updated 12/13/2006 11:16:57 AM ET 2006-12-13T16:16:57

Guests: Michael Crowley, Rachel Sklar, Deborah Lipstadt, Taylor Hicks, Tom O‘Neil, Chelsea Handler

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Speaking of conspiracy theories, tonight, “Israel will soon be destroyed,” those words from a leader who organized an international conference to prove the Holocaust was a hoax.  We‘re going to show you the American who stood in line to shake the madman‘s hand and delivered a speech.

But first, the president‘s “new way forward” takes a step back as the war in Iraq causes a Republican Party meltdown at home that‘s battering Bush‘s GOP as it prepares to go back into minority status.  Tonight: Iraq‘s security situation goes from bad to worse and the president‘s party fractures at the seams.  Is President Bush and his GOP doomed to failure so long as our troops are stuck in the Middle East?

Here now, Michael Crowley, senior editor for “The New Republic,” Rachel Sklar, media director for the Huffingtonpost.com, and the man who wrote about the GOP civil war today, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Michael Crowley, I begin with you.  The latest polls are particularly bad news for Mr. Bush.  Let‘s start with these numbers.  First of all, you have an overwhelming number of Americans opposed to the war in Iraq, 70 percent disapprove of Bush‘s handling of the war.  And then the conservatives, 60 percent of conservatives also oppose this war and the handling of it.

It seems to be a no-win scenario for Republicans.  Get out of Iraq, you‘re seen as weak.  Stay in Iraq, you‘re seen as delusional.  They‘re blocked politically, aren‘t they, on this, Michael.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Oh, yes.  I mean, it‘s a political disaster.  And there‘s—you know, for a long time, what the White House did was try to spin it.  There was always a new catchphrase.  We were kind of joking about this last night.  You had a great little montage of all the slogans they‘ve come up with.

But it‘s too late for that.  I mean, it‘s much too late for spin. 

They can‘t tell people the media is not covering the positive side of Iraq. 

They can‘t say that we‘re making progress and that things are going well.  So it‘s sort of out of their hands politically, and the reality speaks for itself.  And the reality is causing them to lose all their support for...

SCARBOROUGH:  And they‘re damned if they do, they‘re damned if they don‘t.  And Rachel Sklar, it‘s starting to bleed over on the Senate floor.  Take a look at this clip from Republican senator Gordon Smith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GORDON SMITH ®, OREGON:  I for one am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day.  That is absurd.  It may even be criminal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  That is a stunning statement from a Republican, a conservative Republican, on the Senate floor.  This was the White House response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) A Republican senator is saying the president‘s policy may be criminal and it‘s immoral.  And you‘re just saying...

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  And what would you—what would you...

(CROSSTALK)

SNOW:  Well, should I...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t you think you should answer for that?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re saying—you said from this podium over and over that the strategy is victory, right?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have a Republican senator saying there is no clear strategy, that you don‘t have a strategy.

SNOW:  Well, let‘s let Senator Smith hear what the president has to say.

I‘m not sure exactly what you would like—what...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, how about answering the central thrust about the strategy, not about, like...

SNOW:  OK, the strategy‘s pretty simple.

I don‘t think it‘s immoral to have a state that is able to stand up and defend itself against acts of terror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The senator‘s not saying that‘s immoral.  He‘s saying that the U.S. policy—he‘s saying...

(CROSSTALK)

SNOW:  You know what, Ed?  Ed, I‘ll tell you what.  You‘re engaging in an argument and you‘re trying to fill in the gaps and...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... Republican senator saying it, not me.  It‘s a Republican senator saying it and...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Of course he‘s in favor of democracy.

SNOW:  Tell me...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you saying Republican senator Smith is not in favor of democracy?

SNOW:  OK, here‘s what‘s immoral, the killing of American soldiers. 

We agree.  Tim?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Rachel, what kind of message does this type of Republican fighting, fist-fighting, send to voters?

RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  I think is sends a great message, actually.  I think it sends a message that Republicans are starting to, you know, speak with their consciences.  We‘ve got—clearly, Smith has had a crisis of confidence, and he‘s reacting to the fact that things are not going well.  I mean, contrast that with Tony Snow‘s equivocating.  Tony Snow jumps right over the question to—you know, to the kind of—the end result that everybody wants, which is that there‘s going to be a free and democratic Iraq, and to the obvious conclusion that anybody has, which would be that, Yes, it‘s immoral to kill Americans.  Well, obviously.  But he doesn‘t talk about process and he doesn‘t talk about strategy.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, let me read you a line from your editorial suggesting that the Republican Party is on the verge of civil war and could be doomed to lose the presidency in a few years.  Let‘s go ahead and put that up right now, if we have the full screen.

“The deepening fissure in the GOP presages a civil war inside the party by 2008 over whether to stay in Iraq, or if the war has ended in a debacle or defeat, over who lost Iraq.”

