updated 2/7/2007 10:54:06 AM ET 2007-02-07T15:54:06

Guests: Michael Isikoff, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Carmen Rasmusen, David Caplan, Jill Dobson, Kim Serafin

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, Iran blasts the United States, saying we‘re responsible for the kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat in Baghdad.  Is it more saber rattling on the part of the Iranian government or the final straw in a coming war?  That story is coming up.

But first: Congress fiddles as Baghdad burns.  Senators from both sides of the aisle kept up their tough talk on Iraq today, with Republicans facing mounting pressure for blocking a debate on Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  It is absolutely outrageous, it is immoral, that we cannot vote on whether or not we agree with this escalation!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Meantime, Iraq prepares for that surge of U.S. troops it hopes will save the country from spiraling into further chaos.  Iraq‘s Prime Minister Maliki today ordered his top generals to crack down on the violence, telling them, quote, “Either we all win or we all lose.  The whole world is watching us and expecting us to win.”

And they‘re getting pretty brutal with al Sadr‘s top commanders, gunning them down in the streets.  So can the president‘s troop surge save Baghdad?  And is it Bush‘s last chance with Congress and the American people?

Here now to talk about it, “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff—he‘s the author of the book “Hubris”—Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of “The Nation,” and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Katrina, I begin with you.  You have been saying now for over a year that Iraq is the issue that matters to the American people over every single other issue.  Certainly, it mattered so much that the American people threw Republicans out of the House and out of the Senate.  And yet here we are in February, and you still have a Congress, you still have a Senate that, because of procedural reasons, can‘t even debate a troop surge that 70 percent of Americans disagree with.  What‘s going on?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, “THE NATION”:  Breakdown of our democracy, a shameful spectacle in the Senate yesterday, when you couldn‘t even have a debate on the central issue of our time.  The White House and the Republican Senate—this White House which owns this war—are at fault, though I would say there are Democrats who want to come forward with bold measures, who believe there is a moral and constitutional responsibility to stop this disastrous war and occupation, and we are seeing, I fear, a vacuum of leadership.  The American people deserve better.  The American people are ahead of...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is there a vacuum on both sides?  Because you‘re exactly right.  The American people have been ahead...

VANDEN HEUVEL:  They deserve better.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... of Republicans and Democrats alike, when you look at the poll numbers.  Democrats during the middle of the campaign, a lot of them were afraid to speak in bold terms about Iraq.  And yet you have, like, 60 percent, 70 percent of the Americans that oppose what we‘re doing there.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I think we need to—there will be enormous grass roots mobilization in this country, Americans against escalation, not only against escalation, against this war to which we are sending our men and women and losing $2.5 billion a week for desperately unmet needs at home.

But you‘ve got to—I mean, what is happening is there is a failure of leadership.  We lecture the world about democracy, yet we‘re witnessing a vacuum.  I think there are good Democrats who understand that you will need to use the power of the purse to protect the troops and bring them home and make clear that Bush owns this war, and in the quagmire of Iraq, he is trying to claim—or to support his ego and vanity, as opposed to really being a rational actor in defense of this country.  He‘s an out-of-control president...

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s—Katrina...

VANDEN HEUVEL:  ... and the Congress must intervene.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s decode that.  When you say the power of the purse, you‘re talking about them telling the president they‘re just not going to continue funding operations over in Baghdad for the next five years.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  You used the funding to responsibly, in as effective and dignified way as you can, to bring home men and women.  You do not deny them body armor, but you use the funds to bring them home and not to continue our involvement in a sectarian, brutal, bloody civil war.

Instead, we would do better to bring humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq, who, by the way, just confronted the worst blast since the U.S. invasion last Saturday.  It is a humanitarian catastrophe of still unknown proportions, and continuing civil war combat operations will do nothing.  We need a political resolution.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, I want you to listen to Barbara Boxer again.  She went on the Senate floor.  There are a lot of Democrats that feel this way, and perhaps quite a few American people that agree with the senator from California.  Let‘s roll that tape again of Barbara Boxer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOXER:  It is absolutely outrageous, it is immoral that we cannot vote on whether or not we agree with this escalation!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, respond to what Barbara Boxer said -- 70 percent or association, 72 percent of Americans oppose the president‘s handling of Iraq and are against this troop surge.  Do the think the Senate should be able to debate this issue?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think they should be able to debate it and they should be able to vote on it and they should be able to vote on the resolutions defunding the war and they should be able to vote on McCain‘s resolution.  All of these things could have happened if Harry Reid simply had given the Republicans the right to introduce their resolutions, as well as the Warner resolution.  I mean, John Warner would vote for his own resolution.  Chuck Hagel voted for the right of the Republicans he disagrees with to vote on their resolutions, as well.  The problem here is that...

