Guests: Arianna Huffington, Phil Bronstein, Joshua Green, Steve Adubato, Bob Kohn, David Caplan, Emily Smith
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Welcome to the show. Tonight, political warfare bleeds into the media world as Fox News continues its battle against NBC. First O‘Reilly says we‘re rooting for the enemy, now “Fox and Friends” says our White House reporter should be fired. Some friends.
But first: The president is taken to the woodshed, but Mr. Bush says he‘s still his own man, that despite the fact the Iraq group‘s co-chairman saying that the situation in Iraq is almost hopeless.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agree that victory in Iraq‘s important. I believe we‘ll prevail. Not only do I how important it is to prevail, I believe we will prevail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: That is a president who believes that victory is still possible and we will still prevail. He may be standing alone in that assessment.
With us tonight, Phil Bronstein—he‘s editor of “The San Francisco Chronicle”—Arianna Huffington—she‘s the founder of the Huffingtonpost.com—and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.
Arianna, let me begin with you. When you hear the president talking about victory and prevailing in Iraq, what are you thoughts one day after the Iraq study commission offers the president a stinging rebuke and two days after his own secretary of defense seems to contradict his optimism?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: I‘m really very troubled by the fact that he continues on this delusional course because I‘m really wondering who is he listening to, other than Dick Cheney. Who in his immediate circle still believes that you can prevail in Iraq, that there is a military solution? I mean, the Iraq Study Group was clear about one thing, and this is that we need to engage the region, that there has to be a diplomatic solution, that we cannot basically stay there until Iraq is fixed because this could be a very long time and it is their civil war.
At the same time, they recommended that we have a part to play in building Iraq, but that cannot be done right now. It cannot be done with our troops at risk.
SCARBOROUGH: Phil Bronstein, what do you think about the president still talking about victory? Arianna said he was delusional. That‘s a tough assessment. But if he‘s not delusional, isn‘t he at least isolated in his positive assessment of the situation there?
PHIL BRONSTEIN, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”: Well, you know, he—we ought to give him credit for acknowledging one thing—very rare when heads of state have press conferences today. He said, You know, a lot of these reports that are issued never get read in Washington. I thought that was a pretty honest remark to make. But...
SCARBOROUGH: But Phil, he went on to say that this one was so important that even he read it.
BRONSTEIN: Even he read it. But you know, Joe, this is—this was a
battle of semantics, really. You know, we haven‘t had anything interesting
this interesting since the previous president talked about, you know, depends on what the definition of “the” is. You got the president trying to say, Well, we didn‘t—we‘re not succeeding as fast as we like. You got the press trying to make him say we‘re failing. And really, it really is just a semantic issue. The question is, has anybody got a plan?
These guys have come up with what they say is a plan, 77 options, however many there are. And we‘re waiting to see the president or anyone else has a different plan. I don‘t think we heard that at the press conference.
SCARBOROUGH: We certainly didn‘t. You know, “The Wall Street Journal,” Phil, is reporting that the administration doesn‘t feel bound to follow the report or those 77 plans. And listen to what George Bush said. He seemed to echo that sentiment in the press conference today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Congress isn‘t going to accept every recommendation in the report, and neither will the administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Earlier, though, James Baker expressed grave reservations about the president‘s approach, and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES BAKER, IRAQ STUDY GROUP CO-CHAIR: I hope we don‘t treat this like a fruit salad and say, I like this but I don‘t like that, I like that but I don‘t like that. This is a comprehensive strategy designed to deal with this probably we‘re facing in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: But Phil, that‘s exactly what the president‘s saying. He seems to be cherry picking it already, saying, you know, We‘re not bound to accept all of these proposals. In fact, Congress isn‘t going to like a lot of them. We‘re not going to like a lot of them. It sounds like he and Baker have already split after 24 hours.
BRONSTEIN: Well, you know, the president of the United States is the one who‘s actually responsible. Even if he asked this group to understand the study, he‘s the one who‘s responsible. So let‘s see what his plan is. And by the way, you know, he‘s not alone out there. Have you seen the cover of “The New York Post,” Joe?
BRONSTEIN: It says “Surrender monkeys” and it has Baker and Hamilton superimposed on the bodies of two monkeys. So you know, the president‘s got some support out there for his position.
SCARBOROUGH: The type of front pages you usually don‘t see at “The San Francisco Chronicle.” Pat Buchanan...
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right~!~
SCARBOROUGH: ... this president seemed defiant today, basically saying, I‘m going to do what I want to do, his administration officials saying they‘re not bound by the Baker report. Again, if that‘s the case, this president seems to be alone in the world, doesn‘t he.
BUCHANAN: No, he doesn‘t, Joe. Look, the president of the United States—I think he ought to take a really hard look. These people worked hard. But who is James Baker to say, Look, this is not a—you just can‘t pick from this salad, you have to take it all? At last count, I don‘t think he‘s been elected to anything. He‘s a former secretary of state. And I noticed today, Joe, John McCain said the Baker commission report is a recipe for an American defeat in Iraq. Now, he‘s probably one of the two or three most popular political figures in America, a presumptive Republican nominee who disagrees with Mr. Bush on things. And I—I—I mean, we talked last night. And while this presented what I thought was an honest assessment of a dire situation, the idea that we can rescue it by pulling out the best fighting troops in Iraq—how do we know the other side doesn‘t—wants to negotiate? Maybe they want to go for victory. So I think...