You know, Pat Buchanan, for some reason, the Democrats paid for defeat in Vietnam.  But this war, the stink of this war, is all over the Republican Party, isn‘t it.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Look, the Democrats paid for Vietnam because they marched us into it for five years, Joe.  And after Nixon had his four years, they cut and ran and cut off aid to South Vietnam, and it went down to disaster, and they paid for 20 years.  The war in the Republican Party is going to be almost three-sided.  There are those who are going to say—the anti-war conservatives—We should never have gone in there.  It was insane.  It was utopian.  It was a neocon vision.

SCARBOROUGH:  And that‘s your position.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s my position.

SCARBOROUGH:  And it‘s been your position since 2002.

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  The McCain position is going to be, Send in 60,000 more troops, we can win it, it‘s too vital, it‘s too important.  When they don‘t get it, it‘s going to be, They lost the war because they didn‘t have the courage and stamina to win it.  The middle position right now is, Look, the thing has gone badly.  It‘s been mismanaged.  It‘s the Smith position.  We voted for it, but now we got to get out.  But if you get out, it‘s coming down.  And if it comes down, Joe, and if it‘s a disaster and a defeat, somebody‘s going to be held accountable, and the Republicans have been in power for eight years and they‘ve controlled both houses.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Pat, I got elected to Congress because of a conservative base, and those are the people I know the most.  Those are the people that I talk to the most.  And I got to say right now, the conservative base supports the McCain position, which is, We can‘t back out.  We need to send more troops there.  But does that put the Republican Party in a position where it‘s wildly out of the mainstream of American political thought and therefore causes Republicans to lose the House, the Senate and the White House in 2008?

BUCHANAN:  You‘re right.  I think the bulk of conservatives—if you will, Sean Hannity, Limbaugh folks—are still behind, all the way to victory.  The problem is, Where is the president?  I don‘t think he‘s going with 60,000 troops.  He can‘t go with “stay the course.”  I think he‘s going to come out more gradually than Baker recommends, but I think he‘s coming out.

And Joe, I don‘t know how you win the war then.  So this split is going to rise to the surface and it‘s going to be very clear within a couple of months.

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Crowley, I supported this war from the very beginning, as I say every night.  I don‘t want people to think I‘m running away from that position.  I supported the war from the very beginning.  After—you know, after the Shia turned against us, I started realizing there was no way we could win this war.  If I‘m thinking that as a conservative Republican, what does that mean for a Republican Party whose leadership is probably going to be marching forward saying, Send more troops, stay the course, we can‘t lose?

CROWLEY:  Well, we may be approaching a really dramatic point here.  I mean, it‘s not clear what Bush is going to do next.  He‘s going to make an announcement.  He was going to do it before Christmas, and now they‘ve bought themselves a little more time...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Why did they push that to the new year?  Is it just a lot more difficult than the White House ever dreamed?

CROWLEY:  Yes.  It‘s not an auspicious sign.  I mean, you know, it may be just the obvious, which is that it‘s not easy to figure this out.  I don‘t know exactly.  But I know that they had wanted to do it before Congress came back in January, and I don‘t think they‘re going to be able to.

But you know, the key point here is what‘s really going to happen.  And I think you‘re right, Joe.  I mean, I think it‘s possible that at least in the short term, Bush will—he may try to sort of split the difference.  I mean, a wild guess would be that he would try to have a little bit of a surge of troops, try it out for a little bit, and then if that doesn‘t work, start to wind down in the way the Baker-Hamilton commission has recommended, so at least he can—he can look like he gave it one last try.

But I think that, you know, a lot of Americans are going to be very alarmed if we do seem to be sending more troops into the heat of battle.  And I think we‘re going to—it‘s not going—it‘s going to be a very difficult thing for Bush to sell...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael...

CROWLEY:  ... try to swallow this.

SCARBOROUGH:  I just don‘t see how he sells that position, Michael.  And Rachel Sklar, you know, I know campaigning across the Southeast and the Southwest, it was always easy to beat Democrats on national security issues if you talked about Vietnam and the ghosts of Vietnam.  Do you think that Iraq is going to haunt Republicans for generations, for decades, at least, when you have candidates in the Northeast, the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest still trying to run from the ghosts of Iraq?

SKLAR:  Well, I mean, what—we would all hope that it would not.  But this war is going to cast really long shadows.  They‘re in an entrenched position there.  They‘ve been building bases.  I mean, they went in planning to stay for the long haul and to redraw the maps and to remake the political realities over there.  I mean, that has consequences, and they are long-term.

But I think that—Michael said something very interesting before about how the catchphrases aren‘t working any more.  There is one new catchphrase now, and it is “grave and deteriorating.”  That is the phrase we hear over and over again, and that is the reality that the Republicans and Bush cannot run from.

