updated 12/15/2006 11:06:57 AM ET 2006-12-15T16:06:57

Guests Josh Green, Judd Legum, Matthew Felling, Bob Kohn, Pat Buchanan, Willie Geist, Ed McMahon, Marc Malkin, Jill Dobson

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight: The White House apologizes to NBC and sideswipes Bill O‘Reilly in the process.  That story ahead.  But first, the senator whose health is going to determine who rules Washington in a few short weeks.  Tonight, all eyes are on Senator Tim Johnson, who was rushed into emergency surgery after a condition caused bleeding on the brain, a condition the Associated Press now says, quote, “raises the question whether that illness can cost Democrats control of the Senate.”

Right now, the situation is murky, at best.  Good news reports from family members, who say they‘re encouraged, and from the next majority leader, Harry Reid, who said, quote, Johnson “looked great.”  But the Capitol Hill physician said it was too early to determine whether additional surgeries were required or determine his long-term prognosis.  A source familiar with the senator‘s condition said the next 48 hours will be critical.

To get us up to date on the events of this harrowing day for Senator Johnson‘s family and friends is NBC‘s Chip Reid.  Hey, Chip, it really was a tough day for the family and friends of Tim Johnson, but a day when officials in Washington and across the world watched and waited to see who was going to be running the Senate in a few weeks.  But I understand you‘ve heard some encouraging news from inside that hospital room.  Get us up to date, if you will.

CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s right.  Earlier in the day, they told us the surgery was successful.  But as you just mentioned, they did caution us.  The doctors said, Hey, it is way too early for a long-term prognosis, and it is not clear whether there‘s going to have to be additional surgery.

But late in the day, they didn‘t really change that, but we did get a flurry of reports, first of all from his wife, from Johnson‘s wife, Barbara (ph), who put out a statement saying that she is responding—that he is responding to her voice and he even reached out and held her hand.  Other people close to Johnson tell us that he can blink his eyes in response to voices.  Apparently, he‘s not speaking yet, but he can move his limbs and he does respond to sound and respond to touch.

And then the doctors came out and said that the recovery seems to be going well, and so far, no signs that he‘s going to need additional surgery.

SCARBOROUGH:  Boy, it‘s certainly heartening news.

REID:  It is.

SCARBOROUGH:  It must have been such a dramatic moment when he reached out and grabbed his wife‘s hand.  You know, I‘ve had friends on the Hill speaking today in the strictest of confidence about the Senate‘s power being in balance and what it means.  But on the record, are you finding that most members, most staff members, even a lot of press people are afraid to even broach the subject because of its grim nature?

REID:  They really are.  In fact, there have been some people today accusing us, and one senator gently accusing me personally, of being ghoulish because we‘re going into this.  But you know, we get paid to let people know what could happen if certain circumstances happen, here, in Iraq, anywhere else, and a lot of it is ghoulish by nature.  That‘s just the nature of what we do sometimes, as unpleasant as it may be.

But I‘ll tell you, most people who are not in the media really have been very reluctant to talk about the power struggle.  A couple of friends have said, yes, they are concerned or—one way or the other.  You know, they‘re—but nobody—certainly, nobody wants to come out and say, Gee, I hope this happens to him or I hope this happens to him so power goes this way or power goes that way.  Nobody‘s been that crass.

And for the most part, people have really said, You know, I just don‘t want to talk about that.  I want to talk about one thing, and that is whether or not Tim Johnson is getting better, and I want him to get better.  And both parties have been saying that to me.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I‘ll tell you, actually, Chip, I had one or two people actually start to imply that it would be good for the Republican Party, and I slowly stepped away from them and got out of the room.  It was stunning that people would think that way and be that crass.

REID:  It is.

SCARBOROUGH:  But with apologies, you know, to the family and the to the loved ones of Senator Johnson, you know, America‘s friends, enemies, presidents, and the financial markets are following this one man‘s medical fight closely tonight, not for personal reasons but because of the tremendous stakes that are involved with who‘s going to be running the Senate.

If the senator—God forbid, but if he were to resign because of incapacitation, would it be the first time in America‘s history that a medical condition tipped the balance of power in the Senate?

REID:  As far as we can tell, it is.  I mean, there is so much riding on this.  You look at all the things that the Democrats are hoping to do next—starting in January, as soon as they come in on the 4th, they‘re going to hit the ground running.  Joe Biden, hearing after hearing in Foreign Relations the on the war in Iraq, Carl Levin, hearing after hearing on getting the troops out beginning in four to six months, Jay Rockefeller looking into what they call phase 2 of the Intelligence Committee investigation on whether the administration cherry-picked intelligence to go into Iraq in the first place.  Barbara Boxer, hearing after hearing on global warming, Pat Leahy using the Judiciary Committee and his position of power to keep George Bush from getting judges who he deems to be too conservative.

