updated 1/18/2007 11:42:53 AM ET 2007-01-18T16:42:53

Guests: Joan Walsh, Josh Gerstein, Matthew Felling, Rachel Sklar, Willie Geist, Tom O‘Neil, Jill Dobson

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, from NBC News world headquarters in New York, the doomsday clock moves closer to midnight as the White House steps up its threat of force on Iran, who responds by declaring there will be nuclear power there sooner, rather than later.  They also mocked Mr.  Bush, saying he wouldn‘t dare attack Iran.  Yes?  That‘s what Saddam Hussein thought.  We‘ll debate the coming war with Iran next.

But first, tonight there is open rebellion within Mr. Bush‘s own party, the same party that‘s provided the president almost unanimous support for the past six years.  But no more.  This Republican Party is now in open revolt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  I will do everything I can to stop the president‘s policy as he outlined it on Wednesday night.  This is not a Democrat issue that somehow they‘ve gotten a Republican to come over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s true.

HAGEL:  This is a bipartisan, a genuine bipartisan effort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And tonight: The Bush administration is desperately

trying to stop the revolt and has now called a group of Republican

lawmakers to the White House to rally the troops.  But the plan is not

working.  Earlier this evening, Republican senator Olympia Snowe said she

would help lead the way for Republicans who now oppose the president‘s

surge plan.  And the situation in the House of Representatives even more

bleak for Mr. Bush, with as many as 60 Republicans—that‘s right, 6-zero

listed as possible defections, siding with Nancy Pelosi on this key issue instead of their own president.

The political bleeding coming from this White House is breathtaking tonight.  It spells big problems not only for Mr. Bush but for this country and its credibility abroad.  Here now to talk about today‘s dramatic events, Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com, Josh Gerstein, reporter for “The New York Sun,” and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Joan, Republicans are turning their back on their own commander-in-chief in a time of war.  How extraordinary are today‘s developments?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  They‘re quite extraordinary, Joe.  I think Chuck Hagel deserves a lot of credit.  It was an interesting press briefing, where he professed to have written every bit as much of the five-page resolution as his friends, Joe Biden and Carl Levin.  You know, I think by the time they‘re through with it, if they really hope to get 12 Republican senators, it‘s going to be a very long document.  We‘re going to post it on Salon because we want the page views.

But it‘s really an important day.  I think it‘s the beginning of a new

way of doing business.  This president has decided not to deal with

Democrats, and so people in his own party are reaching across the aisle

SCARBOROUGH:  Joan, would you say and would Democrats say this is the end of the Bush imperial presidency, as so many Democrats have called it over the past six years?

WALSH:  Well, we‘ve had many days where we could say that, and I really do think today, we truly saw some action.  We‘ll see more action tomorrow.  We‘ll start to have vote counts, so we‘ll know.

But the other thing that‘s extraordinary to me—you know, Tony Snow tried again today to insinuate that people who are opposing the troop surge run the risk of being painted as anti-troop.  And I really think we should mark the end of that war, the war of words over this war.  It is no longer unpatriotic or anti-troops to be questioning this president‘s strategy.  And so I think there‘s a really new way of doing business in Washington, and it is the end of the imperial presidency, absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  Josh, let‘s go ahead and play you that clip of Tony Snow earlier today in the White House, suggesting that if you support the Hagel plan, you are somehow hurting the troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It‘s probably worth asking, What message does Congress intend to give?  And who does it think the audience is?  Is the audience merely the president?  Is it the voting American public?  Or in an age of instant communication, is it also al Qaeda?  Is it Iraq?  Is it players in Iraq?  Is it U.S. troops?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Josh, some tough words and certainly some tough implications there.  Tony Snow and the White House certainly have to be concerned tonight with Republicans defecting.  What‘s going on?  Is it the end of the Bush presidency, as we know it?

JOSH GERSTEIN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Well, I think Joan‘s right.  This was an absolutely pivotal day.  And we heard what Tony Snow said.  I think he‘s right about the fact that, to some degree, this huge debate we‘re having in this country right now is emboldening our opponents in Iraq and the terrorists in Iraq, but that‘s just the way it‘s going to be.

And frankly, Tony Snow complaining about it is about the least credible place to be complaining about it right now.  I mean, White House has no credibility left on the war, and therefore, their comments saying that their opponents are unpatriotic or are helping our opponents are pretty much ignored, at this point.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, let‘s get out the checklist here.  If this resolution passes, George W. Bush is going to be moving forward with a surge in Iraq without the support of the American public—only 12 percent support this, according to an “LA Times” poll—without the support of any of his generals on the ground in Iraq, and of course, the Pentagon, and without the support of a lot of members of his own party, and without the support of Congress.  Are we on uncharted waters here?  And how dangerous is it for a commander-in-chief to be moving forward in a war, a vicious, bloody war, without any support at home?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Joe, I don‘t think it‘s dangerous.  What I do think is this, and I don‘t think this is the last move.  This is a not unreasonable step that the senators are taking, Chuck Hagel, in particular.  All they‘re saying is, We do not believe the surge is in the national interests of the United States, and secondly, you cannot prosecute a war without the support of the American people.  This is not a cut-off of funds...