BUCHANAN:  You know, the real phrase...

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, will it haunt and hurt the Republican Party for decades to come?

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t see how we win in Iraq.  And I think if it comes down, I think all those bases are gone and all the Americans are coming out, it could turn into an anti-American civil war, religious war.  We are going to fight this—not only this war for a long time, Joe, but there is going to be a major battle over foreign policy, this bellicose, interventionist policy, you know, in everybody‘s face.  Are we overextended as an empire?  All of those things are going to be debated.

And a lot of the conservative movement, frankly, is going to say, Let‘s find somebody and really smack them, like Iran.  That‘s what they‘re going to be looking for.  That‘s what the neocons are going to be looking for.  Other folks are going to be saying, Get out, get back to diplomacy.  So I think that war is coming in the Republican Party because I think you‘re going to have a real crisis in Iraq on the ground before then.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Michael Crowley, as Pat Buchanan can tell you, the day after a midterm election of a president‘s second term, he does effectively become a lame duck politically, and people in his party start looking to who‘s going to run two years from now.  Now they‘re looking at John McCain, who‘s saying, We need to send in more troops.  They‘re going to be looking also probably at Rudy Giuliani.  I can‘t imagine Rudy Giuliani saying anything other than, We need to take a hard line on Iraq.

Does that place the Republican Party in a no-win situation?  Does that place Republican candidates running for the House and the Senate in two years in a no-win position?

CROWLEY:  Well, look, you know, they‘re just going to have an ugly fight.  I mean, Democrats have had some very ugly fights in the last couple of elections about their own positions on the war.  It‘s been a little easier for Republicans, but I think now Republicans—but now I think Republicans are going to have to have it out.  And I think that, inevitably, you‘re going to have a counterweight to that McCain position.  You know, it could even be Rudy Giuliani.  We assume that he‘s going to have a McCain-ish position, but it might be an opportunity for him...

BUCHANAN:  Joe...

CROWLEY:  ... to split off.

BUCHANAN:  Joe, I...

CROWLEY:  There are people who are going to try to create distance and carve out some ground...

BUCHANAN:  You know...

CROWLEY:  ... in opposition to the Bush-McCain hawk position, I think.

STEWART:  Joe, I think what McCain is going to do is this.  I think Bush is going to start moving out, and McCain‘s going to take the position, This is going to lose this war, our advice would have won this war.  And that will make him well with an awful lot of hawks who—and conservatives who right now are anti-McCain.  In other words, We weren‘t tough enough, Bush wasn‘t tough enough, Rumsfeld fouled it up.  That‘s what happened, baker and them (ph).  We need a hard-liner, and certainly, we may not like McCain on a lot of things, but he‘s our man.

SCARBOROUGH:  And that is the argument I—I think you‘re exactly right.  I think John McCain‘s going to present that argument.  I think it‘s going to win conservatives over because if you ask conservatives today why we lost Vietnam, they will tell you, Because we didn‘t stick it out long enough and we didn‘t put in enough troops and we didn‘t fight to win.  And that‘s what you‘re already hearing conservatives saying today.

BUCHANAN:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  Rachel Sklar, Pat Buchanan...

SKLAR:  I don‘t think the broad middle agreed with that, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pardon me?

SKLAR:  I don‘t think the broad middle of the country wound up agreeing with that.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think the country will agree with it...

SKLAR:  I think it‘ll be heard for McCain.

BUCHANAN:  I think it‘ll even split conservatives.

SCARBOROUGH:  No, I don‘t think middle America will embrace that, either, but I think it may get John McCain through the primaries, and then he can run to the middle, as Pat Buchanan‘s old boss, Richard Nixon, said, and then John McCain will be the next president of the United States.  You heard it here first.

Rachel Sklar, Pat Buchanan, Michael Crowley, thanks for being with us. 

Michael, stick around.

Coming up: The “axis of evil” summit of hate.  Iran‘s leader predicts the destruction of Israel at a world summit, suggesting that the Holocaust is nothing more than a host.  And wait until you see what American spoke at the conference and sucked up to Iran‘s president.

And later: Will success spoil Taylor Hicks?  The “American Idol” winner sets the record straight over controversial comments saying that that show is fading.  My talk with Taylor coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, the Holocaust denial conference continued spreading love and good will across Iran and the world today as Iran‘s president predicted Israel would be wiped off the map.  Equally disturbing is the fact that the man who ran for president and won the Republican nomination for governor in Louisiana, David Duke, spoke at the conference.  The surreal summit even came with that bizarro photo op between the most dangerous man in the world and perhaps the most racist mainstream candidate in modern American times.

NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, has the story of the international conference convened to deny that six million Jews died in the Holocaust.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Iran‘s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has long called the Holocaust a myth, organized today‘s conference challenging one of history‘s most documented events.  An estimated 11 million people, including 6 million Jews, were exterminated in Nazi death camps.  But even the gas chambers were denied in Teheran, where they claimed Holocaust pictures were altered.

The fringe group included white supremacist David Duke, who praised Iran‘s president for his courage.

DAVID DUKE, FORMER KKK LEADER:  I‘m here to defend freedom of speech.

MITCHELL:  A radical group of orthodox Jews was among the delegates from 30 countries.  In September, Iran‘s president debated the Holocaust with Brian Williams.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator):  If this event happened, if it is a historical event, then we should allow everyone to research it and study it.

MITCHELL:  Germany long ago acknowledged its guilt.  So how can Iran deny it happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If they can, in effect, deny or denigrate the Holocaust, then they can delegitimize Israel.

MITCHELL (on camera):  Why has Ahmadinejad seized on the Holocaust?  Experts say he is trying to incite radical Shi‘ites around the world against Israel, all part of consolidating his power at home.

(voice-over):  In a rare protest, some students tried to disrupt a speech he gave with firecrackers and burning his pictures.  But to rebut Teheran, the Simon Wiesenthal Center organized a videoconference of survivors...

FANYA HELLER, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR:  I have seen rape, murder, pillaging.  And what‘s happening now in Iran, I think it‘s inexcusable.

MITCHELL:  ... bearing witness to what they suffered, no matter how often it is denied.  Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Right now, let‘s bring in Deborah Lipstadt.  She is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University and author of the book, “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.”  And still with us, Michael Crowley.

Professor, why is it so important for people like Iran‘s president and David Duke to disprove that the Holocaust ever took place?

DEBORAH LIPSTADT, EMORY UNIVERSITY:  Well, I think these people are anti-Semites.  And Holocaust denial is nothing but anti-Semitism.  you know, there are many things to debate about the Holocaust.  You can debate about the Allies.  You can debate about Hitler, could he have been stopped?  You can debate about was this something uniquely German?  But you can‘t debate whether it happened or not because the Holocaust has the dubious distinction of being the best documented genocide in the world.

SCARBOROUGH:  But why this line of thinking gaining ground even in places like a more liberalized Western Europe?

LIPSTADT:  Well, it‘s a little bit on the wane in Western Europe.  You know, I was sued by the world‘s leading Holocaust denier, David Irving, sued me for libel and threatened to silence me and pulp (ph) all my books because I called him a Holocaust denier.  And there was a six-year legal battle and a 12-week trial, which I won.  And the judge ended up saying that everything the deniers say is perverted, is distorted, it‘s a travesty.  They‘re liars.  They‘re falsifiers.

Look at the list of people who came.  David Duke—he‘s a Ku Klux Klanner.  You know, he‘s nothing but a racist and an anti-Semite and a hater.  These are not people who are serious people.  These are not serious historians.  And when Ahmadinejad said that everybody should have the right to study the Holocaust—everybody has the right to study the Holocaust.  No one is stopping these people from studying the Holocaust.  The problem is, they‘re liars.

And the reason he‘s doing this, as was said earlier I think in Andrea Mitchell‘s report, is that they hate the state of Israel.  They want to—he said he wants to wipe it off the face of the map.  And you know, one of the things we‘ve learned from the Holocaust—if we‘ve learned anything from the Holocaust, when someone says they want to kill you, you believe them.  So I think you got to take this guy seriously.

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael, let me read you what Iran‘s leader said today about the Holocaust.  Let‘s go ahead and put that up.  “Just as”—or Israel.  “Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out.”

How dangerous is it for American and world leaders that this man will soon possess nuclear weapons?

CROWLEY:  Well, Joe, it‘s terrifying.  And the professor‘s absolutely right.  I mean, there‘s a way in which—you know, you often hear a response to rhetoric like this as, It‘s rhetoric, it‘s meant  to appease his base, he‘s talking to, you know, fundamentalists.  But you know, at some point, you—if a guy says it, you have to take it seriously.  You can‘t write everything off as some political posturing.

I mean—but an interesting thing about this is that is somewhat curious is that, you know, if Ahmadinejad is trying to develop nuclear weapons without the West giving him too much of a hard time, this is not helping his strategy.  I mean, even people who feel like America is a bit of a bully, you know, shouldn‘t be able to tell other countries who can and who can‘t have a nuke—when they see stuff like this, I think they have to think this guy‘s crazy.  He‘s an awful man, and we have—absolutely have to prevent him from getting terrible weapons of mass destruction.

SCARBOROUGH:  I think—I think...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  In that sense, it‘s a curious ploy.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, so many people looking at this have to be saying, Whatever it takes to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, we have to do.

