updated 1/30/2007 10:51:42 AM ET 2007-01-30T15:51:42

Guests: Michael Crowley, Wayne White, Chris Hansen, Carmen Rasmusen, David Caplan, Cristina Gibson

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, George Bush warning Iranian mullahs to stand down, or else.  Iran responds by threatening to flood into Iraq, leading some to ask if Iraq will be the battleground for a coming war with Iran.

But first to Iraq, where U.S.-backed forces killed 200 insurgents in Najaf over the weekend.  As that bloody civil war continues to rage in the streets of Iraq, protesters were taking to the streets of America this weekend to attack the war, while Congress moved a step closer to a political showdown that could determine the fate of the Bush presidency, all while Mr. Bush suffers through record low approval ratings and a Republican Party that tonight appears to be on the verge of revolt.

Here now to talk about the war in Washington, Iraq and possibly Iran, Michael Crowley, senior editor for “The New Republic,” Craig Crawford—he‘s MSNBC political analyst and columnist for “The Congressional Quarterly”—and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Michael, we begin with you.  The president is facing the fight of his political life next week, and yet he‘s suffering through what could only be called Nixonian approval ratings.  Are we looking at a man who may soon be considered a lame duck by his own party in Congress?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Joe, I think we‘re already seeing it.  I mean, I think we‘ve been seeing it for a while now.  You were seeing it, for instance, with the very muted response that a lot of Republicans are giving to his surge plan.  You know, the response for the State of the Union was not—from rank-and-file Republican members, it was not, you know, This president‘s got his groove back, and we‘re really excited.  I mean, these guys are kind of quietly heading for the hills, as they were already during the 2006 election.  I mean, a lot of those candidates ran campaigns distancing themselves from Bush.  So I really just think he‘s spinning his wheels and desperately trying to find a way to salvage his legacy in Iraq, at this point.  There‘s not much left.

SCARBOROUGH:  Not much left.  And Craig Crawford, we showed you one poll that showed 30 percent of Americans—only 30 percent—approve of the job that this president‘s doing.  But another poll number from “Newsweek” that has to concern the White House, almost 6 in 10 Americans are saying they just want the Bush presidency to be over already.  Many of those disgusted voters, of course, are Republicans.  And Craig, you work the Hill as well as anybody.  Doesn‘t this make his pitch for his own Republican Party, for those Republican senators, for this surge that much more difficult?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: 

Well, it shows there‘s Bush fatigue out there.  Remember when we used to talk about “Clinton fatigue” towards the end of his presidency?  Sometimes I wonder if we have enough attention span any longer to survive two-term presidencies.

But you know, on the president‘s behalf, I would have to note it doesn‘t look like any of these resolutions are going to get to 60 votes.  He owes a lot to John Warner and Mitch McConnell in the Senate, who I think are entangling the Democrats in lots of different resolutions.  And I really think, for the short term, even those grumpy senators and members of the House are buying his “give war a chance” argument from his State of the Union, which was sort of a twist on John Lennon‘s “Give Peace a Chance”...

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.

CRAWFORD:  I think, in the short term, they‘re buying that.  But even McConnell, it should be noted, said this is his last chance.

SCARBOROUGH:  All we are saying is give a troop surge a chance.

Pat Buchanan, 30 percent approval ratings for the president, almost 60 percent of Americans wanting George Bush‘s presidency to be over.  That can‘t be good news for this White House operation.  However, the Democrats appear to be on the verge of failing to pass even a meaningless resolution condemning the president‘s surge.  Why?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, my guess is it‘s because they‘ve got to get 60 votes, if you‘ve got a filibuster, Joe.  But I wouldn‘t be surprised to see the Biden-Hagel get pretty close to 50 votes.  But I agree with my colleague here.  I think Warner has done quite a job.  I think the Warner resolution, frankly, if the Democrats would get on board, could get 70 votes, Joe, fairly easily, as long as the Democrats went along with it.

But I think the real problem here for Republicans is—look, Bush and Cheney are not running again.  And they‘re determined to see this policy through.  At the same time, they‘ve got broad support—not overwhelming support, broad support—in the Republican Party, and Republicans don‘t like their own Republican congressmen taking shots at their president.  So these fellows are sort of pinioned, Joe, and they really got no place to go.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Pat, let me read a line from Bob Novak‘s column today.  He said, quote, “Conceivably, the Senate night not even pass a resolution at all.”  And yet, Pat, you‘ve been talking about this for some time.  Democrats are in charge of the House and the Senate.  You‘ve got an overwhelming number of Americans opposing this Bush troop surge, and yet you don‘t have enough Democrats who are willing to step forward and be counted and stare down this president.

BUCHANAN:  Well, as I say, I think the Biden resolution, Joe, with Hagel, would get around 50 votes, or maybe a little bit less.  But I think the Warner resolution, which is critical of the surge but it does not—it‘s not a vote of no confidence in the president—I think if the Democrats signed onto that, they could send a message...