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait, wait, wait, wait!

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Why is Harry Reid—why will Harry Reid not allow there to be a Democratic resolutions, Republican resolutions, so everybody can have a debate about what‘s going on in Iraq?

BUCHANAN:  It‘s very simple.  Harry Reid does not want a vote now on the Republican resolution that was introduced by the senator from New Hampshire which would have called for a cutoff of funds.  He does not want the world and the country to know that a significant slice of his party, liberals mostly, believe this war is so awful that funds ought to be cut off right now.

But the Republicans are saying, It‘s OK, we‘re going to vote on the Warner resolutions.  We agree with that.  We know that undercuts the president.  But let‘s agree with—let‘s have other votes which show where these Democrats really stand.  The more, the better.  Harry Reid could have had any number of votes.  It is Harry Reid who is saying, Only one vote, fellows, and that‘s it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Isikoff, a brand-new Gallup poll is finding the president‘s approval rating on Iraq at its lowest point ever.  Only 26 percent of Americans polled say they approve of the president‘s handling of Iraq, while 72 percent disapprove.

It seems to me, Michael, with so many Americans siding against the president of the United States, and many Republicans, that Harry Reid would say, Hey, come one, come all, let‘s debate the issue of Iraq.  What‘s going on in Capitol Hill?  And why can‘t we get this debate that so many Americans want to hear?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, I don‘t think the White House wanted this vote.  And Pat may be right.  There may have been some Democratic reasons for avoiding votes on some of the resolutions.

But look, the issue isn‘t going away.  The McConnell—Senator McConnell and the Republican leadership may have bought some short-term time for the White House for the surge.  But it‘s—you know, it‘s going to—there‘ll be other opportunities very soon, I suspect, for votes like this.

And certainly, the surge—the patience that the American public will have, or even people marginally inclined to give the president his one last chance, is limited.  And so we‘re going to be back in another month or two or three.  If the surge does not work out, you can bet that all these resolutions will be on the table in a very short time, and...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I was going to say, and Michael, the president‘s own new defense secretary, Robert Gates, offered this warning to Congress today about his own military‘s troop surge and why it might not work.  Let‘s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  We clearly are hoping it will succeed, planning for it to succeed, allocating the resources for it to succeed.  But I would tell you that I think I would be irresponsible if I weren‘t thinking about what the alternatives might be if that didn‘t happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Boy, Michael, a long way from Donald Rumsfeld back in 2003, isn‘t it.

ISIKOFF:  And if I could just point out that in the National Intelligence Estimate that was released on Friday, which was pretty bleak about the prospects for Iraq, when it said, What are the conditions upon which things might improve, it didn‘t talk at all about military actions, the surge.  It conditioned it all on political developments within Iraq, which is where every intelligence analyst looks at this as the only real solution—possible solution lies, and that‘s in some sort of political reconciliation there.  And that‘s not dependent on the military strategy behind the surge.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Katrina, I‘ll let you respond.  I want to show you, though, because I know you‘re going to want to talk about this also—a recent NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll asked Americans who should take the lead role in setting America‘s policy.  Only 22 percent said President Bush should set the policy in Iraq.  You got 57 percent of Americans saying Congress should take back control of this policy.  And yet you‘ve got a lot of people saying that Democrats are afraid to do that.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  There are several...

SCARBOROUGH:  Is that fair?

VANDEN HEUVEL:  There are several issues here at work, Joe.  One—you have the problem of a defiant, denialist president, a president who is not willing to understand there are coequal branches of government, a president willing to stick with a failed policy, even if he‘s left alone only with his wife and dog, as he said publicly.  This is a great opening for Congress, for a new Democratic Congress to come forward and say, We listened to the people in November.  It is time, for moral and constitutional reasons...

SCARBOROUGH:  But they don‘t seem to...

VANDEN HEUVEL:  ... to end this war.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... be doing it.  If you look at the Republican Party...

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But here‘s the problem...

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second.  The Republican Party was—we said all last week the Republican Party was in the middle of this civil war.  A lot of people are still saying it, and yet for some reason, in the midst of this civil war, Republicans are standing shoulder to shoulder and they‘re getting the best of Harry Reid.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Not for long.  Not for long.  And I think you will see more like Norm Coleman and Susan Collins, of Minnesota and Maine.  But I think the big problem you‘re seeing come out of this White House, still in the death embrace of neo-conservatives, is they are going to try and lay out the argument of who lost Iraq.  That will be a fundamental debate.

