updated 2/2/2007 10:55:29 AM ET 2007-02-02T15:55:29

Guests: Joe Klein, Michael Crowley, Mort Zuckerman, Carmen Rasmusen, Courtney Hazlett, Steve Mayer

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, a former “American Idol” now up for an Academy Award says she was abused, misled brainwashed by the hit show.  A “Dreamgirls” nightmare straight ahead.

But first, the president is dealing with his own political nightmare as Senate Republicans turn first against themselves and then Mr. Bush.  Meanwhile, the president‘s top commander in Iraq got grilled on the Hill today but still refused that his strategy in that chaotic war was a failure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  So you disagree with the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Admiral Fallon that we have a failed policy?

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY, OUTGOING IRAQ FORCES COMMANDER:  I do, Senator.  I do not believe that the current policy has failed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And tonight, more bad news for the White House as a congressional report shows that this Bush surge that we heard is 20,000 could actually reach 48,000 troops and cost Americans almost $10 billion more than the White House is now claiming.

Here now to talk about all the events on the Hill today, “Time” magazine columnist Joe Klein, Michael Crowley—he‘s senior editor for “The New Republic”—and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Joe Klein, let‘s start with you.  It seems as if the White House has sent conservatives out after John Warner and other Republican leaders, you know, basically using the same tactics against them that they‘ve used against Democrats in the past.  Do you think we‘re seeing the Republican Party starting to eat its own over Iraq?

JOE KLEIN, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Well, I think that there‘s a real serious division within the Republican Party about this, and I think that there‘s a fair amount of—this is a reflection of our democracy.  Most people in the country do not think that the surge is the right idea.  They want to have us draw down, as the Baker-Hamilton commission wanted us to, and this is one of those wonderful moments when—you know, the Senate is actually reflecting public opinion and reflecting the un-wisdom, the lack of wisdom inherent in the president‘s policy.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, the president is coming under a tremendous amount of fire, obviously, from all the Democrats, from about half of the Republicans.  I want to you listen, Joe, though, to how the White House is responding tonight.  This is what Tony Snow had to say about Republicans who are opposing the president‘s surge plans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  As you know, I‘ve said many times Osama bin Laden thought the lack of American resolve was a key reason why he could inspire people to come after us on September 11.  I am not accusing members of the Senate of inviting carnage on the United States of America.  I‘m simply saying you think about what impact it may have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s not inviting comparisons, however...

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN:  He making comparisons.

SCARBOROUGH:  We can‘t help but think about Osama bin Laden getting the message that Americans were weak after Somalia in 1993, and then planning the attack on 9/11.  And it seems as if that‘s what Tony Snow is suggesting not of Ted Kennedy, but of Republicans like John Warner!

KLEIN:  It‘s really—it‘s pretty disgraceful, I mean, but the Bush administration‘s been doing this throughout.  You know, there are a number of people who have said—and Snow implied it—that this would undermine the troops.  And I‘ve spoken to a lot of people in the military who do feel that way.  But it really isn‘t a slap in the face in the troops, it‘s a slap in the face of the president.

And it‘s the job of our civilian leaders to stand back.  I mean, the military is trained, reflexively, God bless them, to complete the mission.  But they are myopic.  They are focused in on that.  It‘s the job of the civilian leadership to figure out what the right mission should be.  And I think that at this point, we should be pulling back and thinking about the broader struggle against Islamic radicalism.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  You know, I had shown you what the White House was suggesting we needed to do to win that broader struggle against Islamic radicalism and how they are actually going after Republican senators, possibly comparing them to people that encourage the likes of Osama bin Laden.  I want to read for you—because this is really extraordinary, anybody that‘s served on the Hill understands or reported on the Hill understands how extraordinary it is that, actually, Republican senators are now turning on Senator Warner and other Republican leaders who support Warner‘s resolution.

Senator Jim DeMint, a good friend of mine from South Carolina, says, quote, “It is clearly not an act of leadership.”  Senator John Cornyn from Texas said, quote, “To offer nonbinding resolutions which encourage our enemies and undermine our allies and deflate the morale of our troops is to me the worst of all possible worlds.”  And Senator Jim Bunning, a guy I served with from Kentucky, says, quote, “We must work together collectively on advancing our national interests instead of splintering off and playing into the hands of our enemies.”

Joe Klein, you have two of those three senators who are suggesting—they‘re not suggesting, they are saying that Republicans like John Warner who oppose this surge are playing into the hands of terrorists.  How do you respond to that?

KLEIN:  It‘s certainly not the way Republicans normally behave, is it.  You know, John Warner—I watched these hearings today, and John Warner‘s questions of General Casey were extremely judicious, as were the questions of Jack Reed and Carl Levin and a number of other people who have real experience with the military.  It seems to me a lot of the potshot-ing from both the left and the right are coming—is coming from people who are mostly knee-jerk liberals and knee-jerk conservatives.

