updated 1/31/2007 12:49:40 PM ET 2007-01-31T17:49:40

Guests: Michael Isikoff, Joan Walsh, Jan Crawford Greenburg, Dawn Yanek, Tom O‘Neil, Carmen Rasmusen

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Breaking news.  Tonight, NBC News confirms a secret U.S. military report saying Iran may be behind a deadly ambush on U.S. troops in Iraq.  That brazen attack left five U.S. soldiers dead.  And this chilling report only makes the drumbeat of war with Iran gain in intensity and possibly give the Bush administration one more excuse to go to war.

NBC‘s Jim Miklaszewski is at the Pentagon tonight, and he has the very latest for us—Jim.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, secret U.S. military reports indicate that the attack against the American soldiers at Karbala was definitely an inside job that may have involved Iranian agents.  Now, according to the reports, after the attackers were waved through several police checkpoints, it appears that someone inside the compound directed the attackers to exactly where the Americans were located.  The military reports claim that it appears the operation was at least planned by Iranian agents because it was so well laid out and executed meticulously, unlike any other insurgent or militia operation seen in Iraq before.  This as the U.S. military claims there‘s increasing evidence of Iranian operations against U.S. military in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  U.S. military officials tell NBC News Iranian Revolutionary Guard are providing intelligence on the U.S. and Iraqi military to Shi‘ite extremists.  That‘s in addition to claims that in Iran is providing the most sophisticated and powerful roadside bombs and a growing arsenal of other weapons inside Iraq.  Computer files seized in a number of raids on Iranian offices inside Iraq listed vast inventories of weapons shipped from Iran to Iraqi extremists and militias, including large inventories of newly designed mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.  Even more troubling, U.S. officials now claim Iran is also providing shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles to Shi‘ite militias.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MIKLASZEWSKI:  All of this is being viewed with a great deal of skepticism, particularly on Capitol Hill, and it sparked a vigorous debate even within the administration itself over the reliability of the evidence.  According to one administration official, after everyone got burned on the claims of WMD in Iraq, there were few in the military or intelligence community who would like to take that chance again—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks so much, NBC‘s Jim Miklaszewski, live from the Pentagon tonight.

Here now, let‘s bring in Michael Isikoff, investigative reporter for “Newsweek.”  He‘s also the author of “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War.”

Michael, how does this information and how does the lead-up to a possible war with Iran line up with what you uncovered in your book, “Hubris”?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, I think what it tells us is that we ought to treat all of this with some caution and some skepticism.  In fact, this is probably the single biggest legacy of the Iraq experience, that the blow to the credibility of American intelligence is so severe that it‘s hard to know what to make of these reports such as we just aired—just aired by Jim Miklaszewski.

Yes, there is certainly troubling evidence that‘s suggestive of

Iranian involvement in Iraq against U.S. soldiers.  We, my colleague, Mark

Hosenball, and I, just reported last week about evidence that has concerned

U.S. intelligence agencies suggesting that infrared sensors that were being

that were showing up in Iraqi roadside bombs had come from—the infrared sensors that were being used in those roadside bombs had come from Iran.

But it is suggested this is deductive intelligence.  Just like the reports that we just aired suggesting Iranian involvement in the attack on Karbala, you know, there—my understanding is there‘s no hard proof of this.  There‘s no HUMINT, human intelligence sources, that are telling us this or no, you know, convincing human intelligence sources that are telling us this.  And so U.S. intelligence agencies are drawing conclusions, which is what they should be doing...

(CROSSTALK)

ISIKOFF:  ... have to be a little cautious...

SCARBOROUGH:  But let me ask you, though, again...

ISIKOFF:  ... about—yes?

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.  You‘ve talked about the cautiousness, again, a cautiousness that a lot of people would say was not exhibited in the lead-up to the Iraq war in March of 2003.  But again, drawing upon your experiences with the book that you wrote and all the investigative reports that you‘ve done for “Newsweek,” draw the comparisons.  Do you see parallels between the type of information that we‘ve been receiving about Iran in Iraq and the information that the Bush administration used to justify going to war in March of 2003?  Do you think they‘re making a similar case here?  Does it look like they are?

ISIKOFF:  It does.  And frankly, it‘s not just now.  You could go back four years and look at everything the Bush administration was saying about Iraq and say the evidence at the time was far more persuasive as it involved Iran than it did about Iraq.  Iranian involvement in anti-U.S.  terrorism was far greater than there was evidence of Iraqi involvement in anti-U.S. terrorism.  You had the attack on Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, for which the FBI had made a very persuasive case that high-level Iranian officials were directly involved.  You had nothing comparable to that involving the regime of Saddam Hussein.