SCARBOROUGH:  But Pat, this president doesn‘t believe that, obviously, right?  I mean, if you look at the interviews over the weekend, this president doesn‘t listen to what Colin Powell said or what Cap Weinberger said when they said you can only fight wars when you‘ve got the support of the American people.  He doesn‘t believe that, does he.

BUCHANAN:  Well, no, he doesn‘t.  He—well, he obviously realizes he‘s in a minority here.  We realized that when he fired Donald Rumsfeld after the American people spoke out against the war.  But he‘s going to proceed along this course, and Congress is not going to cut off funds, Joe.  But what we are, we are headed down a road where we‘re going to see in a couple of months if the surge is working.  And we will see very soon.  And if it does not work, at that point, I think we‘ll come to the point where Congress does start to vote to cut off funds.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, how could this surge work?

BUCHANAN:  Well, very simple.  One reason it could work is Moqtada al Sadr could go to earth and say, Look, we got the Americans coming in here, we got the Peshmerga coming down, the Kurds, they‘re bringing them coming in, we don‘t want to get shot to pieces because we‘re going to...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Pat, but yesterday, though, 70 Iraqi students were blown up at a university, one of the most prestigious universities in Baghdad.  That wasn‘t al Sadr doing that, that was the Sunnis.  The only reason al Sadr has any power is because the United States was unable to stop Sunni terrorists from blowing up children, grandmothers, students, and just about anybody else walking the streets in Baghdad.

BUCHANAN:  Well, here‘s my point, then.  If you do put in 22,000 troops—and only about 7,000 or 8,000, at most, are combat troops—if you put them into Baghdad and you put them out in Anbar province, as happened during the election time, you can get some measure of pacification and some numbers that look pretty good.  I agree with you...

WALSH:  But it‘s temporary.  It‘s temporary, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  I know it is, but Joe asked me how it‘s going to look good...

WALSH:  OK.

BUCHANAN:  ... temporarily, and that‘s what I‘m saying how it could look good.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I just—to be honest with you, I don‘t know how 20,000 troops are going to stop a Sunni terrorist from walking into a university, pulling a cord on his vest and blowing up 70 people, or somebody ramming an automobile past a barricade and blowing up—I just—

I don‘t think so.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think they‘re going to end it, I think they may be able to perceptibly reduce it, Joe.  I don‘t think, ultimately, it‘s going to work.  What I‘m saying is the real crunch is coming down the road, when they start cutting off funds, not when they make a statement that, We don‘t agree with what you‘re doing.

SCARBOROUGH:  Joan, I think—I think it‘s a lost cause, Joan, and I

if somebody asked me today when I thought that this war was a lost cause, I thought it was when we had the bombing of the mosque, which, of course, really created al Sadr‘s power base.  And suddenly, instead of having 60 percent of the Shi‘ites for us and 20 percent of Kurds for us, we had the Shi‘ites turn on us.  So now we‘ve got—instead of 80 percent of the people glad we‘re over there, now we‘ve got an overwhelming majority opposed to us.  I wonder...

WALSH:  And how long will it take for the Kurds to turn...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

WALSH:  ... when we‘re trying to send the Peshmerga...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

WALSH:  ... in to do what we can‘t do?

SCARBOROUGH:  But Joan, I wonder if we have a White House that is so desperate—and I don‘t know the answer to this, but we have a White House that is so desperate to save their credibility and save their legacy that they‘re willing to take dramatic steps that all the military advisers and all the generals and the American public and their own party says will not work.  It seems to me to be a sign of desperation.

Do we have the Tony Snow clip?  I want to play this Tony Snow clip one more time, Joan, because I think it‘s extraordinary.  Play it.

WALSH:  It is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It‘s probably worth asking, What message does Congress intend to give?  And who does it think the audience is?  Is the audience merely the president?  Is it the voting American public?  Or in an age of instant communication, is it also al Qaeda?  Is it Iraq?  Is it players in Iraq?  Is it U.S. troops?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I like Tony Snow.  I always had great respect for him.  But he‘s sending out a message that says if you are a Republican or a Democrat and you vote against this president‘s surge, which 80 percent of Americans oppose, according to some polls, you are aiding al Qaeda.

WALSH:  We‘re all un-American, 80 percent of Americans are now officially un-American, Joe.  Now we know.  No, it‘s ridiculous!  Of course it is.  We had a General Schoomaker on Capitol Hill today giving this surge a 50/50 chance of succeeding.

SCARBOROUGH:  You had General Abizaid saying it wouldn‘t work.  You had Colin Powell saying it wouldn‘t work.  You had all of the Joint Chiefs saying it wouldn‘t work.  You had all the division commanders telling General Abizaid it wouldn‘t work!

WALSH:  And with all due respect to Pat, I mean, “perceptible improvement” is the way they try to sell wrinkle cream on television.

BUCHANAN:  Yes, but...

WALSH:  We‘re not going to have even a perceptible improvement...

BUCHANAN:  This is a little...

WALSH:  ... I don‘t think.

