‘ve always thought they should talk to—but what are Iran and Syria going to do to pull America‘s chestnuts out of the fire when they must be enjoying this?  If I were a insurgent reading this report out there in Anbar province, I would say, Fellows, we have won the war!

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  Well, if I could jump in—what do we have to offer to Iran and Syria?  I mean, they‘ve got us over a barrel and we really don‘t have all that much, so...

BUCHANAN:  Exactly.

CROWLEY:  And the report is a little vague on that.  You know, they say some things like access for the World Trade Organization.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY:  I don‘t think that‘s going to do it, frankly.

WALSH:  But on the other hand, they really do not want to see us pull out entirely and have Iraq descend into utter chaos...

BUCHANAN:  But they...

WALSH:  ... that spills into their borders.

BUCHANAN:  They...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  Let me finish, please.

BUCHANAN:  ... American defeat.

WALSH:  Let me finish, Pat.  We are risking an American defeat.  Anything we do risks an American defeat.  It‘s quite likely right now.  The point of diplomacy is sometimes to—it‘s obviously to engage, but it‘s also to appear to engage.  And so some of what you do in talking to Iran and Syria is look credible on the world stage and build up credibility that we have sacrificed by this “go it alone” unilateral a strategy that has lost.

BUCHANAN:  But Joan, what I‘m talking about is we are risking a—I know we‘re risking a strategic defeat.  We are risking a military defeat.  If you pull all 15 combat brigades out and leave advisers in there with those units and leave your embassy in there and leave the Green Zone people and those contractors, what Michael said about kidnapping and things like that, they will begin in earnest.

WALSH:  They will begin.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Pat, talking about...

WALSH:  They‘ve begun.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... what happened at the—not only what happened at the end of Vietnam but also—not only in Vietnam but what happened in Cambodia.  We could have the same situation, where you have Pol Pots, you know, springing up across the Middle East.  Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed.  I mean, this bloodbath could get a lot worst.

BUCHANAN:  Anybody that cast his lot with the United States of America in police, in the army, in the civil service, in politics, even telling folks, Go out and vote, the Americans are here, we‘re going to have a democracy—every one of them is at risk if you pull out those American combat brigades.

BUCHANAN:  But that‘s already happening.  Pat, that is already happening.  People who work with us are being targeted and they‘re being killed.  If they have any credibility politically, they lose it by working with us.

BUCHANAN:  Joan, what would you do if you were someone that committed himself to the Americans and the Americans said, We‘re going to pull out our 15 combat brigades, but good luck, we‘ve got some advisers with that heroic Iraqi army?

WALSH:  I‘m sure I‘d be looking for other sources of support, Pat...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  I would be looking for the road to Kuwait!

CROWLEY:  Pat, I‘d like to give some credit to “The New Republic,”

which ran an article urging the U.S. government to begin planning for this

visas, repatriation, giving people a way out.  Don‘t let it happen with helicopters flying from embassy roofs and people...

WALSH:  With people hanging on.

CROWLEY:  ... rioting at the gates and weeping.  Let‘s start figuring that out, unpleasant as it is.

BUCHANAN:  But a drawdown—look, a slow—I mean, a drawdown of American forces in one year, isn‘t it virtually a certainty that they‘re going to wait and build up and wait for the time to move?

WALSH:  But Pat, what‘s the alternative?

BUCHANAN:  There‘s two alternatives.  You either win the war—and if you got to get out, I think you‘d better start getting out.  And when you go, you may have to go very fast.

WALSH:  But I‘ve heard...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  And we‘ve got to go very fast, too.  Thank you.  A fascinating discussion.  We‘re up against a hard break.  Michael Crowley, Joan Walsh, Pat Buchanan, to be continued.