So right on down the list, they have an incredible—it‘s not just legislation, it really is more the oversight and the hearings and the focus on issues that Democrats say have been too long ignored—contracting in Iraq, Halliburton, all the rest.  I mean, it is going to change this town.  Obviously, the House is going to change it, the Senate even more, if they have power.  And if they don‘t, it is not—there‘s going to be a lot that the Democrats hope will happen that will not happen.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Hey, you know, Chip, just in closing, that litany of those extraordinarily important issues that you brought up—whether you‘re talking about Iraq, whether you‘re talking about the Supreme Court, whether you‘re talking about environmental regulation, whether you‘re talking about any of these countless issues that you just brought up now, it really does underline the fact that talking about the senator‘s condition is not ghoulish, it‘s just realistic.

REID:  There is so much at stake.  And think of all the decisions that the Supreme Court makes and whether you oppose or support the president‘s nominees, having really hard-core conservative nominees, enormous difference on everything from abortion to free speech to Affirmative Action.  I mean, it is an enormous difference.  So yes, what we do is a bit ghoulish, but there is a big reason for it, and that is what we have here is a circumstance that could change the nation, in a way.

SCARBOROUGH:  Change the nation in many ways, whether on Iraq or whether abortion is still constitutionally protected under the Constitution because the next choice will be decided in the Senate and will determine Roe V Wade.  Hey, Chip Reid, thank you so much...

REID:  You bet.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... for staying with us tonight.  We really do appreciate it.

REID:  My pleasure, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well from one human drama in Washington to another today, where the—you‘re not going to believe this.  The Army‘s top general told Congress that America‘s fighting forces are at their breaking point.  They are shortchanged on manpower and money, and the general said the situation in America‘s armed forces has gotten so bleak that two thirds of the Army‘s combat battalions are not battle-ready.  You heard me right, two thirds.  Now, as that brutal assessment was reverberating around congressional hearing rooms, “Newsweek” broke the story today that some experts are hinting that President Bush is delaying any announcement about where we go next in Iraq because he may be gearing up for a major battle for the control of Baghdad.

To talk about the latest surprising twist—I would say stunning testimony in D.C.—and also in Iraq, here‘s Josh Green—he‘s a senior editor for “The Atlantic Monthly”—and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Josh, the generals say our fighting troops are stretched too thin already, and yet now we‘re hearing about the possibility that this war may ramp up again.  What should nearly 70 percent of Americans who have little confidence we‘re succeeding in Iraq—what should they be thinking tonight?

JOSH GREEN, “THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY”:  Well, I think they should be thinking that George Bush didn‘t receive the message that we sent last November when we voted Republicans out of control in Congress.  And you know, I also think that they should be thinking, you know, we‘re in for a long, drawn-out war, and we‘re going to need a bigger army.  There are going to be more human costs.  There are going to be more financial costs.  And you know, George Bush isn‘t about to change direction during his last two years in office.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Josh, though, this really is George Bush being George Bush.  This is a man who ran in 2004 promising voters if they put him back in power, he would never surrender.  So don‘t we really have a conflict between what the voters said in 2004 and what they said in 2006?

GREEN:  I think we do.  And you know, voters put him in for four more years, not two more years.  They have changed their mind.  He hasn‘t changed their mind.  So on a certain level, you know, the American people just have to deal with it.  This is what President Bush seems like he‘s going to do.  And if you listen to the reports, you know, he‘d like to increase the size of the Army.  He may want to invade Iraq (SIC), as “Newsweek” had said, and he seems to be siding with John McCain and a few other people who think that, you know, the answer to stability in Iraq is to increase the troop levels and kind of double down on the bet.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Pat Buchanan, we also heard about 40,000 more troops from John McCain, Joe Lieberman there over in Iraq, and Pentagon officials.  Do you think there‘s a danger that escalation in Iraq will spark Vietnam-style unrest, much like we saw in America after Cambodia?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I don‘t think it will.  I mean, look, I think you‘ll have a firestorm of protest, but you won‘t have 500,000 kids outside the White House, as we used to on Saturdays on October and November 1969, Joe.  One reason is those kids aren‘t going to be going to Iraq because it‘s a volunteer army.

But let me say this.  This is preposterous.  I mean, this—the—the head of—I mean, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Army—if we don‘t have a big enough army to deal with an insurgency in a country of 25 million, how is that army going to win a war in Korea or in the Balkans or against...

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, how...

BUCHANAN:  ... Russia in Eastern Europe?

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, you know, when we elected George Bush in 2000, and a Republican Congress, a lot of people did it because they believed they were going to have a stronger military fighting force.  That‘s one reason why I voted Republican in 2000 and 2004 and going all the way back to Ronald Reagan.  And yet tonight, we find ourselves in the position where two thirds of our Army‘s battalions are not battle-ready.  What the hell happens if we have problems in North Korea?  What happens if we have to move in Iran?  What happens if we have instability across the globe?  It sounds like we‘re a hollow military force!