This administration owns this war, but the Democrats don‘t—they‘re worried about that politically.  I think, morally, they have a responsibility to use everything in their power to end this war.  But politically, this White House is so craven and so cynical that it will do anything to deflect attention from the greatest foreign policy disaster it has misled this nation into.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what, though, Pat?  You‘ve got the American people that have given the power to Congress.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  So if what Katrina said about George W. Bush is the case, well, they‘ve given the keys to the vault that has all the money that we have in the U.S. treasury to the Democratic Party, and yet they‘re not doing anything right now, are they.

BUCHANAN:  No, they‘re not.  And when the country says -- 57 percent say the Congress wants to run it—you‘ve got—McCain is in a minority position, but he‘s probably got 25 Republicans on his side.  You‘ve got a number of Republicans on Warner‘s side who think the surge isn‘t much good.  Then you got the Hagel-Biden group, which thinks we ought—thinks it‘s a mistake.  Then you got the folks that want to defund the war.

Congress has a multiplicity, four or five different opinions, Joe.  And the bottom line of the Democratic Party is this.  They believe the war is lost.  We‘re going to lose it.  It‘s going to be a historic debacle and disaster...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Many of them believe that.  But let me say that Katrina is right to this extent.  What Democrats don‘t want is they don‘t want to defund it because they don‘t want responsibility for what they believe will happen after they do defund it.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  No.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s why they‘re not going to do it.  There is no courage, except on the hard left of the Democratic Party, which is willing to take responsibility for defunding it and turning it around and walking out by the end of the year.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  It‘s not the hard left, Pat.  How can you say it‘s the hard left when it is aligned with the majority view in this country?  And I simply want to point to the good people like Feingold, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Jerry Nadler, Dennis Kucinich, the progressive caucus...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second!

BUCHANAN:  But Katrina, if you all believe that, why don‘t they do it?

SCARBOROUGH:  Everybody—everybody...

BUCHANAN:  If they all believe it, do it!

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Because of the constraints of our system!

SCARBOROUGH:  Stop for one second, Katrina, please...

VANDEN HEUVEL:  There are good people!

SCARBOROUGH:  ... because I think Pat‘s making a good point, OK?  The point that Pat‘s making is not that these Democrats that want to get out of Iraq are to the far left of the mainstream of American thought.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  They‘re not.

SCARBOROUGH:  I think we all agree that the mainstream of American thought, 72 percent of Americans, believe we should get out of Iraq at some point soon, that the president‘s direction is wrong.  What Pat‘s suggesting is that only those people that have been identified with the hard left...

VANDEN HEUVEL:  They‘re not the hard left!

SCARBOROUGH:  ... are the ones that are...

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.  Hold on a second, Katrina!

BUCHANAN:  They‘re majoritarians.

SCARBOROUGH:  The people that have been associated with the hard left for quite some time are the only ones who seem to be listening to the 72 percent of Americans who are saying, Let‘s get out.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  How can the hard left...

BUCHANAN:  They‘re the only ones that have the courage to vote that way.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But Pat...

BUCHANAN:  They‘re the only ones that have the courage to vote their convictions.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  All right, but...

BUCHANAN:  Harry Reid doesn‘t want to vote on defunding the war.  He is scared to death of it because he‘s afraid a good part of his party would go with it, and he and a number of others wouldn‘t go with it, so you would see the divisions in the Democratic Party.  I have to think...

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Of course there are divisions in any party.  But you have to...

BUCHANAN:  I happen to think the left...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... is more principled on this one.  I think the left is more principled.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I would agree with you on that, but I would also argue that the left is aligned with the majoritarian view in this country...

BUCHANAN:  It is.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  ... and that the Progressive Caucus on this issue is now the largest caucus in the House.  Its members chair 11 of the key committees in the House.

BUCHANAN:  All right...

VANDEN HEUVEL:  It can develop power, but it needs the people to support it and listen to it.  And I do believe that ending this war, providing regional diplomacy, humanitarian aid and finding a way to contain the civil war—that is the majoritarian position to end this...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right...

VANDEN HEUVEL:  ... needless bloodletting of our people and treasure.

SCARBOROUGH:  I think there‘s no doubt it‘s the majoritarian position right now, but there‘s a big question as to whether Democrats other than those that you say are in the Progressive Caucus will listen to what 72 percent of Americans are saying.  Right now, though, as Pat Buchanan said, they‘re the only ones talking about it.