SCARBOROUGH:  But—but...

BUCHANAN:  ... that a clear—yes?

SCARBOROUGH:  But Pat, look at these numbers.  I want you to see these numbers, though.  Again, you‘ve got Democrats and Republicans bickering while the Americans have made up their mind, an Associated Press poll showing that 67 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq—

67 percent!  And yet again—we talked about this, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, these resolutions are meaningless legally.  All they do is send a message.  And you‘ve got a new Congress that was elected to draw down our involvement in Iraq.  You‘ve got a president that‘s ignoring Congress, ignoring his generals, ignoring the overwhelming majority of the American public, and the Congress seems frozen and can‘t do anything.

BUCHANAN:  Not only that, Joe—you‘re right.  They can‘t even get a non-binding resolution passed unless they sign onto John Warner‘s.  They came here really to change the policy.  They can‘t.  Bush says he‘s going forward.  Cheney says, We‘re going forward.  Not only that, he‘s putting military power in there for a possible strike on Iran.  And it is quite clear that he feels that he ought to be making that decision and no one else.  What‘s going to happen, Joe, is pretty soon, this Congress, when it comes to foreign policy, is going to be looked like as a paper tiger without any teeth.

CROWLEY:  Joe, if I can just jump in...

SCARBOROUGH:  And Michael, I was just going to say, it appears that this president, has contempt for Congress.  He‘s not going to listen to what they have to say, and he really don‘t care how many resolutions they do or they don‘t pass.  It looks like John Warner has played Democratic leaders for fools.  And Michael, it‘s all the expectations game, and it looks like the president‘s winning it right now, isn‘t he.

CROWLEY:  I think that‘s true, to some extent.  It‘s also a reminder (INAUDIBLE) you know, Democrats don‘t have a huge majority in the Senate.  They barely eked it out at the last minute.  You know, Jim Webb beating Allen, I guess, was the one what tipped it in the end, or maybe it was Montana race.

But by the way, there‘s going to be an interesting twist to this whole debate.  Tomorrow, you know, Russ Feingold is going to have a big hearing looking at Congress‘s authority to cut off funds for the war.  And this has been an ongoing debate.  Some Democrats think that there‘s more power to do that than others.  But Feingold is really kind of going to press the issue and say—you know, have constitutional scholars up there and say this is how it would work.  And that‘s becoming an increasingly uncomfortable debate for some Democrats.  There are some Democrats who want to have it, have a full-throated discussion about it.  There are some Democrats who, I think, as we‘ve talked about on this show, would rather kind of keep it in the realm of the non-binding and the somewhat more vague.  But the bottom line is...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s talk about a Democrat, though, who‘s played it very carefully, played it down the middle from the start of this war, Hillary Clinton.  Of course, Michael, the White House and Hillary Clinton got into a war of words this weekend.  Let‘s first listen to what she had to say while campaigning in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  I think it‘s the height of irresponsibility, and I really resent it.  This was his decision to go to war.  He went with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy, and we should expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And the White House responded to Senator Clinton by saying this.  “It is disappointing that Senator Clinton is responding to the president‘s new strategy for Iraq with a partisan attack that sends the wrong message to our troops, our enemies and the Iraqi people.”

Michael, it appears that the White House is suggesting that by voicing this concern that this war not be dragged into the next administration, that Hillary Clinton somehow is aiding and abetting the enemy.  I mean, is this the type of rhetoric we‘re going to be looking at from the White House over the next two years?

CROWLEY:  Well, yes, Joe, but it‘s not that surprising.  I think it‘s kind of typical and of a part with what we‘ve been hearing ever since 9/11.  I mean, you know, Democrats step up and they get tough, and they get that kind of response quite often.

And you know, I can understand Hillary Clinton‘s anger, although the one thing I would say from a Democratic perspective, Democrats might be a little uncomfortable with the idea that you should say get—get—it‘s Bush‘s responsibility to get out because its his presidency.  You should make a decision on when to get out based on when it‘s a good idea to get out.  So I sympathize with Democrats who do not want to inherit this problem.  At the same time, the one question I would ask is sort of is that really—is the political timeline the right one?  But it seems—it does not seem appropriate to accuse Democrats of aiding and abetting the enemy.  It seems perfectly reasonable to have this debate right now.

BUCHANAN:  You know, Joe, let me say, Hillary Rodham Clinton—look, she can‘t get off the hook.  In the most important vote she ever cast, she gave the president of the United States a blank check to go to war, and we are in Iraq now because the Democratic Senate voted for this war.  I mean, she did not do due diligence, quite frankly.  And a lot of these senators, I mean, they‘ve got real moral responsibility for us being there.  Everybody knew Bush and Cheney wanted to go to war.  It was up to them to say, No, you haven‘t made the case.  They didn‘t do it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Craig, it‘s getting ugly out there.  And you know, Pat‘s right.  Certainly, a lot of Democratic senators supported this war, while people like Pat Buchanan opposed it.  But now you‘ve got the White House suggesting Hillary Clinton‘s sending a message that appears to aid and abet the enemy in Iraq.  How does it play for the Bush camp, but also how does it play for Hillary Clinton?