I think that what‘s happened here with Republicans and Democrats coming together to express, you know, a moderate will on this, that isn‘t really—it‘s not a pejorative sort of resolution.  It‘s pretty judicious.  I just think that the people on the wings are showing themselves way out of the American mainstream.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Pat Buchanan, you‘re a very conservative guy.  Nobody‘s ever accused you of being a moderate.  I consider myself to be extraordinarily conservative.  I‘m the same guy that I was when I was up in Congress, and I really don‘t care about what Jacques Chirac and the United Nations think.  I care about our troops.  I care about what‘s best for America.  And I oppose this surge because I don‘t think it‘s going to make a huge difference over there.

How can you have Republicans, friends of mine like Jim DeMint, Jim Bunning, John Cornyn, accusing Republicans like John Warner of playing into the hands of enemies, and Tony Snow doing the same thing, when an overwhelming amount of Americans agree with the position that John Warner‘s taking and that you‘re taking and that I‘ve taken?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I credit Bunning and DeMint and the others, and Tony Snow, when they say they believe deeply that this resolution will undercut the war effort and send a message to our enemies that if they hold on, they‘ve got a divided America and they can win.  I take both sides here on this thing, Joe, as being sincere and honest.

But the bottom line is this.  The Senate is not leading public opinion, it is following public opinion.  The country registered its opinion in November, and now Congress is trying to catch up.  And I...

SCARBOROUGH:  So Pat, you‘re saying tonight that John Warner is sending the wrong message to our enemies because he is following the popular will of the overwhelming number of Americans who oppose continuing down this path, this failed path.

BUCHANAN:  Right.  Well, what I‘m saying is, is that both sides, in a sense, may be right here.  I think John Warner is an honorable man who believes the surge is a mistake, and he ought to register that opinion and try to force the president to change this policy because it‘s not in the national interest.  The other folks believe deeply that it is sending that message to the enemies, and they feel that deeply.  This is why, Joe, this is not a phony fight.  This is a real battle.  It is going to transfer itself into the Republican primaries...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Pat, let me ask you this.  You‘ve been around the block quite a few times.  You were there during the Vietnam war, the divisions that occurred inside the Republican Party.  Do you believe that John Warner‘s resolution is aiding and comforting our enemies not only in Iraq but Islamic terrorists across the globe?

BUCHANAN:  I think the—let me say this.  I think Warner is reflecting public opinion, but I do believe the very fact—and the truth that we are divided, we are against this war now, we want to get out, we want to be gotten out quickly—obviously, if you‘re fighting the United States of America, that‘s a heartening message to receive.  That doesn‘t make it necessarily the wrong message.

I think we were right to get out of Lebanon.  I think we were right to get out of Somalia.  But there‘s no doubt our enemies took that as a sign of weakness.  As I say, there‘s truth on both sides here, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Crowley, you know, Democrats are united, but it does look like the GOP is being thrown into a civil war.  How bad is it going to get for the Republican Party?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Well, pretty bad.  I mean, it‘s ironic, if you look back four years ago, when Howard Dean was starting to explode, the war was tearing the Democratic Party apart, and four years later, what a difference four years makes.  The Republican Party looks like it‘s being torn apart.  I mean, these guys have been incredibly united, generally speaking, in the Bush era, and this is striking because it‘s so rare that we see these guys in-fighting.

I would say that people like John Cornyn have been consistently wrong on questions about the conduct of the war, how the war is going, how much oversight there should be.  So for them to come up now and point fingers and say that everyone is getting it wrong—you know, I just don‘t think they have a lot of credibility left, for the same reasons that the president really doesn‘t have a lot of credibility left.

SCARBOROUGH:  What happens next with the Republican Party?  Does this surge go down, and does the Republican Party remain divided throughout the rest of this war, which, again, will lead up through the 2008 presidential election?

CROWLEY:  I think that‘s exactly right.  And you know, a lot will depend on how the surge goes.  I mean, it‘s conceivable that the surge would make things look a little better, and that would reboot the debate to some extent, and some people would be claiming vindication and saying we need more of that.  I mean, that would be very interesting.  But I doubt it.

And I think that what will happen is that you will see more and more of the anti-war view seep into the Republican Party, and I think you‘re going to see some of these candidates starting to run for cover.  A lost them are supporting the surge now, most of the GOP nominees.  I think that‘s going to change.  You may see a guy like Sam Brownback get traction, and if he starts to get traction for opposing it, everyone else is going to want to kind of follow in his footsteps, you know?

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I‘ve got to say, just listening to this debate today, Joe Klein, has just made me very angry, angry at a lot of people in my Republican Party, angry at people that I like very much.  The suggestion that either you support the president 100 percent or you‘re not a conservative is offensive to me.  I am more conservative than George Bush has ever been!  I‘m more conservative when it comes to the military.  I‘m more conservative when it comes to economics.  I‘m more conservative when it comes to spending our money.

But somehow, this president has been able to make the argument, You either support me, you either support—what, $10 billion more dollars, I guess, Joe?  I mean, you either support these false estimates that I make at the beginning of the war, you either support my plan to give the generals less troops than they need to win the war at the beginning and more troops than they want at the end, or else you‘re not a conservative.