It was great to hear Katrina and Pat agree with each other on something.  It just warms my heart.  I feel like America‘s coming together.  Katrina, thanks.  Michael Isikoff, stay with us.  Pat Buchanan, stick around.  Because when we come back, I‘m going to ask the question whether we‘re one step closer to a coming war with Iran.  That country blames the United States for kidnapping an Iranian diplomat in Baghdad.  Is it more saber rattling on the part of the Iranian government, or is it the final straw in an inevitable showdown?

And then:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON COWELL, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  I think that‘s what it was.  It was a daughter-to-mum audition, meaning I think only your mum will like it a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I thought parents were supposed to protect their kids, so why are some subjecting their children to Paula, Randy and Simon?  Exposing “Idol” stage parents—coming up.  It‘s an ugly sight.

And later, we‘re going to take you behind the scenes on NBC‘s “Deal or No Deal,” from what the models do to prepare, to the first ever interview with the mysterious banker.  We‘ll give you the real deal on that hit game show later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tonight, Iranian leaders are blaming the United States for the kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat.  The diplomat was seized by an Iraqi group working under the supervision of American forces.  And while the U.S. military says U.S. troops and Iraqis that report to them were not involved, Iran‘s foreign minister says, quote, “Iran holds the American forces in Iraq responsible for the life and safety of this Iranian diplomat.”

And the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad said the diplomat‘s seizure appeared to be within the framework of the U.S. president‘s order to step up encounters with Iranians in Iraq.

So is the war between the two countries inevitable after this latest back-and-forth?  With us again to talk about the possible coming war against Iran, “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff and Pat Buchanan.

Michael, let me begin with you.  Of course, several weeks back, you had the United States going into an Iranian consulate, arresting four people.  Now you‘ve got talk of this possible kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat.  Why do you think the White House is moving so aggressively and U.S. troops are moving so aggressively against the Iranians?  Is it because they believe that Iran really is that involved in the issues going on in Iraq right now?

ISIKOFF:  Well, clearly, that‘s been the rhetoric for the last several weeks.  First of all, as to whether or not this kidnapping is an American ordered or sanctioned operation, I would be a little bit skeptical.  It seems a pretty provocative act to take that extra step of doing it.  So I think we ought to be a little cautious on that front.

But again, you know, I just want to take you back to the National Intelligence Estimate on Friday because the real news there was, after this sort of drumbeat of rhetoric about Iranians stoking the violence in Iraq and supplying the Shia militias, what leapt out at me, at any rate, when I read the NIE, and I think a lot of other people, is it didn‘t quite go that far.  And in fact, it was several steps short of where the public rhetoric from the White House was.  What the NIE...

SCARBOROUGH:  So the Bush administration had to actually step back after getting that assessment, correct?

ISIKOFF:  Exactly.  If you go back about a week to 10 days ago, there were reports that the White House was preparing, the administration was preparing a dossier to present to the public that was going to detail Iranian activities inside Iraq, Iranian support for the insurgencies and for the militias.  They were going to sort of lay it out, their case against Iran.  They‘ve never done that.  They had to scrap the whole plan.

Now, part of it was a sources and methods issue.  They didn‘t want to expose those.  But I think also what they realized is it was conflicting with what the key judgments of their own intelligence agencies were on this issue.  So if anything, I would think that over the last week or so, we‘ve seen a little bit of a dialing back on the Iranian front.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, how fascinating is it that you now have Iranians accusing the United States of kidnapping and hostage-taking?  You‘ve got the United States going into Iranian consulates, kicking down doors, arresting diplomats.  It really does seem like the United States, for whatever reason, is deciding they are going to provoke Iran.  Do you think they‘re going to succeed in getting the Iranians to fight back?

BUCHANAN:  I think we ought to differentiate here.  The Irbil—the thing was not a consulate, and these guys did not have diplomatic immunity when we went in, although the Kurds really objected.

Now, this fellow is apparently the number two at the embassy.  He is a diplomat, and I hope the United States—and don‘t believe the United States would be in the business of abducting a diplomat, someone with immunity, after what was done to our folks, the 52 hostages in Teheran.  So I agree with Michael we ought to really hold off any conclusion that the Americans are responsible.