CRAWFORD:  Well, for the Bush camp, I think it‘ll work with a lot of voters, the idea that if politicians here in Washington undercut this president as commander-in-chief, it will aid and abet the enemy.  I think that‘s probably a valid case they can make for a lot of voters and at least hold enough support to keep that 30 percent approval rating.

But in the long run, I don‘t think most Americans are buying that argument.  And I also think Hillary Clinton is making a valid case when she says she voted for that resolution based upon the things that the administration was arguing at the time about weapons of mass destruction, and so on.  I mean, we can‘t in the media...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Craig...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  In the media, we make the—you know, we‘re constantly talking about how that was an invalid and fraudulent argument the administration made...

BUCHANAN:  But Craig—Craig, she was...

CRAWFORD:  And then at the same time...

BUCHANAN:  ... wrong!

CRAWFORD:  Well...

BUCHANAN:  She was wrong, and Democrats up there who stood up courageously, frankly, against all that patriotic gore, and voted no, they were right!  Al Gore was right!  Feingold was right!  Kennedy was right!  They stood up against it.  Why wasn‘t she right?  Why wasn‘t Edwards right?

CRAWFORD:  I think she made a very good case today for why she voted the way she did, which was based upon what the administration was arguing.  She...

BUCHANAN:  And she made a mistake!

CRAWFORD:  She agreed...

BUCHANAN:  Worst mistake in history!

CRAWFORD:  She agreed with their case they were making for the possible need to go to war, based upon the weapons of mass destruction and other things that turned out to be wrong.  And I just don‘t—I mean, in the media, we are always talking about how the administration made this fraudulent case about going to war, but at the same time, we want to beat up the people who voted on it based upon those arguments the administration made.

BUCHANAN:  But why didn‘t they call the people up and hold hearings on it?  There was no urgency about going to war with Iraq.

CRAWFORD:  Well, Hillary Clinton wasn‘t in...

BUCHANAN:  It wasn‘t about to attack us.

CRAWFORD:  Well, Hillary Clinton...

BUCHANAN:  They did it in October...

CRAWFORD:  Pat!  Pat!  I mean...

BUCHANAN:  ... of 2002...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  How was Hillary Clinton going to call a hearing?  She was in the minority party!

BUCHANAN:  You were not!~  In the Senate, they were in the majority at the time.  They had the fellow from Vermont with them.  They could have held hearings...

CROWLEY:  They did have hearings, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  ... Biden and the whole gang!

CROWLEY:  I mean, they had actually anti-war hearings.  I remember Carl Levin had some good hearings, where dissident generals came in and...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

CROWLEY:  ... I think that may be when Shinseki gave that figure that got him booted out of the military because it was too prescient.  So...

BUCHANAN:  But why didn‘t they...

CROWLEY:  ... there were some, but...

BUCHANAN:  But why didn‘t they hold hearings and say, Look, show us the hard evidence that this is a mortal threat to our country.  ElBaradei has said they ain‘t got any nuclear weapons.  They did it in October of 2002 to get it out of the way for the election.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  ... Colin Powell went before the U.N. and made that very specific case.  I don‘t think it was automatic for any—automatic assumption for anyone to make that that was all lies.

CROWLEY:  One thing I‘ll say, Pat—I mean, it‘s hard to forgive Democrats who made a mistake on this vote, but I do think you have to remember the climate, that many of your fellow conservatives...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

CROWLEY:  ... and I‘m not saying you...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

CROWLEY:  ... were putting the heat on Democrats...

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know...

CROWLEY:  ... and liberals across the country, You‘re not patriotic...

BUCHANAN:  But you‘re right.  You‘re right.

CROWLEY:  ... You don‘t understand war and peace.

BUCHANAN:  But I will say this...

CROWLEY:  You blew it on the last Gulf war.  And they were just in an incredibly tough position to make that decision.

BUCHANAN:  And they made the wrong call.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  They made the wrong call!

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  ... by bullying conservatives, in many cases.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  Hang on a second!  I mean, another case Hillary Clinton was trying to make is that in voting for the authorization for war, she was trying to strengthen the president‘s hand in dealing with the U.N. and putting pressure on Saddam through other channels, other than invading his country.  Now, you know, people may think that was naive...

BUCHANAN:  But look, let me ask...

CRAWFORD:  ... to think the administration would go with that route, but that‘s not an invalid case...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Let me ask Brother Crowley a question.  If you can‘t stand up to bullying conservatives on the most important vote you‘ll ever cast, that sends us into a war that costs 3,000 dead and $400 billion, why do you deserve to be making decisions as commander-in-chief?

