updated 1/26/2007 11:10:56 AM ET 2007-01-26T16:10:56

Guests: Joshua Green, Carmen Rasmusen, David Caplan, Willie Geist, Kim Serafin

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, world leaders are warning Mr. Bush: 

Don‘t mess with Iran, or else.  As tensions rise in the Persian Gulf, will America‘s coming war with Iran have catastrophic results for America? 

But, first: blood in the streets of Baghdad.  A new battle is raging on Capitol Hill.  As the showdown over the Bush surge simmers into a scalding boil, the Democrats number-two man in the Senate is calling Vice President Dick Cheney—quote—“delusional,” while a Republican leader in the House is calling President Bush and his man—quote—“irrelevant” and out of touch. 

Meanwhile, the White House is fighting furiously to avoid a stinging defeat and GOP defections on Iraq resolutions that will condemn the president‘s surge strategy. 

Meanwhile, in the Senate, war hero and presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain took offense at a Democratic senator‘s suggestion that Senator McCain didn‘t understand what military families really wanted out of this war. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN:  The troops themselves and their families have indicated very strongly, in large numbers, that the message that they want to get to the Iraqis is, get on with their own government, get on with their own nation.  So...

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Mr. Chairman, I—I think I‘m familiar with the sentiment of many of the troops.  And the fact is, they want to win. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN:  And that‘s what they want.  And that‘s why we‘re changing the strategy, Mr. Chairman.

And I‘m sorry you don‘t support the strategy. 

LEVIN:  Well, it‘s a strategy which has failed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s tough talk. 

Is Washington on the brink of political war?  Or is the president about to face a vote that will be tantamount to a vote of no confidence? 

Here now, we have with us political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell, Josh Green—he‘s senior editor for “The Atlantic Monthly”—and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

You know, Josh, Democrats are now calling Mr. Cheney delusional, Republicans are saying they‘re out of touch.  Is this president facing his political Waterloo with these Iraq resolutions?  Or does it amount to a loss that just doesn‘t count for much, because they‘re just resolutions? 

JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR EDITOR, “THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY”:  No, I—I think it‘s Waterloo.

And it‘s remarkable, the degree to which the two parties have really switched roles over the last two years ago.  You know, two years ago, you had Bush as the kind of firm, forceful, almost truculent leader.  You know, the Republican Party was unified behind him.  Democrats were split and in disarray.

I spent the week up on the Hill in Armed Services Committee hearings.  I spent the day at the State of the Union address tailing Jim Webb, the Virginia senator, for a profile.  And, you know, as we saw on Tuesday night, you know, Webb was the forceful, truculent one.  Democrats are united on a lot of these resolutions.

SCARBOROUGH:  Josh...

GREEN:  And Republicans are fighting like cats and dogs. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... it‘s open contempt right now for—they are.  It‘s open contempt for this president, when you have James Webb showing the contempt that he showed the president in the Democrats‘ response.

You have got the number-two guy in the Senate saying the vice president is delusional.  I don‘t think I have ever heard talk like that coming from a Senate leader. 

And then you have Republicans whispering to Bob Novak that the entire White House operation, from the president on down, is—quote—

“irrelevant and out of touch.”

It seems to me that you have a White House that is teetering on the brink, at least, of political oblivion. 

GREEN:  Well, you do.

And we saw, also, yesterday, with Dick Cheney‘s interview with Wolf Blitzer, I mean, the fact that the president and the vice president are now clearly at odds with each other.  And with the Scooter Libby trial playing out in the background...

SCARBOROUGH:  What did the vice president tell Wolf Blitzer about this war?  He said, it was a smashing success or something like that? 

GREEN:  No, it was an enormous success.  It was an enormous success. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, so, a more Americanized version.  Were he British, he would say a smashing success.

GREEN:  And Bush, to his credit, I think, tried to strike somewhat of

a conciliatory tone in the State of the Union address, and was undermined

by his own vice president. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, I want to talk about this surge vote and what it means.  I know Josh and Lawrence O‘Donnell both believe that it‘s going to be the president‘s Waterloo.  I know you disagree with that.

But, before we get to that, how remarkable is it that Dick Cheney, a

man that I have always liked and respected, but Dick Cheney is going on CNN

and telling Wolf Blitzer that what is happening in Iraq is a success?  That

it just boggles the imagination.  It‘s mind-blowing, Pat, mind-blowing. 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think, clearly, we don‘t have a success there, when the president of the United States says we are not winning the war. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Why did Dick Cheney say that? 

BUCHANAN:  Why did he say that? 

I think Dick Cheney has been—he‘s been beaten up and worked over again and again and again in the media.  He‘s being pounded.  He‘s been hauled over the coals for the Libby trial. 

I think he does have a point, to this extent, that a lot of Americans over there of those 130,000, 150,000 troops have done splendid work, and they have done good things. 

But the big picture, the overall picture, is what the president said. 

We‘re not winning the war.  And Colin Powell says we are losing it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, talk about these resolutions.  You and others are saying these resolutions mean nothing and do nothing. 