And after the break: The White House refuses to see this report as a rejection of the Bush policy.  Are they in denial?  And will it affect the administration in what it does?  Coming up next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  The president may be either—you know, either in denial or not yet ready to admit that he‘s got to move in a new direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Senator John Kerry tells us why he thinks the president refuses to face reality and why his famed 1971 Senate testimony is more true today than ever.  And later, new twists in the Nancy Grace legal case, including a new police lead.  Will Nancy Grace be forced to admit she‘s wrong about a grieving mom who committed suicide after being on her show?  We‘re going to have the very latest and more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BAKER, CO-CHAIR, IRAQ STUDY GROUP:  We do not recommend a “stay the course” solution.  In our opinion, that approach is no longer viable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  While today‘s report from the Iraq Study Group criticizes the Bush administration‘s policies in Iraq, White House press secretary Tony Snow had a different take.  This was Tony‘s reaction today when NBC‘s chief White House correspondent David Gregory asked if the report was a rejection of the president‘s handling of the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  You need to understand that trying to frame it in a partisan way is actually at odds with what the group itself says it wanted to do.  And so you may try to do whatever you want in terms of rejection.  That‘s not the way they view it.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I just want to be clear.  Are you suggesting that I‘m trying to frame this in a partisan way?

SNOW:  Yes.

GREGORY:  You are.  What—based on the fact that...

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  Wait a minute.  Wait a sec.  Based on quoting the report and the chairman?  And I‘m asking you a straight question, which you‘re not answering straight, you‘re actually...

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  You‘re trying to answer it by nitpicking it.

SNOW:  No...

GREGORY:  You‘re saying that by quoting the report, I‘m trying to make a partisan argument?

SNOW:  Let me put it this way.  Where in the report—what you have said is, Can you read this as anything other than a repudiation of policy?  And the answer is, I can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Earlier, I asked Massachusetts senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry about the report and whether or not this is still a White House in denial.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Well, listen, you know what I think we ought to do today is take this study group and see if we can find some common ground with the president.  If he says it‘s not far from his policy, then let‘s talk about how we‘re going to really implement it.

But this study group does not do as much of the job as I think we still need to get done.  You know, looking forward to 2008 is not going to satisfy a lot of Americans.  Additional training is not going to resolve the problem of Iraq.  As I said, it‘s a problem of motivation.  If the army itself is predominantly Shi‘a, and those Shi‘a are members of a militia and they are controlled by people who still have a different interest from the federal government, you‘ve got a problem.

So this fundamental, I think, divide, is over what are we trying to now achieve diplomatically and politically, and that‘s where I think the president may be either—you know, either in denial or not yet ready to admit that he‘s got to move in a new direction.  But I hope ultimately, he will.

SCARBOROUGH:  Your testimony in 1971, the end of that testimony now seems prescient and applicable to Iraq, that, you know, no man should be the last man to die in Iraq because of a failed policy.

KERRY:  I believe that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you sort of feel reverberations of 1971 all over again in this report?

KERRY:  I feel reverberations in the sense, Joe, that the policy is a failed policy which was based on a lot of misleading and even in some cases untruths.  And I think that a lot of the American people are very upset about that.  But we care about those service people.  I mean, they are extraordinary.  They deserve our support.  And the best way to support them is to get the policy right now.  And I think that‘s the foremost thing.  I think the study group has really moved the debate, and that‘s important for all of us as Americans because we need to get this policy right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  With us again is Pat Buchanan.  You know, Pat, I think John Kerry is exactly right when he says more training is not going to help the Iraq situation.  As you pointed out before, our troops aren‘t able to train them.  Why do we think that we‘re going to be able to—as our combat troops leave, train them?  So I mean, maybe the Bush administration is still in a state of denial, but this Iraq Study Group may also be in a state of denial, right?

BUCHANAN:  I think you are dead on.  I think—and what John Kerry said—a lot of these fellows are very militant Shi‘as and Sunnis in the army.  That is where their loyalty lies, Joe.

The fundamental point, it seems to me, of the Iraq Study Group is even though we cannot stay the course, we will be better off without 15 combat brigades in Iraq and pulling out half our troops, then we‘ll be better off than we are today because we can rely on the Iraqi army, trained by the Americans that have departed.  That doesn‘t make sense to me.  I mean...

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s what John Kerry touched on.  That‘s what you‘re touching on.  That‘s what a lot of people have got to be looking at.  But you know, it seems to me, Pat, that so many Americans have been disgusted with this administration with their head in the sand that—in the sand over the past several years that they may embrace this study commission report just because it‘s an alternative.  And yet, there don‘t seem to be a lot of easy answers in this report, either, do there.