I don‘t know how that message doesn‘t tear the Republican Party apart, and I wonder, Why aren‘t there more John Warners out there?

KLEIN:  Can I make two points about this, Joe?  First of all, the people—you know, the guy who really undermined our troops, the guys who undermined our troops, were the Bush administration.  In June of 2003, the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense were briefed by the CIA, briefed by the Defense Intelligence Agency, as well, that we were facing a guerrilla insurgency in Iraq.  What did they do?  What were they concerned about?  They were freaked out about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, so they sent over 1,200 intelligence agents to look for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and they did absolutely nothing at that point to fight the insurgency.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Joe Klein...

KLEIN:  So they lost their moral standing at that point.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to stay—Let me stay with Joe Klein for one second.  And Joe, do you remember also in the fall of that year, we‘re now finding out three, four years—three years later, that the president was told by his top general in Iraq that there was an insurgency?

KLEIN:  Even earlier than that.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Don‘t use that word.  You got to stand shoulder to shoulder with me.  And of course, we can talk about the estimates at the beginning of the war.  What the generals said they needed to win this war, they didn‘t get.  So it seems to me they were undercut from the very beginning—our military.  I‘m not talking about Republicans, I‘m talking about our military.

KLEIN:  The other point I‘d like to make is this.  You have to look carefully at what John Warner is saying.  He is not saying we need to cut and run, he‘s saying that there‘s a civil war going on in Baghdad and that we shouldn‘t be part of that part of the battle.  What he believes is that we should increase the troop levels out in Anbar province, where al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is based.

BUCHANAN:  Joe, let me just say something.  Look, I‘m as conservative as you are, and the truth is, this war...

KLEIN:  I‘m not as conservative as either of you.

BUCHANAN:  This war was a mistake...

SCARBOROUGH:  Lucky you.

BUCHANAN:  This war was a mistake to begin with!

KLEIN:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  It was not a threat to the United States of America, whether he had chemical weapons or not.  He hadn‘t attacked us.  He didn‘t want war with us.  He was in a box.  This is a product of hubris and ideology marching up there, and everybody‘s at each other‘s throat because they were both wrong.

CROWLEY:  And Joe, if I can make one last quick point  On this question about giving aid and comfort to bin Laden by running and not showing fortitude, I think there is evidence that bin Laden thought America was weak, but it‘s not the only factor in our calculation.  It does us a lot of damage to be bogged down...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, and the thing is, Michael...

CROWLEY:  ... in a war that‘s bleeding us...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... it is a false analogy because we‘re talking about 13 or 14 troops killed in Somalia.  We‘re 3,000 deep in.

CROWLEY:  Exactly.

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s costing us hundreds of billions of dollars.

CROWLEY:  That is so much worse...

SCARBOROUGH:  And you know what?  I would stay the course if there was any evidence at all that we could win this war.  But when you have a general testifying on the Hill in front of John McCain that he still thinks that we‘re on the right path, that he still thinks no mistakes have been made—I‘m telling you, there are troops that live around northwest Florida that are over in Iraq, that live in Washington, that live across this country, that will not be coming home next Christmas because they will be dead because we have leaders that don‘t understand that we‘re on the wrong course in Iraq!  If you‘re a true conservative, there is no way you can support staying the course in the sight of such failure.  Either come up with a new plan or bring our troops home!

All right, that‘s my sermon for tonight.  Joe Klein and Michael Crowley, thank you.  Pat Buchanan, stick around.  We‘ll be right back.

Coming up next: Who would France side with in a war between the United States and Iran?  Well, the Bush administration fights back after Jacques Chirac claims he‘s all right with Iran going nuclear.  We‘re going to have the very latest on that appeasement policy next.

Plus, Joe Biden rushes to Jon Stewart to explain his controversial comments about Barack Obama.  We‘ll show you his “Daily Show” mea culpa straight ahead and tell you why Al Sharpton told the senator he bathes every day.

And later, “American Idol” gets trashed by one of its biggest alumni ever.  “Dreamgirls” Jennifer Hudson lashes out at the show that made her a star.  We‘ll show you what she‘s saying about Simon and company coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... gained a key ally today in the war against the West.  French president Jacques Chirac caused an international incident today after suggesting he would be fine with Iran having nukes.  Chirac told “The New York Times,” quote, “What is dangerous about this situation is not the fact of having a nuclear bomb, having one or maybe a second one a little later—well, that‘s not very dangerous.”  The French government quickly put out its own (INAUDIBLE) in its place, saying France cannot accept a nuclear Iran.

Meantime today, President‘s Bush‘s point man for Iran at the State Department is offering yet another veiled threat to that country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICHOLAS BURNS, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE:  It‘s not us who are being provocative or raising the stakes here.  And the Iranians need to understand they can‘t come barging into a situation and express what they want and seek a position of dominance without some kind of reaction.  It‘s very clear.  Iran has a regional agenda which is very much at odds with that of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Here now to talk about France, Chirac and the possible coming war with Iran is Mort Zuckerman.  He‘s editor-in-chief of “U.S. News & World Report.  And still with us, Pat Buchanan.