So on the terrorism front alone, you had at the time more convincing evidence of Iranian connections then you ever had of Iraqi connections.  And carrying it through today, we know that Hezbollah, a designated terrorist group by the United States State Department, is largely funded and supported by Iran.

SCARBOROUGH:  So Michael, it sounds like you‘re saying, in effect, the Bush administration has a strong case to make against Iran, but because of the failures of intelligence and the hyping of intelligence leading up to the Iraq war in 2003, that we may be blocked from acting on a case that the president actually could make more persuasively.

ISIKOFF:  Well, I think he could have made a more persuasive case in 2002 against Iran then he made against Iraq.  Certainly, that‘s true.  But that said, it‘s still a big leap to get from there to invading a country or military involvement.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

ISIKOFF:  I mean, those are large geopolitical questions that involve all sorts of factors that go beyond simply the intelligence issues about connections to terrorism or connections to attacks against the United States, or even an ongoing nuclear program.  After all, Iran is a far bigger country.  It—you know, given all the problems we‘ve had in occupying Iraq and trying to restore and trying to impose a democratic regime on a country that had no tradition of it, I think you‘d have to say all of that goes for Iran.  And you add on top of that the lack of manpower, what the drainage...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, right.

ISIKOFF:  ... on troops is that we‘ve had because of Iraq—I don‘t think that, you know, many serious people in the military would consider an outright invasion, such as we did in 2003, is even an option against Iran, at this point.

SCARBOROUGH:  A possibility, because, again, we are—you talk to military men and women, they‘ll tell you our army is stretched so thin that it‘s even hard to consider doing a surge beyond what we‘re doing right now.

Let‘s bring in MSNBC contributor and “Boston Herald” columnist Mike Barnicle.  Also, Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com.

Mike, if the Iranians are, in fact, ambushing had killing U.S. troops, as the Pentagon suggests, they may not—they may be doing, does this not give the Bush administration even more cover to launch a possible attack of some sort against Iran?  And will they use that information to do that?

MIKE BARNICLE, “BOSTON HERALD,” MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, I mean,

theoretically,  I‘m sure it does.  but I mean, realistically, listen, we

don‘t have the capacity to do anything with Iran right now, other than bomb

them from the air.  On the ground, we can‘t do any thing.  We‘re stretched

as Mike Isikoff‘s just pointed out, stretched far too thin in terms of our deployments.  The logistics of invading Iran, a huge country, are nearly impossible for our forces right now.

What this report does, I think, for a person just looking at it, Mik‘s report, is it raises again questions about our supposed allies, the Iraqis because, clearly, with the Iranian involvement, that I absolutely buy, the Iraqis were complicit in the Iranians helping to kill Americans in Karbala, 25 miles south of Baghdad...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... you would be talking, of course, about Maliki‘s ally, al Sadr...

BARNICLE:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... who‘s an ally with the Iranians.  I mean, these—I mean, al Sadr—the reason al Sadr has power, in part, is because of the Iranians.  And the reason you‘ve got a Maliki government is because of al Sadr.  So we have the very people that we put in place being supported by a group of Iranians who may have possibly gunned down five of our troops.

BARNICLE:  The one thing it definitely does do, Joe, immediately and probably has been doing it for—effectively, for a few months now, it changes the rules of engagement on the ground.  There‘s no longer any pretense about who we are fighting against.  We are fighting Iraqis and some Iranians, as well.

But a little history should be noted here, too.  Back in Vietnam, it was not that unusual to find Russian and/or Chinese advisers with North Vietnamese army troops on the ground in South Vietnam.  So we never invaded China or Russia during that period of time.  So a little patience here and a little diplomacy might be called for.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Joan, if it is proven that U.S. troops were gunned down by Iranian forces, or at least that this attack was orchestrated by Iranians, doesn‘t that make the president‘s case easier to sell with an angry American public that never really got over the Iranian hostage crisis 26 years ago?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  No, Joe.  The president‘s going to have a really difficult sales job on this one with the country and with the Congress.  First of all, to go back to what Mike Barnicle said, this is really a dangerous situation because it is very likely that some element—if this is true, that some element of the Iraqi government is involved.  I mean, we have to accept the fact that we are in this country on the side of the Shia, and now we have Shia killing Shia.  It‘s not a simple as it was.  We‘ve seen that for a while.  We saw it in Najaf this weekend.

And so, you know, you have a situation where—do you remember when Prime Minister Maliki was standing up the president in Jordan in November, and President Talabani was in Iran, kissing President Ahmadinejad, sucking up to the Iranians?  There‘s a lot of Iranian/Iraqi relationship right now.  There may well be agents.  There may well be small caches of weapons, although no one‘s ever been able to prove...