BUCHANAN:  This is a little unfair, I think, to the president, in this sense.  As he has said, and I think he‘s correct, “stay the course” is slow-motion defeat.  Pulling out now, the way the Iraq Study Group recommended, that‘s expedited defeat.  This is at least not defeat.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, but—but Pat...

BUCHANAN:  This is an idea.  What is the other side...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second, Pat, though! You know that Republicans like yourself and me, back when you were a Republican, used to attack Lyndon Johnson for sitting in the White House, second guessing generals, picking bombing targets in Vietnam and trying to run the war from Washington and ignoring the advice of generals.  You—I‘m not being unfair to the president when I‘m saying he is standing alone.  All of his generals opposed him...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  That is not true.  The general in command, General Petraeus...

SCARBOROUGH:  Now.

BUCHANAN:  ... agrees with this, and a number of people in the Pentagon agree with it.  Joe, there‘s a division of opinion.  The president‘s in the minority.  I agree with that 100 percent.  But what he‘s saying is, You other folks, you can criticize me.  None of you‘s got a plan.  This is my plan.  You got Schoomaker saying it‘s 50/50 it‘s going to work.  I don‘t think it‘s going to work, but I don‘t see anyone else with another plan.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and you know, Josh, that‘s a great point.  I want you to speak to the fact that the president‘s generals, the Joint Chiefs and the guy that ran the war for three-and-a-half years and the guy that ran the last Iraq war, all oppose him.  But Josh, let‘s pick up on Pat‘s point.  Last night, we showed a poll that 26 percent of Americans don‘t believe that this president has a viable plan, a clear plan to get us out of Iraq with a victory, and yet you ask about how they feel about the Democrats, only 21 percent of Americans believe Democrats have a plan to get us out of Iraq.

(LAUGHTER)

GERSTEIN:  Well, both...

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s not good new for either side, is it.

GERSTEIN:  Both plans, Joe, are basically punts.  I mean, the president is punting and hoping the Iraqis work things out in a few months, and the Democrats are also punting and hoping that things don‘t just go to hell in a handbasket.  And both of them are risks.  There‘s really nothing else you can do, at this point.  It seems, though, that the Democrats and the breakaway Republicans have an advantage because, at least in the short term, we‘re talking about fewer Americans being killed if we pull the troops out.  So it seems like there‘s very little that can be done...

BUCHANAN:  But—but...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  What you‘re saying is, one road leads to certain defeat and the other leads to probable defeat.  I think that‘s about right.  Which one do you pick?

GERSTEIN:  But if the plan only has 10 or 20 percent of working, how many more bodies are going to be thrown into it, Pat?

BUCHANAN:  All right, but you say 10 or 20 percent.  Schoomaker says 50 percent.  Fifty percent is better than zero percent, which is what a pull-out now will result in, and we all know it.

GERSTEIN:  The question is, How many lives are going to be gambled on that?  And if it‘s just a...

BUCHANAN:  Well, that‘s exactly right.

GERSTEIN:  ... limited chance of working, you have...

BUCHANAN:  All right, but Josh...

GERSTEIN:  ... you have to think it may not be worth it.

BUCHANAN:  All right, then you got to ask yourself, What does defeat mean?  If it means a complete debacle for the American position, a bloodbath over there, a break-up of the country and a regional war, and the president has got a 50 percent chance of working, I think the president‘s got an argument.

WALSH:  I think the sooner that you reckon with the fact that you need a political solution on the ground...

BUCHANAN:  There isn‘t going to be a political solution.

WALSH:  None of us are going to love it.  None of us are going to love it, Pat.  There‘s no...

BUCHANAN:  You know...

WALSH:  ... answer but a political solution.

BUCHANAN:  Joan—Joan...

WALSH:  This is civil war.

BUCHANAN:  With due respect, that is—political solution.  What political solution are you talking about?  They‘re going to kill each other.  The one that‘s the strongest power, got the most troops, the greatest energy and fire and got the most numbers is going to win the war.

SCARBOROUGH:  Joan, I...

BUCHANAN:  Who do you think won the Chinese revolution?

SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘ve got to say, on this point, Joan, I agree with Pat.  I don‘t think there‘s a political solution in Iraq.  I think you have Sunnis and Shias that are going to keep killing each other for the next...

BUCHANAN:  But we‘re not putting in enough...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... five or ten years...

WALSH:  ... to put that off, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  And that‘s my point.  And we‘re not going to be able to stop Sunnis and Shia from killing each other until Sunnis and Shia decide that they want to live together.  And sending 20,000 more troops in...

BUCHANAN:  Or apart.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... will do nothing—or apart—will do nothing but get more Americans killed.

Joan Walsh and Josh Gerstein, thank you so much for being with us tonight.  Pat, stick around.