BUCHANAN:  We can‘t win these wars.  We used to be able to...

SCARBOROUGH:  We can‘t even fight them, Pat!

BUCHANAN:  We used to be able to—or the military was geared up to fight two-and-a-half wars.  We now have an insurgency in a relatively small country tying down our Army and Marines, and we‘re being told that the rest of the two thirds of the Army can‘t handle anything.

Joe, what America has got to do is debate something.  Either you start building up the Army to much larger dimensions, or you start cutting back on these cold war commitments to fight people all over the world.  What are the American troops, for example, doing in Korea 50 years after the last Korean war, after the Chinese went home, the Soviet empire collapsed?  Why can‘t Korea defend itself.  Why are we committed to defend the Baltic republics, for heaven‘s sakes, and these countries?  Why do we have all these commitments when the cold war is over?  This is the great debate that has never been held.  We do not have the army to meet the commitments.  Either you expand the army or get rid of the commitments.

SCARBOROUGH:  And we are—we are stretched.  And Josh, I guess the question is, at what point does a chief of staff go in and tell President Bush, No mas, you‘re standing alone in the world, it‘s over?

GREEN:  Well, I think him coming out today and saying publicly, you know, what everybody else has really known for a long time, which is that the armed forces, the reserves, the National Guard are badly overstretched.  You know, Bush has said repeatedly that, When my commanders come to me and say we need more troops, you know, I‘ll respond then.  And there‘s been a lot of political pressure for them not to do that.

You know, now they‘re turning around and doing it.  And this is the result, partly, let‘s remember of Bush‘s Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld, who believed in a smaller, leaner fighting force.  You know, it‘s actually the Democrats in Congress and in the Senate who have been pushing for the last year-and-a-half for greater...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... I‘ve been pushing for it on this program, saying that we needed to follow what Colin Powell said.  When you go into war, you know, you don‘t want it to be a fair fight.  But at this point, three-and-a-half years later, the question is, is it too late?  I would suggest it‘s too late.  The time we needed 40,00 more troops in Iraq was when they were going around looting the first couple of weeks after we took over Baghdad!

GREEN:  Well, let me say this.  I mean, we‘re not going to get out anytime soon.  That seems obvious now.  But you know, that doesn‘t mean that we can‘t do anything.  I mean, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman introduced a bill last year to increase the troop levels by 80,000 over the next four years.

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me...

GREEN:  SO not only does Bush have a difficult time in Iraq, but he‘s going to wind up following the lead of people like Hillary Clinton, rather than Donald Rumsfeld.  He‘s done a complete about-face...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So Pat Buchanan, what‘s going to happen?

BUCHANAN:  Well, wait a minute.  How about giving up the empire?  For heaven‘s sakes!  You do need—maybe do you need an army twice that size, if we‘re going to defend Korea and all these other places.  But why in heaven‘s name, when the Soviet empire has collapsed, is America required to fight all these wars in all these places?  We‘ve got enough of an Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, Air Force to defend the United States and its vital interests in perpetuity.  We can‘t march up to Teheran and run the place, and we shouldn‘t be trying to do it!

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Pat Buchanan, when Republicans were in charge and on the Armed Services Committee and Bill Clinton was president of the United States, we always said America can‘t be the 911 of the world.  Unfortunately, once Republicans took over Washington, D.C., they seemed to forget that.

BUCHANAN:  Crunch is coming.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Yes.  Josh Green, Pat Buchanan, thank you so much for being with us.

And coming up: The Democrats announce their plans for the new historic Congress as incoming chairmen plan to launch investigations to get to the bottom of a slew of Iraq scandals.  Will they dig up dirty secrets that will lead to censure or impeachment?  And later: The White House‘s spokesman apologizes to NBC‘s David Gregory for a statement that led conservative talking heads to call the NBC reporter a partisan hack.  Now that Tony Snow‘s apologized, will Bill O‘Reilly follow?  Hold your breath until we get back with that answer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Will 2007 be the year of the scandal for the White House?  Democratic congressmen say that incoming chairmen like Henry Waxman are getting ready to launch aggressive congressional investigations aimed at getting to the bottom of what they see as White House scandals.  Will those investigations possibly lead to censure or the impeachment of George W. Bush?

Here‘s Judd Legum.  He‘s the research director for the Center for American Progress.  And still with us, Josh Green.  Judd, let‘s start with probably the top issue.  Do you think that WMDs and the lead-up to the Iraq war will be the Democrats‘ first target for these investigations?

JUDD LEGUM, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Well, I wish there was only one thing going wrong in Iraq that we needed to investigate, but I think, yes, you‘re going to have finally some action on the intelligence review that was supposed to be completed years ago.  I think you‘re also going to see a hard look at contracting and contracting abuse.  You‘ve got billions of dollars disappearing in Iraq and contractors really operating without any sort of scrutiny.