SCARBOROUGH:  But you know...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s strip this down, though, because I think Mike Barnicle said he wouldn‘t be surprised if the Iranians were involved in something.  I don‘t think you would, either, would you, be surprised if the Iranians were helping out al Sadr, and by extension, the Maliki government...

WALSH:  It might be...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... in going after Americans?

WALSH:  It might be al Sadr.  It might well be the Badr Corps.  It‘s a hornet‘s nest of warring Shia factions there...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right, but...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... my point is this...

WALSH:  Go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH:  My point is this, though.  I think we‘ve found ourselves in a position now, four years after this war began, almost four years after this war began, of being helpless.  Knowing that—OK, it sounds like we‘re saying that maybe the Iranians were involved in gunning down U.S.  troops.  But there‘s really nothing—there‘s really nothing we can do about it four years later because we‘re stretched so thin.

WALSH:  We‘re...

SCARBOROUGH:  And I can‘t remember the United States military ever being so hollow that it couldn‘t respond to such a threat, but that‘s where we find ourselves today.

WALSH:  The Army is broken.  We‘ve heard it over and over.  So that even if we were to prove this threat, that this were a real—not provocation, an attack, there would be very little we could do about it.

But I also want to say Iran is a really complex country, and Ahmadinejad has a lot of trouble domestically right now.  The clerics are upset with him and the reformers are upset with him.  There are a lot of people who feel like he‘s gone too far on the world stage, sucking up to all kinds of crazy people and drawing the wrath of the United States.  So it‘s a really—you know, the idea that the Iranians deliberately made a decision, went in to kill American soldiers—it‘s really much more complicated than that.  And as Mike says, I think it‘s something for diplomacy and for a longer view.

But to get to your point, Joe, right, even if we decided they had attacked us, there would be very little we could do.

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle, do you think the president‘s going to use this type of information, though, to start beating—start beating the war drum a bit louder and possibly do limited military strikes?

BARNICLE:  No, I don‘t.  I don‘t.  I think the president, despite his

isolation with regard to this war and despite the fact that he gave us Iraq

the gift that keeps on giving, as Miklaszewski‘s report indicates, he—at some level, they‘re realistic enough to know they can‘t sell this, as Joan pointed out, to neither the Congress or the public.

This is a very difficult situation that stretches from Iran, through Syria, through southern Lebanon.  We have ignited that entire section of the world.  We just can‘t kill the numbers of people who hate us in that region of the world, Joe.  We have to be realistic about this.

Is there Iranian involvement in Iraq?

SCARBOROUGH:  I think you‘re right.

BARNICLE:  I mean, there‘s no doubt there‘s Iranian involvement in this area of the world.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt at all, and no doubt there‘s very little we can do right now.  Mike Barnicle, Joan Walsh and Michael Isikoff, thank you so much.  And of course, Michael is the author of “Hubris.”  You need to go out and buy it, wrote it with David Corn.  It‘s a great book.

Still ahead: “Many Money‘s” Jim Cramer on why any kind of U.S. attack on Iran could spike gas prices over $5 a gallon and cripple the American economy.  Does Iran have at the U.S. over a barrel?  Can we avoid the fight?  We‘ll ask Jim Cramer next.

Plus, what the Supreme Court Justices really think about their decision that put George W. Bush in the White House.  You‘ll get an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at what really goes on at the U.S.  Supreme Court coming up.

And later: Are those awful “Idol” auditions really as bad as they seem on TV?  We‘re going to be exposing the next “Idol” audition myth coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  If Iran does—if we do attack Iran, what would the fallout be for Americans?  Well, for starters, you‘d be longing for the days of $3 a gallon for gasoline.  And that‘s just the beginning.  For the real deal on what any kind of Iranian conflict would bring to these shores, I talked to Jim Cramer.  He‘s the host of CNBC‘s “Mad Money” and the author of the book “Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM CRAMER, HOST, CNBC “MAD MONEY”:  We will wake up to $100 oil.  We will wake up to $5-a-gallon gasoline.  The market cannot take it and the economy would not be able to take it.  I wish it weren‘t so, Joe, but that‘s the truth.

SCARBOROUGH:  So basically, Iran right now has us over a barrel.  Even if we knew that they were developing nuclear weapons and they had a president who was threatening the extermination of Israel and the United States, we really couldn‘t afford to do anything to them economically, could we.

CRAMER:  We‘ve let this thing get out of control.  We all know it.  We all know that we have no weapon against their oil weapon.  We‘ve never been this naked.  You see the numbers, like I do, about how much we have to import.