BUCHANAN:  Well, there‘s not only—yes, there‘s not only no easy answers, Joe, I honestly believe that if you pull out those combat brigades, you are risking a military defeat.  You‘re risking a military disaster, unlike Vietnam.   That was a strategic disaster, but the Americans had been gone two years.  And how realistic is it to think that the Syrians and the Iranians are going to pull America‘s chestnuts out of the fire?  What exactly are we going to offer the Syrians and the Iranians?  I mean, that‘s not in there.

SCARBOROUGH:  But what do we do, though—OK, so the commission report is flawed.  Do you think, though, this serves as a wake-up call for George Bush?  Forget the administration.  There are a lot of people in the administration that hate this war now.  Do you think it serves as a wake-up call for George Bush, so he‘ll stop going around talking about how we‘re winning, how we‘re on the path to victory, how we need to stay the course?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think the best thing the commission has done—the best thing is to throw a bucket of ice water in the face of the White House and in the face of the country and say, Look, realize this is a gathering disaster, the situation is dire, it is deteriorating, it is grave.  That‘s where they really do, I think, the country a service.  But when they say, And here‘s the solution which 10 people have agreed to, I look at that and I say, Look, that looks like we‘re jumping out of the frying pan right into the fire!

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  No doubt about it, Pat.  You know, I like the president and I like a lot of people in the administration, but they needed a bucket of ice water in their face on their policy in Iraq.  It is flawed.  It‘s headed in the wrong direction.  But I think you‘re right also, a lot of these panel recommendations could lead to disaster also.  Thanks a lot, Pat Buchanan.  I appreciate your insight tonight.

And coming up: A possible police breakthrough in the Melinda Duckett case that could spell big trouble for CNN‘s Nancy Grace.  Could the new development help the lawsuit against Grace and CNN?  And has Nancy Grace changed her tune since the controversy?  We‘ll show you.

But next, it‘s “Must See S.C.” as Conan O‘Brien shows us what celebrities are really thinking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” some video that you‘ve just got to see.

First up, Jimmy Carter‘s faced some harsh criticism in his career.  But during a recent visit to C-SPAN, the former president wasn‘t ready for this admiring critic.  Jimmy Kimmel has the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Aurora, Illinois.

CALLER:  President Carter, thank you for taking my call.  I voted for you back in ‘76.  Your accomplishments are remarkable, and it‘s better that you solidified diplomatic relations with China.  Your humanitarian work alone earned you a Nobel Peace Prize.  And yet nobody seems to make note of your raw sexual energy.  You‘re like a tiger roaming the sex jungle.  You‘re like a (INAUDIBLE) pulsing pile driver of...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think, caller, that the name-calling is ...

CALLER:  Lose the pants, Carter!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And finally, some celebrities just go out and speak their minds.  Conan O‘Brien shows us some stars‘ answers to a few easy questions. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT”:  The saying that keeps me going is

Kate Hudson wrote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  Tom Selleck wrote, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”  George W. Bush wrote, “The Spongebob marathon will be right back.”

When I pick up the phone and order Chinese—Gwyneth Paltrow wrote, “I ask about their vegetarian dishes.”  Jeff Goldblum wrote, “I make sure there‘s no MSG.”  Angelina Jolie wrote, “I specify a boy or a girl.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up, why a new person of interest in the Trenton Duckett case could be very bad for CNN Headline News anchor Nancy Grace, who was so quick to blame the missing child‘s mother. 

And later, the long national nightmare may soon be over.  Is Rosie O‘Donnell leaving “The View” after only one season?  Reports say yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, is “The View” ready for another makeover?  We‘re going to be taking a look at why Rosie O‘Donnell may be ready to move on after only one season.  Memories.  And why no one may miss her, that story, just straight ahead. 

But first, word tonight of a new person of interest in the Trenton Duckett case.  Now, does this leave CNN Headline News anchor Nancy Grace vulnerable in court and in the court of public opinion? 