But also I think military strategy in general.  You know, we‘re now all waiting with bated breath for the president‘s last plan—or latest plan.  If you remember, a year ago this time, he unveiled the “national strategy for victory in Iraq.”  So you know, we keep on reinventing the wheel here, but we don‘t seem to be getting anywhere.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Judd, there continues to be columns written and people speaking about the possibility of this president being investigated either on WMDs or the Downing Street memo or other issues, and they‘ll talk about censure or impeachment.  You certainly can‘t impeach a president because of bad war planning, but what are the most serious charges that could lead to those possibilities?

LEGUM:  Well, I think Nancy Pelosi has said that‘s not going to happen, and I think she‘s very serious about that.  I think you may have individual members of Congress, you know, introducing bills, dropping bills.  She can‘t do anything to prevent that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  And they‘ll certainly do that, and Henry Waxman is going to uncover an awful lot of stuff on his committee.  I served with the guy.  I know he‘s going to be extraordinarily aggressive and going to go after the president and the White House and find out what happened in the lead-up to the war.  But what is the most serious charge against the president?

LEGUM:  Well, I think, certainly, the manipulation of intelligence or the alleged manipulation of intelligence in the lead-up to war is a very serious charge.  But at the same time, I think the situation is so, as the Iraq Study Group said, dire and deteriorating in Iraq, that that‘s really got to be the focus, is what are we going to do moving forward to try to make the best of this mess?  And so I think that‘s going to take up a lot of the energy and should take up most of the energy in the next Congress.

SCARBOROUGH:  Josh Green, I know you‘ve heard a lot of people, as I have in what we do, talking about whether the president should be censured or whether the president should be impeached because of WMDs, because of the Halliburton scandal.  I mean, it seems like a lot of times, they just throw everything, including the kitchen sink at him.  What do you think?  If you were in the White House, what would you be whispering in the president‘s ear would be the most damaging information that could come out from a Henry Waxman-type investigation?

GREEN:  You know, it‘s not as sexy as an impeachment or censure, but I think that the most damaging thing ultimately is just going to be the incompetence that these hearings, I imagine, are going to turn up again and again and again and again and the effect that that‘s going to have on the White House‘s public standing, which is already, frankly, in the gutter.

I mean, you have somebody like Waxman—if you go back to the last time Democrats had control of the House in 1994, it was Henry Waxman who held the famous “Seven Dwarves” hearing where he got the seven major tobacco executives to stand up all in a line and raise their right hand and swear under oath that nicotine wasn‘t addictive.  And that was one of the iconic political moments of the 1990s...

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN:  ... helped change the public perception of that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, and Josh, he is so good at that type of political theater.  Let me ask you the question that I was talking to Judd about regarding censure or impeachment.  You have Nancy Pelosi saying she‘s not going to allow it, but you have the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee who said at one time he would consider it.  Certainly, Henry Waxman is going to be extraordinarily aggressive.  What happens if they turn up information on WMDs, if they turn up information on the Downing Street memo, where you‘ve got the Democratic base saying, We want this president censured or impeached?  What happens then?

GREEN:  You know, I still don‘t see it happening.  I mean, people in

both parties learned a lesson in 1998, when Bill Clinton was impeached, and

look how it cost Republicans at the polls.  Admittedly, that wasn‘t as

serious an offense, I don‘t think, as sort of as what‘s happened in Iraq

and whatever sort of hypothetical shenanigans these investigations might

turn up.  It would have to be something really, really damning for people -

for Democratic leadership, I think, to seriously consider impeachment, you know, given the present circumstances.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Judd, you agree with that, don‘t you?

LEGUM:  I do just because I think that there‘s so little accomplished in the last Congress, I think the real focus going into this is to show, Hey, we can get something done on issues that people care about.  We‘re forward-looking.  And I think that‘s going to be the kind of image they want to portray, and impeachment of goes the other way.  So they‘re going to be very hesitant to go down that road.

GREEN:  Let‘s remember, too, I mean, Democrats aren‘t exactly dying for a President Cheney in the White House, either.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Judd Legum, Josh Green, thank you so much.  And let me just say—and I‘ve got to underline what they just said.  I think the Democrats are going to remain disciplined.  Their base is going to demand censure or impeachment.  I don‘t think they‘re going to take that bait because they‘re only two years away from a presidential contest, and they do remember how in 1998, Republicans were hurt at the polls because of impeachment.

Coming up: Tony Snow says he‘s sorry for accusing an NBC reporter of political bias.  So will an apology follow from Bill O‘Reilly?  We‘re going to look at why some conservatives who were quick to attack NBC may be slow to admit that they were wrong.  But first, it‘s “Must See S.C.” when Barbara Walters gets bootylicious with Jay Z.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, wake up Aunt Alma, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you got to see.  First up, the new Al Jazeera English channel isn‘t getting much attention.  Samantha Bee on “The Daily Show” paid them a visit and gave them a media makeover.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE MARASH, AL JAZEERA:  Welcome to Al Jazeera television.  I‘m Dave Marash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And I‘m Tuckerman Gomez (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Tonight‘s top story...