SCARBOROUGH:  What should the president of the United States do with this type of crisis facing him, not only militarily but economically?  What‘s his next step?

CRAMER:  I believe that we have to get oil higher and gasoline higher in order to be able to get ourselves off this addiction!  This isn‘t the way I want to it, though, Joe!  I don‘t want it to be because they own us, I want it to be because we‘re in control!  But it would hasten—it would hasten alternative energy, but not fast enough.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ve found that other conservatives like me are sounding like greenies because we‘re starting to talk about alternative fuel sources, doing anything we can to drive down the price of oil because that would hurt Iran.  That would hurt terror states.  I mean, do you agree with that assessment?

CRAMER:  Honestly, national defense is no longer in the domain of General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin.  National defense is a game plan to make it so that we can choke them off.  I feel so beholden to them!  America feels beholden to them!  We need to take action.  If you told me that we needed sky weapons, we needed space pebbles, that we needed to spend some huge amount of money to defend ourselves from missile attack, we would spend it.  But we need to defend ourselves from oil attack, and there‘s a lot of us, conservatives, liberals, that know that, and we‘re tired of thinking, Well, wait a second, maybe in 2020, ethanol will take off.  We want something to take off now, and we want to put a tax on it.  I know it would slow consumer spending, but it‘s a national defense tax!

SCARBOROUGH:  So what‘s happening on Wall Street, then, on this issue of alternative fuel sources?

CRAMER:  We‘re (INAUDIBLE)

SCARBOROUGH:  If smart money‘s not going after it, is it up to the president, this president or the next president, to begin a Sputnik-like program, where we respond to a threat that‘s out there and do whatever we can to get the federal government at the front of developing alternative fuel sources to choke off Iran and other terror states?

CRAMER:  Yes!  Look Joe, when oil was at $65 -- it was at $70 before the Saudis started to help us out by bringing it down, we were beginning to dust off plans, be able to take advantage of our giant coal supply.  How about the tar sands in Canada?  We have the ability to be economically independent, but oil‘s got to be higher, or we have to take it higher or we have to put a tax.  These are not issues that the conservatives should fight.  If you believe in national security, we need oil higher, not lower!

SCARBOROUGH:  Are the Saudis fairly close to the Iranians when it comes to oil and economics because their economic interests are—are so closely tied together, or are they enemies on an economic front also?

CRAMER:  I think that they are a free agent.  I feel that what they try to do is make sure that some of the great American companies that really are in a position to change our fixation on their oil can never make money.  I think that they are a mercantile nation that exports terrorist religion.  But they are a mercantile nation first.  And it‘s unfortunate, but they have been the reason why we won‘t bite the bullet.  Now, the Brazilians bit the bullet, for heaven‘s sake, Joe, in 1980 because they were tired of being hostage to Saudi Arabia.  Not us!  We‘re happy to be hostage!

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s the smart money betting on the street, that we‘re going to go in, that we‘re going to...

CRAMER:  No!

SCARBOROUGH:  ... launch attacks...

CRAMER:  That we‘re not going to go in.  That‘s what...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... or we‘re going to stay out?

CRAMER:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  Why?

CRAMER:  That‘s why oil went back to exactly where the Saudis want it.  The market is very sensitive.  You take a look—it‘s always very interesting.  You see what happened in 1990, ahead of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait?  The stocks all telegraphed that.  For three months, you knew from the way the stocks were acting!  It‘s not acting that way now.  We have no expectation that that‘s going to happen, and I don‘t think it will.

SCARBOROUGH:  Good to know.  Greatly appreciate it, Jim Cramer, as always.

CRAMER:  My pleasure.

SCARBOROUGH:  Really do appreciate you being here.  Thanks a lot.

CRAMER:  Thank you for letting me tell the truth~!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up, unprecedented access into the inner workings of the Supreme Court, including what really happened during the 2000 election and how the Justices now feel about that explosive, controversial decision.

But first:  It‘s a bird.  It‘s a plane.  No, it‘s “Must See S.C.” coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, wake up Grandma, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you got to see.  First up, Hillary Clinton faces a lot of obstacles in her bid for the presidency, but as Jon Stewart points out, not everything is a laughing matter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  We face a lot of evil men.  You know, people like Osama bin Laden comes to mind.  And what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?