Now, David Duke, of course, was at this conference.  Listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUKE:  In Europe right now, you can criticize, you can condemn, you can doubt Jesus Christ, but if you doubt—and nothing happens to you.  You might get your own weekly TV show.  But if you doubt the Holocaust, you go to prison.  This is a scandal.  The Holocaust is almost a new religion for our time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Professor, respond to David Duke.

LIPSTADT:  Look, I don‘t—I happen not to support laws outlawing Holocaust denial.  But in Germany, in Austria, it‘s against the law to deny the Holocaust.  And I understand why.  That‘s where this started.  This whole destruction of six million Jews, of millions of other people, started in Germany and Austria.  So I can understand why they have laws outlawing Holocaust denial.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

LIPSTADT:  But for them to talk about it as a matter of free speech is

really ridiculous.  It‘s a form of anti-Semitism.  And someone earlier said

I don‘t know if it was Michael Crowley, or whatever—said that Ahmadinejad is crazy.  He‘s crazy like a fox.  This guy knows exactly what he‘s doing.  But it‘s true—it is true that it makes him look ridiculous in Europe.  But he—he is playing—I think he‘s playing to the rest of the world.  When he came to New York and spoke before the Council on Foreign Relations, he played those guys like a violin.

SCARBOROUGH:  I know.  It is very frightening.  I think a lot of people are asleep at the switch.  Thank you, Professor.  Thank you, Michael Crowley.  Greatly appreciate it.

When we come back, the end of an era as Washington says good-bye to some of Capitol Hill‘s most notorious politicians.  A “Must See S.C.” tribute coming up next.

And later: What does Taylor Hicks really think about the show that made him the star that he is?  The “American Idol” winner started a firestorm after trashing the show.  Now he joins us on set to set the record straight and talk about what‘s making him more nervous than “Idol” ever did.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, time now for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you got to see.  First up: Last week marked the final session of the 19th Congress, and Jon Stewart paid an “Animal House” style tribute to the politicians he‘s going to miss the most.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER:  She is not in a persistent vegetative state.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  Let‘s give a welcome to Macaca here.

SEN. CONRAD BURNS ®, MONTANA:  We‘re not going to tell you what our plan is because you‘re just going to go out there and blow it!

REP. KATHERINE HARRIS (R-FL), SENATE CANDIDATE:  I‘m in this race, and I‘m going to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And finally, as long as President Bush keeps talking, David Letterman will keep giving us “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO 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!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up next: Will Taylor Hicks...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR HICKS, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  A year ago, I was singing at Steak and Hell (ph) on Tuesday nights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) for that.

HICKS:  And here I sit, talking to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Will Taylor Hicks be a has-been by next week or a super-duper star?  Taylor reveals why he‘s more worried about his new CD than he ever was about winning “American Idol.”  My conversation with Taylor coming up next.

And later, Angelina Jolie exposed!  The actress finally reveals how she stole Brad away from Jen and why she refuses to become Mrs. Pitt.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, Angelina Jolie finally talks about how she nabbed Brad Pitt from America‘s sweetheart.  We‘re going to have much more on that interview that has “Hollyweird” buzzing.  That story and more in just minutes.

But first, he went from an unknown Alabama soul singer to an international sensation almost overnight.  And now “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks is trying to ride his reality stardom to the top of the charts with today‘s release of his new self-titled album.  But his rise to fame hasn‘t been without a few bumps in the road.  Hicks was criticized recently for being ungrateful to “American Idol,” telling a magazine that “Idol” was, quote, “fizzling out,” and that he had only used “Idol” as his own marketing tool. 

But I talked to him really about what the real story was and how much he owes “Idol” for his success, about his latest album, and about his upcoming tour with the USO. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  The winner of “American Idol,” season five, is Taylor Hicks!

(APPLAUSE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell me how being bruised, and kicked around, and beaten up on “American Idol” has prepared you as you move toward superstardom?

TAYLOR HICKS, SINGER:  Well, it‘s a crash course in entertainment business.  You know, as soon as you get into it, you‘ve got cameras, you‘ve got call times, you got, you know, places to go.  You‘re learning how to react with a camera.  You know, you‘re learning music.  You‘re learning how to entertain people. 

And, you know, ultimately, when you get right down to it, you have to entertain people to breathe and live another week. 

(singing):  Take me home to the place I belong.  West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads.  

(speaking):  It definitely helped groom me to be the performer I am and to deal with cameras and lots of people. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But it‘s also tough, though.  I mean, again, trying to get out of the shadow of “American Idol,” especially when—and, again, I‘m not knocking them.  I‘d be doing the same thing if you had started on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  How was it, you know, Taylor Hicks got where he got?  Because he sang on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

But at the same time, they‘re going to want to take credit for what you do no matter what.  I mean, they‘re trying to cast a long shadow, don‘t they? 