Mort, were you surprised by Jacques Chirac‘s statement today that a nuclear Iran—and this, of course, is a country that said it wants to obliterate Israel and the United States—their president said it recent, even.  Are you surprised that the president of France would make such an outrageous statement?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  Well, it is an outrageous statement, but frankly, I‘m not surprised.  Jacques Chirac has long felt that the major concern for countries like France is the United States.  They really feel that the United States is literally a rogue nation.  If you recall, they sabotaged the United States and the U.N. at the beginning of the Gulf war with the resolutions that went along.  They have been opposed to many policies of the United States.  They have an anti-U.S.  attitude.

It is not only true of Chirac, it‘s true of de Villepin, the—now the prime minister and then the foreign minister.  And this has been their attitude through many, many different situations.  I‘ve been with Chirac several times, and I‘ve been astonished at the degree to which he expresses his hostility to the United States.

SCARBOROUGH:  So you‘re telling us, Mort, that Jacques Chirac, in his mind, the Jacques Chirac that you met and that you‘ve known in these meetings with him, actually is more fearful of the United States...

ZUCKERMAN:  Right.  He literally...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... than he is of a nuclear Iran?

ZUCKERMAN:  He literally thinks that the United States is the most dangerous country in this world, that their policies and the way they execute their policies are so inept and outrageous that he really seeks ways to balance off and counterbalance American policy across a whole range of things.  On Iran, I think, of course, he‘s totally wrong because Iran is literally the most important geostrategic change of the 21st century, and a very dangerous one for the United States.  And if they get to be nuclear-armed, that‘s going to make it—that‘s going to compound it for the entire region.  So I think he is totally wrong on that, but it doesn‘t surprise me at all.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, do you believe that a nuclear Iran is dangerous, so dangerous not only to us but also to our ally Israel, that the United States should do whatever it takes to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I support the president‘s policy now, and—which is really putting pressure on Iran, diplomatic, political, military and everything, to force them to the table to negotiate away their nuclear program.  I think that‘s a good policy.

I think Chirac has undercut it horribly with his stupid statement.  I disagree with Mort only to this extent.  I don‘t think Chirac actually fears the United States.  I think he is envious of us.  He detests us.  He wants to see us brought down and humiliated.  I think he‘s rejoicing in our troubles in Iran because—Iraq, excuse me—because it sort of, in his judgment, proves him right.  And I think he‘s a real problem.

I don‘t look upon France as a great American ally, Joe.  We have common interests in Lebanon.  We work together there.  But I‘ve always believed that, you know, after a certain period, we ought to just, frankly, get rid of the NATO alliance because of a lot of these fellows are really not much help in western Europe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think also, Mort, like Pat, that you have Iran emboldened today by Jacques Chirac‘s statement, that they now believe that they‘ve been given more cover to develop nuclear weapons and continue to threaten the United States and Israel?

ZUCKERMAN:  No, without question.  In fact, this is part a long pattern here, where China and Russia always undercut the U.N. resolutions seeking to constrain Iran‘s program of the development of nuclear weapons.  This is one of the most serious dangers facing that region, and therefore the United States, over the next decade or two.

And there is no doubt but that a number of countries just do not feel, for various reasons—China because it has oil contracts with Iran, France, which had a lot of economic interest in Iraq, Russia, which has been selling nuclear power facilities to Iran for a long time.  So these are countries that have economic interests that are directly contrary to the national security interests of the United States...

BUCHANAN:  Joe?

ZUCKERMAN:  ... and they play this game.

BUCHANAN:  Joe, let me add this.  This is stupid of the French, to undercut our diplomatic hand when it is working in Iran.  Ahmadinejad is in big trouble over there.  They think he‘s bringing the fire of the United States on their head.  By undercutting us, what Chirac is doing is increasing the possibility that the coalition at the U.N. Security Council will break up and George Bush will go to the last option.

SCARBOROUGH:  He really is.  He‘s actually backing the president into a corner here.

All right, thanks so much, Mort Zuckerman and Pat Buchanan.  Greatly appreciate it.  And for the very latest on the coming war with Iran, check out our Web site, joe.msnbc.com.

Coming up next: Joe Biden cleans up his act after some questionable comments about Barack Obama being a clean and intelligent and articulate African-American.  What?  His “Daily Show” appearance is next on “Must See S.C.”

And later: Is Paula Abdul crazier than ever?  Her latest “Idol” antics

going bonkers.  Plus, why one of the show‘s most famous contestants is now slamming the hit program.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.”  This is video you just got to see.

First off, where do Democrats go when they‘re under fire?  Well, to “The Daily Show,” of course.  And Joe Biden is no exception. 