CROWLEY:  No, I think that‘s an absolutely fair question, but I just think it‘s important to remember the context of that time, which was very different than it is today.

SCARBOROUGH:  You not only, Michael, have to remember—and thank you, Michael.  Thank you, Craig.  Thank you, Pat.

CROWLEY:  Thanks.

SCARBOROUGH:  You do have to remember the context of that time, not just Republicans questioning Democrats‘ patriotism, but also the fact that you have a CIA director, the man who‘s in charge of determining whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, jumping up and down, waving his arms in the Oval Office, telling the president, It‘s a slam dunk, Mr.  President.  You have the British secret service, the French.  You‘ve got the Russians, the Chinese, even Saddam Hussein saying, I‘ve got weapons of mass destruction.  You have every legitimate intelligence-gathering operation on the face of this earth saying Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

I would say, if you‘re president of the United States a year after 9/11, you‘ve got a CIA director telling you that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, and if you don‘t go in there and get them, that Americans are going to be at risk, I would say that any president or any Democrat, including Hillary Clinton, that didn‘t take that warning very seriously was certainly playing very loose with American safety.  Anyway, that debate will continue for years to come.

But coming up next, boy, we‘ve got another one, and this one could be even deadlier, Iran expanding its influence over Iraq as President Bush warns that that may lead to war.  Will the coming war between America and Iran be seeing its front lines in Baghdad?  We‘re going to be asking a top analyst formerly with the State Department coming up next.

Plus;

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HANSEN, “DATELINE”:  Have you seen this show on television?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  A couple of times.

HANSEN:  A couple of times.  And you know what the show is called?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Dateline.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  “Dateline‘s” Chris Hansen gives us a sneak peek at his latest hidden camera sting separation.  This time, some familiar faces get busted again.  And later: Think “American Idol” is showing you the best they have to offer?  Not even close.  Tonight, we‘re exposing more “Idol” myths as Fox continues with this juggernaut.  But these myths are things that Fox doesn‘t want you to know.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  President Bush has been offering blunt warnings to the Iranians that they‘d best stay out of Iraq.  But today, the Iranian mullahs told Mr. Bush where to go, and it wasn‘t Mecca.  An explosive report in today‘s “New York Times” reveals that Iran is planning to flex its muscles inside Iraq, offering to train Iraqi forces and provide them with Iranian weapons.

The White House quickly responded to that today, calling Iran‘s role in Iraq, quote, “destructive,” while President Bush had this to say.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq, how will the U.S. respond?

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Will the streets of Baghdad be turned into the battleground for America‘s coming showdown with Iran?  Here now to talk about it, Wayne White.  He‘s a former State Department Middle East analyst.  And still with us, Pat Buchanan.

Wayne, we keep hearing about a possible showdown with Iran based upon the Iranians‘ influence inside Iraq.  We hear it from the administration day after day, it appears.  How big of a threat is the Iranian influence over Iraq right now?

WAYNE WHITE, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT ANALYST:  Well, I think the bottom line is, Joe, that it isn‘t very great, that you have governments in Iraq, like the present one under Maliki and his predecessor, who have voluntarily been rather close to Iran.  Iran hasn‘t had to do very much at all.  It is engaging in activities in Iraq that are destructive, but it‘s very, very small when you compare it to the cycle of violence that‘s going in inside of Iraq that involves Iraqis.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, so Pat Buchanan, why are we beating the drums?  Is this saber rattling?

BUCHANAN:  Yes, there‘s a lot of saber rattling going on, Joe.  I think that the people...

SCARBOROUGH:  Who‘s behind it?

BUCHANAN:  The hawks who want war are really not in Teheran, they‘re in Tel Aviv and Washington.  The feeling is that we‘ve got to take down Iran‘s regime or take out its weapons before their nuclear capacity is achieved.  And so that‘s the real sense here in Washington, as I say, at that Herzliyah conference, that we‘ve got to act and we have to act now.  I don‘t think the Iranians want war, but there‘s no doubt that Iran sees itself as victorious in Iraq as a consequence of America taking down their worst enemy and creating a Shia republic.

SCARBOROUGH:  Wayne, what‘s going on here, though?  Why is it that the Iranians continue to say things that provoke the Bush administration?  It appears as if they just kind of keep tweaking him, whether to say that they‘re going to destroy Israel and the United States last week, or this week say, We‘re basically going to be bringing in more troops and more guns and more weaponry into Iraq?

WHITE:  These people are incredibly proud, and I think they just don‘t want to back down or be seen as being—backing down in the face of U.S.  pressure.  This has gone on, you know, for a long time.