BUCHANAN: Go ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, I‘m sorry...
SCARBOROUGH: Go ahead, Arianna.
HUFFINGTON: But you know, I really—I really don‘t understand what happened to Pat. I‘m very troubled by that, too, because Pat used to be one of the most sane people on the right against this war. And now, to actually suddenly believe that this war is winnable, whether our troops can actually make a substantive difference? All military experts think that to really make any substantive difference, we have to double our troops.
HUFFINGTON: Sending in another 30,000 to 40,000, which is at most what we could do, would make no difference at all.
BUCHANAN: Joe, let me respond to that...
HUFFINGTON: So this is a very significant point. So really, John McCain...
BUCHANAN: It is significant.
HUFFINGTON: ... is simply grandstanding. He‘s simply grandstanding for the Republican primary...
HUFFINGTON: ... understand why he‘s doing it. But...
BUCHANAN: Well, look, I‘m not...
BUCHANAN: I‘m not doing it. I don‘t believe we ought to send in 40,000 more troops, and I believe the war was the worst mistake in American history. But I do believe a sudden pull-out over 14 months of all of the American combat divisions, while you‘re leaving your support troops, diplomats, contractors in there, you‘re risking a Dien Bien Phu, a real disaster. And even the senator from Maine, who‘s a very moderate Republican, says she‘s deeply concerned about embedding American soldiers with Iraqi divisions. When the American combat troops are gone, what‘s to prevent them from turning on these guys and skinning them alive? Those—those divisions are unreliable. So we got some real problems attendant here. What bothers me about Baker is...
BUCHANAN: ... the idea that somehow—I mean, “Upon what meat has this our Caesar fed?”
HUFFINGTON: Pat, you know, that‘s why we need to bring our troops home earlier. And we need to do that because that is the only way for Iraqis to be actually in charge of their own country. If it‘s a democracy, let them fight their own civil war. This is not for America to solve. We cannot solve it. We‘re thin as an occupying force, Pat.
BUCHANAN: I know all that. But Arianna—but let me say this. If we pull out, the Maliki government and the Iraqi army will collapse, and the winners will be al Qaeda, the Sunni insurgents, the Mahdi Army. Now, if we want that—all I‘m asking is, look in the face of the result‘s going to be when we go.
HUFFINGTON: The Maliki government...
SCARBOROUGH: Arianna, what are the results?
HUFFINGTON: ... is a fiction. The Maliki government is a fiction of the Bush administration. You know perfectly well that it‘s effectively being supported by Hezbollah, by the Iranians, and that it doesn‘t dare to really stand up to the militias. You know all that, Pat, so let‘s not pretend it is an independent sovereign government. It is not.
BUCHANAN: I‘m not! I‘m saying who‘s going to be in charge if we pull out and the Maliki government goes under? I think it‘s going to be...
HUFFINGTON: There is nobody in charge now!
BUCHANAN: ... Muqtada al Sadr.
BUCHANAN: The place is going to come apart! I mean, you‘ll get every
lots of Americans are saying, Look, if that thing comes apart, you‘ve got generals and others—you could have a regional war. The Saudis are worried about that. That‘s all I‘m saying. We didn‘t think going in. For heaven‘s sakes, think before we pull out 15 combat brigades!
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Phil...
HUFFINGTON: Pat, let the Saudis get in and try and prevent a regional war. It is their problem in their back yard. And we are making it worse. If we could be making it better, I would say stay. We are making it worse. We need to bring together the moderates in the region, and our presence actually sends the moderates in the camp of the extremists.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, Phil Bronstein and I have been out. We had a wonderful meal, a steak and some California wine.
BRONSTEIN: ... same side? I thought the two of them...
SCARBOROUGH: I think they did. I think both of them liked Gingrich at one point.
SCARBOROUGH: But Phil and I have finished our dinner. We finished our wine. Phil, now I want to show you a clip of President Bush getting grilled today, like our steaks, from the BBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBINSON, BBC CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, the Iraq Study Group described the situation in Iraq as grave and deteriorating. You said that the increase in attacks is unsettling. That will convince many people that you‘re still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq and question your sincerity about changing course.
BUSH: It‘s bad in Iraq. That help?
ROBINSON: Why did it take others to say it before you‘d be willing to acknowledge it to the world?
BUSH: Oh, I—you know, in all due respect, I‘ve been saying it a lot. I understand how tough it is, and I‘ve been telling the American people how tough it is. And they know how tough it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Phil, this was a president who was very defiant today. He seemed angry at times. He lashed out, saying, I understand what it‘s like these troops. I understand what it‘s like for the families. But I mean, while the president may believe that, it seems like he‘s not only lost the BBC, it seems like he‘s lost middle America, hasn‘t he. And that‘s why that defiance, that sort of John Wayne swagger, just doesn‘t sell anymore, does it.