But, if the GOP defects, if you have GOP senators striking out against the president, if you have House members saying George Bush is irrelevant and he just doesn‘t matter anymore, it really doesn‘t matter whether the resolution accomplishes a lot or not.  What matters is, Americans are going to see that the president‘s own party and the entire Democratic Party have abandoned him.

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, Joe, there is no doubt about it.  The country has abandoned the war.  By almost 3-1, it is opposed to the president‘s policy on the war. 

These resolutions are not going to be effective in terms of defunding the surge.  That has gone forward.  But they are effective in this sense.  They show the divisions in the Congress and also the tremendous opposition to the president.  All he‘s got going for him is the McCain wing now.  The Warner Republicans have moved away from him.  Hagel and Biden have moved, in effect, with a resolution which will get half the Senate, which is a vote of no confidence in the war president.

And then you have got the Murtha Democrats, who believe we ought to defund the war—and John Edwards, get 50,000 troops out now.  To the world, we have got a government running a war which looks like the French government at the late stages of the war in Vietnam. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, Josh Green, that‘s about as big of an insult that Pat Buchanan can dish out.  Maybe the Mexican government might be a bigger insult. 

But, Josh, the heat really is being turned up over this political battle.  Do you think that the Democrats recognize that they have the president on the ropes, and, if they can bring in enough Republicans here, that they really do make him irrelevant these last two years, and you will probably have John McCain actually being the party‘s leader, instead of the commander in chief? 

GREEN:  Joe, I think we‘re already a step ahead of that. 

I mean, the president, the fact that these resolutions are going forward, he‘s being attacked by people in his own party, the day after his State of the Union address...

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN:  ... no-confidence vote.  They‘re already going after John McCain.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, Josh, talk about that timing.  How remark—how remarkable—how remarkable is that, that you have got George W. Bush talking to the American people—and, usually, these State of the Union addresses produce a pretty sizable bump—he asks for patience, and, yet, on the next day, he‘s getting shot at politically from all sides? 

GREEN:  Well, I think it underscores the point that, you know, this was a big vote of no confidence. 

I mean, if we were in a British parliamentary system, his government would be dissolved.  You can‘t do that here.  But what you can do is turn around, move on, and let the president be irrelevant.

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN:  This is what has happened.  Democrats have already turned toward trying to take down who they think is going to be the next president, John McCain, by calling this surge the McCain strategy, the McCain doctrine, and that sort of thing.

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN:  And you see John McCain getting into a spat with Carl Levin in the Armed Services Committee hearing today.  I mean, it‘s already moved on to 2008.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Josh—I have got advice, though, Josh.  I have got advice, though, for Carl Levin and other Democrats.  Don‘t be condescending to John McCain.  Don‘t be condescending to a man that got the hell beaten out of him in Vietnam. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... can‘t raise his arms above his shoulders.

GREEN:  Well, what Carl Levin said wasn‘t condescending—wasn‘t condescending at all. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no.  When Carl Levin suggests that John McCain doesn‘t understand what American families are going through...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... who have servicemen in the military?

GREEN:  Carl Levin didn‘t suggest that.  Carl Levin suggested that the war was unpopular with military families. 

And you look at any poll done by “Military Times,” anything like that, the war is almost as unpopular among the rank-and-file military as it is among a lot of U.S. citizens.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what?  That is just not true.  No, that is not true.

GREEN:  It is true.

SCARBOROUGH:  I hear people—no, no.

Pat—you know what?  Pat, I hear that being said. 

Well, no, I will stay with you, Josh.  I hear that being said when I‘m sipping soy lattes on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, or when I‘m in Georgetown at a cocktail party.

GREEN:  Yes, yes, yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, when I talk to the wives and—of American servicemen, when I talk to the parents of American servicemen or servicewomen, so many of them say they‘re proud of what their children are doing over there; they‘re proud of what their spouses are doing; and their spouses are proud of what they‘re doing.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN:  There‘s a fundamental distinction between being proud of service and thinking the Iraq war is a good idea.

SCARBOROUGH:  I have heard time and time again—hey, Josh.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Josh, if I could finish, I would greatly appreciate it. 

And then, as you know, I give all my guests more than enough time, except for Lawrence O‘Donnell, whose microphone is not working, because we must have a conservative technician out in the Burbank studios.

But the thing that our men and women over in Iraq complain about the most—and they have complained about it the most over the past four years, and they‘re probably complaining about this show now—is the media.  They say, we don‘t get it.  We show things blowing up over there.  We don‘t show the great work that they‘re doing every day. 

BUCHANAN:  Hey, Joe, let me get on this, if I could. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Look...

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Go ahead. 

BUCHANAN:  ... you‘re right.          

There is no doubt about it, that the Congress of the United States can effectively almost emasculate the president as a war leader.  He can still basically conduct operations, but the world knows the country is not behind him. 

But Congress can‘t run a war. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Pat, let me nail you down there.  Then, I will let thank you go on.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Joe, let me finish.  Let me finish.