When we come back: Iran says the United States would be stupid to attack it, but that‘s not stopping the Bush administration from flexing its military muscles in the region.  Are we on a collision course to a nuclear doomsday?  That‘s ahead.  And later:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Twenty-thousand troops?  We have 130,000 there now.  That‘s only a 15 percent increase.  That‘s not a surge, that‘s a gratuity.  That‘s a tip.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is Jon Stewart Dr. Feelgood, helping Americans laugh at serious topics like the war?  Is his brand of humor actually hurting viewers by diverting their attention from serious subjects?  “The Baltimore Sun” writes about it, we talk about it coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is the United States on a collision course with war with Iran?  Well, Iran‘s president today issued on open challenge to the United States and Israel, telling a Spanish newspaper, quote, “They know well the power of the Iranian people.  I don‘t think they would ever dare attack us.  They won‘t do such a stupid thing.”

Those words came after the Iranian leader‘s trip through Bush‘s back yard, meeting with Mr. Bush‘s enemies in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador.  And this just one day after a U.S. aircraft (SIC) set sail from the United States to the Persian Gulf in an attempt to confront an Iran that is now stocking up on air defense missiles from Russia.  So is a war with Iran inevitable?  And is that what President Bush wants?

Here now, “Boston Herald” columnist and MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle.  And still with us, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Mike, the White House seems to be sending signals to America and the world that Iran is next.  Why?

MIKE BARNICLE, “BOSTON HERALD” COLUMNIST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Oh, Joe, they probably figure—this White House, President Bush and vice president, figuring that Iraq is going so well, why not just continue on with the great progress we‘re making in the Middle East by going after Iran?

SCARBOROUGH:  So it is “Wag the Dog.”  We‘re not distracting from a sex scandal with a war, we‘re directing with a war for a war, right?

BARNICLE:  Joe, you know something?  I would be less fearful if that were indeed the case.  The issue here, I fear, might be that the president of the United States, along with the vice president of the United States, they have a messianic belief in their mission as they‘re currently involved with it in the Middle East.  And they think that Iran is one more piece of puzzle, and they are fearful that history 20, 30 years from now will judge them as being less than competent in their dealings in the Middle East, when, in fact, the irony is that these two people clearly never read any history of the Middle East before embarking on Iraq.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Mike, I don‘t know that it really helps the president‘s cause—well, actually, it helps President Bush‘s cause for attack that Iran‘s leader‘s running around America‘s back yard with the likes of Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega.  It seems like these Iranian leaders don‘t really get it, don‘t get what you just said about the president, that actually, he may be looking for a reason to go into Iran.

BARNICLE:  It‘s scary, but he well might be.  He well might be.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Pat, we‘ve seen one tyrant after another underestimate America‘s ability to start wars.  Remember Noriega in Panama, with that sword?

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  He was saying, Come down, you know?  He never thought we‘d go in there.  And then there‘s Saddam Hussein, who miscalculated twice, thinking America wouldn‘t go in.  Of course, he‘s dead now, just in case anybody missed that news.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think Iran may be making the same mistake here, underestimating our willingness to go to war, President Bush‘s willingness to go to war.

BUCHANAN:  Well, what Ahmadinejad said today, in effect, is, you know, I‘ve heard you Mr. President.  You and your Zionist friends are all hat and no cattle.  I mean, they have—he has basically taken the threats that you and I are conveying, and that have been conveyed through the media, that are in the clear from the United States with carriers and missiles and all these things going over there.  Bush is saying, in effect, We are prepared to attack you.  Ahmadinejad has said, I don‘t think you‘ve got it in you.  So the president‘s now back on the spot.

There‘s two things here, Joe.  One is I think the president generally believes he can‘t let Iran continue its nuclear program.  Secondly, he‘s got his “axis of evil” rhetoric and his “Bush doctrine” on the line.  It‘s been defied by North Korea successfully.  They‘ve tested a nuclear weapon.  And now Iran is in the process of defying it.

SCARBOROUGH:  So we‘re talking about the legacy again.  The president can‘t leave the White House...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... with two of the three “axis of evils” having nuclear weapons.  Is that way—well, you know, let‘s play a clip.  Vice President Cheney addressed the issue on “Fox News Sunday,” and he gave Chris Wallace an ominous answer about the administration‘s plan to deal with Iran.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”:  Can you pledge that before you and the president leave office, you will take care of the threat of Iran?

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think we‘re working right now today, as we speak, on key elements of that problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike, I—go ahead, Pat, and then Mike.

BUCHANAN:  Let me take a semi-benign interpretation here.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  And it is this.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

BUCHANAN:  All of these threats are so in the clear and so open, Bush is doing them for an effect on Teheran.  And the effect he wants is Teheran to get the message, We‘re coming after your nuclear stuff, so get serious and negotiate it away.  It could be that, Joe, because the actions we‘ve taken—you know, we‘re grabbing the five Iranians in the floor (ph) -- have been fairly tepid compared to the language.  Bush has clearly got himself out there on a limb that they‘re not going to be able to move ahead.

SCARBOROUGH:  But Mike Barnicle, this president and Dick Cheney will not leave office with a nuclear Iran.  They will invade before allowing Iran to have nukes because of that vision that you said.

BARNICLE:  Or they will just turn their back and allow Israel to attack Iran, you know, nuclear or non-nuclear.  But Joe, the larger issue here and another irony is that this administration, both the president and the vice president, have insisted that we will not engage in a dialogue, speak with Iran.  The United States will not speak with Iran.  And yet they speak to Iran almost daily through words and actions.