And you know, with respect to what we‘re saying, I think you have three things behind it.  Pat‘s touched on one, but the first is you want your surge, you know, to have the best possible chance of working so you can get a little boost by pushing the Iranians back.  And second, if you don‘t succeed, you can blame it partly on the Iranians.  And third, if you have to go in and hit the Iranians or you feel you must go in and hit the Iranian nuclear targets and infrastructure, you‘ve got that much more justification...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So two for one.  I mean, it‘s a two for one.  You can actually go into Iran.  That helps you politically and militarily, possibly.  But also, you can blame the problems that we have in Iraq on Iran.

BUCHANAN:  And Joe, you can also...

WHITE:  I think there‘s a lot that going around.

BUCHANAN:  Joe, you can also—when Bush beats the Iran drum and goes after the mullahs and Ahmadinejad—We‘re going to stand up to Iran—politically, that plays far better in the United States and with our allies and friends in the Middle East than our present situation in Iraq does.  So that sort of unites our coalition when you stand up to the Iranians.

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re exactly right.  Certainly, a lot more Americans

would have rather us going into Iran than have gone into Iraq.  And of

course, you‘ve got the Saudis and the Jordanians and an awful lot of

countries that are run by Sunnis that would love to see us do their bidding

by trying to take out Iran.

Thanks a lot, Way.  Thank you, Pat Buchanan.  Greatly appreciate both of you being here.

And coming up, “Dateline” is back on the hunt for predators of your children.  And this time, they catch somebody they‘ve already busted.  Doesn‘t this guy watch TV?  Chris Hansen is here to show us how the threat of jail time and public humiliation still isn‘t enough to stop these men from preying on your children.

But first, another lesson in media censorship, courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel.  “Must See S.C.” next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” some video you‘ve just got to see.

First up, we all know why “Grey‘s Anatomy” star Isaiah Washington is seeking counselor.  Now Jay Leno gives us an update on how he‘s doing. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  Actually, Isaiah Washington, he is in gay rehab, as you know.  And you know something?  He—I don‘t want to say he‘s doing fabulous.  That would be wrong.  He‘s doing great. 

(LAUGHTER)

KEVIN EUBANKS, MUSICAL DIRECTOR, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  That‘s good to know.

LENO:  In fact, he‘s been in there, what, about a week.  They released the video.  You see the videotape?  Show the video of Isaiah in gay rehab.  He‘s doing terrific.  There he is.  Doing great.  Doing good. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Seems much more understanding. 

And, finally, Jimmy Kimmel shows us what the world would be like if the FCC took over, in another edition of unnecessary censorship. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  For too long, our nation has been dependent on (bleep) oil. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... all over the sea.  Here there are hundreds of barrels full of (bleep).  Other containers are hazardous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  While more U.S. forces are moving into place, those same enemy (bleep) could back off, melt into the scenery for a while. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ll (bleep) you, Elmo.  Let‘s see.  I know you‘re around here somewhere.  I‘ll (bleep) you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up next, “Dateline‘s” Chris Hansen gives us a preview of his latest undercover sting, including one guy who‘s got busted before.  We‘re going to ask why these undercover hidden camera investigations don‘t always work as a deterrent. 

And later, one of “American Idol‘s” biggest secrets revealed.  Why some of the best singers who audition never make TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  $254 million?  I think I‘m related to them somehow. 

Anyway, “Dateline NBC” is back with a new installment of their “To Catch a Predator” series, and this time the investigation set up shop in California, Texas and Florida, busting yet another parade of potential predators who were looking online for sex with your children. 

Now, this round of stings featured a number of men who had already seen “Dateline‘s” previous investigations, and one man who “Dateline” had actually caught once before.  Their California investigation premiers tomorrow night, but I got a chance to sit down with “Dateline‘s” Chris Hansen to get a preview of their latest undercover sting operation. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS HANSEN, CORRESPONDENT, “DATELINE NBC”:  What are you doing here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hanging out. 

HANSEN:  Hanging out? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  And I knew that this was a setup because this was too convenient for this. 

HANSEN:  What was too convenient? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The chat room, and just talking about everything that she did. 

HANSEN:  How old this was so-called person you were talking to? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She was she was 13, but... 

HANSEN:  She said she was 13.  How old are you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m 29. 

HANSEN:  And you thought it was OK to come over here and meet a 13-year-old girl at the age of 29? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To hang out, yes. 

HANSEN:  That‘s all you were going to do was hang out? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s what I told her, yes. 

HANSEN:  You would think that, after this many investigations, perhaps the show would be a deterrent.  But, in fact, in this case, we saw 38 men come into our house over three days.  That‘s the second-highest number of men ever in one of these investigations. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And your sting operation nabbed some fairly prominent members of the community, right? 

HANSEN:  We saw a number of people come in who had, you know, real jobs, families, and yet here they are, chatting online, and then coming over to our house to meet a 12-, 13- or 14-year-old. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, the latest round of stings also turned up a lot of guys who have actually seen your past programs.  And while I guess I should be shocked, we all know a former congressman who came on this show talking about your stings and what great deterrents they were. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK FOLEY ®, FORMER FLORIDA REPRESENTATIVE:  The “Dateline” piece has probably done more than any law we can create. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Why is it that these guys just can‘t help themselves? 