MARASH:  Up next, immigrants.  Are they stealing your blond teenagers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And later, we take a hard look at why some of Hollywood‘s hottest celebrities aren‘t wearing panties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  It sounds so familiar.  Why, did she used to work at MSNBC?  Next up: With the reality TV season winding down, Jimmy Kimmel has a few ideas on how to keep some of the popular shows going.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re skinny and they‘re hungry.  Tonight on “The CW,” the biggest loser eats America‘s next top model.  The biggest loser eats America‘s next top model.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Awesome! And finally, Barbara Walters is known for breaking down celebrities.  David Letterman shows her latest attempt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS:  Do you think that Beyonce is bootylicious?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, God!

Coming up next: Will Bill O‘Reilly say he‘s sorry for an attack on an NBC reporter?  We‘re going to look at why some conservatives are left with egg on their face after an unusual apology from the White House.  And later: What‘s the most famous quote in TV history?  Here‘s a hint.  Ed McMahon joins us with the results that surprised even him, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Boy, if the courts had only had that for the last governor of New Jersey. 

Well, the White House apologizes to NBC.  The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, says he‘s story about the heated exchange with David Gregory of NBC last week, when Tony accused Gregory of being, quote, “partisan,” causing many on the right, like Bill O‘Reilly, to attack NBC and Gregory. 

Well, here, we‘ll report, and you decide. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Can this report be seen as anything other than a rejection of this president‘s handling of the war? 

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Absolutely.  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. 

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

SNOW:  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And today, Tony Snow surprised Gregory and the rest of the White House press corps by setting the record straight and saying he was wrong. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW:  You and I had a conversation last week that got a whole lot of play in a lot of places, where I used the term “partisan” in describing one of your questions, and I‘ve thought a lot about that.  And I was wrong.  So I want to apologize and tell you I‘m sorry for it. 

And the reason I do that is, not only because it‘s the right thing to do, because I want people in this room and also people who watch these to understand that the relations in this room are professional and collegial.  And if I expect you to do right by us, you have every right to expect that I‘ll do right by you.  So, in any event, I just want to say I‘m sorry for that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, that was the right thing to do.  Tony Snow is such a good man, such a good human being, I just wish more people were like him in Washington, D.C. 

But, you know, does that, though, leave Tony Snow‘s defender on the right with egg on their face, and will they follow Tony‘s lead?  I think, again, he did the right thing.

With us now, Bob Kohn, he‘s the author of the book “Journalistic Fraud.”  And Matthew Felling, he‘s the media director for the Center for Media and Public Affairs.  And still with us, MSNBC analyst and former Reagan communication director Pat Buchanan. 

Matthew Felling, I just want to say, again, I mean, I don‘t know Tony Snow exceptionally well, but he just seems to be such a decent, upright guy.  He‘s got a tough job right now, because the White House is going under and he‘s got to be a positive spokesman for them, but I think he did the right thing. 

But, of course, you remember last week, Bill O‘Reilly jumped all over David Gregory after Snow called him partisan.  I want to play you what O‘Reilly had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  Mr. Gregory is a partisan.  He has come to the conclusion that Iraq is a loser and bases his questioning upon that belief.  While Gregory may be correct, using loaded questions to bolster his point of view is not what straight news reporting is about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Matthew, should we now expect Bill O‘Reilly to apologize? 

MATTHEW FELLING, THE CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS:  Oh, of course not, man.  This is love story, baby.  Being Bill O‘Reilly means never having to say you‘re sorry. 

I think what I saw last week was actually something that we should be concerned about, especially here in this building, in this network, where there is—a concerted effort has begun on the part of the White House and on the part of conservatives, where they‘re kind of starting to chip away at NBC. 

They‘ve started by talking about the guy who leads into this program, Olbermann.  Then they moved into the decision to call this a civil war, and now they‘re taking on Gregory.  It seems to be a little drip, drip, drip battle that they‘re starting to engage in. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you, Bob Kohn.  Were you surprised by the apology today?  Do you think he did the right thing? 

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR:  Well, I think he did the right thing.  I mean, you and I have talked on this program about the left-wing bias in the media that‘s existed for many, many years.  That includes NBC. 

And, you know, I do think that David Gregory may have deserved what he got, because he did ask a question that wasn‘t out of the particular report.  He just tried to frame it in a way that said, “Is this a rejection of your policy?” 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Bob, you know what, though, Bob?  Hold on, Bob, let‘s talk.  I mean, let‘s talk about this, because I know David Gregory.  I work with him.  I work with a lot of people around here.  I don‘t know whether David is a conservative or a liberal.  I would guess, though, in most broadcast news operations, outside of FOX News, Democrats would probably win 90 percent of the time. 