The president in his address to the nation last week mentioned Iran.  Sending elements of the Mediterranean fleet into the Persian Gulf—that‘s certainly speaking to Iran.  We speak to Iran daily.  And Iran is a dangerous nation.  There‘s no doubt about it.  But unfortunately, what this administration has managed to do in the past four or five yeas, and something that perhaps began in Iran in 1979 with the hostage-taking—but in the last three or four years, this administration has tied the Middle East up not in a bow, but with a lit fuse.

SCARBOROUGH:  And of course, that fuse appears to be set to go off very soon, and it may be in Iran next.  Mike Barnicle, Pat Buchanan, thank you so much for being with us.

My prediction is we will be going to war.  Whether it‘s limited or full-blown, I think it‘s going to happen if Iran keeps moving toward nuclear weapons.

Coming up next: We‘re going to stop all the “Idol” chatter about Paula‘s bizarre TV interview.  The lost footage of what happened behind the scenes next in “Must See S.C..”  And later: Critics say Jon Stewart is helping America swallow a bitter pill, but “The Baltimore Sun” asks whether “The Daily Show” is actually bad medicine by making Americans apathetic.  We‘ll debate it coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Wake up your kids.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” some video you‘ve just got to see.  First up, David Letterman brings us another of the president‘s less-than-stellar speeches.  Check out these great moments in presidential oratory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. 

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. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I mean, just—tell people why I say—I mean, I say—I—I think they‘re cost-effective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, finally, everybody knows that the camera adds 10 pounds.  But can it make you drunk?  Jimmy Kimmel has shocking footage that may shed some light on Paula Abdul‘s recent behavior. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”:  Her spokesperson said that Paula does not drink or use drugs.  He said that she was confused by technical problems, an audio problem.  We actually got this footage from the control room, and you can see here. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What do “Idol” fans have to look forward to look forward to this season, and what are you look forward to seeing? 

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Well, I‘ll tell you, a lot of you coming in. 

KIMMEL:  The guy—that guy right there. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  They do that to me sometimes. 

Coming up, is the “The Daily Show‘s” humor helping sugarcoat the war in Iraq?  We‘re going to look at why some critics claim Jon Stewart is turning Americans away from the stories that really matter. 

Then later, is it reality TV or one big fantasy?  The real housewives of Orange County join us to answer critics who say they‘re spoiled adults living an artificial world.  Our interview, coming up.  What‘s that?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s TV‘s most talked about news program—well, right behind SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY—but are “Daily Show” fans just tuning in to Comedy Central to avoid reality?  A new editorial in the “Baltimore Sun” claims that watching “The Daily Show” to get your news, is, quote, “like comfort food, consumed night after night, in place of broccoli.  We‘re gorging ourselves on what feels good instead of processing what feels so bad and doing something about it.”

So does “The Daily Show” sugarcoat the news?  We‘ll let you be the judge. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  But Republicans are also going after the Democrats as a party.

BILL FRIST, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  The Democrat vision was going to come out and raise your taxes and does want to surrender to the terrorists today. 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  By the way, the Democratic candidate running on that platform is actually also from Ohio.  He is the eighth district‘s Dum(bleep) McDoesn‘tExist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But unlike the real Klingons of “Star Trek,” these Klingons have never fought a battle of their own.  Don‘t let faux Klingons send real Americans to war. 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  I don‘t think that‘s an issue.  I believe the Constitution specifically states that only real Klingons have that power. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Today we are safer, but we are not yet safe. 

LITTLE RICHARD, SINGER:  Help me!  Somebody help me!

BUSH:  For America, 9/11 was more than a tragedy.  It changed the way we look at the world. 

LITTLE RICHARD:  Mashed potatoes!  Gravy!  And cranberry sauce!  Whoa!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Here now, Rachel Sklar, media editor for the Huffington Post, and Matthew Felling, he‘s the media director for the Center for Media and Public Affairs. 

Matthew, you know, maybe it‘s cotton candy.  I like it.  Do you buy the “Baltimore Sun‘s” argument that “The Daily Show” is bad for America because it sugarcoats the news? 

MATTHEW FELLING, THE CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS:  God, no.  No.  No matter where you are, you‘re always going to have somebody out there who says, “Oh, you know what?  You‘re not doing it right.”  And it‘ll be really condescending.

You know, the PBS NewsHour people think that people who watch cable news are idiots.  And the people at the “Baltimore Sun” think that people who watch “The Daily Show” are idiots.  You know what?  Humor was supposed to be dead after September 11th.  And here we have humor as a coping mechanism, as well as an information device, with “The Daily Show.”  And Jon Stewart is nailing it. 

I don‘t think it‘s feel-good news.  I don‘t think it‘s sugarcoating the news.  I think it‘s like the equivalent of an editorial cartoon, with extremely pointed satire, that speaks to a high-minded audience. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, though, let‘s say—well, let‘s talk about Iraq.  Obviously, that‘s the most serious news out there today.  Let‘s take a look at a clip on “The Daily Show‘s” take on Iraq.  And then, Rachel, I want to get your take on “The Daily Show.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Now, remember, Kurdistan is still Iraq, so the selling points are, well, you know, keep your expectations in line. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It has an experienced security force.  Fewer than 200 coalition troops are stationed here. 