As you remember, Duckett‘s mother committed suicide the day after she was aggressively beaten up on Nancy Grace‘s show about the disappearance of her son, but it didn‘t stop there.  Take a look at this conversation Grace had with investigators who were working on the case. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, HOST:  Have you ever noticed, when you got somebody lying to you—a witness, a defendant, whoever—they‘ll pick pieces of the truth, and they‘ll weave that into their story.  Do you believe that‘s what she was doing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  For more, we‘re joined now by Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist who appears regularly on Nancy Grace‘s show.  And also, we have Matthew Felling.  He‘s media director for the Center of Media and Public Affairs. 

Matthew, we‘ve talked about CNN, Nancy Grace, the journalistic

standards involved here.  It seems, though, that with a new person of

interest who‘s been given a lie-detector test and may, in fact, be arrested

we don‘t know yet, but may be arrested—this is not good news for Nancy Grace or CNN, is it? 

MATTHEW FELLING, THE CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS:  No, it‘s not good news at all.  And I always—I thought, when you and I discussed the lawsuit that had been launched on the part of the Duckett family, that that was pretty baseless. 

But this sort of thing is really going to hit her, especially given the fact that, even after the suicide and even after airing that interview, which was tasteless enough, she kept beating this and beating this and beating this drum for weeks and weeks and weeks, until the lawsuit was filed.  And then I don‘t know if anybody else noticed, but she stopped talking about it all together, and even going so far as this week as launching a P.R. offensive. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Matthew, Matthew, she‘s obviously scared.  I mean, she‘s gone out.  She‘s gotten a P.R. person to try to clean this garbage up.  She stops talking about Melinda Duckett after she gets sued, despite the fact she went on a personal jihad against this poor lady and her family, even after she was dead.  And, of course, now she‘s suddenly decided to be a kinder and gentler Nancy Grace when she‘s talking about moms with missing children.

This woman is scared to death, isn‘t she? 

FELLING:  She‘s extremely scared to death.  And just two nights ago, here she was quoted as saying, “Somehow you‘re attacking the mom of the newborn” to one of her guests.  And she said, “Stop this, stop this, all you‘re trying to do is blame the mom.” 

It is extremely calculated what she‘s doing right now.  It‘s extremely fake.  And the other night was a brilliant piece of P.R. theater, where they actually had three people on who were criticizing a mother‘s behavior, and there was Nancy Grace standing out, like the Statue of Liberty, a beacon, saying, “Listen, listen, you can‘t blame the mother here.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Fighting for the rights of Mom. 

FELLING:  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, there are some signs that Nancy Grace is getting worried.  Let‘s take a look at that clip where she‘s defending the mother of another missing child on her show this week. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE:  I‘m not going to get in a car with anybody I don‘t know, Nancy. 

GRACE:  OK, so we‘ve got—you know, somehow everybody‘s bass-ackwards on this tonight.  I don‘t appreciate—you can laugh all you want to...

BROOKS:  I will.  

GRACE:  ... calling this mom stupid when she‘s trying to help another lady.  The point tonight is not all of your judgments on this mother right here.  The point tonight is... 

BROOKS:  Would you get in the car if you had a 28-day-old baby?

GRACE:  No, no, I wouldn‘t. 

BROOKS:  OK, there you go.  

GRACE:  But that‘s not the question tonight, Mike Brooks.  The question is:  Where‘s the baby?

BROOKS:  That‘s the bottom line. 

GRACE:  You can throw rocks at the mom on some other show, but not here and not tonight. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I cannot believe I just heard her say that, Robi.  “You can throw rocks at this mom on another show, but not here”?  That‘s all she did to a poor mother who went off after being interviewed by Nancy Grace, having rocks thrown at her by Nancy Grace.  She killed herself, and then Nancy Grace threw rocks at her dead body for the next month, while her parents had to look on.  I mean, come on!  What is this new act? 

DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST:  This is really comparing apples to oranges.  First of all...

SCARBOROUGH:  You sound like a White House press secretary. 

LUDWIG:  I was on that show on Monday night, and what Nancy was talking about was a woman who—it‘s an infant abduction.  And so the woman whose infant was abducted, she was clearly manipulated.  And so the guests were basically attacking her for going into the car, where ultimately the woman abducted her infant.  It‘s a completely different situation and scenario; you can‘t just say all mothers who are victims are the same.  Each case is different.