(LAUGHTER)

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Her marriage was difficult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And finally, NBC‘s hit show “Heroes” involves a variety of characters with amazing super-powers.  Jay Leno gives us a sneak peak at a new promo, and it looks like the writers may be running out of ideas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, “TONIGHT” SHOW:  This new hero, I must say, as much as I enjoy the program, not as impressive as some of the other heroes.  Well, take a look at this newest one.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming son, a new hero with an incredible new power, a boy who can make his bicycle fly.  Well, maybe not.  “Heroes” on NBC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh!  And coming up next, from surprise (ph) dissent in the Bush administration to how one of the most conservative Justices helped keep Roe v. Wade on the books.  We‘re going to have an eye-opening look at the Supreme Court and politics next.  And later: Is Fox‘s “American Idol” deceiving viewers by making those awful auditions worse than they really are?  We‘re exposing the next “Idol” myth coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, which big-name celebrity may soon be joining Simon, Paula and Randy as judges on the panel?  That and another top “Idol” myth exposed, next.  That story in just minutes.

But first, the U.S. Supreme Court‘s term is shaping up to be the most controversial in years.  And what happens inside the court in 2007 will surely shape the presidential election in 2008. 

And our next guest has pulled back the veil on Washington‘s most secretive institution in her book, “Supreme Conflict,” and in doing so, ABC News‘ Jan Crawford Greenburg has been praised by the “New York Times” and hailed by the “L.A. Times” as the next Bob Woodward.

The “Times” review opens with this comparison, quote, “You know the name Woodward, as in Bob Woodward.  Well, now you should remember the name Greenburg.  ‘Supreme Conflict‘ is the richest and most impressive journalistic look at the panel since Woodward co-wrote ‘The Brethren‘ in 1979.”

Now, like in the “New York” and “L.A. Times,” I‘m a fan and have been for years.  Jan and I wrote at our college newspaper together, and I looked over this book before publication.  And, you know, Jan actually interviewed nine Supreme Court justices for “Supreme Conflict,” and I asked her if any of them regretted the outcome of the controversial Bush v. Gore ruling. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG, AUTHOR, “SUPREME CONFLICT”:  They think they did the right thing.  They think the court had a duty to step in.  It was a country in crisis.  They couldn‘t have a state court down in Florida determining the outcome of a presidential election. 

O‘Connor said to me on the record, you know, that that Florida Supreme Court that was ordering the recounts to continue was off on a trip of its own.  Kennedy told me it was a no-brainer that the court would take up that case.

Now, they do acknowledge that wasn‘t the court‘s best effort.  That‘s as far as they‘ll go.  They say, you know, if they had had more time, they could have done a better job.  It wouldn‘t have changed the result. 

But the liberal justices, when you talk to the liberal justices about Bush v. Gore, they‘re kind of sad when they talk about it, almost like they can‘t believe that that happened.  And they still believe that the Supreme Court would not have reached the same outcome, that the conservative justices would not have ruled for Bush if the parties had been reversed. 

They think the court never would have taken the case if Al Gore, you

know, had been on the other side, if it had been Gore v. Bush.  So there

still is this lingering kind of sadness, a little resentment.  And the

liberal justices, to this day, believe that that case was very much driven

by politics.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN ABRAMS, EXECUTIVE, MSNBC:  Seven justices of the court agree that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court that demands a remedy.  Tom, I think that means this is over. 

TOM BROKAW, FORMER HOST, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  All right, thanks very much, NBC‘s Dan Abrams...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  One of the things that conservatives would say this president got right were his Supreme Court nominations.  What happened?  How did George W. Bush get Roberts and Alito so right?

GREENBURG:  Well, I agree.  I mean, history may judge George W. Bush harshly on any number of levels, but historians will not be able to write that he failed to change the direction of the Supreme Court.  

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Good morning.  I‘m pleased to announce my nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Judge Roberts has earned the nation‘s confidence, and I am pleased to announce that I will nominate him to serve as the 17th chief justice of the Supreme Court. 

GREENBURG:  His nominations of John Roberts to be chief justice and Samuel Alito, to take that pivotal seat, you know, once held by Justice Sandra Day O‘Connor, will really dramatically change the court in a more conservative direction. 

And the Bush administration did that very methodically.  They interviewed candidates.  They started interviewing candidates secretly well before William Rehnquist or O‘Connor ever left the bench.  So they had a plan, and they stuck to it.  They just had that one incredible strategic blunder in nominating Harry Miers, which is almost impossible to believe when you look at how their nominations of Roberts and Alito went through, and that story, the behind-the-scenes story of the Miers nomination, is really just incredible. 

BUSH:  This morning, I am proud to announce that I am nominating Harriet Ellen Miers to serve as associate justice of the Supreme Court.  

BRIAN WILLIAMS, HOST, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  The votes weren‘t there in the U.S. Senate, and so tonight the Miers nomination has been withdrawn. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Where does the blame lie for the Harriet Miers nomination? 