STEWART:  Fewer than 200 coalition troops are stationed there?  Honey, grab the kids and pack up the Passat!  We‘re going to Kurdistan!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Rachel, there‘s a lot of jokes about what‘s going on in Iraq and about the president‘s handling of the war.  I‘m just curious, while we laugh at it and think it‘s very funny, what if you were a parent who lost a child or a loved on in Iraq?  Would you not like the fact that “The Daily Show” every night is getting big laughs and big ratings, making fun of what‘s going on in Iraq, or at least the way the president is handling the war in Iraq, the tragedy of that? 

RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Well, I think, if I were a parent with a child in Iraq, I would be upset by how the president is handling the war.  But someone calling him out for it and demanding accountability for it, I‘d probably be grateful for.  Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” they never make fun of the soldiers.  They never denigrate their valor and their commitment. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, never have.  Never have.  But, again, the “Baltimore Sun‘s” argument is that Jon Stewart gets laughs over serious subjects that we should actually be getting angry about and doing something about.  That‘s the “Baltimore Sun‘s” argument.

SKLAR:  Well, you know what?  Look, the “Baltimore Sun.”  I read that piece.  The “Baltimore Sun” did a far less effective job than “The Daily Show” at actually supporting the argument.  There‘s not a single fact or example in that piece.  It was just, you know, assertions without anything to back them up. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think it‘s snobbery on the “Baltimore Sun‘s” part? 

SKLAR:  I just think it was a poorly written article.  If they wanted to make an argument, like anything else, you know, prove it to me.  Give me an example and show it to me.  That‘s what “The Daily Show” does. 

When they make an assertion, they provide fact after fact after fact, like what they did on Iraq last night.  They juxtaposed a few clips of Bush and Tony Snow and Cheney saying, you know, if you don‘t like the surge plan, Democrats, where‘s your alternative?  And then, you know, cut to the Baker-Hamilton report, I mean, right there. 

That‘s, you know, making a clear example and answering to what‘s being said and what‘s going on.  And that‘s facts.  I didn‘t see any in the “Baltimore Sun” piece.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Matthew, let‘s take a look at some of “The Daily Show‘s” take on the serious subject of torture. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Are we suggesting, though, that any interrogation technique then could be allowed under the president‘s discretion under the right circumstances? 

JOHN OLIVER, CORRESPONDENT, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  What, you mean like affixing a leech to a man‘s eyeball or forcing him to drink horse semen, would those be torture? 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Yes, that would be. 

OLIVER:  Wrong, John.  They are scenes from the number-one movie in America, “Jackass Number Two.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Matthew, again, a lot of people that are upset about torture in Iraq, torture and alleged torture at Gitmo, could be offended by the fact that Jon Stewart‘s making light of it.  At least that‘s what the “Baltimore Sun” would have us believe.  What‘s your take?

FELLING:  Well, yes, I think that what the “Baltimore Sun”—the “Baltimore Sun” broke it down into two different words.  They said, you know what?  People laugh at this.  But I think that people actually laugh at this, get irritated, and get angry, and actually want to do something about it, which was the opposite of what the “Baltimore Sun” was trying to say. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So you don‘t buy the “Baltimore Sun‘s” argument that people just sit back, look at these politicians making fools of themselves, laugh, then turn off the TV and do nothing?  You think actually that it may energize them and make them become more active in their government?

FELLING:  Absolutely.  I mean, if you look at the audience numbers for “The Daily Show,” it‘s 18 to 29, 18 to 35.  And if you take a look at the data, this generation is more informed.  They are more—they volunteer more.  They‘re more actively citizenly engaged.  They vote. 

I mean, this is the generation that‘s coming up.  I think what the “Baltimore Sun” actually exposed themselves as was that they don‘t understand the young demographic.  They don‘t understand the people under 30 who can actually laugh at something, get angry about something, and still want to do something to change it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think they may have showed themselves—I agree with you—out of touch.  Let‘s take a look at “The Daily Show‘s” take on gun violence. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I want to give our school personnel access to guns to stop these with guns. 

JASON JONES, “DAILY SHOW” CORRESPONDENT:  So you want to give guns to teachers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Exactly.  How do we prevent violence?  Anyone can snap I think. 

JONES:  Are you talking about teachers? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I was talking about the students. 

JONES:  Right.  Teachers are the ones we want to give the guns to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right.  Teachers—right.

JONES:  Of course, Lasaze‘s (ph) plan is to store the gun safely away from students, like in the faculty lounge.  Only faculty are allowed in there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Rachel, truth funnier than fiction? 

SKLAR:  Well, and that‘s what “The Daily Show” does in their correspondents reports.  They take something ridiculous, and they take it to the ridiculous extreme.  And Jason Jones—who is a Canadian, by the way—is particularly good at that.