BRONSTEIN: Well, it works until it doesn‘t, you know? I think we saw in the last election that it stopped working. But there‘s a little—you know, Pat and Arianna, we don‘t want to get in the middle of that because, you know, they‘re smarter and louder than I am, anyway, and that‘s why they‘re great for television. But you know, they have two very strong opinions.
Ultimately, the American people will come to their own conclusions about this. It‘s like the argument about whether it‘s civil war or not a civil war. People will read or see or hear about what‘s going on in Iraq day after day and come to their own conclusions.
But the president saying, you know, we‘re not as successful as quickly as we‘d like, is like Ford saying, you know, The Edsel was not as big a success as we‘d hoped.
BUCHANAN: Well, you know, that‘s right. He said, you know, progress is not being made rapid enough. And the commission said, in effect, the situation is grave and deteriorating. I think the commission is much, much closer to the truth.
I will say this. I think president is in the process of making a decision to turn us around and move us out. I don‘t think he‘s going to send in more troops. I think he knows his home political base is disintegrating under him. But I do understand, when that Brit gets up there with his smart-alec question, why the president bristles at that sort of thing. He‘s a human being, and he is in a very rough patch. And I thought the whole answer the president gave was pretty effective, from his standpoint.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on. Phil—hold on a second. Hold on. Phil, go ahead and respond, Phil, and then we‘ll go to you, Arianna.
BRONSTEIN: We also often talk about the right to know. You don‘t have a right to know necessarily in this country, but you definitely have a right to ask. So I think provocative questions are—have a long, rich history. And we saw the same thing happening in the Fox interview with Bill Clinton.
BUCHANAN: But smacking reporters in the head has got a long, rich history, too.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Arianna, the thing...
SCARBOROUGH: Arianna, hold on a second, if you will. Listening to you and Pat debate back and forth, it seems to me there are two approaches we can take right now, and I think Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives don‘t know the correct answer. And we‘re still trying to grapple and trying to figure out the correct path as we move forward.
HUFFINGTON: But you know...
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. You can go with Pat Buchanan‘s way, who says we can‘t pull the combat troops out because if we do, there‘s going to be a lot of slaughter. And then on the other side, you have people like yourself saying Well, wait a second, they‘re being slaughtered now anyway. We need to get our troops home as quickly as possible.
I think, at this point, Arianna, it has passed—gone past an ideological question. While Democrats were on your side a lot longer than Republicans, I think most Republicans and conservatives now really fear that if we keep our troops there much longer, it‘s just going to disintegrate even more.
HUFFINGTON: I completely agree with you, Joe. This is no longer an ideological issue. It‘s not a left-right debate. Chuck Hagel was fantastic on the Iraq Study Group and the reality on the ground. It‘s really about those who are in favor of reality-based public policy in Iraq and those who want to stay in denial. That is really the division right now.
BUCHANAN: Well, let me say—let me say—here‘s a—look, an Iraqi made a good statement today. He said the Iraq Study Group solves the American problem. In other words, you guys are getting out. You‘re leaving and saying good-bye. But it don‘t solve our problem because what is going to happen there, they believe—and I think they may be right—is a complete disaster. Now, I think that the United States should pull out, Joe, but I‘m not sure that pulling the combat troops out and leaving the guys without guns there is a good idea.
SCARBOROUGH: I think when we leave, we all have to leave. Pat Buchanan...
SCARBOROUGH: ... thanks for being with us. Arianna, thank you for being with us. And Phil, let me just say this, buddy. I enjoyed dinner and...
SCARBOROUGH: ... and while we keep Pat and Arianna on because they pop off the screen, we have you on because of your dangerous beauty.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you for being with us. San Francisco subtly wins me over every time, baby!
Coming up next; Arianna Huffington says Hillary Clinton should be more concerned with ending the war and less concerned with video games. Arianna will be explaining coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David Gregory talks to Tony Snow as if he wants to be famous and he wants John Kerry and Al Gore to be reelected!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: And Fox news accuses NBC of slanted reporting, but is Fox the one showing its true colors with the latest attack? And is it a sign of where journalism is headed? Well, a new university study says yes.
SCARBOROUGH: Wednesday was one of the deadliest days ever for the
United States in Iraq. Eleven American soldiers were killed while
fighting, the highest number on a single day in the past year. And at
least 84 Iraqis were killed by bombs, mortar rounds or bullets. Today, the
senator from New York held a press conference on violent video games,
prompting Arianna Huffington to ask, Could Hillary be any more politically
Arianna is still with us, along with Josh Green. He‘s a senior editor of “The Atlantic Monthly.” He wrote the magazine‘s recent cover story on Hillary Clinton.
Arianna, let me begin with you. What‘s your objection to the senator addressing video game violence in the way she did today?
HUFFINGTON: You know, politics is about priorities, and on a day when the violence in Iraq has gotten so much worse, when the images on our television screens are full of bloodshed, of mutilated bodies, to have Hillary Clinton hold a press conference together with Joe Lieberman to discuss virtual violence, violence in video games, was really very troubling to me. It didn‘t make any sense. It didn‘t make any sense morally. It didn‘t make any sense politically. And I wonder, What is she really thinking?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, Arianna, though, obviously, Hillary Clinton‘s office would say that the senator can be concerned about the war in Iraq and also focus on domestic concerns. Wouldn‘t that be a fair suggestion?