SCARBOROUGH:  You certainly have to admit, though, Robi, though, that she has changed her tune since she‘s been sued and since CNN‘s been sued.  In fact, she stopped talking about Melinda Duckett.  It seems like she‘s retreating. 

LUDWIG:  Well, I don‘t know.  I can‘t speak to that.  But what I can tell you about is Nancy is Nancy calls a spade a spade.  And she basically makes an assessment on each case and views herself as a victim‘s advocate.  And if she views someone as a victim, she sees herself as a voice for the voiceless. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And what happens, Robi—hold on, Robi.  What happens if it ends up that this person who is a person of interest now in the Melinda Duckett case ends up being arrested and convicted?  Doesn‘t that spell terrible news for Nancy Grace and CNN?  And they‘ll lose a lawsuit in a very big way.

LUDWIG:  You know, I‘m not a lawyer, but I think that, even if there is another person of interest, you can‘t blame Nancy for this woman‘s suicide.  It‘s a horrible thing what happened, but clearly Melinda Duckett was a very sick woman if she engaged in suicide.  Even if she had a horrible interview, to have that put you over to the edge of suicide, I just don‘t see it.  Nobody who commits suicide...

SCARBOROUGH:  But playing it over, and over, and over again, so her grieving parents that had to deal with her death had to deal with Nancy Grace pounding their dead daughter night, after night, after night.  I mean, obviously, a jury is not going to look upon that favorably, are they? 

LUDWIG:  Well, I think, with any case that‘s in the media, it gets handled in a certain kind of way.  And people have opinions; people have judgments.  And it does get played over on the airwaves. 

And family of victims respond to it in very different ways.  I would not expect Melinda Duckett‘s family to be pleased by what happened.  Listen, they were grieving and, of course, they‘re going to look to blame. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Matthew, you know, Nancy Grace has, in effect, been turned into a joke through this whole process.  She‘s taken CNN down a terrible path.  I know there are a lot of great journalists over there that have to be distraught by what‘s happened.  But “Saturday Night Live” now is even parodying Nancy Grace and her legal problems.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And I would like to address some of the legal issues that I have been dealing with.  Joining me is traffic violations officer Greg Tanner.  Officer Tanner, how are you, friend? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m good.  Am I on TV? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Congratulations, you are.  Officer, were you just outside the studio giving me a parking ticket? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And why was that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because you parked in a handicapped parking space. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Isn‘t not having a parking space considered a handicap? 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Matthew, a lot of networks would like the publicity of “Saturday Night Live” making fun of one of their stars, but I don‘t know about CNN.  This can‘t be good publicity for them, what Nancy Grace is doing, being in the newspapers, these lawsuits.  Don‘t you think they may try to separate themselves from her, if her ratings start going down because of this scandal? 

FELLING:  Yes, absolutely.  They have written and signed a Faustian bargain with Nancy Grace.  They kept pushing her, pushing her, pushing the envelope, because the ratings kept going up.  But this is actually the odd occurrence, where any publicity is not good publicity, because she‘s becoming infamous, not just famous.

And I understand what Robi was saying, where you have to take each case on its merits, but this—there are some similar strands between the two stories.  These are two mothers who showed insufficient concern for the well-being of their kids.  Melinda Duckett came on the show and was not willing to cooperate, give more information that might lead to evidence coming up or a clue in the case. 

And here is a woman, in the new case, where a woman actually gets in a stranger‘s van, lack of concern for her kid, and then ends up having the kid kidnapped.  And so there are some similar things.

LUDWIG:  We don‘t know that there was lack of concern for her child.  We just know that somehow she was manipulated.  And if you look at people who abduct infants, very often they are manipulative.  And there is a calculating quality about it.

SCARBOROUGH:  We will have to leave it there.  Robi, thank you for being with us. 

LUDWIG:  Thank you.

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Robi Ludwig, Matthew Felling, greatly appreciate it. 

And coming up, Jessica Simpson gets a second chance to make good on her impression.  We‘re going to show that and what “Hollyweird” is doing to make sure you don‘t see her botched tribute to Dolly Parton. 