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s Canadian?

SKLAR:  He‘s Canadian.  He‘s the husband of Samantha Bee, who‘s also Canadian.

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s that “aboot,” Rachel?

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you so much. 

SKLAR:  Indeed.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much, Rachel Sklar, for being with us, the proud Canadian, and Matthew Felling.  Greatly appreciate you being here, too.

And coming up next, are they desperate or just spoiled?  We‘re going to be talking to the real housewives of Orange County about what their lives are really like and what to expect in the new season of their hit reality show. 

And later, breaking news out of “Hollyweird.”  Lindsay Lohan enters rehab.  We‘ve got the full scoop, coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So what do you get when you combine the drama of “Desperate Housewives” and the lifestyle of the “O.C.”?  Well, only one of the hottest reality shows on television. 

“The Real Housewives of Orange County” gives us an inside look at the lavish lives of the real life housewives of the O.C.  And our own Willie Geist sat down with two of the stars of the show that come from this land that Bob Dornan once ruled.  Willie, what did you find out? 

WILLIE GEIST, PRODUCER:  Joe, I don‘t know if you‘ve taken a good look around a grocery store or a PTA meeting lately, but let‘s just say they‘re making housewives a little differently than they used to.  Aprons and apple pie have given way now to Prada and plastic surgery.  Spend a few minutes with the “Real Housewives of Orange County” and you‘ll see June Cleaver is gone, and she ain‘t coming back. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ll go get dinner. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mrs. Robinson, you‘re trying to seduce me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, my god.  I‘m hard up, but I‘m not that hard up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He wants to write me this little check every month, and that‘s all I get to shop and drink with. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If his friends think I‘m a MILF, then great. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why don‘t you guys just get a room?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) Call me if you have any questions. 

Don‘t come back until the whole list is done. 

GEIST:  Do you feel pressure at all—to both of you—to play it up for the cameras at all?  I mean, these people are in your face 24/7.  Do you feel like you have to live up to the ideal of the O.C.? 

LAURI WARING, “REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ORANGE COUNTY”:  Not at all.  I have enough drama without having to make anything up.  Trust me.  I mean, I am a single mom with three kids.  And you know what?  Parenting is the hardest job I‘ve ever had to do.  Trust me, there‘s plenty of drama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A police boat pulled up next to us and pulled us over on the water. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Then they wanted to do a full boat safety check. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I thought we could flirt our way out of it.  And I try to do that sometimes. 

GEIST:  There is a perception out there—I‘m sure you‘ve heard it before—that you‘re just spoiled grown-ups living in this fantasy world?  How do you answer that?

VICKI GUNVALSON, “REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ORANGE COUNTY”:  No way.  I am not spoiled.  If anything, I spoil myself.  But I don‘t believe that anything has been handed to either one of us.  We work hard every day. 

GEIST:  Well, specifically draw some comparisons.  Like, how excessive are your lifestyles?  Do you have cars and boats, a live-in masseuse?  Vicki, what‘s it like at your house? 

GUNVALSON:  I don‘t have a live-in masseuse yet, but I would love to hire one if they want to take a job on.  We have cars.  We have boats.  We have jet skis.  We have a couple houses. 

But the reality is I‘m working most of the time.  I mean, it‘s really

I take away time to go with a girlfriend to go shopping and, you know, do my spa days, but the majority of the time I‘m working.  And that‘s real for me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you finished?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Almost.  You know, I always assumed I‘d have sex for the first time before you had it again. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, you can leave now. 

GEIST:  Is your life like the life we see in “The O.C.” or “Desperate Housewives”? 

WARING:  It‘s beginning to be.  I can absolutely relate to “Desperate Housewives.”  And the whole Teri Hatcher character, I think that‘s me.  At least that was me last year. 

GEIST:  I don‘t know if that‘s good or bad?  Is it?

WARING:  I mean, it‘s both.  It‘s just real life.  We‘re not perfect. 

And, you know, we are what we are, and we have fun with life.  I can say that I‘m absolutely—I am a devoted mother.  And that‘s the most important thing in my life. 

GEIST:  Well, Vicki, I know you were born and raised in Chicago.  Lauri, you were born in Idaho.  These are real places.  When you go back, do you think the people are laughing with you or laughing at you? 

WARING:  I hope they‘re laughing with.  I‘m the best at humoring at myself, so...

GUNVALSON:  We hope they‘re not laughing at us.  We‘re good people.  And we give back to the community.  We‘re good parents.  We‘re good spouses.  We just have the enjoyment of having some extra things that the majority of the people don‘t. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GEIST:  That was a grueling assignment.  “The Real Housewives of Orange County” airs Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on the Bravo channel.  Now, Joe, when I was a young man, way back when, we had a term for ladies like that, and it was not soccer moms.

SCARBOROUGH:  No, it wasn‘t, Willie.  But, you know, it is moving.  I think they‘re people just like you and people. 

GEIST:  They are.  They‘re real people.  They‘re Middle America. 

SCARBOROUGH:  They are Middle America, except for the fact that I do have a live-in masseuse. 

GEIST:  Of course you do.  I didn‘t even have to ask.