HUFFINGTON: Well, of course, she can. But what is she giving voice to? What is she using her platform for? What is at the moment most urgently needed to be addressed violence? The violence in Iraq. For a member of the Armed Services Committee, for a member of the world‘s most exclusive club, it‘s very troubling. It really follows her whole strategy of calculation, triangulation, not really standing up for what is at the moment the most urgent concern for the American people.
SCARBOROUGH: Joshua Green, should the New York senator expect to see more attacks like this from her own base on Iraq as she moves towards the Democratic primary season and continues to try to chart a middle course?
JOSHUA GREEN, “ATLANTIC MONTHLY”: Yes, I think she‘s used to attacks from just about everybody, and I think she probably will. But the idea that Hillary Clinton isn‘t engaged on the issue of Iraq I think is a completely nonsensical one. I don‘t want to sound like one of these Fox News idiots, but Arianna, if you were in Washington instead of in Hollywood reporting on this, if you‘d been at the Armed Services Committee today, it was Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton who were attacking Robert Gates and questioning him about the failures of the Bush administration‘s Iraq policy.
If you follow her around, like I have to every day, you know, it‘s all she‘s talked about for the last two weeks. And this whole suddenly controversial video game press conference was actually supposed to run yesterday and got bounced because of the Baker commission report. So the idea that, you know, Iraq isn‘t getting enough attention because Hillary Clinton didn‘t talk about it or that she isn‘t focusing on Iraq enough just doesn‘t make any sense.
HUFFINGTON: Well, first of all, what an unnecessarily cheap shot, as though because I live in Los Angeles and don‘t live in Washington, I cannot read what Hillary Clinton asked during the questioning both of Gates...
GREEN: Well, but what problem—what problem...
HUFFINGTON: ... and of the Iraq Study Group.
GREEN: ... would you have with what she asked today?
HUFFINGTON: No, no, no, absolutely. Just—did you read her questions to Baker and Hamilton? They were meandering. They were irrelevant. She actually asked at one point, what is their advice, what should Congress do in terms of their recommendations.
GREEN: I don‘t know if you‘ve ever sat through...
HUFFINGTON: She‘s asking what Congress should do...
GREEN: ... a committee hearing. This is just the way...
GREEN: She also had one of the toughest questions...
SCARBOROUGH: One at a time. One at a time!
HUFFINGTON: Let me just finish! We are talking about the Iraq Study Group. And you need to stop being condescending, OK? Don‘t tell me I haven‘t sat through a committee meeting or that I haven‘t read that. This is just bizarre. I have read...
GREEN: But she‘s doing exactly what you were accusing her of not doing!
SCARBOROUGH: Go ahead, Josh. Respond.
HUFFINGTON: She‘s not doing at all. She‘s not standing up for anything. She‘s asking questions...
SCARBOROUGH: All right...
HUFFINGTON: ... of the Iraq Study Group.
SCARBOROUGH: Arianna, let Joshua respond...
HUFFINGTON: She‘s a leader. She should...
SCARBOROUGH: ... before we run out of time.
HUFFINGTON: She should actually say what she‘s going to do.
GREEN: First of all, the idea that she can only talk about Iraq but she can‘t talk about video games—if you look at after the 2004 election, every pundit in this country, including me, including Arianna, talked about the need for Democrats to talk about moral values. So two years ago...
HUFFINGTON: Not me! Not at all!
GREEN: ... she would have been applauded for talking about video game violence. You know, a serious politician...
HUFFINGTON: I did not talk about that! You‘re just making stuff up!
GREEN: ... with ambitions at the White House can‘t just shift in the wind and follow an agenda that‘s dictated by pundits. I mean, the idea that a serious politician is going to behave like a marionette because pundits say this week you have to talk about Iraq—you know, that‘s not a winning strategy. I mean, John Kerry already has that job and it hasn‘t gotten him to the White House. So the idea that you fault Hillary Clinton for talking about serious issues in addition to the one in Iraq, which she‘s given plenty of attention to, just doesn‘t make sense.
HUFFINGTON: Well, first of all...
SCARBOROUGH: ... let me read you what Senator Clinton‘s office had to say when we asked what she‘s been doing this week. This is what her press secretary had to say. “In just the past few days, Senator Clinton has met privately with Dr. Gates and questioned him about the nomination hearing, about Iraq policy, was briefed on the Iraq Study Group and their report, reacted strongly to it. And at the Armed Services hearing today with Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton, called for the White House to learn from the Iraq Study Group, and quote, become the Iraq Results Group. And later today, she and Senator Levin met privately with Abdul Aziz al Hakim, actually causing her to mostly miss the press conference in question, also on an important topic.”
Go ahead and respond, Arianna.
HUFFINGTON: Well, the response is very simple. Democratic leaders need to stand up and tell the American people what should be done. They should not just ask questions, they should actually tell us what is their strategy. There was a very clear message sent by the American people in ‘06 during the election, and they need to stand up and say what they are going to do. And Hillary Clinton has failed to do that.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Hey, thank you so much, Arianna Huffington.