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you‘re saying, though, -- no, I‘m just—I want you to underline that point.  And, then, I will let you finish. 

So, you‘re saying, if George Bush loses these resolutions, he is emasculated as a war leader, and it‘s, effectively, the end of him having any power over the Congress regarding Iraq? 

BUCHANAN:  No.

The point I‘m getting at is, the Congress can emasculate the president.  The Congress can‘t run the war.  It is divided, itself, about four ways.  We have got a country at war, not a president, Joe.  We have got an army that is fighting in there. 

They look back, and they see a government divided four different ways.  The commander in chief has been repudiated.  What are they going to think over there?  What‘s the world going to think?  The president is not only in trouble, Joe.  We are in trouble as a country. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We are in trouble as a country. 

Lawrence O‘Donnell, I understand we have got your microphone up right now.  I hope you have been able to listen to some of this.

What do you think about these resolutions?  Pat talks how the Democratic Party could—and the Republicans, who—there are so many Republicans now speaking out against this surge—that they could emasculate this president as a war leader, but, yet, they can‘t run the—the war themselves.  So, it really weakens America.

How do you respond to that? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, NBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I don‘t think it weakens America, Joe, inasmuch as what—what the world is seeing is that America is having an open and clear debate about this.

And the momentum has all gone one way.  Since the first day Jack Murtha stood up and took the Eugene McCarthy position in this, of—of the first voice against the war and against any kind of escalation, and—and the voice in favor of—of pulling back, all the momentum has gone in his direction. 

I think, next week, Joe Biden is going to work as hard as he possibly can to reach some kind of compromise resolution with John Warner.  If that happens, you‘re going to see a resolution that is contrary to the president‘s...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we‘re—we‘re losing Lawrence again, unfortunately. 

Josh, I will have you respond to that.  Go ahead. 

GREEN:  Well, you know, I want to go back to this idea that the mainstream media, or whatever, is somehow to blame for things going wrong in Iraq.  That‘s just nonsense.  And even your more intelligent conservatives, like...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I‘m not saying that. 

GREEN:  Well, OK.

Even you know, your more intelligent conservatives, like Rich Lowry at “The National Review,” have stepped up—rightly, I think—and said, look, the ideas of conservatives or military folks or anybody blaming things in Iraq on the media is just patently absurd. 

And I think that‘s absolutely right. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, are you calling the military...

BUCHANAN:  I have got to agree with that, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, listen—and listen, I—every night, we come on, and we report the bad news out of Iraq. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m just saying, if you really want to know what a lot of military families are saying, that‘s what they‘re saying.  Maybe it‘s patently absurd, but...

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN:  Well, they have got—then, they have got Dick Cheney to listen to, to hear what an enormous success it is in Iraq. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, they‘re the ones that are going to be burying their kids when they come back. 

Pat, it seems to me that this president, if you want a quote that shows just how alone this president is, I want to read you what the American Conservative Union had to say about his State of the Union address, said, “The president left a lot of conservatives shaking their heads.”

Pat, he‘s lost the left.  He‘s lost the center, and now a growing number of conservatives on the right also turning their back on this president.  Where does he go to get support his final two years in office? 

BUCHANAN:  I think the only thing the president can do is that—those areas where he has sort of enormous unilateral authority, naming judges, Supreme Court justices, especially if he can name a conservative Supreme Court. 

He is commander in chief, Joe.  He may think he‘s got the power inherently right now to go after Iran on its nuclear weapons.  But, up on Capitol Hill, he is dead.  The conservatives looked at that State of the Union from a standpoint of a conservative speech, like Ronald Reagan used to give, and that would have those fellows coming out of those chairs again and again and again. 

He‘s lost all those folks.  He‘s offering them nothing.  He‘s reaching out to the Democratic Party on immigration and health care and all the mommy issues.  And, so, he‘s lost the conservative base on all that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That is—that is bad news. 

Hey, thank you so much for being with us, Lawrence O‘Donnell, even if there was a gremlin in your microphone. 

Thank you Josh Green.  Greatly appreciate it.

GREEN:  Any time.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, stick around, because, coming up next, tonight, new warnings from world leaders to the U.S.:  Don‘t mess with Iran.  Don‘t start a war there.  But is George Bush willing to go it alone again if he has to?  See how the administration is building its case against Iran, and about how world leaders are speaking out next.

And, later, a cure for all of Hollyweird‘s elements—call it rehab reflex.  But is rehab really the answer or just the equivalent of celebrity time-out?

Plus, “American Idol” finds you can‘t please all the people all the time.  But some critics are now saying the show is not mean enough. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Higher and higher.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Good lord. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  It‘s burning through to my soul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)             

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Breaking news tonight, as Iran acquires technology that helps them go into space with intercontinental ballistic missiles—frightening news for Europe, Israel, and the West, as world leaders warn George W. Bush not to mess with Iran. 

We will talk about that and the breaking news when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Invade Iran at your own risk—that was the stern warning from a pair of world leaders to the White House today, including one of America‘s most critical partners in the war on terror, the president of Pakistan. 