SCARBOROUGH:  His name is Willy.  It‘s time to get back to the estate, boy. 

GEIST:  I didn‘t know we were going public with that, Joe.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, we‘re going public with everything, baby.  We‘re the real househusbands of the NYC. 

GEIST:  I‘d rather not be, but whatever you say, Joe.  It‘s your show. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Willie.  Greatly appreciate it.

And we‘ll be back with breaking news on Lindsay Lohan, in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell your assistant, if he gets the Starbucks order wrong one more time, he‘s out of here.  It‘s time for “Hollyweird,” friends.

First up, breaking news:  Lindsay Lohan, her rep confirms she‘s in rehab now.  Here to talk about that and so much more, “Star” magazine editor-at-large Jill Dobson and “InTouch Weekly” senior editor Tom O‘Neil.

Jill, what are you hearing about Lindsay Lohan tonight?

JILL DOBSON, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  Well, Lindsay Lohan‘s rep has confirmed that Lindsay has entered rehab.  And Lindsay has given a statement saying that she‘s made this effort to take care of her personal health.  And “Star” magazine has gotten an exclusive interview with Lindsay‘s mom, Dina Lohan.  Dina says that Lindsay is doing what she needs to do to get back on track and that she‘s fine.  She says she‘s amazingly fine, she‘s solid, and she‘s in a good place now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do we know what she‘s going in there for, alcohol, pills, drugs, what? 

DOBSON:  She hasn‘t released a statement saying exactly why, just saying that she is looking to do this for the sake of her health. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Maybe she‘s just addicted to love, Tom.  It‘s been a rough ride for this young woman.  How much worse can it get for Lindsay Lohan?  How old is she, 19, 20, 21? 

TOM O‘NEIL, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  I don‘t really know the answer to that, quite frankly.

DOBSON:  She‘s 20. 

O‘NEIL:  We want you to know, though...

SCARBOROUGH:  She‘s 20.

O‘NEIL:  ... that her friends are being very supportive here.  Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, are both toasting her, best well-being with double martinis, washing down a couple of Quaaludes, saying, “We‘re on your side, baby.”

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, you‘ve got to do what you‘ve got to do to show solidarity.  It‘s called girl power in L.A., isn‘t it?

Well, but really this is a woman, though, whose problems and parties got in the way of her reputation in Hollywood, right?  I mean, she‘s been almost kicked off of sets over the past year. 

DOBSON:  Yes, that‘s exactly right. 

O‘NEIL:  Jill, you want to take that?

DOBSON:  Sure.  In July, she was on the set of film “Georgia Rule” and got a scathing letter from the CEO of the production company, saying that she‘d been out all night partying and had been late to the set and had caused a stall in production, and so there have been some reports of that, and also a report that she was in AA in, I believe, in November, at which point her rep came out and said Lindsay needed to go there to feel safe.  It‘s the next step in her process.  And I guess maybe she‘s taken a step further at this point by entering rehab.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Tom, it could be a good career move for her, right, if she cleans herself up? 

O‘NEIL:  It really will be.  I think she‘s shown—on a serious side here—great promise as a fine actress, in comedies, like “Mean Girls,” and recently in a drama like “Bobby.”  So this is really a wise move for her. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I loved her—I‘m glad you brought up “Mean Girls.”  It was the first time I even knew who she was.  I saw “Mean Girls.”  I thought she was a great actress.  I didn‘t think it was “Gone for the Wind,” but I was looking forward to some great movies from her, and she just seemed to spiral downward.  I hope she gets herself together, gets her act together.  And I hope her mom tries to put her foot down a little bit. 

Hey, let‘s talk about Brangelina.  “Star” magazine is reporting that Jennifer Aniston is preparing for an explosive meeting with Brangelina.  It‘s your magazine.  Tell us, Jill, what‘s it about?

DOBSON:  That‘s right.  We‘ve got a report that there may be a meeting going down between these three people, the members of Hollywood‘s hottest love triangle, that Jen wants to find out exactly when and where the relationship between Brad and Angelina started.  So that would certainly be an interesting meeting to overhear. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Good lord, Tom O‘Neil.  That‘s not helpful for anybody, is it? 

O‘NEIL:  No, and I don‘t believe the story to be quite honest here, because when Angelina Jolie did say on the record that she would like to talk to Jennifer and then, on public record, Jennifer said, well, I don‘t think I want to talk to Angelina.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we‘ve been watching these two‘s career go down a bit, but Brad Pitt‘s movie won at the Golden Globes last night.  Great news for him, right, Tom?

O‘NEIL:  It really was.  And I was on the red carpet right as they walked out of the Beverly Hilton, and Angelina was still in a bad mood.  I don‘t what her problem is.  If you saw the pre-show with Ryan Seacrest on the way in, she was distant.  She was dodging questions.  She just didn‘t want to be there.  And on the way out, she was running around saying, “Got to get home to the kids.  Got to tuck them in.”  She didn‘t want to talk to anybody. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, us artists, we‘re temperamental.  Jill Dobson, Tom O‘Neil, thanks so much.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

END

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