Thank you so much...
HUFFINGTON: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: ... Josh Green. Really appreciate you being with us.
And coming up, how the Baker-Hamilton report has some media outlets showing their true political colors and why it‘s also causing Fox News to pick another fight with NBC News. Plus, “The Daily Show‘s” take on children‘s entertainment with hidden agendas. “Must See S.C.” coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you just got to see. First up, some critics targeted the movie “Happy Feet” for having a secret liberal agenda aimed at kids. But it‘s not only the movies. On “The Daily Show,” Lewis Black tells us why children‘s books may also have hidden messages.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS BLACK, “THE DAILY SHOW”: For truly patriotic, wholesome entertainment, I‘m afraid your kids may actually have to read, specifically, “Hot House Flowers,” a new book by Brooklyn criminal court judge John Wilson. It‘s a parable against illegal immigration about a greenhouse full of beautiful American flowers who wind up overrun by dirty undocumented dandelions.
BLACK: At least it‘s less heavy-handed than Wilson‘s next book, “Raped by the Death Tax: A Tulip‘s Tale.”
SCARBOROUGH: And finally, a “Must See S.C.” favorite, David Letterman‘s latest edition of “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!
JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!
BUSH: Let me—let me—let—let me—let me...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Coming up next, is James Baker a surrender monkey? The “New York Post” attacks the Iraq Study Group, while other media outlets treat it as the second coming. We‘re going to try to make sense of who‘s actually being fair and balanced.
And later, what does Al Gore do when he‘s not saving the environment? Saving Lindsay Lohan. The inconvenient truth about “Hollyweird‘s” party girl is coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: Is Al Gore trying to help party girl Lindsay Lohan? And who will help her friends Paris and Britney? A “Hollyweird” intervention, coming up. That story and much more in minutes.
But first, the splintering of the media. A new study from one of the world‘s top universities, the University of Chicago, shows that today‘s media is fractured right down party lines. You‘ve got newspapers for Democrats and newspapers for Republicans; cable networks for Democrats, cable networks for Republicans.
It‘s a reality that was clearly visible in today‘s morning papers. This is the front page from the “New York Post,” which characterized the Iraq Study Group‘s chairmen as, quote, “surrender monkeys.” So how did we get a media that splits so sharply down party lines right now?
With us, MSNBC media analyst Steve Adubato and also Bob Kohn. He‘s the author of the book “Journalistic Fraud.”
I begin with you, Steve Adubato. Are we into this brave, new world, that the University of Chicago talked about, sort of a Balkanization of American politics, where people read the paper they want to read, because it‘s going to tell them what they want to read, or turn on the cable news channel they want to turn on because it‘s going to reinforce their own views?
STEVE ADUBATO, MEDIA ANALYST: Unfortunately, Joe, in a lot of cases, it is true. And I have to tell you: There‘s never been a time in American history where there was more of a need for media. And I don‘t want to say straight down the middle, because I don‘t really know what that means, but truly fair and truly balanced.
Therefore, when the anchors are on the air, you know that the anchors are speaking about the facts of a situation and allowing people to decide. When you as a host of a show, even if you have a point of view, Joe, the fact is you have others who have very different points of view, who are strong guests, who are strong commentators.
When you have the front page of a newspaper that clearly editorializes, on the front page, the question then becomes: What is the place for the editorial page? So when I look in the “New York Post,” and I look at the “New York Post” for fun. It‘s easy to read. It doesn‘t take a lot of brain effort to do it. But I‘ll say this: When you editorialize on the front page, Joe, it makes a mockery of the whole idea that there‘s an op-ed section of the newspaper, because the front page is supposed to be truly fair and balanced, information that I can make decisions on. The inside of the editorial page is supposed to be different. Somehow it‘s changed.
SCARBOROUGH: And that‘s where you get it. Yes, exactly. And let me ask you, Bob Kohn, whether that‘s the case—of course, we‘ve got FOX News now attacking NBC. It seems like they‘re at war with NBC, for whatever reasons.
But you listen to what Steve Adubato had to say. He said, you know, it used to be that the media was down the middle. Now you‘ve got people on the left, people on the right. It‘s more divided. Do you agree with that?
BOB KOHN, AUTHOR: Well, I think you mischaracterized what Steve—I completely agree what he says. And absolutely there should be a distinction between the front page and the op-ed pages.
But you put the “New York Post” up there. I think you should have put up today‘s “New York Times,” as well, because there was two news analysis pieces on the front page of the times regarding the commission‘s report. But there was also a lead story about the report itself. And David Sanger, the “New York Times” news reporter, characterized it as a rebuke to Bush, OK?
ADUBATO: But it was.
KOHN: Well, that‘s not what it said. Somebody in the news analysis could make an analysis that it‘s a rebuke, but it wasn‘t. How about talking about objectively what the report says before you characterize it? So it‘s happening on both sides, at the “New York Times,” as well as some of the papers that are on the right.
I disagree with what the “New York Post” did and what the “New York Times” did. And I think this splinterization, this politicalization, really, it has been going on for 40 years. The only difference is now there‘s a “New York Post”...