Why do they see your “Dateline” stings and still show up? 

HANSEN:  Do you ever watch television? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I know, sir. 

HANSEN:  You know what? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This show, sir. 

HANSEN:  This show. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir. 

HANSEN:  Have you seen this show on television? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, a couple of times. 

HANSEN:  A couple of times.  And do you know what the show is called? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Dateline.”

HANSEN:  “Dateline” what?  “To Catch a Predator.”  Now, when you saw those “To Catch a Predator” shows, what went through your mind? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s really bad (INAUDIBLE) that they‘re older. 

HANSEN:  Right.  It‘s bad for them, they shouldn‘t be doing it? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir. 

HANSEN:  Yet here you are, doing the very same thing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I know.

HANSEN:  Then you probably know that I‘m Chris Hansen with “Dateline” NBC, and you know the story we‘re doing? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir. 

HANSEN:  I really believe that these guys don‘t think it could happen to them.  They figure, you know, “Dateline” can‘t be everywhere.  And although police and the FBI and other law enforcement agencies do these stings routinely across the country, they just don‘t think that they can be everywhere.  And what are the chances it will be one of these guys? 

And the other thing that happens is, you know, these guys, after, you know, being involved with porn online and graphic chats online, you know, their a line between fantasy and reality gets blurred.  And I think they get to the point where they either have an addiction or a compulsion, obsession, and nothing will satisfy them except this real-life meeting. 

What are you doing here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know.  I was just going to pick up cigarettes, fill up my tank of gas.  I have a quarter tank of gas.

HANSEN:  And stop by and have sex with a 12-year-old girl? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  I was not.  I clearly stood out there and said, “This is not wrong, this cannot happen.  I need to leave.” 

HANSEN:  But you still came to the house, Rick. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I came to the house to at least meet her and say hello. 

HANSEN:  To meet her.  But here is my question. 

(CROSSTALK)

HANSEN:  If you knew it was wrong, if you were worried it was a set-up, why even come here?  What was the force that drove you to come to this house?  Why couldn‘t you just say, “No,” and not do it?  Help me to understand that.  I don‘t get it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I remember the naked guy, the famous naked guy who you nabbed one time, and then you caught him again later.  Well, this California sting operation, I understand you actually caught a guy name Michael that you had previously busted. 

HANSEN:  You know, you look familiar to me.  Why don‘t have you a seat, please.  Michael, right? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sorry. 

HANSEN:  Mike, have a seat.  I want to talk to you for a little bit. 

How are you doing tonight? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good. 

HANSEN:  Do you remember who I am?  Do you remember?  We talked once before.  All right.  Well, we have to talk once again here. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

HANSEN:  I have to talk to you first.  What are you doing here, Michael? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sorry. 

HANSEN:  Now, we went through this once before. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I know. 

HANSEN:  In Riverside. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

HANSEN:  And you came to meet a young girl there, and we talked about how it was wrong.  You were just in court on Friday, right? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

HANSEN:  And what happened in court on Friday? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He set more time. 

HANSEN:  More time before the next court date? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

HANSEN:  Well, Michael, I need you to sit right on that stool there. 

Do me a favor.  Just...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can I just go home? 

HANSEN:  It‘s just going to take a little bit.  I just want to ask you some questions. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sorry what I did. 

HANSEN:  OK.  But you‘ve got to explain to me why or how you thought it was OK, after having a court date stemming from our last visit, and then, within 24 hours, you show up at this house to meet another young girl.  What are you thinking about? 

SCARBOROUGH:  God, Chris, that is amazing.  How do you explain to the guy that got busted by you once, is dragged into court, is facing hard time, takes the bait again? 

HANSEN:  We talked to Michael Siebert‘s (ph) lawyer, and he told that he had severe, you know, mental issues.  He also said that, apparently, Siebert had fallen on his head as a kid. 

But here he is again a second time, and clearly he‘s able to hold a conversation online.  He‘s able to show up at the house.  The conversation was sexually graphic.  And then we find out that this guy has actually served a year in prison for a dangerous assault. 

So you have to wonder:  If there is a kid in the house, and I wasn‘t there, what‘s going to happen if this guy doesn‘t get what he wants?  It‘s a dangerous situation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I can‘t thank you enough as a parent for all the great things you do, and I want to make sure everybody watches “To Catch a Predator.”  It‘s going to be, of course, Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m.  Chris Hansen, thanks for being here.  I look forward to seeing you again.

HANSEN:  Joe, thanks very much.  Always a pleasure. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s amazing.  I mean, the excuse of falling on his head, and that turning him into a child predator, I mean, it could be an excuse for being a TV news host, but certainly not a child predator. 

Coming up next, you think you‘ve seen the best “American Idol” has to offer?  Well, think again.  We‘re exposing why “Idol” doesn‘t always show you the best singers in America.  Myth number four busted, next.