But let me say this, Joe.  You‘re clearly getting the Americans, the United States and Bush—these little provocations one after the other after the other.  And we hear dead silence from the Congress of United States, which is now saying, many of its members, how wrong we were to give the president a blank check to go into Iraq.  None of them are standing up and saying, Hold on, Mr. President.  Are you trying to push us into a cross-border war with Iran, which has three times the population and is four times the size of Iraq?  Because you‘ve got no authority to do that.  They are dead silent on Capitol Hill about Iran.

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t think they‘re going to say a thing.  Iran, of course, much less popular with the American people than even Iraq was in 2003.  Pat Buchanan, Michael Isikoff, thank you.  Michael, of course, is the author of “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War.”  It is a great book that you need to read.

Now, coming up next, a new round of “Idol” “smackdown.”  Now judges are fighting back, saying Dreamgirl Jennifer Hudson knew what she was getting into with the hit show and wasn‘t brainwashed.  Plus: Are parents to blame for their lousy children‘s singing talents?  But first (voice-over): Holy cow, it‘s “Must See S.C.,” Batman.  There‘s a new hero in town, and we‘ve got him up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you got to see.  First up: Superman step aside.  NBC‘s hit show, “Heroes,” introduced a new character to the mix, but this hero isn‘t exactly a man of steel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Last fall, we introduced you to modern-day heroes, seemingly normal people with extraordinary abilities.  Now get ready to meet the most amazing hero yet, Plunger Man.  He will push the limits of suction as he pulls you into his world.  “Heroes” on NBC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Man, it‘s amazing stuff.

And, finally, Stephen Colbert shows us the naked truth in his latest “Threatdown.”  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  A Dutch gym plans to introduce “Naked Sunday,” a day when members can exercise in the nude.  I‘m sure “Naked Sunday” sounded like a great idea when you Dutchies came up with it on “Reefer Saturday.” 

But you better start doing fewer reps on your opium bong leg press, because Sunday is the Lord‘s day.  Those nudists should be in church.  Besides, the whole thing is unsanitary.  It doesn‘t matter how many Purell wipes you use, I am not getting on that stationary bike. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m staying off of it.

And still ahead, scenes behind the scenes of the hit NBC show, “Deal or No Deal.”  Does anybody know what‘s in those cases?  We‘re going to be hearing from the banker in his first television interview, coming up. 

But first, mama, don‘t let your babies grow up to be “Idols.”  Now parents are going to be getting the blame for getting their kids humiliated on national television.  You know, if your kid can‘t sing, keep them home. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, the real deal on NBC‘s “Deal or No Deal.”  We‘re going to take you behind the scenes of this hit game show, including who knows what‘s really in those cases and how the models get ready for the big show.  That story and a lot more, straight ahead. 

But first, “American Idol” judges fight back.  Now, former “Idol” contestant and current Oscar nominee, Jennifer Hudson, told “Essence” magazine, quote, “On ‘American Idol,‘ you go through this middle thing.  You‘ve got to get yourself back together.  You‘ve been abused, misled, and brainwashed to believe whatever they want you to think.”

Now, of course, the show‘s judges couldn‘t disagree more.  This morning on “Today,” “Idol‘s” Randy Jackson weighed in, saying Hudson owes her entire career to the hit TV show.  Take a listen to what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  When you audition for the show

and I think the reason people are saying, “Dawg, you‘re getting so much meaner this season.”  What happens—it‘s the sixth season is on the air.  If you don‘t know what this show is about by now, turn your TV off, lose the TV, forget it. 

She knew what this show was.  And guess what?  I mean, for all of the people out there, just keeping it real, as a dawg always keeps it real, Jennifer Hudson would not be what she is today without “American Idol.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and while the “Idol‘s” judges and producers are taking heat for this season‘s mean streak, in many cases, more and more people are saying contestants‘ parents aren‘t doing enough to protect their own children from getting ridiculed and abused in front of millions of Americans. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Is your mother here? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She is here.  Do you want to meet her? 

COWELL:  Bring her in.

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I hope he‘s the next “American Idol.”  I know he‘s got the ability to do it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So how much are parents to blame when their kids go out on national TV and get humiliated?  Well, I asked “Star” magazine‘s editor-at-large Jill Dobson and former “American Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen that question. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  There are definitely a lot of stage parents there throughout the audition process.  Luckily, my mom wasn‘t one of them. 

But I think some of the reasons why parents have their children audition is, one, they could be naive to the fact that they really aren‘t good, that they think that they can sing well but maybe they don‘t have the star quality.  They could be in denial.  You know, every parent loves their child.  Every parent thinks that their child is the most beautiful, wonderful, talented person in the world. 