Here he is, trying to take the heat off of some controversial comments he made about Barack Obama being clean and articulate. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)

JON STEWART, HOST:  And then you came out with this one.  All right, here you go. 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Listen to this one.  This is great. 

(APPLAUSE)

STEWART: “Barack Obama, I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.  I mean, that‘s a storybook, man.”

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: 

Well, let me tell you something.  I spoke to Barack today. 

STEWART:  I bet you did.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  I also spoke to Jesse and Al Sharpton and...

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  And I also spoke...

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART:  And Michael Jordan and anybody you could get your hands on.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  No, no, no.

STEWART:  The Jackson 5.  Who else?

BIDEN:  Michael didn‘t call me.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, man.

And, finally, Jay Leno shows us how far Simon Cowell is going to go to get the worst “Idol” contestants off the stage. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”:  You know, Simon did something last night.  This seemed way too mean.  I don‘t know. 

Well, show that clip.

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE:  Your name, sir, is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chip (ph). 

COWELL:  What are you going to sing? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: “Lovin‘ Touchin‘ Squeezin‘” by Journey. 

COWELL:  OK, off you go. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  You make me weak and want to die, loving, touching, squeezing each other.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  That is—you know, that‘s a little—a little extreme. 

Coming up next—speaking of which—is “American Idol” a “Dreamgirl”‘s nightmare?  Oscar nominee Jennifer Hudson slams that show that launched her career, saying she was abused, she was misled, and brainwashed.  And that‘s not all—her comments next, plus, proof she may be right. 

And later:  Can anything beat out “Mean Joe” Greene as the best Super Bowl ad in history?  We‘re going to preview this year‘s multimillion-dollar spots, and look at how they compare to the best Super Bowl ads ever. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Still ahead:  Can any of this year‘s Super Bowl ads compare to the greatest of all times?  We‘re going to preview this year‘s crop and look at why companies are willing to shell out millions of dollars for 30 seconds of airtime, almost as much as they spend to be on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY—that story and a lot more straight ahead. 

But, first, “Idol” smackdown—you know, this show is such a huge hit, but not with one former contestant.  Jennifer Hudson, who just won a Golden Globe and is up for an Oscar—probably going to win that, too—for her work in “Dreamgirls” is telling “Essence” magazine—quote—“On ‘American Idol,‘ you go through this mental thing.  You have got to get yourself back together.  You have been abused, misled and brainwashed to believe whatever they want to you think.”

Those are fighting words for the show that helped launch her career. 

But, of course, fighting words are nothing new to “American Idol.” 

Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you. 

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE:  Thanks, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you. 

COWELL:  That was absolutely useless.  It‘s a no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.  Thank you. 

COWELL:  Just like a karaoke performance. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you for thank our time.

JACKSON:  Nothing was special about it.  Actually, you‘re corny. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you. 

COWELL:  Reality, not good enough. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you guys so much.

COWELL:  That was a complete and utter mess. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I appreciate your honesty. 

COWELL:  I don‘t think you‘re going to be reaching for the stars after that audition. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you very much.  Bye.

COWELL:  It wasn‘t a compliment.

JACKSON:  Thank you.  She‘s saying thank you for that? 

COWELL:  It wasn‘t a compliment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, how abusive is “American Idol”?  And did it take a turn to being a bit more nice on last night‘s show? 

Here now to talk about it, former “Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen, and “OK” magazine senior reporter Courtney Hazlett. 

Let‘s start with you, Carmen. 

You have obviously been through this process.

CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It seems like everybody that is an “American Idol” and becomes a star disses the show, trashes the judges, say it‘s terrible process.   

Do you agree that it can be abusive and can even brainwash contestants? 

RASMUSEN:  I definitely know where Jennifer Hudson is coming from.  I think “American Idol” gives you a great introduction into the entertainment business, because it‘s real.  And you have to have tough skin if you want to be in this business. 

But I know exactly what she‘s talking about.  There were times where I definitely felt it was manipulated.  I remember singing “Call Me.”  This was my fifth week on the show.  And, after I sang, there was someone who worked very closely with us contestants who said, it was so bad, my performance was so terrible, they got up from the couch in the living room and walked out of the room because they couldn‘t stand the sound of my voice, and it was so pitchy. 

And I remember being so shocked after that.  I called my singing teacher and said:  Was I really that terrible? 

And he said:  Who told that you?  There was not one bad note in that whole song.  In fact, that was one of your strongest performances. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, why do they do it?  They just like to tear you down? 

(CROSSTALK)

RASMUSEN:  They do it because they have a way of molding and shaping the show to get the outcome that they want.  And they knew, if they said that to me, that my confidence would be shot, and, the next week, I wouldn‘t perform as well, and I would get kicked off the show.  And that‘s exactly what happened. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and, of course, that‘s what happened to me, Courtney. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I was—when I was trying to become America‘s next “Idol” or whatever. 