And later, Paris Hilton makes a sequel to her most popular film ever.  That‘s right:  a new Paris sex tape.  The gory details ahead in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re knee deep in season six of “American Idol,” and so far there‘s little to no sign of any talent emerging.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Higher and higher... 

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Girl, girl, girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... you set my soul on fire...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I feel 109.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Burning, burning, burning, and nothing can cool me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My brain is burning, and (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... kisses lift me higher...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I hang (INAUDIBLE) forgot my medication. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  As the judges continue to narrow things down, rejecting contestants like those, the Associated Press is reporting that one of their own reporters had an “Idol” audition experience, and she writes this.

Quote, “After less than 20 seconds, it was over.  The producer turned to all of us, thanked us for auditioning, and said we would not be needed for the show.  There‘s no banter between judges; no comments to us about our performances.”

Tonight we take a look at another “American Idol” myth, that the good singers always make it through.  Instead, are producers looking for a type?  And most contestants, who won‘t even get an audition long enough to hit their high notes, can‘t really be fairly tested, can‘t they?  Well, here now to talk about it, former “American Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen and also “Star” magazine‘s deputy New York bureau chief David Caplan. 

Carmen, they‘re not really looking for the best singers, are they? 

They‘re looking for the best TV.

CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Exactly.  It‘s a TV show first; it‘s a talent competition second.  And sometimes they‘ll save the best for last.  So they might have put through amazing singers, but they don‘t want us to see them yet.  They want us to get hooked into the show first and kind of save the best people for last. 

And they‘re also looking for great stories.  You know those two girls that came in that were best friends, what do you remember from last Wednesday night‘s performance?  Those are basically the only two girls I remember, because they did this whole story on them trying out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, talk about how ridiculously random you say this process is.  We have the Associated Press reporter that makes it sound like this sort of cattle march across the stage.  You sing for 10 seconds, and then they kick you out.

RASMUSEN:  That is exactly what it is.  I definitely felt like cattle being herded in there.  In fact, I still remember my number.  It was 13171.  We went in, in groups of five.  We were given about 10 seconds to audition.  And then they say, “OK, 13171, please stay with us.  Everyone else, thanks for trying out.” 

And so they sent everyone out of the room, and they said, “Tell me something unique about yourself.”  And I said, “I can play the guitar,” and they said, “That‘s not unique.  Tell us something unique about yourself.”  And I said, “I can yodel.”  They said, “That‘s not unique enough.  Come on.  Give us something unique.”  So I said the first thing that came to my mind, and I said, “I can talk with my mouth closed.” 

And they said, “OK, do it.”  And I said, “I can talk like this.”  And they said, “OK, you‘re through the next round,” because they wanted something to remember.  They wanted something unique that they could remember about me.  And so I thought, “Well, that was kind of weird, but, sweet, at least I got through to the next round.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, that is amazing, because that‘s actually how I got this gig on MSNBC. 

Let‘s take a look at a few more contestants who clearly don‘t have the voice to be the next “American Idol.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re going to party (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) fiesta, sayonara...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... come on and sing my song...  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re going to party tomorrow...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fiesta...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Konichiwa...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Whatever...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Come and sing along...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All night long...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All night long...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All night long...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All night long...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All night long...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All night long...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  David, you don‘t have to wear a space suit to get booted out of “American Idol.”  I mean, let‘s just bust this myth right now.  If you were unattractive, like myself, and you sing in front of these “American Idol” judges, they‘re not going to put you on.  They want people that look like Carmen, right? 

DAVID CAPLAN, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  Yes, I mean, listen, this is definitely—it‘s not so much about talent, this show.  They obviously like great-looking people, like Carmen.  But at the same time, you know, there‘s a bit of a freak show element to the show lately, very circus-like mentality, that if you are very distinct, you look a little unusual, you will make it past the first round. 

I mean, in that “Associated Press” report, the reporter says that there was a girl there who was dressed like homecoming queen.  It was clearly a costume, clearly mocking the whole thing, and this girl got past the first round, meanwhile while other singers, who could sing perfectly well, were not sent to the next round. 

So obviously they like people who are distinct and not necessarily all the time the best singers and even the best-looking people.  If you‘re a train wreck, you do well, at least in the beginning of the series when they do try-outs. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Carmen, also, they also like the spit and polish people that come in, like last year‘s winner that comes in looking like a mess.  They like turning him into an “American Idol.”

RASMUSEN:  Exactly.  They like people with weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  They want America to feel like they‘ve been through this whole growing process with the contestant.  They want America to feel like they have seen them grow.

They don‘t want perfect.  Perfect is boring.  They want people to be able to grow and change throughout this competition.  It‘s like a sports game.  If your team is killing the other team, it‘s not that exciting. 