Or, number three, possibly they could be living vicariously through their child.  Maybe they tried to make it as a rock star as a youngster and didn‘t do it, so now they can eat, breathe and sleep it with their kid. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

And, Jill, do you think the problem that we have here, when you have some of these younger contestants coming on and getting humiliated by the panel, is the fact that you have crazy parents that are pushing them out there, because maybe they wanted to be a singer themselves when they were younger, now are trying to live vicariously through their children, who just aren‘t that good? 

JILL DOBSON, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  I‘m not sure whether it‘s that parents want to live vicariously through them or want to make money off their child, but we see this time and time again at “Star” magazine.  We‘re always reporting on child stars who have gone bad, again and again, and a lot of the times there‘s these pushy parents behind the scenes that lead children into situations that aren‘t the best for the child.  And leading a kid who can‘t sing into “American Idol” and letting them face down Simon Cowell is just not good parenting. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, it‘s not good parenting.  And, of course, they‘re not only humiliated in front of Simon Cowell, they‘re humiliated on national television.  And, you know, some contestants‘ parents will go so far as to argue with the judges after the judges diss their children. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ve been singing since I was 4, 16 years of training.  And my mom has definitely been there every step of the way. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When she came out of my womb, she was wailing the whole time.  It was like, “Mmm!”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  I love you ‘til the end of time.  So come on and let me know.  Should I stay or should I go?

COWELL:  We know the answer to that right now. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She really is good enough.  She really, really is good enough. 

COWELL:  No, she‘s not. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She‘s a hell of a performer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, should the parents just stay away? 

RASMUSEN:  For the most part, it‘s best that the parents zip up.  I think they thing—and it‘s a natural instinct.  You know, when parents and brothers and sisters—my mom said, when I was upstage performing, she felt like she was the one being criticized.

And I‘m sure she wanted to tell Simon off a time or two.  Luckily she didn‘t.  But I think it‘s a natural instinct for parents to want to protect and support their children.  How dare you criticize my baby?  When really, honestly, it‘s just causing them more embarrassment and their child more embarrassment. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And, of course, again, the viciousness of it goes on and on, but it seems to me, Jill, that “American Idol” probably loves when parents come along.  They have a child go in there, do a terrible job, and then they get that money shot of the kid running out, crying, and hugging their mother.  Again, it all seems so staged, so contrived, so cruel. 

DOBSON:  Right.  Well, you know, the producers of this show are getting a lot of laughs at a lot of people‘s expense, and that‘s part of what “American Idol” is.  And you can either love it or hate it for it. 

But these parents need to know a little bit better.  They need to realize that, if their child does a bad job, they‘re going to be made fun of.  And if the parent overreacts, they‘re going to get put on television, and everyone at home is going to laugh at them.

And I think this is all part of this whole self-esteem movement, where parents want to tell their children they‘re great at everything, but children really need a dose of reality, and I don‘t mean reality TV, Joe.  I just mean reality.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, boy, I‘ll tell you what, my parents gave me doses of reality all along the way.  So should family members have stepped in and stopped these contestants?  Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  You see right through distorted eyes. 

You know (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  I‘m standing here, standing here...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  (INAUDIBLE) shining bright...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Please go away. My girl has found another and gone away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  ... and meet here in the silence. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  We‘ll be making love the whole night, night through. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Like a virgin, touched for the very first time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  I‘ll be coming home.  Wait for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, these people have mothers and fathers.  I mean, why don‘t they step in? 

RASMUSEN:  I have no idea.  Like I said, maybe they want them to—maybe they have said before, “Now, you understand that this is a really brutal show.  You‘re sort of throwing yourself to the lions.  You might get criticized.”  And the kids possibly said, “I don‘t care, I want to do it anyway.” 

I mean, how many stories has “American Idol” done on contestants running away from home and rebelling against their parents because they just knew that they were going to be the next “American Idol”?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I have two words for the parents:  tough love. 

Thank you, Carmen.  Thank you, Jill Dobson.   Greatly appreciate it. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up next here, Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller team up to solve mysteries.  That‘s what happens when the Hardy Boys grow up in “Hollyweird.”

And up next, the heart of the deal behind the scenes of the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” including how they get so many models ready for their close-ups. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  “Deal or No Deal”?  Well, it‘s a popular game show, and there‘s no trivia questions, no buzzers.  And contestants yell at luggage.  But it is a huge TV hit for NBC.  So what‘s the real deal with America‘s hottest game show?  Well, “Today‘s” Matt Lauer gives us a look behind the scenes. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT LAUER, “TODAY” SHOW HOST (voice-over):  It‘s 7:00 a.m. in Culver City Studios in Los Angeles, and this crew is getting ready to make a deal. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It takes 2 ½ hours to get all the models done. 