GREENBURG:  Joe, it was just disconnect at every level in the administration.  I mean, you can point to so many different people and say they should get the blame, they should get the blame, starting with President Bush, who thought that she would be the nominee, a nominee who wouldn‘t change when she got on the bench. 

But Bush didn‘t listen.  He didn‘t listen to some of his advisers.  He didn‘t listen to Miers‘ deputy, when he told President Bush that Sam Alito would have been a better nominee.  And the one person in the White House, as I describe in the book, in the administration, the one person who raised serious opposition to the Miers nomination was the one that no one would have suspected, kind of the one most vilified by conservatives, and that was the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. 

Gonzales went to President Bush.  He laid out his concerns.  He knew conservatives would revolt, and Bush didn‘t listen.  A few days later, he nominated Harriet Miers, and, of course, we saw what happened, as that nomination quickly fell apart, at some great personal cost, of course, to Harriet Miers herself.

HARRIET MIERS, FORMER NOMINEE FOR SUPREME COURT:  And now I look forward to the next step in the process that has begun this morning, including the Senate‘s consideration of my nomination.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s talk about a man who‘s never been a swing vote on the court, Clarence Thomas.  He came in, in 1991.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I, Clarence Thomas...

CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE:  I, Clarence Thomas...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do solemnly swear...

THOMAS:  Do solemnly swear...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That I will support and defend...

THOMAS:  That I will support and defend...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Constitution of the United States...

SCARBOROUGH:  Explain how a conservative stalwart like Justice Thomas actually ended making the Supreme Court more liberal. 

GREENBURG:  Well, there are a couple great stories about Justice Thomas that really are different than the conventional wisdom.  Even to this day, on Justice Thomas, the persistence stereotypes and the views among people who don‘t really follow the court everyday is that Thomas is just kind of this lackey of Scalia.  And why that persists, I think, is the lingering effect from his brutal confirmation hearings...

THOMAS:  ... and these are charges that play into racist, bigoted stereotypes.  This is high-tech lynching.  I cannot shake off these accusations, because they play to the worst stereotypes we have about black men in this country. 

GREENBURG:  Everyone thought then that the court was going to turn to the right, because, you know, remember he was replacing that great liberal icon, Thurgood Marshall.  But instead, that year, the court turned to the left.

Justice Sandra Day O‘Connor, the justice in the middle, the woman who sees herself as the balancing person, a former state legislator, she moved over to the left.  So when Thomas came on the court, it caused O‘Connor to really back away. 

And that term, his first term on the bench, that‘s when we saw the court put Roe v. Wade on more solid ground than ever before.  They outlawed school prayer at graduation ceremonies.  They had a number of rulings in favor of criminal defendants.  So that term is when we saw on the court strongly move to the left, where it stayed throughout the duration of the Rehnquist court era. 

BUSH:  The Supreme Court now has two superb new members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito.  I will continue to nominate men and women who understand that judges must be servants of the law and not legislate from the bench. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think it‘s safe to say that you‘ve had unprecedented access with Supreme Court justices.  How did you get them to come out and talk about how the Supreme Court works? 

GREENBURG:  You know, I asked.  You know, I wish I could say there was something more than that.  I‘ve known these justices for some time, and, again, I think it just comes to the trust, and they feel comfortable talking to you. 

I wish I could say to my bosses at ABC that I had some great secret for getting people to sit down with me, but it‘s all in the reporting.  And I asked—and, again, I mean, I just felt gratified that they agreed to do it.  It was really exciting. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Jan Crawford Greenburg, thank you so much for being with us. 

GREENBURG:  Thank you, Joe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And make sure you pick up Jan‘s new book, “Supreme Conflict.”  Go to Amazon.com.  That will work just fine.

Coming up next, don‘t believe everything you see on “American Idol.”  Why the auditions they show you aren‘t always what really happened.  We‘re exposing another “Idol” myth, next.

And later, break out the earplugs.  We‘ve got K-Fed‘s Super Bowl debut coming up in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Another night of “American Idol” is upon us, and don‘t worry, West Coast viewers, we‘re not going to ruin the episode that just wrapped up, but we are going to expose another of “Idol‘s” dirty little secrets.  Look at this clip from the Minneapolis auditions. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The state of 10,000 lakes.  And when we arrived, we found 10,000 people. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m going to the top, baby. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m the next “American Idol,” baby. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am the next “American Idol.”  

SEACREST:  They certainly sing well as a crowd, but how would they sing on their own?  It was up to the judges to find out.

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Come on, Minneapolis.  You‘ve got to represent.  I‘m going to tell Prince.