But if you‘re neck and neck the entire time, then you come ahead the last 30 seconds, it‘s a great game.  That‘s exactly what “American Idol” wants you to do.  They want you to be at the edge of your seat the entire time, because that‘s what makes an exciting competition. 

And it isn‘t about being the prettiest or having the best voice, because they can make anyone look glamorous.  They can make anyone look like a star.  So if you have the potential—and I believe everyone has the potential to be a great singer with the right vocal coach and with the right training. 

It took me 12 years to get where I am, and anyone can look like a star with the right make-up, hair extensions, eyelashes, whatever.  So they want to be able to take someone from regular Joe, no offense, Joe, into a superstar. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, I‘m going to get eyelash extensions, also.  Maybe that will help me.  Carmen, thank you.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night when you‘re actually speaking with your mouth open.  David, stay with us.  “Hollyweird” is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tell that personal trainer of yours the Oscars are coming up.  More ab work!  More ab work!  It‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, Paris Hilton, it looks like she‘s up to her old tricks.  Paris has a new sex tape making the rounds on the Internet.  Here now to tell us all the gory details, Cristina Gibson, an online reporter for E!‘s The Awful Truth.  And still with us, “Star” magazine‘s David Caplan.

David, tell us about this tape.

CAPLAN:  So there‘s a new tape floating around the Internet at Parisexposed.com that shows Paris Hilton cavorting with her then-boyfriend Joe Francis of “Girls Gone Wild” fame.  And they‘re in a pool swimming.  He‘s coaxing her to take her blouse off.  She‘s also in a bathtub, also, you know, topless.

And these videos are a part of Web site, Parisexposed.com, because there are all these items on the Web site, like travel documents, prescriptions and photos, that are culled from a storage facility in Los Angeles where Paris had stored a bunch of her stuff.  She stopped paying the bill.  The items landed in the hands of somebody else, and they‘ve now put it on the Web site. 

So everything you always wanted to know about Paris and thought you didn‘t know, it was on Parisexposed.com.  And it‘s very revealing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Cristina, I would guess it‘s getting a lot of traffic.  This woman can‘t stay out of trouble, can she?

CRISTINA GIBSON, E! ONLINE REPORTER:  I mean, at this point, what could Paris Hilton really do that‘s going to shock us?  If this was somebody with a squeaky clean reputation, like Reese Witherspoon or somebody like that, then I might really be surprised.  But it‘s Paris Hilton.

I don‘t think anybody is too shocked by the fact that there‘s more photos and videos of her naked and diaries.  And the site is getting a lot of traffic.  It was actually down for a bit today.  So some people are wondering whether Paris‘ legal team is trying to take action against them or if it was just too much traffic on the server. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, let‘s move on, talk about somebody else in the news a good bit.  Katie Holmes, AKA Mrs. Tom Cruise, turned down an offer to do a reprieve of her role in the latest “Batman” sequel.  What‘s going on here?  Has she just decided, David, she‘s going to stay locked up with Tom Cruise? 

CAPLAN:  Yes, this is Katie Holmes‘ new image.  She‘s apparently turned down the role to be in “Batman” and instead wants to be in a comedy role with Queen Latifah.  And in this new movie with Queen Latifah, she‘s going to play a janitor at the Federal Reserve in Washington. 

So it sort of sounds like a weird role, but Katie really wants to get rid of her past, and she wants to re-brand herself as a different type of actress.  Whether or not doing a comedy—whether with Queen Latifah is the answer is a little suspect, but she wants to tackle new movie roles.  And “Batman” is really Katie Holmes of yesteryear, and she wants to say bye-bye to that Katie. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what, that was a good movie, as far as the “Batman” movies go.  And speak of saying good-bye, TMZ is reporting that a lot of people in rehab with Lindsay Lohan want her to leave.  She‘s not making friends there.  The Web site, sources say, other patients are upset about the special treatment the actress is getting.  Tell us about that, Cristina.

GIBSON:  Well, Lindsay has been in rehab at Wonderland, but she hasn‘t really been there that often from what it looks like.  She returned to work on the set of her movie, “I Know Who Killed Me,” And she was also seen out shopping in Los Angeles.  So for someone who‘s supposed to be in rehab and taking it easy and getting her life back on track, it seems like Lindsay‘s still getting photographed and is out and about quite often. 

And other residents are not happy about this.  And I can understand why.  I mean, if you‘re trying to get help and Lindsay Lohan is next to you, that‘s not really too good. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, 10 seconds, because we‘ve got to go.  I understand K-Fed wants Britney to go to rehab also, David? 

CAPLAN:  Yes.  K-Fed is saying, Britney, look at you, you‘re a mess.  She‘s drinking; she‘s partying.  K-Fed is saying, “Listen, I don‘t want this type of woman around my kids.”  And so that‘s that, and saying, Britney, go to rehab or else she‘s going to be in for a huge battle.

SCARBOROUGH:  Such a responsible man, K-Fed.  Thanks for being with us, Cristina and David.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night 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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