But the guys I know and the women I know that work here are tough on both sides.  That‘s why Media Research Center called David Gregory the fairest reporter a few years back. 

KOHN:  I‘m not so sure—I think that‘s a broad statement.  I don‘t think that‘s something that you‘ve agreed with in the past or I would agree with today.  But I think Tony Snow did the right thing.  Even if David Gregory did deserve it, in Tony Snow‘s mind, he did the right thing, because he‘s got to live with these people. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think Bill O‘Reilly will apologize?  Should he apologize? 

KOHN:  No, I think Tony Snow did the right thing, in the sense that, you know, he‘s taking the high road here.  I think that Bill O‘Reilly is probably not going to apologize.  You know, I would apologize.  I would apologize tonight to David Gregory, because I think a lot of us came down pretty hard on him for this thing, because, you know, the press has been trying to get the administration to admit things in a partisan way. 

I mean, asking a question, “Does this reject your policy?”  What would that possibly add to the public discussion of this, if the administration said, “Yes, this rejects our policy,” or, “No, it doesn‘t reject our policy.”  So I don‘t think he was trying to seek news there. 

And I think I would agree with Tony Snow‘s general reaction.  I think he should continue to question the premise of the questions.  But at the end of the day, he took the high road.  I think it was all taken out of proportion. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And let me just say, you took the high road, too.  And, you know, I screw up all the time.  And when I do, I come on and I apologize for that, even if I get kicked around by some people afterwards. 

But, Pat Buchanan, I just said I think Tony Snow is a good guy.  I think he made the right choice.  I hope Bill O‘Reilly follows and apologizes, also, to David Gregory.  You and I both know, though, that‘s probably not going to happen. 

But let‘s just talk historically.  Put this in historical context.  I mean, White House spokesmen, when they screw up, they usually zip it up and keep going, because they know they‘ll get beaten up if they‘re truthful.  Were you surprised that Tony Snow took the high road and apologized?  Again, he said partisan last week.  He just didn‘t mean it; it just came out. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I‘m not surprised, because I think Tony Snow‘s a class act, and I think he reflected on it. 

Look, David‘s a very tough reporter.  He‘s a tough, aggressive questioner.  He hits hard.  That‘s a contentious relationship.  It‘s a professional relationship.  And Tony should not have gone and directed, attacked his motives.  Now, look, once you get on talk TV and things like that, I think you really cut loose back and forth.  That‘s a brawling situation.  It‘s perfectly legitimate.  And Tony Snow is the president‘s spokesman.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, again, we‘ve all made those mistakes before, haven‘t we, Pat? 

BUCHANAN:  Sure, sure. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You say something and you want to pull it back. 

BUCHANAN:  He‘s the president‘s spokesman.  Wait a minute.  He‘s the president‘s spokesman.  And as that, he wants to say, look, I want to respond and toughly respond and answer and knock it down, but I shouldn‘t have gone at your motives and said you‘re hauling water for the Democrats.  I apologize for that. 

Now, in this business, Joe, you and I, we can let anybody have a back and forth and take it.  Tony Snow did the professional thing and the right thing. 

KOHN:  Joe, when the tables are turned, when the press makes a mistake

you know, we all make mistakes—when the press makes a mistake, look what the “New York Times” did when they had Jayson Blair on.  Basically, he was writing stories that were false and embarrassed the administration, particularly the Justice Department and Attorney General Ashcroft.  Did the “New York Times” ever apologize to the Bush administration for that?  No, they didn‘t. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ve talked about this, also, though.  I think the good news is they‘ve got an ombudsman there who‘s now getting more aggressive.  And I‘ll tell you what:  That is all I ask, Matthew Felling, that people police themselves, that the “New York Times,” NBC News, other news outlets police themselves.  I think it‘s worked very well. 

But, bottom line, let me ask you, Matthew, why do you think Tony Snow apologized?  What was the motivation?

FELLING:  Well, I think—well, first of all, I think it was a little bit calculated because he saw that what he did last week was becoming the story.  It was the old technique of attacking the messenger.  And I think what he‘s also done—and I think it was accidental in this case—is that he actually bought himself some good graces into January, because January is going to be a very tough month for him. 

And I agree with what Pat Buchanan said earlier.  I remember when Ari Fleischer would say to somebody, who asked a very pointed question, “It‘s your job to ask that; it‘s my job to answer it the way I choose.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, no doubt about it.  That‘s what they do.

Bob Kohn, Matthew Felling, Pat Buchanan, thanks for being with us.  And I want to underline I agree with Pat.  I think Tony Snow, whether you‘re a Democrat or a Republican, liberal or a conservative, he‘s a class act.  And I am so glad he apologized, not for David Gregory.  David Gregory can handle it.  But just because what it says about Tony‘s character. 

Coming up next...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED MCMAHON, FORMER CO-HOST, “TONIGHT SHOW”:  Here‘s Johnny!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is “Here‘s Johnny” the most famous quote in TV history?  A new list says yes, but Ed McMahon says no.  He tells us who really deserves the top honor, next. 