SEACREST:  With so many auditions to get through, the judges invited acclaimed pop star Jewel to join them on the panel.

JEWEL, SINGER:  I‘m excited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, wait, Randy, Paula and Simon saw all those people?  I don‘t think so.  Which brings us to tonight‘s “Idol” audition myth:  The TV audience sees what really happened during each addition. 

That‘s the myth.  Here now to expose it, former “American Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen and “InTouch Weekly” senior editor Tom O‘Neil.

Carmen, they say that all of these judges see all of these people, but that‘s not the case at all, obviously.  I mean, how do they filter it down to make sure that they just see the people that are going to make the best TV?

CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Well, I auditioned in L.A. at the Rose Bowl, and there were 5,000 people waiting outside.  But only 500 made it through to see the judges.  In fact, they split us up in two groups of 250, 250 on Thursday, and 250 on Friday.  So the judges see actually one-tenth probably of the people that actually show up at these auditions. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course, the judges, they show all of these people in the stadium.  The judges aren‘t even there, right? 

RASMUSEN:  No, they‘re not.  In fact, like I said, I auditioned at the Rose Bowl.  And when I addition in front of the judges, it was at the Renaissance Hotel, so it‘s a different day, different place.  The judges were nowhere to be seen the day I auditioned.  And in fact I—what was that?

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s the deal with them having them sing the same song, everybody singing the same song?  How do they line that up?

RASMUSEN:  Well, we were given a list of 75 songs we could choose from.  So there wasn‘t a huge variety.  And sometimes I was actually asked to sing three songs.  After I sang the first song that was on the list, they asked me to sing two other songs.  And they picked the third song for me.

So sometimes they‘ll pick a song for you, and then they‘ll, you know, put it on the screen, so everyone is singing, you know, the national anthem or “Bootylicious” or whatever.  So it looks like people just chose that song on their own, when really they did that for TV. 

And I was so nervous the day I went in to audition that I forgot to put powder on.  Don‘t you hate that, Joe, when you forget to put powder on your face for TV and you‘re all shiny and whatever?  

SCARBOROUGH:  I certainly do.  And that happens more nights than not. 

RASMUSEN:  It turned out that it didn‘t even matter.  My audition wasn‘t even shown on TV.  In fact, I wasn‘t shown the entire audition process of “American Idol.”  Even when they flashed the faces of who made it through, my face wasn‘t on there.  

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s crazy.  But probably because you were so good, because it‘s the bad auditions that provide “Idol” editors with so much material for montages like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (SINGING)

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  OK.

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Oh my god.  Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (SINGING) 

COWELL:  This has been one of the worst days we‘ve ever had, and you are probably the worst we‘ve had today. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom, obviously, he‘s mean as can be, but the editors aren‘t that much nicer, are they?  I mean, they use some nasty editing tricks.

TOM O‘NEIL, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  That‘s really what the problem is here, is that the show is so dishonest in that way.  So many of these contestants are saying that they‘re using reactions that Simon gave to their second song for their first one, or things completely out of context.  Some people believe that the judges come back when no one is around just to say nasty stuff that the contestants probably don‘t even hear. 

But you know what?  All of this is our fault, because we love the nasty stuff.  There have been many shows like this in the past, like “Star Search,” but we love this one because it‘s so mean, even though it‘s supposedly called “American Idol.”  It‘s supposedly aspirational and positive.  All of these early preview shows we‘re watching now, Joe, they‘re all negative and nasty. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Probably all of them.  And, you know, one editing trick that‘s been widely criticized is the decision that they make to include footage of contestants having trouble with a locked door.  Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON:  Thank you, Jonathan.  Thanks for coming out, dude.

ABDUL:  Always believe in yourself, because you‘ll make it through with something. 

Thank you so much for coming down.  

JACKSON:  Thanks, baby.

COWELL:  Other door.

JACKSON:  Other door. 

COWELL:  Thank you for a much. 

ABDUL:  Thank you, Stephen.

JACKSON:  Thanks, Stephen.

COWELL:  Other door.  

JACKSON:  That‘s no to Hollywood.  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you guys want the posters? 

ABDUL:  No.

JACKSON:  No.

I‘m going to wait for the tin man.  I‘m going to call the tin man right now.

COWELL:  Other door.

ABDUL:  Thank you, Jesse, for coming down.

JACKSON:  Thank you, Jesse.

COWELL:  Other door.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, that‘s just unnecessarily mean, isn‘t it?  

RASMUSEN:  It is.  You know, looking back at that footage, I think I might have had an other-door episode, where I can‘t...