Plus, it sounds too good to be true.  Rosie O‘Donnell may be leaving “The View” after only one season.  Why she may be making a career change, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, are Rosie O‘Donnell‘s days on “The View” numbered?  “Access Hollywood” is reporting that Rosie told “The View‘s” studio audience that producers of the FX show “Nip/Tuck” are offering her a big part on that show, and she just may take it.  Now, that could possibly mean the end of her day on “The View” once the season‘s over, but we‘ll always have the memories.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE VIEW”:  ... able to get the presidential seal on paper towels, but we still haven‘t cleaned up New Orleans. 

Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam.

Everyone can be a tiny bit gay.  Do you think people are either 100 percent gay or 100 percent not?

You bring your baby over with the puppies.  You let the baby naked, and the dog will lick the baby‘s heinie. 

(LAUGHTER)

It was a joke, and it went up my nose. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Good god, memories that could last a lunchtime. 

So will moments like those be gone forever?  And is this “Nip/Tuck‘s” offer the answer to Barbara Walters‘ prayers? 

Here now to talk about it, “OK” magazine‘s senior report Courtney Hazlett.  Still with us, Matthew Felling.

Courtney, again, memories that could last a lunchtime, could it be, could it be, is Rosie on her way out? 

COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE:  Well, the rumor mill is definitely on fire since she made this announcement during a live taping of “The View,” during a commercial segment.  Nobody heard exactly what was said, unless you were in the audience, but she did admit—and her rep is confirming—that the producers of “Nip/Tuck” have approached her, and it‘s something they‘re really talking about.

It would be a 15-week shoot, and that‘s kind of hard to balance with her duties on “The View,” so people are saying, you know what?  If she does do this, and she said that she‘s a huge fan of the show—her guest appearance on “Nip/Tuck” went over great—she might be out of there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And so, Courtney, is that a good career move for her, to go from “The View,” where she is everyday, to doing more acting on “Nip/Tuck”?  I mean, do you think she may be getting tired of “The View” already? 

HAZLETT:  I don‘t think she‘s getting tired of the “The View” already, but she is a huge fan of “Nip/Tuck,” and “Nip/Tuck” is a very, very successful show.  So I don‘t think it would be a bad career move. 

That said, I think ABC is going to do everything in their power to keep Rosie on, because since she joined “The View,” the ratings have skyrocketed.  She‘s brought an energy to this show that it hasn‘t had in the past couple of years, and it‘s actually become really the must-see show that we‘ve seen this fall. 

I mean, if you miss “The View” in the morning, people are talking about it in the afternoon.  Everyone‘s tuning in. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, it‘s kind of like if you miss SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY at night, you can‘t go into any Starbucks on the Upper West Side or in West Hollywood, because that‘s all they‘re talking about. 

Matthew Felling, we‘ll push that to the side and instead talk about Faustian bargains.  You had said before that CNN made such a bargain with Nancy Grace.  Well, of course, Barbara Walters made the same bargain with Rosie O‘Donnell. 

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, Barbara Walters is happy about this possible departure for Rosie? 

FELLING:  Oh, I think that she is dressed up in a cheerleader outfit leading the cheers on this and really pushing it through.  I would not be surprised if she had talked with Hollywood and the FX network and said, “You know what?  Rosie did a really good job.  Maybe you guys should have her on more.” 

This entire season has been one big balancing act between Barbara Walters‘ reputation and the ratings race.  And there is good publicity, bad publicity.  And Rosie has been responsible for publicity, but it reminds me of when Michael Jordan was at the peak of his game, and he said—and when somebody said, “Listen, why aren‘t you more involved in politics?  Why don‘t you back contenders?”  And he said, “You know what?  Because Republicans buy shoes, too.” 

I think we‘ve gotten to a point with “The View” where Barbara Walters and even maybe some people inside ABC are thinking, “You know what?  Republicans buy the products on these shows, too, and they are running away in droves, even if the ratings are going up.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Courtney Hazlett, do you have any understanding, any feeling about how Barbara Walters feels about Rosie O‘Donnell, when it comes to the ratings, when it comes to her reputation?  You could talk about the Kelly Ripa situation.  You could talk about a lot of these other dust-ups.  Do you think Barbara Walters feels uncomfortable sitting next to Rosie O‘Donnell, even though she brings in big numbers? 