And later, what‘s cooking at Brangelina‘s house?  The world‘s most famous couple is eating bugs.  Boy, that‘s coming up in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, who doesn‘t love a good TV catchphrase?  Those little sayings we know by heart and repeat over and over again.  Well, now TV Land is counting down the top 100.  Tucker‘s Willie Geist talked to the top man. 

Willie, what do you have for us tonight?

WILLIE GEIST, PRODUCER:  Hello, Joe.  Tucker‘s Willie Geist.  It sounds like I‘m his cabana boy or something. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You are, baby.

GEIST:  I kind of resent that a little bit.  Joe, we hate to spoil the suspense of this countdown, but there‘s a reason we‘re talking to Ed  tonight.  He took the number-one spot with the line that kicked off “The Tonight Show” every night for more than 30 years.  Quite a feat, when you consider McMahon‘s catchphrase beat out some of histories‘ most famous quotes. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, my god, they killed Kenny!

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Read my lips... 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No soup for you!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, hey, hey!

DONALD TRUMP, HOST, “THE APPRENTICE”:  You‘re fired. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dynomite!

LLOYD BENTSEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator, you‘re no Jack Kennedy. 

DANA CARVEY, ACTOR:  Well, isn‘t that special?

LEONARD NIMOY, ACTOR:  Live long and prosper. 

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I‘m not a crook. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good grief. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Come on down!

JEFF PROBST, HOST, “SURVIVOR:  The tribe has spoken. 

REGIS PHILBIN, HOST, “WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?”:  Is that your final answer? 

MATT LEBLANC, “FRIENDS”:  How you doing? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shwing!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I love it when a plan comes together. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And that‘s the way it is. 

MCMAHON:  Here‘s Johnny!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEIST:  Tell us how you came up with “Here‘s Johnny.”  How did it happen? 

MCMAHON:  It was a very accidental thing.  I was going down to check the lighting the very first day.  It was October 1st, a Monday, 1962.  And Johnny and I were walking down the stairs into the studio.  They wanted to light our areas, you know.  He had a special mark that no one would dare go near.  You know, it was a special hallowed place where he stood. 

And I was off to the side with my microphone, and they wanted to check the lighting.  And we were going down to check it.  We were opening up that night, right?  You know, in the afternoon.  We‘d tape it in the afternoon.  But that was the big day. 

Anyway, as we‘re walking down, I said to myself, I‘m just talking to myself, I said, “I‘ve got to do something today that‘s going to be different.  What will I do?  What will I do?”  And I just thought about elongating “Here‘s.”  I just thought of it that day. 

I‘d been thinking all weekend, but I didn‘t have it until that afternoon, and I did it that night.  Now, the next morning, I knew I had something, because everywhere I went, people were saying, “Here‘s Johnny!”  So I said, “Oh, I‘m onto something.”  So I kept it. 

And from then on, I did it every single night.  You know, nobody said, “Don‘t do it.”  No one ever said, “We‘re glad you‘re doing it.”  I just kept doing it. 

NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT:  That‘s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. 

GEIST:  Now, Ed, do you feel any personal guilt at all that your introduction of Johnny Carson was deemed more important than man‘s landing on the moon? 

MCMAHON:  It gives me a funny sense of pause to wonder how in the world I beat that.  But how about the Kennedy line, which I thought should have won?  If anybody said to me, “What‘s the number-one phrase?”  I would have said that, even over the moon landing, because, you know, that—

“Don‘t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do”—I mean, that to me, that line registered with me. 

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. 

GEIST:  What would you have picked, number one? 

MCMAHON:  I would have picked the Kennedy line, yes. 

GEIST:  And what exactly, Ed, were the criteria for this competition? 

Did they tell you?

MCMAHON:  Well, I don‘t know, to be honest with you.  But I imagine why I was lucky enough to be number one was because of repetition.  And then, of course, you know, when Jack Nicholson, in “The Shining,” when he broke through that door and then said, “Here‘s Johnny,” when he said it, that kind of put a stamp on it, like a imprimatur, you know, the “Good Housekeeping” seal. 

JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR:  Here‘s Johnny!

GEIST:  I always wondered what you thought about that in “The Shining,” that “Here‘s Johnny.”  Did it creep you out a little bit? 

MCMAHON:  No, it was creepy in the context of the movie.  But I mean, no, I thought—I took it as a—you know, a great kind of emblematic endorsement, you know, that that was a good enough line that he decided to use it in that movie, or whoever made that decision.  So I felt, you know, very honored that they would even take that line and use it. 

MCMAHON:  Here‘s Johnny!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GEIST:  Joe, I have a little catchphrase of my own for you.  It wasn‘t on the list.  With every list, there‘s a snub.  It goes something like this:  No passport required; only common sense allowed.  What do you think? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, I love that.  You know, it hits me right there.  Actually, my catchphrase in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is “Uhh.”  All right.  Hey, Willie, thanks so much. 