The head of U.N.‘s nuclear agency scolded the White House, saying—

quote—“Stop speaking about a military option.  It would be

catastrophic.”

And Pakistan‘s prime minister said—quote—“It will have catastrophic results, not only in the region, but the entire world.”

And, late tonight, “Aviation Week and Space Technology” magazine is reporting that Iran has converted it‘s most powerful ballistic missile into a satellite launch vehicle, an advancement that could eventually lead Iran to producing an intercontinental ballistic missile that will leave Europe and the West and Israel vulnerable, very vulnerable, to attack. 

So, will the president find himself alone against the world again in his collision course with the coming war with Iran? 

Here now to talk about it, MSNBC contributor and “Boston Herald” columnist Mike Barnicle—still with us also, Pat Buchanan. 

It seems to me, Mike, that these world leaders are looking at the same talking points when they talk about how catastrophic this invasion would be, not only for Iran, but also America and the world.  Do you agree? 

MIKE BARNICLE, NBC ANALYST:  Well, yes, Joe.

But I think what they have done is, they have—I am getting a double thing going here in my ear.  We‘re having sound problems tonight. 

I think they clearly don‘t understand what these two fellows in the White House, Vice President Cheney and President Bush, are trying to do.  They‘re clearly, in the White House, these great military strategists, trying to get people‘s minds off the wonderful success we have had in Iraq, according to the vice president, by dropping a couple down the chute in Tehran, in Iran, and starting a war there, sort of like get the American people‘s mind off of this tremendous Iraqi success. 

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  This is madness, Joe.  This is madness.

SCARBOROUGH:  But you do think it would be catastrophic? 

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  We ought to be talking to the Iranians in the way—Pat Buchanan would be familiar with this—the way that Henry Kissinger spoke to the Vietnamese when negotiations began in Paris, nearly 35 years ago.

Henry Kissinger went to the Vietnamese and said:  I have a crazy person in the White House.  Let‘s get a deal done before he drops a nuclear weapon on Hanoi.

And that‘s what we ought to be doing with the Iranians right now: 

Watch out.  There is madness afoot in Washington.  Let‘s get a deal done. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, there may be madness afoot in Washington, but the Iranians certainly don‘t help themselves every day, when you have got the leader of Iran talking about nuking or obliterating Israel and obliterating the United States. 

Today, we find out that they could be moving towards having the ability to strike, not only Europe and Israel, but possibly the United States.  Doesn‘t that just put George Bush in a position where he feels justified launching attacks on Iran? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, he may.

They—they don‘t have—they have not got an atomic bomb.  The Iranians don‘t.  And we have no hard evidence they‘re even making real progress toward it. 

But there is no doubt, Joe, the—the amount of talk, the actions

being taken in Washington, with the talk coming out of that Herzliya

conference in Israel, where Romney said the military option is on the table

you have got Democrats like Steny Hoyer saying the military option is on the table. 

You have got a real sort of hysteria building.  Over there, you read the prime minister of Israel is talking about annihilation and another Holocaust, and we have got a right to act preemptively to stop this. 

And, so, there is a real hysteria building.  Now, Bush does not have in place yet the kind of airpower for a Shock and Awe attack to take out all of the Iran‘s nuclear facilities.  They have got a lot of them, and they‘re spread all over the place, and right in populated areas. 

But there is no doubt, the rhetoric is similar to the rhetoric in 2002 and the lead-up to the war on Iran, and quite frank—and the lead-up to the war in Iraq—and, frankly, Joe, the Congress of the United States failed to stop the last war, which was an unnecessary war.  And they ought to, after these resolutions are passed, take up the question of whether the president has got the authority to take this country into a third war in the Middle East. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle, it sounds like you and Pat Buchanan are on the same page here.  Pat talks about a real hysteria—hysteria growing in Washington, D.C., over Iran and the coming war with Iran.

And you have said, basically, the same thing.  It sounds like both of you believe that this president is building a case to invade Iran, to attack Iran.  And, you know, the president‘s former top man, a guy he‘s very close to, the top man at the U.N., John Bolton, he offered a chilling assessment himself, suggesting that diplomacy is just a waste of time. 

This is what he said—quote—“Pursuing the goal of unity detracts from the goal of preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” which, again, suggests the same type of arguments that we conservatives made before Iraq, which is:  We don‘t care what Luxembourg thinks.  We care about protecting the United States. 

And, while a lot of conservatives have learned from those mistakes in 2002 and 2003, it certainty doesn‘t sound like the White House is concerned about going at it alone again. 

What do you think? 

BARNICLE:  Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Will George Bush attack Iran before he leaves office? 

BARNICLE:  Oh, God, I hope not, Joe.  I hope not.

I would hope that, instead, he would talk to some people who know a lot more about Iran than John Bolton does or anybody apparently around the president of the United States does right now.