SCARBOROUGH: ... yet conservatives would say that the media has long been politicized, but it‘s been almost exclusively politicized on the left...
SCARBOROUGH: ... ABC, CBS, NBC, “New York Times,” “Washington Post.”
ADUBATO: It‘s not so black and white, Joe.
KOHN: Yes, now you have talk radio, the Internet...
SCARBOROUGH: ... people on the right, also. Right, right. Exactly. But let‘s talk about this fight. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow had a heated exchange yesterday with NBC‘s David Gregory over the issue of partisanship. Gregory asked Snow if the Iraq report was a rejection of the president‘s policy, and this is how Snow responded.
(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 WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I just want to be clear. Are you suggesting that I‘m trying to frame this in a partisan way?
GREGORY: You are? Based on the fact that...
GREGORY: Wait a minute, wait a second. 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...
SNOW: No, I am...
GREGORY: ... you‘re trying to answer it by...
SNOW: No, here‘s the—
GREGORY: ... nitpicking it.
SNOW: No. Nitpicking?
GREGORY: You‘re suggesting 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: And FOX News took aim at David Gregory this morning, claiming his question was out of line. Take a look at what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: David Gregory is trying to be Sam Donaldson. Sam Donaldson was able to take his cantankerous attitude with Ronald Reagan and became a network anchor, a network personality. He made a career out of it.
It‘s all about David Gregory. It‘s never about the issue with that guy. And I watch this almost everyday, and when we don‘t carry it live, I could watch it on the closed circuit that we have here in the station, because we‘ve (INAUDIBLE) the feed. And David Gregory talks to Tony Snow as if he wants to be famous and he wants John Kerry and Al Gore to be re-elected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: All right, so, Steve, what‘s going on here? I mean, they even had a poll question, “Should David Gregory be fired?” It‘s not about David Gregory. It‘s about the Iraq Study Group.
ADUBATO: A couple of things...
SCARBOROUGH: So what‘s going on here?
ADUBATO: A couple of things. Before I came here to work at MSNBC, for many years, I was a regular guest, if you will, on FOX, “FOX and Friends.” I know Brian Kilmeade. I think he‘s a decent guy, but I think he‘s off the wall. And here‘s why.
David Gregory asked a legitimate question of Tony Snow, the White House press secretary. He asked very simply, “Is the Iraq Study Group report a repudiation of the president‘s policies?” It‘s a legitimate question. The simple answer that Tony could have given was, “No, it‘s not, and here‘s why.”
For the people at “FOX and Friends,” particularly Brian Kilmeade in this case, to go after the motives, to impugn the motives of David Gregory, who has no particular axe to grind, you better prove...
SCARBOROUGH: Well, hold on a second. Steve, Steve...
ADUBATO: ... you better prove that he‘s a partisan.
SCARBOROUGH: Steve, Steve, this is Joe Scarborough here. Hold on a second.
ADUBATO: Oh, sorry.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, though, he actually—Tony Snow, a guy I know and I like very much—but Tony Snow actually accused David Gregory of being partisan, when all David Gregory did was read words from the report. I‘m not bashing Tony Snow. I mean, that‘s his job, and David Gregory is doing his job. I just think it‘s getting very personal...
SCARBOROUGH: ... attacking others.
ADUBATO: But here‘s my point. And, Bob, I know you‘ll jump in. It‘s a totally legitimate question. You know, Mike Wallace once said there are no embarrassing questions. There are only embarrassing answers.
What I mean by that, and what he meant by that, and I agree, is you have a right to any fair, legitimate question, as tough as it is. Just answer.
SCARBOROUGH: Bob Kohn is saying no. Go ahead, Bob.
KOHN: Yes, David Gregory got exactly what he deserved, and it was newsworthy. They covered it as a media event. There‘s nothing special about FOX News mentioning and showing what had happened. That doesn‘t often happen when the press secretary questions the premise of a question. That‘s exactly what he did.
Now, David Gregory could have asked the question, “What do you think this report means for the policy? What does this report say about the policy of the Bush administration?” And David Gregory could have gone to someone like Nancy Pelosi and asked her what she thinks the report means about the Bush administration‘s policy.
But by framing the question that, “Do you think this repudiates your policy?” If the answer is no, David Gregory is going to go on the air that night and say, “The Bush administration denies that this report repudiates their policy.”
ADUBATO: So what?
SCARBOROUGH: Wait, wait, wait, are you telling David Gregory what questions he needs to ask the president of the United States?
ADUBATO: Joe, that‘s ridiculous.
KOHN: You know, he can ask whatever he wants. But when he asks the questions of the Bush administration, time and time again, he does it in this insidious way that gets the kind of denial, and then he goes ahead on the news and...
SCARBOROUGH: No, Steve, let me talk here. Bob Kohn, his job, though, Bob Kohn—and if you were sitting there, your job, or if I were sitting there, my job would be to play devil‘s advocate, because you know, whether it‘s a Democratic White House or a Republican White House, they have the most powerful spin machine in the world.