But they do.  They play these mind games with these people.  They put them on pedestals.  They become stars.  And it seems like, after they become stars, they turn around and trash the show, or—like, Kelly Clarkson, you know, thanked everybody, thanked my dog, but didn‘t thank “American Idol,” when she won her latest award. 

I mean, it‘s a love-hate relationship, isn‘t it?

COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK!”:  It‘s definitely a love-hate relationship. 

I hear what Carmen is saying, but I think when Jennifer‘s statements became public, there was a collective yell to not bite the hand that feeds you.  I never thought I would say it, but I think this is actually a good time to take a page from the page from the Kelly Clarkson playbook, and, once you make it big, just stop talking about “American Idol.” 

You have changed chapters.  You‘re on to something else.  In Jennifer‘s case, she‘s about to win an Oscar.  You don‘t need to be doing this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, actually, she‘s actually bigger than “American Idol.”  When you win a Golden Globe and then you win an Academy Award, suddenly, “American Idol” looks like small potatoes, doesn‘t it? 

(LAUGHTER)

HAZLETT:  It might a little bit.

But, actually, what‘s interesting here is, right before I came on this show, I heard that Jennifer Hudson recently had this huge meltdown on the red carpet at one of the most recent award shows.  And somebody stepped on her dress, and she flipped out.  She‘s yelling at her publicist.  She‘s yelling at people around her.  So, this might be a little bit of an element of Jennifer‘s kind of getting too big too fast. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Nice.  It sounds like we have a diva in the making. 

(LAUGHTER)

HAZLETT:  Could be.

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, let‘s look at some of the—talk about the show being nasty, let‘s talk about some of the worst of the worst.  Look at these clips. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m sorry. 

COWELL:  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Give me one moment in time, when I‘m more than I thought I could be. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s peanut butter-jelly time, peanut butter-jelly time.  Peanut butter, jelly, peanut butter, jelly, peanut butter, jelly, peanut butter, jelly.

COWELL:  Thank you very much. 

Forgettable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Girl, I got to confess, you are the sweetest princess. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the contestants look a bit goofy there, but it was Paul Abdul who actually stole the show in Birmingham.  She attended just one day of the auditions, and behaved really strangely there.

Carmen, I want you to take a quick look at this clip, because you know her, and then respond. 

RASMUSEN:  OK.  OK. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind.  There was something so pleasant about that place.  Does that make me crazy?  Does that make me crazy?  Does that make me crazy?  Possibly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, you know Paula.  What is she on? 

RASMUSEN:  I have no idea. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Come on.  Just tell us.  What‘s she taking? 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s she taking?

RASMUSEN:  You know what?  I wish I knew.  That‘s extremely out of character for Paula.  I think what—part of what...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you have been saying that, “She‘s been out of character,” for three years now.  She‘s on something, isn‘t she? 

RASMUSEN:  I couldn‘t say.  I don‘t know her that well. 

But I think what endeared Paula so much to the audience, at least the first couple seasons, was that she was so soft-spoken.  She was so kind and sensitive to the contestants.  And I miss that.  I miss the old Paula.  I don‘t know why she‘s playing up the weird, mean card.  I wish she would go back to the way that she was.  I think that is what made America fall in love with her.

So, I think she is.  She is being extremely out of character.  And I don‘t know what...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Courtney—Courtney, do you have any inside information on why she is acting this way?  Do you care to put your neck out there to possibly be sued by Paula Abdul? 

(CROSSTALK)

HAZLETT:  I‘m not in the business of being litigious. 

But what I think is the most telling here is that, if you compare the airtime that Paula is getting this season with how much airtime she got last season, there‘s a huge difference.  The producers are actually kind of saying tacitly that there‘s something strange going on here, because Paula is barely on camera. 

She used to be on with all of her accolades and singing praises and being sweet.  But now it seems as if the producers are saying:  OK, we can‘t even cull together enough material where she‘s acting really level-headed. 

It is really confounding. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is confounding.  And the same thing happens in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, which is why it takes eight hours of pre-taped just to put on this show every night. 

Actually, we‘re live. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, thank you so much.

RASMUSEN:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We will see you next week.

RASMUSEN:  All right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Courtney, stick around, because we‘re going to see you in a few minutes. 

Coming up next:  What‘s the greatest Super Bowl ad of all time?  We‘re looking back at the all-time champs and this year‘s crop, and why there‘s always hype about the commercials, sometimes more hype about the commercials than the game itself. 

And later:  Lindsay Lohan drops out of her next Hollyweird film to focus on rehab—the latest on the “Mean Girl”‘s road to recovery coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, the Super Bowl Sunday is just three days away, but many of the 90 million people watching the game don‘t even know who is playing.  They‘re just watching the commercials. 

A new special is airing tomorrow night that lets viewers vote on the greatest Super Bowl ads of all time, a title held by the famous Mean Joe  Greene Coke ad of the past five years. 

Our very own sellout, Willie Geist, caught up with the show‘s producers to preview some ads trying to take down Mean Joe Greene. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Makes me feel good, makes me feel nice. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  See you around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing):  That‘s the way it should be.  I like to see...