GEIST:  All right, Tucker. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Greatly appreciate it. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  Maybe I am his kept man. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about being sauced.  “Hollyweird” is next.  How much do you get paid to do that? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MCMAHON:  And now, ladies and gentlemen, here‘s “Hollyweird”! 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks, Ed. 

First up, say it ain‘t so.  First we have Britney Spears dumping K-Fed, and now there‘s word she‘s dumping her new best friend, Paris Hilton.  The “New York Post” reports the pop tart and the heiress are no longer friends.

Here now to talk about that shocking development, “Star” magazine editor-at-large Jill Dobson and Marc Malkin of E! Online‘s Planet Gossip. 

Jill Dobson, say it ain‘t so.  What‘s happening here? 

JILL DOBSON, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  Oh, it looks like it.  Apparently, Britney is just breaking up with everyone lately.  She‘s finally listening to her people for once, who keep saying, “You know what?  This is bad for you.  All this partying with Paris, without undergarments, not a good idea.”  And Britney‘s finally putting a stop to it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Marc, it would have been a lot easier for her just to, you know, buy some underwear, and she could still hang out with Paris Hilton, right? 

MARC MALKIN, E!‘S PLANET GOSSIP:  Well, the other side of the story also is that Paris is dumping Britney a little bit, because, you know what?  Paris is like, “I‘m not the one who‘s making her not wear underwear, and I‘m getting blamed for it.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  So is this—and bottom line of this, is it all about the child custody fights, about her damaged reputation, about how she stumbles from K-Fed to Paris Hilton to no underwear to scandal after scandal? 

DOBSON:  I think exactly.  She had a golden opportunity to come back here, to look like a positive person, and instead she looks like the person with all the problems, and K-Fed‘s actually looking good by comparison.  And finally, she realized she need to straighten up a little. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, let‘s not get too carried away. 

“Star” magazine reports that Nicole Richie could be heading to jail.  What‘s the story here, Marc?  I understand this wasn‘t Nicole‘s first arrest for DUI.

MALKIN:  That‘s the problem.  Nicole keeps getting arrested, getting arrested.  Three strikes you‘re out, you‘re going to jail.  So, you know, maybe we‘ll see a reality show, “Nicole Behind Bars with Martha Stewart”?  I don‘t know. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Jill, what‘s going on here?  How troubled is this young lady‘s life? 

DOBSON:  Oh, gosh, I‘m really concerned about Nicole.  I mean, her weight is down to a reported 85 pounds.  She had a 2003 heroin arrest, and now it‘s coming out that she previously was arrested for drunk driving and pleaded no contest.  And because of that, she could be spending five days in jail, if convicted of this latest charge. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s sounding pretty bad for her. 

And moving on to happier news, Jennifer Aniston wants to be a guest star on “24.”  But all‘s not happy in “Hollyweird.”  “TV Guide” is reporting that producers of the hit show think she‘s too famous to be on. 

Marc, how can you be too famous to be on a TV show? 

MALKIN:  It makes absolutely no sense.  She‘s an actress.  She‘s not the character.  How do you turn down Jennifer Aniston, the biggest TV star we‘ve seen in God knows how long? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Good lord.  Oh, I know.

MALKIN:  It doesn‘t make any sense.

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, yes.  And, Jill, I asked the same question of Brad Pitt that I ask now of “24‘s” producers that Marc just asked, how do you turn down Jennifer Aniston?  She is a super mega star. 

DOBSON:  Joe, you‘re right.  America loves Jennifer Aniston.  The show would get unbelievable ratings, and they should go with it, put her on the show. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Good lord, yes.

And speaking of “Hollyweird,” Angelina Jolie is telling “The Sun” that she feeds her son, Maddox, bugs.  Jill, it just keeps getting stranger with this couple, doesn‘t it? 

DOBSON:  Well, it does.  Well, Angelina has always said she wants Maddox to be familiar with Cambodia and to understand the home country from which he was adopted.  And apparently, crickets are a popular cuisine in Cambodia, and so she took him back there recently and fed him some of the native food. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Good god.  And, Marc, I would guess probably this would be a woman that would feed her son insects, but probably not a Big Mac, right? 

MALKIN:  That‘s the whole thing.  I think the insects are better.  He‘s not going to be like one of these fat kids we‘ve got in America who‘s eating all this fast food.  Crickets are low in fat.  You put some pepper on them, some salt, and you got a nice little snack. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I guess so, Marc.  Maybe that‘s how it works out in “Hollyweird.”  Thank you so much, Marc Malkin.  Greatly appreciate it.  Jill Dobson, as always, we always appreciate you being here. 

And that‘s all the time we have for tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, live from Washington, but don‘t go anywhere.  “A Killing on Keithwood Court” starts right now.

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

END   

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