KOHN: Fine, fine, fine, Joe. Then why doesn‘t David Gregory said, “Well, Nancy Pelosi said this morning that it rebukes the Bush administration‘s policy. What do you think about Nancy Pelosi‘s statement?”
ADUBATO: Joe, here‘s the problem with Bob‘s argument.
SCARBOROUGH: Steve, hold on. Steve, hold on. Bob Kohn, Nancy Pelosi does not matter right now. Who matters is the president of the United States. People in England, people in Germany, people in Iraq, people across the Middle East don‘t give a damn about Nancy Pelosi.
SCARBOROUGH: They want to know, how does the president, how does the White House respond to what you can only call a stinging rebuke?
KOHN: No, well, you can call it that, if you‘re writing a news analysis or an opinion piece. But if you‘re a news reporter, he‘s just trying...
SCARBOROUGH: Well, no, but it is a stinging rebuke.
KOHN: ... of the administration without trying to characterize it in a question like that. Absolutely. I think Tony Snow did the exact right thing by questioning the question of the premise. I don‘t think FOX at all has—you know, it was a newsworthy event. Why do you make that a big deal?
ADUBATO: Here‘s the point, that I see. FOX has every right—any news organization has any right—Tony Snow has every right to challenge the premise. But to impugn the motives, to talk about the fact that David Gregory is doing this to be Sam Donaldson, it trivializes the importance of a legitimate, dare I say adversarial question, which, Bob, is our job, regardless of our ideology. And that‘s all David Gregory is doing.
KOHN: I think...
ADUBATO: And, finally, he‘s done it with Democrats; he‘s done it with Republicans.
KOHN: Oh, not...
ADUBATO: There is no pattern—what pattern do you know of where he doesn‘t do it with Democrats?
KOHN: No way. No way. I think, you know, it‘s—you have to point out, when the press is trying to make the news, when they‘re trying to make the facts, when they‘re trying to put words in people‘s mouth, I think it‘s legitimate for criticism and commentary to go criticize the press, or else it‘s going to be open season. I think what is upsetting everybody right now is the fact that there is an organization like FOX News that didn‘t exist 10 years ago to point these things out.
ADUBATO: Point what things out?
SCARBOROUGH: We‘ve got to go.
KOHN: Twenty years. Twenty years, and finally we have fair and balanced.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on. Bob Kohn, let me just say, as a Republican congressman, I was thrilled to see FOX News come along, because not only is FOX News conservative, it‘s made all other news organizations more fair. It really has.
And also, I have criticized other media outlets. I‘ve criticized Dan Rather, CNN at times...
KOHN: You‘ve been great.
SCARBOROUGH: ... ABC at times. I‘ve gone after everybody. I just think it‘s dangerous when you go after a White House reporter like David Gregory.
ADUBATO: On a personal level.
SCARBOROUGH: He was trying to be very aggressive and get answers out of a White House, and I don‘t knock this White House or Tony Snow for being ruthlessly efficient.
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s their job.
KOHN: I think it‘s long overdue, long overdue.
SCARBOROUGH: But I think that...
KOHN: I‘m glad for Tony Snow.
SCARBOROUGH: I think you‘ve got to be tough, whoever the White House spokesperson is. And, again, I say that, despite the fact I like Tony Snow very much.
ADUBATO: He‘s a good guy.
SCARBOROUGH: Bob Kohn, thank you for being with us. Steve Adubato, thank you for patiently standing on the sidelines while Bob and I went back and forth.
And coming up, what‘s Al Gore doing in “Hollyweird”? The former vice president is reportedly trying to help one of Tinseltown‘s biggest party girls, coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: It seems you can‘t pick up a magazine these days without reading about some late-night exploits by Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Their newly formed clique with Paris Hilton has been dubbed as the “bimbo convention” by the “New York Post,” but it‘s easy to forget that, not too longer ago, these were once wide-eyed, innocent kids. So has Hollywood destroyed Britney and Lindsay, or can they turn things around?
Here now, “The Sun‘s” U.S. editor, Emily Smith, and “Star” magazine‘s deputy New York bureau chief, David Caplan.
David, today‘s “New York Post” reports that Lindsay Lohan sent out a rambling e-mail to friends, attacking the media, and claiming that former Vice President Al Gore wants to help clean up her act. It read, in part, allegedly, quote, “Al Gore will help me. He came up to me last night and said he would be very happy to have a conversation with me.”
David, please explain this to me. I want to understand.
DAVID CAPLAN, “STAR” MAGAZINE: I mean, the biggest shocker here is that Lindsay knows who Al Gore is and that she‘s up on American politics. I think that‘s the first thing everyone was scratching their heads this morning about.
But, I mean, Lindsay lately—we all know she‘s going to alcoholics anonymous. She‘s trying to sort of, you know, tone it down a little bit, less partying. And she‘s no stranger to sending out these e-mails. This is not the first e-mail that she‘s sort of sent without her publicist knowing and just sort of, you know, a random e-mail that gets posted.
She‘s sort of a free thinker. She‘s a bit of an open nerve. So she just sends these e-mails. But the Al Gore thing came out of nowhere. And the funny thing is, in this same e-mail, she also lashed out at a mystery person who she said she wants to take to court. So it was sort of Lindsay‘s like tell-all, and she just had to get all this stuff off her chest. But, you know, it‘s not that surprising. That‘s what she does.