HICKS:  Yes.  You know, the show and I are—you know, we‘re cool.  You know, everything‘s cool, man.  A year ago, I was singing at Steak and Ale on Tuesday nights. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And nothing‘s wrong with that. 

HICKS:  And here I sit talking to you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, that‘s big.

HICKS:  You know, it‘s bigger—and I‘m very grateful for the show. 

And, you know, I just—things are well, for sure. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How much control do they have over your first CD, as opposed to what would be your second or your third? 

HICKS:  Well, you know, the misconception about the control of the show and the artist is that, once you‘re off the show, you‘re in the hands of the record company.  So it‘s a record company that kind of takes you, and the management company takes you and moves you further along in your career.  It‘s not the “American Idol” so much as it is... 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right, and the record company is not going to allow Simon Cowell to call up and say, “We want track two to be this.”  They‘re going to be like, “Screw you.  It‘s our money.  It‘s our album.  And Taylor‘s going to do this.”

HICKS:  Yes.  And, you know, for me, if you feel the song, you can sing the song, and you can perform it. 

(singing):  You are so beautiful to me.  Can‘t you see?  Yes, baby.  

SCARBOROUGH:  The CD debuts today.  How nervous are you?  Are you more nervous today than you were the day before you found out whether you were going to win “American Idol” or not? 

HICKS:  Yes, actually, I was.  I was nervous then, but, you know, being a new artist and having a debut CD on a major label, it‘s pretty nerve-wracking, you know?  

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re out there alone, aren‘t you?

HICKS:  Yes, you are...

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, because the thing is, a week from now, you will either be the biggest superstar in music or you‘ll have people saying “has-been.”  I mean, it‘s brutal. 

HICKS:  I‘ve had some criticism on the show, you know, so we all—all of us that are on the show, we know how to deal with some criticism, so... 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘ve been doing this for 10 years.  You go on “Idol.” And I was talking to you beforehand, but all my friends in Alabama said that you were Elvis.  I mean, Alabama followed you like you had been in the business for 20 years.  You‘ve got a spectacular fan base out there, don‘t you? 

HICKS:  Yes, you know, I remember I was telling somebody it was like the University of Alabama and the University of Auburn both winning the national championship at the same time.  So, you know, we‘re a very proud state.  And, you know, I‘m looking forward to really getting across the country and touring this album.  You know, I‘ve been touring in the southeast for a long time.  And, you know, some of the nooks and crannies of America I‘m looking forward to, you know, performing for. 

(singing):  I‘ve had the time of my life.  No, I never felt this way before.  Yes, I swear, it‘s the truth, and I owe it all to you.  

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re actually going to use your talent to help our troops.  You‘re getting involved with the USO.  Why?

HICKS:  Yes, well, first of all, you know, I have been performing “Do I Make You Proud,” my single from the television show, for the troops all tour long. 

(singing):  This is what we dream about.  Come on, America!  I‘m living the American dream.  Do I make you proud? 

(speaking):  I think it‘s a chance for me as a performer and as an entertainer to, you know, really take some of these guys to a place and entertain them.  And I feel like, if I can go and entertain some troops on an aircraft carrier, and play some blues harmonica, you know, it‘s what I‘d like to do, and I‘m glad I got the opportunity to do it.  And hopefully it won‘t be my last time to do it.

SCARBOROUGH:  How tired are you right now on this lead-up to the debut, the release of your debut CD?

HICKS:  Well, you know, I love my job.  You know, I love performing.  I love entertaining folks.  I‘ve always done it.  And I‘m very grateful and thankful for, you know, what‘s been presented to me.  And there‘s not a lot of folks that get that opportunity.

SCARBOROUGH:  You were probably thinking when you were playing in those clubs, “Man, if I could have a big CD on a big label, I‘d be hanging out by, you know, pools in L.A., and then I‘d go into the studio, have dinner, go back.”  It‘s not that way, is it? 

HICKS:  No. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s kind of gritty work. 

HICKS:  It sounds good.  It definitely sounds good when you talk about it.  But, you know, like I said, I‘ve always dreamed of this.  As a kid, you know, I envisioned, you know, bringing soul music back to the forefront of popular music.  And, you know, to have that dream actualized, you know, in the last, you know, seven or eight months, it‘s been an amazing experience and an amazing journey, and hopefully the journey will continue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, good.  Thank you so much, Taylor. 

HICKS:  Hey, thanks, man. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Appreciate it.

HICKS:  All right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  And you can see more of my interview with Taylor Hicks on our Web site, Joe.MSNBC.com, as well as contribute to our USO Operation Phone Home program.  It is a program that we help with every year.  It gives our men and women in uniform free phone cards so they can be a little closer to the people they love this time of year.  And you can show your thanks to our troops by helping them make this vital connection.  Just go to our Web site.  It‘s Joe.MSNBC.com, to see how to make a donation.  Remember, every bit helps. 