(LAUGHTER)

RASMUSEN:  And they do.  They do that TV, because it‘s funny.  And actually, something to go along with what Tom said, editing, cutting and pasting things, Randy actually wasn‘t there the day that I auditioned.  I think I‘ve said that before.  He was at a Krispy Kreme commercial.  But when you watch the auditions back on my season, he‘s magically in the chair one of the days.  So they do kind of cut and paste things together.

SCARBOROUGH:  They do tricks like that all the time.  Hey, Carmen, thanks so much.

RASMUSEN:  Thanks a lot.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom, stay with us, because “Hollyweird” is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, fire your stylist, because, like me, you just made the worst-dressed list again.  It‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, Kevin Federline.  You‘re not going to wait for the big game to see a Super Bowl ad.  We‘ve got a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Federline!  Fries!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Life comes at you fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A nationwide annuity could guarantee you income for life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Here now, editor-at-large for “Life and Style Weekly,” Dawn Yanek.  Still with us, Tom O‘Neil from “InTouch Weekly.”

Tom, funny commercial.  I mean, this guy actually may become a lovable clown, right? 

O‘NEIL:  Yes, because he‘s really in on the joke this time.  He‘s laughing at himself.  And you know who‘s not laughing here, Joe, is Britney Spears.  Because Kevin is getting what she never could.  She always wanted a commercial on the Super Bowl.  Kevin‘s getting it.  Nyah, nyah.

SCARBOROUGH:  Unbelievable.  And what do you think?  You think it may actually help her career, Dawn?  His career? 

DAWN YANEK, “LIFE AND STYLE”:  His career definitely.  I mean, with this spot and with his turn on “CSI,” he said that he is reportedly focusing on acting.  And if this works, this could be the biggest turnaround in fortune ever.  I‘m thinking very lucky him, maybe poor us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, poor us, exactly.  And, of course, “Life and Style” is reporting a Brangelina wedding may be right around the corner.  Dawn, what‘s the story here?

YANEK:  Well, unfortunately, as we know, Angie‘s mom passed away recently, just this weekend.  And one of her wishes was to see Angie and Brad married.  She was one of Brad‘s biggest supporters.

And so now that she has passed, that question of, “Will they or won‘t they get married?” seems to be looming large.  And what we‘ve heard at “Life and Style Weekly” is that Brad has been amazing since all of this has happened.  He‘s been on the set, of course, with “Benjamin Button,” but he‘s been waking up early, spending a lot of time with the kids, caring for Angie, as well.  So we shall see if wedding bells are in the future.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom O‘Neil, it looks like Brad Pitt is a sensitive soul here.  I mean, come no.  He‘s sort of a ‘90s male in the 21st century, huh? 

O‘NEIL:  He really is.  And, by the way, he‘s been proposing to Angela, and she just has not said yes.  And at various times, she wanted it, he didn‘t.  So what Dawn‘s saying here is that, finally, unfortunately, her mother‘s death may have them both focused on the same thing, which was turning this into a legalized family. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  And hey, you know, and, Tom, J-Lo is saying that people should stop criticizing Scientology.  She‘s revealing her father‘s a member of the church.  How do you think Scientology will affect her career, that connection? 

O‘NEIL:  Well, it now explains what she was doing so chummily at Tom and Katie‘s wedding.  There seemed to be this extraordinary connection that we never knew about between all them.  Well, it turns out it was kind of religious things going on behind the scenes here, and I‘d love to know more myself. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Dawn, it would seem to me that that sort of relationship with the church could actually hurt her career.  It certainly hasn‘t helped Tom Cruise‘s, has it? 

YANEK:  I don‘t know if it‘s going to hurt her career.  I mean, it‘s one of those things that she said, you know, “Scientology is a religion just like any other religion.  I‘m interested in it, and my father has been a Scientologist for years.  So we will see what happens.”  Her reps are saying she is not going to convert from Catholicism, but we‘ve heard that she is intrigued by the whole idea. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Tom, if you‘re an agent in Hollywood and your client is flirting with Scientology, you have to be scared, don‘t you, because of Tom Cruise? 

O‘NEIL:  Yes, absolutely.  This church has gotten such a negative rap, I can‘t imagine a worse religious tie-in for a celebrity right now.  J-Lo, don‘t go there. 

YANEK:  I don‘t know.  I think she‘ll be OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  No go J-Lo.  Hey, thank you so much, Tom O‘Neil.  And thank you, Dawn Yanek, as always.

YANEK:  Thanks, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We really appreciate it.  And that‘s all the time we have for tonight.  We‘ll see you here tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

But don‘t go anywhere.  “LOCK-UP: INSIDE ANAMOSA” starts right now.

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

END   

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