SCARBOROUGH: Take the girl‘s BlackBerry away. Emily Smith, what‘s your take on a very rough year for Lindsay Lohan?
EMILY SMITH, “THE SUN”: Well, she‘s certainly had her ups and downs. There‘s been a lot of reports in the tabloids about her drinking, about an alleged drug overdose, which she denies. So she‘s clearly trying to clean up her image and take on the media at their own game. She said she wants to hold a press conference to show the world once and for all, to help educate people, and she wants Al Gore to help her.
But I can see Al Gore—I mean, I‘m concerned Al Gore could end up coming out of Teddy‘s nightclub in L.A. with her wearing no underpants, the way things are going over there.
SCARBOROUGH: That‘d be very ugly. And, David, let‘s talk about Britney Spears. This is what she had to say about herself on her Web site. Again, another girl gone wild in Hollywood.
“It‘s been so long since I‘ve been out with my friends on the town. Every move I make at this point has been magnified more than I expected, and I probably did take my newfound freedom a little too far. Anyway, I thank God for Victoria‘s Secret‘s new underwear line.”
David Caplan, what in the world is she talking about?
CAPLAN: I mean, Britney is just—again, I don‘t know where this stuff comes from, but she‘s taken so much heat lately for hanging out with Paris Hilton. She‘s going to nightclubs, you know, every night. And, of course, everyone now knows about her very revealing shots where she‘s being photographed not wearing underwear getting out of cars.
So, I mean, I think it‘s sort of funny that she‘s actually responding to everyone and she‘s actually showing a sense of humor. I mean, I really laughed out loud when she made that comment about Victoria‘s Secret. So she‘s not, you know, denying it, or saying the photos are changed. She‘s just really, you know, attacking it head on.
And I just think this is part of her comeback. This is the period she‘s going through. And you know what? Even though a lot of people are attacking her, the Britney we saw before was always perceived as a bad mom. She was a bit of a mess. She had Kevin with her. At least she‘s having fun. I mean, she‘s like 25 years old. This is just part of her comeback, and I can‘t wait to see what she does next. She‘s fun. You know, she‘s great fodder.
SCARBOROUGH: And, you know, bottom line is, no matter what she does now, it‘s better than what she did when she was with K-Fed. David and Emily, stick around. “Hollyweird” is next.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, tell the director you‘re going to be leaving your trailer when you‘re good and ready! It‘s time for “Hollyweird.” I almost swore. Thank god I didn‘t.
First up, TomKat. Don‘t expect to see Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah‘s couch anytime soon. Winfrey‘s publicist tells the “New York Daily News” that the queen of talk was not even invited to TomKat‘s post-honeymoon bash this weekend.
Still with us, Emily Smith and David Caplan.
Emily, what happened to this friendship between Oprah and TomKat?
SMITH: Things just go from bad to worse for Oprah. She wasn‘t invited to the wedding of the year, and now they‘re having a party in Beverly Hills, and Oprah is still not on the guest list.
People are saying that Cruise blames Oprah slightly for his over-the-top performance on the couch jumping and wasn‘t impressed when she went on to say afterwards, “Maybe he was a little over-the-top when he got excited about talking about Katie.” So while he‘s got “friends,” like Brooke Shields, who he‘s previously been at war at, coming to the party, Oprah is completely out of favor.
SCARBOROUGH: And, David Caplan, let‘s talk about the “Price is Right” possibly for Rosie. “Extra” is reporting that Bob Barker is retiring, and Rosie O‘Donnell wants to take over the game show? What‘s that about?
CAPLAN: Yes, that‘s the rumor right now, that Rosie—she‘s looking to expand her media empire to go into the game show business. You know, go to the “Price is Right,” host that show, and I think she‘d be great for it though.
Right now, we‘re hearing it‘s a bit of a rumor, but it would be great to see her on it. And, again, she only has a one-year contract with “The View,” so we won‘t necessarily see a messy contract, you know, fight next year when it happens. So I think it‘d be great if she does it. And why not? But I think she‘s a little bit better suited, though, for a talk show environment, though. She has a big mouth, and she should use it.
SCARBOROUGH: Emily Smith, does this woman want to get off “The View”?
SMITH: I don‘t think so. I think the ratings are higher than they ever have been, just because of Rosie, because of her cuddling with a drunk Danny DeVito, because of her comments about Kelly Ripa. I think she knows she‘s in demand, and she knows that she can command a lot of money. And so I think she‘s just firing a warning shot, if they don‘t want to extend her contract, there‘s a lot of other people who‘d like her on their shows.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, David, and that‘s the thing. We‘ve got to go, but really quickly, Rosie has had a great year with “The View,” hasn‘t she? I mean, her marquee has gone up.
CAPLAN: Yes, I mean, she‘s had a fantastic year. It‘s done great things for her profile. We no longer view her as this mean character, and the show has done incredible. So it‘s been positive for everyone.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much, David Caplan. Thank you, Emily Smith. And thanks for being with us. We‘ll see you Monday in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
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