I mean, from everything you hear from people who have served on past Senate Foreign Relations Committees, as well as a couple on the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate now, Iran is a very good bet to deal with.  It‘s a diverse society . They have a crazy person leading the country right now, but there is dissent within Iran.

They also have a very, very sophisticated military.  This is not Iraq.  And the idea of the United States joining forces with, say, Israel to make a joint attack on Iran‘s nuclear facilities would inflame that region of the world and other parts of the world, especially the Muslim community, I think for decades to come. 

I don‘t want to give a third war that would continue for three decades to my children.  Sorry.  I don‘t want to do that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  All right. 

We will have to leave it there. 

Mike Barnicle, Pat Buchanan, it sounds like both of you believe, though, that we may be facing that war.  We will see. 

Coming up: on a much lighter note, new “American Idol” backlash, as critics claim the show isn‘t harsh enough with contestants.  Tell that to last night‘s rejects.  We are going to look at those sad moments. 

Plus: the “Idol”‘s biggest myths—inside the “American Idol” machine straight ahead.

But, first, don‘t blink or you will miss it, the State of the Union address staring contest—coming up next in “Must See S.C.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, pull Rosie out of the—well, whatever.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” video you must see.

First up, what questions would you ask your favorite stars, if you had the chance?

Conan O‘Brien did just that in a recent edition of Celebrity Survey. 

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, NBC‘S “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN”:  “When I first had a baby, I didn‘t know .”

Julianne Moore wrote, “how little sleep I‘d be getting.”  Kate Hudson wrote, “how much my life would change.”

Britney Spears wrote, “which part of the dashboard to tape him to.”

(LAUGHTER)

“I learned sportsmanship from .”

Moises Alou wrote, “my dad.”  Eli Manning wrote, “my brother.”

Zinendine Zidane wrote, “an angry mountain goat.”

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

“To avoid crowds I .”

Diane Sawyer wrote, “have food delivered.”  Patricia Arquette wrote, “shop online.”

Geraldo Rivera wrote, “hey, everybody!  It‘s me, Geraldo!”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Zizou (ph).

And finally, the State of the Union address.  Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi were having a battle of their own behind the president.

(VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Cheney‘s sitting on a block of ice!  Oh, that is something.  Well, you know, I mean, the lights are bright and - I don‘t know.

Anyway, coming up next, some of the “American Idol” contestants are wishing that - they‘re a little kinder - treating them a little more kinder.

But they‘re fighting back.  It‘s not just the judges, though, who are being mean anymore.  We‘re going to take a look at the latest “Idol” backlash and expose one of the top myths about the audition process.  That‘s coming up next.

And later, one of the stars of TV‘s hit series, “Grey‘s Anatomy,” reportedly seeking counseling after using a homophobic slur.

But is rehab really the answer to all of Hollyweird‘s problems?  We‘re going to show you what Tinsel Town‘s star treatment‘s really like.

Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, a real-life scare on a Hollyweird film set. 

Nicole Kidman taken to the hospital after a stunt goes terribly wrong. 

We‘ll show you the videotape and tell you what happened, straight ahead.

That story and a lot more in minutes.  But first, the “American Idol” machine shows no signs of slowing down.  The ratings for last night‘s episode beat all of the other network shows combined.

Of course, we still out-poll them by a couple million, but still, that‘s pretty good for network TV.

And while most critics and fans feel the show is too mean, at least one critic thinks “Idol” isn‘t mean enough.  Columnist Jonathan David Morris writes, “If you don‘t want to be judged by the entertainment industry‘s standards, don‘t subject yourself to the entertainment industry‘s judgment.”

So, is “American Idol” really not mean enough?  Take a look and decide for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) trained (ph).

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Not good.

ABDUL:  Too over the top.

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Terrible audition.

ABDUL:  Too desperate.

COWELL:  The reality is, is that you should be singing in a dress and stilettos.

It was fantastically terrible.  This was a very, hammy, bad audition for you, as something you aspire to be, which obviously isn‘t a singer.

That was actually appalling, everything about it.  And I‘m surprised that you came in and said you were a dancer, because I thought your dancing was terrible.

Honestly, Ping Pong, whatever your name is.

JACKSON:  It wasn‘t good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can I sing another song?

COWELL:  It‘s pointless.

I‘m tempted to ask whether you sang that the night before your wife left.

When someone‘s down on the floor, kick them.

(END VIDEO)

SCARBOROUGH:  Are judges giving contestants a wake-up call, or just being mean for ratings?  Well, wait before you answer, because tonight, we‘re going to be busting one of “Idol‘s” biggest audition myths.

Here now to talk about it, former “Idol” contestant, Carmen Rasmusen and “Star Magazine‘s, deputy New York bureau chief, David Caplan.

Carmen, we were talking about whether “American Idol” was too mean over the past several weeks.  You actually suggested that it was.

But it seems that this online columnist is actually fighting back and saying what a lot of people are now starting to say about “American Idol.”  If you want to be a star, if you‘re going to stick your neck out on the line, be ready to get it knocked off.

What do you think?

CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER CONTESTANT, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  You do have to have tough skin to be in the entertainment business.  That‘s no secret.  There are critics that will be criticizing you everywhere, any time.  There will always be someone judging you, always be someone telling you you‘re not good enough, so you do have to have tough skin.

However, I think that we both agree that this season of “American Idol” has kind of crossed that line, went into making fun of the way people looked, went into making fun of people because of maybe mental disabilities.

So, things like that, I don‘t think are right.  I‘m all for honest criticism.  It does help you grow.  It does help you improve.  But I‘m not for the criticism that makes feel bad about the way you look or how you are.

So, I would rather have nice honest criticism than brutally honest criticism.  And this is coming from someone who‘s been on the show and knows how both feel.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, and I‘ll tell you what.  Probably being nice wouldn‘t rate like what we‘re going to show you right here.

RASMUSEN:  Unfortunately not.

SCARBOROUGH:  Unfortunately not.  And we‘re going to play a few more auditions and the judges‘ harsh reactions.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

COWELL:  That comes under the category of annoying.

ABDUL:  Oh, come on.

JACKSON:  Oh, for God‘s sake!

COWELL:  I‘ve really - I‘ve got to stop this, I‘m sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, my goodness.  David, it does seem that you‘ve got these contestants that go on there, and they seem clueless about just how bad they are.

But “American Idol” knows how bad they are.  In fact, before they go before the judges to get beaten up, they‘ve actually been through, I think, three different auditions.

Aren‘t they just setting these terrible singers up for a very public humiliation?

DAVID CAPLAN, NEW YORK DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, “STAR MAGAZINE”:  Yes, but this is a huge set-up.  The fact is that these people who you see at the auditions have actually been at the venue for about a week or so auditioning, first in front of the show‘s producers.  Then, if they pass that round, they go to the executive producers.

Then they go to Paula, Randy and Simon.  And the bad singers are completely encouraged.  That‘s a huge myth.  That, you know, bad singers are, you know, they‘re sort of pushed away.  They love bad singers at “American Idol,” because they make for great ratings in the beginning (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SCARBOROUGH:  And isn‘t it true, David, that as far as “Idol‘s” ratings go, at the beginning of every season, they‘re at their highest, because you have all the bad singers.  That‘s when my family started watching it a couple of years back.

And then when they start getting a little bit better, the ratings go down a little bit.  But then at the end they‘ll pop back up.  I mean, bad sells.  And being angry and being mean and being spiteful seems to sell, doesn‘t it.

CAPLAN:  Yes, absolutely.  I mean, basically, everyone loves to look at a train wreck.  It‘s like looking at a car accident, unfortunately.  The viewers love seeing these horrible singers.  It‘s so interesting.  It‘s great TV, because “American Idol” really is the meanest reality TV show right now.

For some reason, some people may think it‘s not, because it‘s got singers and musicians.  But, I mean, it‘s mean.  It‘s meaner even than “The Apprentice,” and that has Donald Trump at its helm.  And it does.  The ratings definitely go down as the season goes on.

SCARBOROUGH:  And of course, it is as mean as anything on TV this season, especially, where you have these judges - and by extension FOX - making fun of mentally challenged, or some would say, mentally handicapped young people.

Now, it seems that some contestants are wising up, though, to the judges.  Last night one of them even fought back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gloria, don‘t you think you‘re (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 

And if everybody wants you, why isn‘t anybody calling?

COWELL:  Just rubbish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Rubbish.

COWELL:  Rubbish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s British for garbage?  Like, what is that? 

Like, rubbish.  Who says that word (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

COWELL:  You‘re (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, as a taxpaying American in my country, I want to see your working visa, because I don‘t think you‘re legally (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COWELL:  Ian, Ian, I‘m bored now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t feel - I‘m bored with you.  I don‘t think it‘s fair that you‘re critiquing me like this.

COWELL:  Take Mr. Boring out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Boring out?  Who are you?

Oh, I‘ve had it with this one.  Oh, my face should be right here, and you have the audacity to - I‘m getting outside (ph) by the jury, because I‘m such a threat.  You‘re (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

You‘re not even American and you‘re in my country, and you‘re going to tell me what an American idol is?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Nice, nice.  Carmen, is that what you did after your first audition?  Do you think we may start seeing more and more of that as the judges get meaner?  Do you think you‘re going to have contestants starting to wise up, realizing they will get on TV if they fight back?

RASMUSEN:  Absolutely.  In fact, when we tried out, we were told, if we didn‘t agree with Simon to be vocal about it, because, surprise, it makes great TV.

So, I wasn‘t like that.  I was always, oh, OK.  And then I‘d go backstage and start crying.

But some people did fight back, because it did.  It makes great TV.  That‘s what people love to watch.  They want to see people stand up to Simon and be powerful and, you know, go contestant.

So, some people - I think a lot of people will start fighting back more, because they do get more air time.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, and Carmen, you were talking about how you went behind the scenes, went backstage and started crying.

RASMUSEN:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re trying to take viewers behind the stage a little bit.  And we‘re going to be counting down the top five “Idol” audition myths over the next few weeks.