LAUER:  The first job of the day may be the toughest:  getting 26 models camera-ready. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do we have girls that can (INAUDIBLE) right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Claudia, Brooke, Kara, Melinda, Sarah...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How many girls are in the kitchen right now? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Beautiful, you‘re done. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Perfect.  All right.  You‘re primped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can you move that chair out of the hallway? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I want an omelet with cheddar and mushrooms. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can I get a regular (INAUDIBLE) with vanilla latte, with soy milk, and whipped cream?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And spinach and zucchini. 

LAUER:  Luckily they have the help of this model employee, and we mean that literally.  He‘s the models‘ employee. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m Mick.  I‘m the model P.A.  It‘s a tough job, but what guy wouldn‘t do it? 

LAUER:  While Nick has stars in his eyes, the real star arrives. 

HOWIE MANDEL, HOST, “DEAL OR NO DEAL”:  I‘m Howie with the “Deal or No Deal” show.  Are you coming?  Feel the energy?  What are you working on?  He‘s not doing anything.  Not doing anything.  You don‘t want to start off too fast.  I‘m going right into makeup.  Good morning.  Good morning. 

Danielle and Jennifer, Danielle, “Howie, what do you use to keep your bald head so shiny?”  Well, there is one thing. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There you go. 

MANDEL:  Oh, this is from Kim in Michigan.  “How does Howie‘s family feel about his transformation from “Dirty Bird Balloonhead”?   Nerdy bird?  Forget about Howie‘s family.  How does Howie feel about Kim in Michigan right now?

Erin in California.  “Howie, are you and the banker friends?  Do you hang out together?”  No, and no.  Is he in the room? 

LAUER:  Head buffed, Howie checks in with his producers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When we come out here and we set up, you‘ve got a really good chance to win a lot.  We set up that it‘s a teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  750,000, 500,000, 400,000, and then the next highest is 25,000. 

MANDEL:  So I‘ll reiterate all those points. 

LAUER:  Speaking of briefings, there are some brief cases that need to be in position, their contents unknown to all.  That decision is left to an outside accounting firm. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Honestly, when we‘re film the show, we don‘t know what amounts in what case.  We really don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  The models don‘t know, so that we can keep the game as fair as possible.  Because if I know, I don‘t want to influence a contestant one way or the other. 

MANDEL:  David in New Jersey writes, “How in the world do you remember all the models‘ names?”  David, no biggie.  It‘s easy.

Hey, Haley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, Howie. 

MANDEL:  Kayla.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, Howie. 

MANDEL:  Megan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, Howie. 

MANDEL:  Lisa.  Oh, I‘ve got to get makeup. 

LAUER:  But one name Howie does not know is that of the elusive banker.  However, in a huge get, we‘ve scored the first-ever interview with the banker, sort of. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have a question from Anonymous news here.  They want to know what the banker does for fun when he‘s not working.  OK, he says he enjoys macrame, jazzercise, and haiku. 

LAUER:  And promptly at 12:00 noon, cases ready, banker ready, models ready, it‘s time to make a deal. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Howie Mandel!

(APPLAUSE)

MANDEL:  Why is everybody going so crazy?  It‘s not like I‘m Matt Lauer or anything.  

Open your case. 

This is from Jeanne in New York.  “Why not have some male models?  Why should my husband have all the fun?”  I think that‘s pretty obvious.  I‘ll give you an example.  Men, please.   See? 

And another question here.  This one is from Howie from Los Angeles, California.  “When is this little piece over?”  Now.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

SCARBOROUGH:  And you can catch all of “Deal or No Deal” tomorrow night on NBC.  But coming up here, “Hollyweird.”  Jessica Simpson says her ex-husband moved on too soon. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tell your assistant to reschedule that body wrap. 

It‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, Tom Cruise.  Now, TMZ is reporting that Cruise and Ben Stiller are in talks to star in a film based on the Hardy Boys.  Here now to talk about it, senior editor at “InTouch Weekly,” Kim Serafin, and “Star” magazine‘s deputy New York bureau chief, David Caplan.

David, what‘s the deal?  I mean, I guess, with both these guys‘ scientists, they can play the teenage Hardy Boys, right?