Coming up next, Angelina Jolie dishes the dirt on what led to her break-up with Brad‘s previous marriage.  A revealing interview with a superstar, coming up next.

And sorry, K-Fed.  Looks like Britney Spears may already have a new man.  The latest on the pop tart‘s love life and custody battle, coming up in “Hollyweird,” with Chelsea Handler.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Angelina Jolie says she never meant to steal Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston; it just happened.  That‘s just the beginning of an explosive new interview in “Vogue” magazine.  Now, it‘s the first time Jolie has ever opened up about the Brangelina relationship, and she tells the magazine that, when she met Pitt, quote, “It was clear he was with his best friend, someone he loves and respects.  I think we were the last people who were looking for a relationship.  Life developed in a way where we could be together.” 

Here now to talk about it, “InTouch Weekly‘s” senior editor, Tom O‘Neil.  Tom, it sounds so innocent.  Why is Angelina giving this interview now? 

TOM O‘NEIL, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  Well, a lot of it has to do, for example, with an interesting Gallup poll number that came out last week that reveals that she has the second highest negative number of all films stars in Hollywood after Tom Cruise.  She is the person who‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I would guess that‘s not a good thing for your movie career, is it? 

O‘NEIL:  No, not at all, especially when she‘s got “The Good Shepherd,” which opens in two weeks.  And right now, she is over there in India—or has been—filming a movie that, by the way, was supposed to be for Jennifer Aniston, who has had so much trouble crossing over into film from TV.  This was the movie role that she nurtured, she said, Jennifer did, and now Angelina is over there taking something else away from Jennifer. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, the thing is—I mean, it seems that she‘s been so mean-spirited about all this, that horrible “W” spread where they were dressed as happy homemakers around the house, immediately after the break-up.  It really does seem like Angelina went out of her way to rub Jennifer‘s nose in it.

O‘NEIL:  I know.  She has shown an amazing lack of sensitivity here.  Jennifer Aniston is America‘s sweetheart, in that extraordinary way that Oprah has this connection with women, that Princess Di used to.  Jennifer isn‘t just anybody. 

We see her, Angelina, as somebody who stole Prince Charming away from America‘s sweetheart.  Now, it isn‘t Angelina‘s fault, and she‘s a wonderful person.  She donates a third of her salary to charity.  She adopts unwanted children from third world countries.  She must be a great woman.  But she‘s a terrible P.R. person for herself.  She keeps showing extraordinary insensitivity.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, and I mean it‘s not like Brad Pitt also is a five-year-old kid who can‘t help himself.  And Jennifer Aniston had no reaction to this interview, but she did say, of those pictures of Brangelina, that I was talking about in “W” magazine, said this to “Vanity Fair”:  “Brad is not mean-spirited.  He would never intentionally try to rub something in my face.  There‘s a sensitivity chip that‘s missing though.” 

And we talked about how it may have hurt Angelina‘s career, but obviously Brad Pitt ain‘t been at the top of the charts since all of this broke, either.  And you combine that with the overexposure with their African baby, and something—these two haven‘t really helped their careers, have they? 

O‘NEIL:  I don‘t think so...

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s an understatement.

O‘NEIL:  ... but we‘ll soon find out.  It‘s an understatement.  I don‘t think we hold it against Brad, though, because we know him.  We know he just kind of fell in love.  These things happen. 

I don‘t know why we let him off the hook, but we don‘t let her off the hook.  Brad doesn‘t have these negative numbers the way she does.  Hers are sky-high. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, and Angelina said that she would like to meet Jennifer sometime, that that would be just fine with her.  Should we expect a summit any time soon? 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘NEIL:  I don‘t think so.  You know, again, for her to say that—and, also, by the way, let‘s talk about what‘s really shocking about this “Vogue” interview.  When the accusation was first made that she was having an affair with Brad, she denied it, of course, saying, “Look, my mother was a victim of adultery.  I never, ever, ever would condone such a thing.” 

And now, in this interview, she‘s like, “Oh, yes, well, we just would go to the set every day, and we would have a stunt practice, or we would have, you know, a line read through, and I just kept looking forward more and more to seeing him.”  And you could read between the lines that she‘s admitting what we all know, and that is that the relationship began during the filming of that movie.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, you talked about Tom Cruise earlier.  It‘s so fascinating, Tom O‘Neil, all the women that I know, my wife, and her friends, and others who just can‘t watch a Tom Cruise movie any more and can‘t watch an Angelina Jolie movie any more.  I mean, they‘re really soured by what‘s been happening over the past couple of years.

Hey, Tom O‘Neil, thanks so much for being with us.  As always, I really do appreciate it. 