“MEAN JOE” GREENE, NFL PLAYER:  Hey, kid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing):  ... the whole world smiling with me. 

GREENE:  Catch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing):  Coca-Cola adds life.  Have a Coke and a... 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Wow.  Thanks, Mean Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing):  .. smile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MAYER, PRODUCER, “SUPER BOWL‘S GREATEST COMMERCIALS 2007”:  It has clearly been the top spot.  And everybody just loves that spot.  This year, we decided, hey, we are going to take it right to the top, no playoff games.  We‘re going to right to the Super Bowl with that spot.  And whoever emerges from the 15 contenders will take it on. 

WILLIE GEIST, PRODUCER: Mean Joe Greene gets a bye to the Super Bowl. 

MAYER:  He gets a bye.  He‘s in.

(CROSSTALK)

GEIST:  He definitely deserves it.  He definitely—he deserves it. 

I don‘t know how anybody is going to stack up to that.

But let‘s take a look at a couple of contenders. 

Here‘s one from E-Trade from the year 2000.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Clear abdominal pain.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  B.P. 120 over 60.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Is he on any medication? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  None.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Doctor, I think you should see this. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Oh, my.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Why?  What is it? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  He‘s got money coming out the wazoo. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What do we have?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Money out the wazoo.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Move this man to a private room. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Out of the way.  This man has got money coming out the wazoo. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Does your husband have insurance? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Insurance?  He‘s got money coming out of the wazoo. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Oh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Pretty good, Bob, pretty good.

How many people would you say actually watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials, if you had to guess? 

ROBERT HOROWITZ, PRODUCER, “SUPER BOWL‘S GREATEST COMMERCIALS 2007”: 

I would say 25 percent of the audience. 

GEIST:  Really?

HOROWITZ:  What if you did the Super Bowl without commercials?  You did any other prime-time finale that is sponsored by some corporation?  “American Idol,” it would do the same rating.

But if you went ahead and did the Super Bowl without commercials, I think you would lose 25 percent of the audience, because a large part of the female audience would not come to watch. 

GEIST:  That‘s an amazing—I know it keeps the women in my life interested.  And I‘m appreciative of that. 

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  Let‘s take a look at another one here, Steve.  This is from 1993, McDonald‘s great spot, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, a little game of horse. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY BIRD, NBA PLAYER:  Off the floor, off the scoreboard, off the backboard, no rim.

MICHAEL JORDAN, NBA PLAYER:  Over the second rafter, off the floor, nothing but net.

BIRD:  Through the window, off the wall, nothing but net.

JORDAN:  Off the expressway, over the river, off the billboard, through the window, off the wall, nothing but net.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Now, Steve, this year, a spot like that is going to cost $2.6 million.  Is that worth it to a company like McDonald‘s? 

MAYER:  How about $85,000 a second, if you break it down?

(LAUGHTER)

MAYER:  Yes, it‘s—you know, these spots have become part of our vernacular.  I mean, nothing but net, you just heard that in the McDonald‘s commercial.

How about, what‘s up? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What‘s up?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MAYER:  People on Monday will sit around and they will talk about the commercials.  And they will talk very little about the game. 

So, to have your spot within the Super Bowl game is worth $2.6 million to these companies. 

GEIST:  Let me just say how glad I am no one says “What‘s up?” anymore.

(LAUGHTER) 

GEIST:  That makes me so happy.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What‘s up?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  All right, guys—Steve, you want to just cut through all this right now and just let us know, who is—who is going to challenge Mean Joe Greene in the Super Bowl, seeing that you have given Mean Joe a bye? 

MAYER:  Well, no.  Listen, you have given a few commercials.  And there‘s—those were good choices.  And then there‘s a couple of good ones that are out there. 

I mean, back in 1973, Joe Willie Namath and Farrah Fawcett did that Noxzema commercial. 

GEIST:  Oh, right.   

(CROSSTALK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE NAMATH, NFL PLAYER:  You have got a great pair of hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MAYER:  Willie, who do you like? 

GEIST:  You know what?  I have to tell you, I‘m a little hurt right now, because there‘s been no mention yet of Kevin Federline‘s ad this year for Nationwide. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Can it be one from this year, or do we have to wait until next year for that? 

MAYER:  No.  Actually, whatever happens in this year‘s Super Bowl will be eligible next year. 

GEIST:  OK.

MAYER:  So...

GEIST:  Well, I‘m not making a pick this year.  But, 2008, I want to see Federline take “Mean Joe” Greene down. 

MAYER:  I think he might be able to do it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN FEDERLINE, SINGER:  What?  Rollin‘ VIP.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Federline.

FEDERLINE:  What?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Fries!

NARRATOR:  Life comes at you fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  That was our own Willie Geist.

“Super Bowl‘s Greatest Commercials 2007” airs tomorrow night on CBS. 

My favorite is all those monkeys, those CareerBuilder ads.  I just laugh every time I see monkeys on the screen.  I don‘t know why.