DAVID CAPLAN, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  Yes, this is nuts.  Well, the film‘s going to be called “The Hardy Men.”  This is going to be a grown-up version of the Hardy Boys.  In fact, we‘re hearing that Tom Cruise is the one chasing Ben Stiller, who‘s going to direct the film.

There‘s no word yet if the film is for sure a go with Tom Cruise, but the film will happen.  And production is going to kick off in October.  And I think this will be great for Tom‘s image.  It will make him a little bit more, you know, approachable for many of the audiences.  Plus it‘s a comedy, and I‘m hearing he may even have some spoofs in the film where he pokes fun at himself. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Really?  So is the idea here, Kim Serafin, for Tom Cruise to humanize himself and stop making such strange news and the headlines that he‘s been making over the past couple years? 

KIM SERAFIN, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  Yes, well, he‘s a dad now, so his image is kind of softening up.  I mean, no more “Mission Impossible.”  No more “War of the Worlds.”  This is sort of the new family-friendly Tom Cruise.  And certainly I know, when I picture the Hardy Boys as men, Tom Cruise was definitely one of them.   I want to know what Nancy Drew is like as a woman, though. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, exactly.  And let‘s talk about, speaking of women, Jessica Simpson.  She‘s telling “Elle” magazine that she was hurt when husband Nick Lachey started dating so soon after their break up.  But, Kim, I‘m confused here.  Wasn‘t it Jessica that wanted to get out of that marriage as quickly as possible?

SERAFIN:  That is right.  There has been a lot of speculation about who was the first to cause the problem in the relationship.  Nick Lachey wrote a song about it, but Jessica now says she was hurt when she saw Nick Lachey dating like three weeks after they had broken up. 

I think the more important thing in this article is the lesson to be learned for all of us.  Jessica Simpson has not sort of committed to the fact that she is dating John Mayer, but she left her computer on while she did the e-mail, and the reporter noticed that there were some e-mails from John Mayer on the computer.  So, for everyone, don‘t do a reality show with your spouse, and don‘t leave your computer on if you‘re doing an interview. 

SCARBOROUGH:  David Caplan, I‘m just so confused on so many fronts.  First, I thought John Mayer was making fun of Jessica Simpson, saying that they were dating, but now they‘re dating—they‘re actually in Pensacola, Florida, eating at Appleby‘s, of all places.  I guess whatever floats your boat.  But now we understand that Jessica is upset that Nick moved on too quickly.  What‘s going on here?  Is she have second thoughts?

CAPLAN:  Boo-hoo, Jessica.  I don‘t know why she‘s talking about this.  She‘s not having second thoughts.  She‘s very happy with John Mayer.  She‘s following him all throughout her concert tour.  She just can‘t let go.  I think she‘s just trying to maybe aggravate John Mayer here, and I know Jessica doesn‘t like Vanessa Minnillo, Nick‘s new girlfriend, so she just keeps sort of bringing back all this whole dirt, but Jessica has to move on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time to move on.  You‘ve got to leave it behind, like U2 sings. 

And, finally, the “New York Post” is reporting Beyonce is requiring her backup dancers to pay for their own flight.  Is Beyonce cheap, David?

CAPLAN:  Yes, she is cheap and—big surprise—she‘s a diva.  When backup dancers are working on her videos, rehearsing for her tour, she makes them pay for their own airfare to New York or Los Angeles.  And how much do they get paid for working on a Beyonce video?  Four hundred dollars. 

SCARBOROUGH:  My gosh. 

CAPLAN:  They don‘t make any money when you work with Beyonce.  Plus, she‘s even threatening people who complain to their agents and who complain to Beyonce‘s camp that they will be fired from rehearsals. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Kim, is she turning into a full-blown diva? 

SERAFIN:  You know, I bet you there‘s more to this story.  It sounds like maybe there‘s a disgruntled dancer there.  Also, it‘s kind of—when somebody piles onto Beyonce, everyone is going to start piling on.  There‘s been a lot of speculation and talk about how she‘s the one that didn‘t get any awards for “Dreamgirls,” so now it‘s sort of a free-for-all.  Let‘s all pile on Beyonce and say how bad she is.  Sure there‘s more to this story.  She is a good person. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We will see.  Thank you so much, Kim Serafin.  Thank you, David Caplan.  Greatly appreciate both of you being with us.  Thank you for being with us.  That‘s all the time we have tonight.  We‘re going to see you back here tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, but don‘t go anywhere.  We‘ve got a great “Doc Block” straight ahead. 

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.

transcript

Watch Scarborough Country each weeknight at 9 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,