But tonight, let‘s talk, Carmen, about audition myth number five, that everybody has a shot at becoming the “American Idol.”

The charge here is that “Idol” producers only cast specific types for the show.

Carmen, are the best singers the ones that get through?  Or are producers actually looking for something much different?

RASMUSEN:  They‘re definitely not looking for the very best singer.  Anyone can be an amazing singer.  If you don‘t have the X factor, if you don‘t have charisma, if you‘re not different, you‘re not going to make it through.

Take a look back at some of the seasons.  They have a Clay Aiken, a John Stevens, a Taylor Hicks.  Then you‘ve got the Ruben, the Fantasia, the Tournese (ph).  Then you‘ve got me, the blonde country season, Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler.  You kind of have certain genres of people.  And you have those every single season.

So, if someone tries out that‘s phenomenally well, but they‘ve already sort of filled the blonde country girl, chances are the roster is full, and they‘re not going to put them through, because they want a variation of people on each show.

So it doesn‘t necessarily matter how good you are, because they‘re looking for a certain variety.  But if they‘ve already got that full, like I said, you might not make it through.

And I saw a ton of people that I thought, oh, you will for sure make it through, I have no chance - that didn‘t, because for whatever reason, I was at the right place at the right time.  And a lot of it is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) happenstance.

SCARBOROUGH:  Weren‘t at the right - yes, exactly.  And who won last year, and who they want to win this year.

RASMUSEN:  Exactly.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hopefully next year, they‘re going to want the TV news talk show host with the big nose.  We‘ll see.

Hey, thank you, Carmen.  Thank you, David.

Stay with us.  When we come back, a big scare in Hollyweird, as Nicole Kidman and seven others are brought to the hospital after a movie stunt goes terribly wrong.  We‘re going to show you the tape of what happened.

But first, Lindsay‘s doing it.  And so are other top celebrities.

But does rehab really work when actors get the star treatment?  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, a lot of Hollywood celebrities are taking on a new role - rehab patient.

“Grey‘s Anatomy” actor, Isaiah Washington, is the latest star to do it.  And not for drugs or alcohol, but for making a homophobic remark to a co-star.

So, what‘s the deal with rehab these days in Hollyweird?

Let‘s bring on our resident celebrity bad boy, Willie Geist, for more on the star treatment and rehab.

Willie, what‘s it like?  Let‘s say you‘re a cable news talk show host and you‘re just addicted to love.  What happens when you go to rehab?

WILLIE GEIST, S.C. REHAB CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m afraid, Joe, there‘s no cure of that.  No amount of time in Malibu fixes that.

SCARBOROUGH:  You might as well face it.  Go ahead, Willie.  Tell us about it, Willie.

GEIST:  Joe, I‘m not the bad boy of cable news, OK.  That‘s just a label you guys create.  That‘s a media thing.  That‘s not something I‘m proud of.

But you‘re right.  Dr. Burke (ph), he is headed for a treatment center to be cured of his apparent homophobia.  I didn‘t realize they had a cure for that.  That‘s good news.

He‘s the latest to join the growing line of celebrities ducking into cushy rehab facilities, while the storm of their bad behavior blows over.

NBC‘s Michael Okwu reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  The list of celebrities who‘ve been in and out of rehab is long.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR:  But after a while you realize that English is becoming a second language, and that if you keep going, things are going to get bad.

OKWU:  And growing.  After reported bouts with the bottle, actress Lindsay Lohan checked into rehab last week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lindsay checked in here to One Glen (ph) Center around 2:30 wearing black tights, a leather jacket and holding a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) juice in her hand.

OKWU:  But since then, Lohan‘s been spotted around Hollywood, which makes you wonder.  What really goes on in these high-priced treatment centers?

CHRIS PRENTISS, CO-DIRECTOR, PASSAGES:  It looks like a spa, feels like a spa, but it is the most intense program in the world.

OKWU:  Lohan‘s not checked in here, but this is the kind of treatment many stars get.  Passages Addiction Cure Center in Malibu is a $22 million estate set on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific.  Sixty thousand dollars a month will not only buy you five star meals, but also intense counseling with a 10-person team.

PRENTISS:  There‘s four or five hours every day spent in individual, one-on-one treatments with therapists - four or five hours a day.

OKWU:  But some addiction experts believe star treatment can make real treatment more difficult.

DR. DREW PINSKY, AUTHOR, “CRACKED: PUTTING BROKEN LIVES TOGETHER

AGAIN”:  Once a celebrity is treated as special, game‘s over.

OKWU:  Dr. Drew Pinsky, author of “Cracked: Putting Broken Lives Together Again,” believes celebrities are often pampered and need to be treated like any other addict for their own good.

PINSKY:  The problem with celebrities is, they have so much power, it‘s hard to leverage them into a more intensive level of care if they don‘t want to take it.

OKWU:  Lohan‘s publicist won‘t confirm what level of care the star is receiving, but did confirm Lohan checked into this Hollywood Hills facility called Wonderland.