Coming up next, Chelsea Handler joins us for “Hollyweird,” a woman beloved by housewives from coast to coast.  Yes!  Woo!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tell your limo driver to lose the paparazzi, because, baby, it‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, Paris Hilton.  The heiress defends Britney Spears on her MySpace page, saying partying hasn‘t hurt her parenting a bit.

Here now, the host of “The Chelsea Handler Show” on E!, exclamation mark, Chelsea Handler, who‘s also the author of “My Horizontal Life.”

Well, Chelsea, that really has to ease the concerns of the family court judge, right?  I mean, if Paris Hilton is saying that Britney‘s partying is not hurting her as a parent, then what other evidence is needed? 

CHELSEA HANDLER, “THE CHELSEA HANDLER SHOW”:  I think any young child, Joe, would be lucky to have Paris Hilton around them while they‘re growing up.  I mean, that‘s obvious.  And I think it‘s important for Britney Spears to be not spending time by her children, because the more time she spends away from them, the better off they are. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think that‘s a good point.  And, besides, who‘s ever said that undergarments are required for good parenting, right? 

HANDLER:  Listen, she got panties, Joe.  She went out, and she bought a whole truckload of panties, so you‘re not going to see her and her Hot Pocket showing off anymore. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, that‘s a relief, Chelsea.  That‘s a relief.  Now, speaking of Britney, forget about K-Fed.  The “New York Post” is reporting that Britney Spears has a new man, and it turns out he is a multi-platinum music producer.  Chelsea, this woman doesn‘t mess around, does she?  Going for the big guns. 

HANDLER:  She‘s got to go after guys with money now.  I mean, she‘s obviously beyond her income-producing years, so she‘s going to have to find a guy that is making some money, and hopefully he has a screen saver of her without her panties from three nights of her. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think most guys do.  And you say she‘s beyond her money-making years; I think the woman is like 22 years old, Chelsea. 

HANDLER:  No, she‘s like 25, Joe.  She‘s over the hill.  Hello?

SCARBOROUGH:  Good lord, so that‘s why that picture of her getting out of the limousine was so repulsive, 25 years old!  Good lord!

HANDLER:  “Repulsive” would be the operative word of that picture, I think, too. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, and speaking of repulsive, according to “The Smoking Gun,” former “Saved by the Bell” actor Dustin Diamond, Screech, fines promoters $100 every time they call him Screech.  And I guess, Chelsea, the $64,000 question tonight is:  Who the hell is promoting Screech anyway? 

HANDLER:  Yes, that‘s actually a good question.  You know who‘s promoting Screech?  You are, because you talk about him every episode.  You‘re the only person that‘s talking about the guy from “Saved by the Bell.”

SCARBOROUGH:  And why shouldn‘t I?  Screech is God, right?  I mean, a porn king now. 

HANDLER:  Well, he‘s one of your favorites, right after Rosie O‘Donnell. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I don‘t want you to even start talking about how you‘re sexually attracted to Rosie O‘Donnell. 

HANDLER:  You love her.  You love Rosie.  Yes, you do. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, don‘t even go there.  This is a family values show. 

And speaking of “Hollyweird” family values, Lindsay Lohan is—you know, she‘s spending some quality time with her mom, and I think that‘s great.  What are they doing?  Stripping.  The paparazzi recently caught them leaving a strip aerobics class together in Los Angeles. 

Now, of course, for those of us who are, you know, living in flyover space, the great unwashed, talk about how prevalent these stripping aerobic events are out in L.A.? 

HANDLER:  Well, first of all, Joe, a mother and daughter need to strip together, because you never know when you‘re going to run into a father-son duo, OK?  You have to be prepared.  You have to be flexible.  And the mother and daughter that strips together does a lot of other things together, like body shots. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Which is a really nice thought, actually.  Finally...

HANDLER:  It‘s a really nice way to spend Christmas, is what it is, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It really is.  I want to forget about that, just like Jessica Simpson wants to forget about “9 to 5.”  But “Star” magazine is reporting that‘s now having trouble learning the lines on the set of her new movie, “Blonde Ambition.”  What‘s wrong with this woman? 

HANDLER:  Well, there‘s a shocker.  I mean, hello?  Any girl that has boobies that are that big, Joe, gets confused.  They can get in the way of a career.  Believe me.  That‘s why I had mine reduced, to a C-cup. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Did you really?  So I don‘t understand how it gets in the way. 

HANDLER:  It gets in the way.  You think men are distracted when they look at women and they can‘t look you in the eye?  Do you know how many years I had to deal with that with my rabbi?  I mean, imagine how distracting it is for the woman.  You‘re sitting there, like, “Why is everyone looking at these when I have talent that‘s right here?”

SCARBOROUGH:  It is so demeaning.  Chelsea Handler, thank you so much.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  We‘ll see you tomorrow in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

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

END   

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