Coming up next:  K-Fed may have a big Super Bowl ad, but that‘s not stopping him from asking for more money from Britney—the latest on their toxic divorce coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Welcome to Hollyweird. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s Hollyweird.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hollyweird.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, “Idol,” that‘s my line. 

It is time for “Hollyweird.”

First up: Lindsay Lohan.  Now, the actress drops out of her next movie to concentrate on rehab. 

Here now to talk about it, “Star” magazine‘s editor at large, Jill Dobson.  Still with us, “OK!” magazine‘s Courtney Hazlett.

And I guess, Courtney, if you‘re giving up movies, it‘s got to be pretty serious.  She—maybe she will concentrate on rehab, instead of leaving every other day to go shopping in Beverly Hills. 

HAZLETT:  That‘s certainly what everybody‘s hoping for. 

I think the take-home lesson here is that she‘s made this statement, and everybody is kind of skeptical of it.  They‘re saying, OK, was she uninvited to come back, or did she really pull out for her own good?  I think it really speaks that the public is starting to lose trust in Lindsay, which isn‘t a good thing for her career.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, the public is starting to lose trust, but, also, did she not have problems last summer, when she almost got kicked off of a movie because she was spending more time partying than showing up early in the morning to work?

HAZLETT:  That‘s right. 

The producers who own Morgan Creek, who was the film company putting on the movie, wrote a letter that was pretty direct, saying:  You have got to stop partying.  Scale it back.

Lindsay‘s mother, Dina, came to her defense.  But I think everybody knows you can defend her all you want; she obviously has a problem, and she is trying to address it.

SCARBOROUGH:  She does have a serious problem.  And this isn‘t like the movie industry in the 1970s.  This is big business, run by big corporations. 

HAZLETT:  There‘s a lot at stake.

SCARBOROUGH:  They just can‘t afford to put up—yes, they can‘t put up with this type of behavior. 

Speaking of rehab, Jill, Miss USA, Tara Conner, is out of rehab and talking to “The Today Show”‘s Matt Lauer. 

Take a look at what she had today—say today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”) 

TARA CONNER, MISS USA:  When I was in active addiction and active alcoholism, I—I was very manipulative.  And I was a very dishonest person.  And I—I don‘t know.  I—it was basically insanity.  And now I have a really good feel for who I am. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, do you think she‘s going to come out of this, Jill, as a star?  I mean, is this the sort of thing that we‘re going to—we‘re going to see, actually, bad behavior rewarded again? 

JILL DOBSON, EDITOR AT LARGE, “STAR”:  Yes, Joe.  I think that‘s exactly what‘s going to happen. 

(LAUGHTER)

DOBSON:  And it‘s unfortunate to see bad behavior rewarded. 

But the truth is, anymore, today, fame comes first, then a career, unfortunately, even though it should be the other way around.  So, now she‘s got the fame.  She‘s a household name.  And I think she will have no problem getting, you know, some sort of reality show, or even an acting job, when she hands over the crown in March. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, when you were Miss Michigan, maybe you should have acted more inappropriately...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and you could have had your own reality show, instead of being on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBSON:  Apparently, Joe, apparently.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Apparently.  But, of course, this is much better. 

Let‘s talk about another story.

“Star” magazine is reporting that K-Fed has turned down a $25 million divorce settlement from Britney. 

Jill, tell us all about it.

DOBSON:  Well, when Kevin and Britney were married, he couldn‘t stop spending her money, but now he just keeps saying no to it. 

She first offered him $10 million, then $20 million, then $25 million, according to a source who spoke exclusively to “Star” magazine.  And he says no to that money.  And that‘s because it came with one major string attached.  He was supposed to give Britney sole custody of the children, if he took this money.  And Kevin wants custody.  So, nothing is finalized yet.  These two still have to iron out their divorce.

SCARBOROUGH:  Courtney, I guess he just loves the kids too darn much, doesn‘t he?

HAZLETT:  He‘s a family man. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course.

(LAUGHTER)

HAZLETT:  So they say.

But, actually, it‘s fairly interesting.  Kevin is the one who‘s made this enormous turnaround since they split.  He‘s dressing better.  He‘s not acting as thuggish as he was known to act. 

And it‘s Britney who‘s out until all hours.  So, there‘s been a huge tidal shift here.  And, suddenly, Britney is starting to look like you know what.  Just—just kind of clean it up, catch up to Kevin, and maybe you will work things out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and, of course, K-Fed has a big Super Bowl ad, too.  I mean, that‘s big news for him, right?

HAZLETT:  This is enormous news for him, and very lucrative news.  Rumor has it, he‘s going to be paid half-a-million dollars to appear in this spot.  And...

SCARBOROUGH:  Wow.

HAZLETT:  ... you know what?  It‘s good that he‘s earning his own living now.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, it really is, an honest living for an honest day‘s work. 

Take the $25 million, K-Fed.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Courtney, thank you.

Jill, thank you.

We will 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   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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