HAZLETT:  I have to disagree that she feels uncomfortable sitting next to Rosie O‘Donnell.  Of course, there are some cringe-worthy moments that have taken place, but you know what?  That‘s what you signed up for when you signed on with Rosie O‘Donnell. 

I was in the audience for Rosie‘s very first taping, and Barbara said, “I invited this woman onto my show.”  And Rosie said, “Thank you, Barbara, for the opportunity.” 

It‘s very clear that each one knew what the other was expecting when Rosie signed the dotted line to join “The View.”  I think Barbara wants her on; she enjoys the conflict on some level.  And in my opinion, it really hasn‘t gotten out of hand yet.  It has brought an energy to the show that‘s making more people watch. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you, Matthew Felling.

Courtney, stay with us, because, coming up next, Jessica Simpson working overtime to fix her embarrassing performance of “9 to 5.”  “Hollyweird” is coming straight ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tell your agent it‘s time to confirm the break-up, because your DVD needs the publicity.  It‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, Jessica Simpson, she went to Washington to perform “9 to 5” for Dolly Parton and choked.  But the story has a happy ending:  She gets a do-over.  CBS taped a second performance, and that‘s the one that we will all see on air. 

Still with us, Courtney Hazlett, and here right now is Mark Malkin. 

He is E! online “Planet Gossip” columnist and host. 

So, Mark, what‘s the story here?  I understand you have some new details. 

MARC MALKIN, E! ONLINE:  OK, she not only messed up “9 to 5,” but I am told her dad did not want her to re-shoot the song because he thought it was cute.  Producers actually had to beg them and said, “You must re-shoot this.”  They were saying, “No, no, no, it‘s cute.”  They said, “If you do not re-shoot this, guess what?  She‘s not making the show on CBS.  Jessica will disappear from the broadcast.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait a second.  Are you telling me her father actually liked her holding—what is she holding there, her gizzard?  What‘s going on there?  She‘s having to hold her dress up, and then she babbles incoherently at the end, and runs off the stage.  Her father likes that? 

MALKIN:  Her dad thinks it‘s “cute”?  I think it looks like she‘s about to hurl.  And from what I‘m told, she didn‘t know the words.  She didn‘t rehearse.  You‘re singing for the president.  This is not some in-store album release party. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, very ugly.  Very ugly.

Courtney Hazlett, what do you hear? 

HAZLETT:  The whole thing is really mystifying.  It did look like she was trying to keep her dress on or something.  Nobody understands what that pose was about.  But I guess this is the beauty of a pre-taped show, if only Joe Simpson understood that.  I think everyone agrees it wasn‘t so cute.  It was just kind of melting down again.  She‘s had a horrific year, and this is just capping it off. 

SCARBOROUGH:  One more bad thing.  And what about Britney Spears?  She may want to spend less time partying and more time home with the kids, because the world is—the “New York Post” is reporting L.A. child services wants to talk to the pop princess again.  What‘s the word, Courtney?

HAZLETT:  Well, the word is that, you know, she‘s had this run-in before, when she had the driving on the lap incident with Sean Preston, and then the falling out of the high chair incident.  Britney‘s been on the radar, since she‘s been going out every single night with her new best friend, Paris Hilton.  Word is that she‘s attracted attention again.  So, you know, is it true?  Who‘s to say really? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Who‘s to say really, Courtney?  And who‘s to say, also, speaking of Paris, maybe Britney can give parenting advise to her new pal, Paris Hilton.  “Life and Style” is reporting the heiress thinks she‘s ready to be a mom.  Mark, God help us.  What‘s up here?

MALKIN:  Here‘s the deal:  Paris needs to know that Tinkerbelle, the dog, is not a baby.  It‘s not the same thing.  You can‘t just hand it off to a handler and say, “Go walk it.”  So if she wants to have kids, I think the important thing is, if she‘s going to do it, we have to figure out who the dad is and make sure he‘s not of the same partying persuasion that Paris is. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That would be a very ugly thing.  Thank you so much, Mark Malkin.  Thank you, Courtney Hazlett.  Greatly appreciate it. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  A busy show tonight.  We‘ll see you here tomorrow night with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

END

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

END   

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