Wonderland offers both in and outpatient services.  If Lohan is an outpatient, that might explain why she‘s been seen away from the premises, working on a new movie, dropping by her home and attending Twelve Step meetings.

PINSKY:  Anyone who engages in any level of care should be commended for their efforts.

OKWU:  A first step in fighting addiction and earning forgiveness for a high profile stumble.

Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEO)

GEIST:  I don‘t know about you, Joe, but I like a rehab center that gives you a little freedom, and Lindsay Lohan has that.  Let‘s take a look at the journey she‘s been on for the last couple of weeks.

She started out wandering, spending a little more time away than she should have.  How about a little popular celebrity hangout for lunch?  Why not pop out for lunch?

Then on Monday she kind of wandered back to her apartment.  She was photographed trying to hide under a coat from the paparazzi.  That obviously didn‘t work.

And then last week, the same day she checked into rehab, she just - it took her one day.  She went to Beverly Hills for a little shopping spree.  E! Entertainment reports she‘s going to be back to work on Friday.

But Joe, that‘s - if I were going to rehab, that‘s the kind of rehab I want to be in, because where can you get a good drink in rehab?  You‘ve got to go out to find it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, exactly.  Especially if Lindsay Lohan is in the rehab center.

Hey, Willie Geist, thank you so much.

GEIST:  All right, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  The most dangerous man in cable news.

GEIST:  That‘s you.

SCARBOROUGH:  The bad boy of cable news.  Thank you, Willie.

GEIST:  All right, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hollyweird is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED MCMAHON, TV PERSONALITY:  And now, ladies and gentlemen, here‘s Hollyweird.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You are correct, sir.  Thank you so much, Ed.

First up, some scary moments for actress Nicole Kidman.  She suffered minor injuries last night on the set of her new movie in Los Angeles.

Let‘s bring in now, “In Touch” weekly‘s senior editor, Kim Serafin.  And still with us, “Star Magazine‘s” David Caplan.  David, we start with you.  Give the scoop of what happened.

CAPLAN:  Last night, Wednesday night in Los Angeles, Nicole Kidman was filming her new movie, “The Invasion.”  She‘s in a car.  There are cameras rigged to it.  She‘s wearing her seatbelt.  The car spins out of control and crashes.

Nicole is rushed to Cedar Sinai in L.A., treated, and two hours later she is released.  And her husband, Keith Urban, who himself has had bouts with rehab, was on the set.  So, at least she had someone to comfort her.  So, all is good with Nicole.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, actually, Kim, it looked like Keith Urban may have been driving that car with his recent record, right?

KIM SERAFIN, SR. EDITOR, “IN TOUCH” WEEKLY:  Now, now.  Don‘t go there, Joe.

No, I think why this is kind of a big story is that Nicole Kidman was actually injured in a car accident - not seriously, luckily - but while she was working.  She‘s a professional actress.  She was on the set.  She was doing her stunt.

Usually when you hear about actresses and car incidents, it‘s because they‘re drinking or doing drugs or typing away on their sidekick or having paparazzi chase them.  So I think that‘s why this was so much of a big story, as well.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I .

SERAFIN:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) creatures were glued to the hood of the car, not paparazzi glued to the hood of the car.

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  And she was doing her own stunts.  I mean, I don‘t even do my own stunts on MSNBC.

Let‘s move on to Jennifer Aniston.  She‘s a (ph) star on best friend Courtney Cox‘s new show, “Dirt.”  And the word is the two will share a kiss.  Please, David, give me the details of this.

CAPLAN:  Jennifer Aniston is going to play a lesbian editor on “Dirt,” on March 27th, the show‘s season finale.  And she‘s going to play a rival editor with Courtney Cox, who plays Lucy Spiller on the show.  And she is going to plant a wet one on Courtney Cox.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yikes.

CAPLAN:  And the funny thing is, Jennifer Aniston is no stranger to lesbian love.  In fact, she kissed Winona Ryder on “Friends.”  And in the 2001 movie, “Rock Star,” Jennifer Aniston also had a kiss with another woman.  So, maybe Brad Pitt didn‘t do it for her.  And the sad thing is, I think Courtney Cox is Jennifer Aniston‘s most recent kiss.

SCARBOROUGH:  Goodness gracious, people will watch that.

Let‘s move to K-Fed very quickly.  He may have to avoid a drive-through for a while.  The National Restaurant Association‘s blasting Federline‘s fast food themed Super Bowl ad.  Tell us about it, Kim.

SERAFIN:  Yes.  The restaurant association is upset that he‘s portraying a restaurant worker in this commercial.  But I‘m now waiting for the music video industry to come forward and say they‘re upset that he‘s playing a music video star in this commercial.

Look, it‘s all about the publicity.  It‘s Super Bowl.  This is what they live for every year.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  Hey, thanks so much Kim Serafin. 

Great seeing you again.  Thank you, David Caplan.  You‘re the best.

We‘ll see you tomorrow in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

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

END   

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