updated 3/7/2007 11:33:52 AM ET 2007-03-07T16:33:52

Guests: Arianna Huffington, Paul Rieckhoff, Courtney Hazlett, Danny Bonaduce

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight: The verdict‘s in and the vice president‘s right-hand man is facing years in prison, as a federal jury find Lewis “Scooter” Libby guilty of lying, perjury and obstruction of justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK FITZGERALD, LIBBY TRIAL PROSECUTOR:  The results are actually (ph) sad.  It‘s sad that we had a situation where a high-level official, a person who worked in the office of the vice president, obstructed justice and lied under oath.  We wish that had not happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And following the verdict, a juror bemoaned the fact that Libby was the administration‘s fall guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENIS COLLINS, LIBBY TRIAL JUROR:  It was said a number of times, What are doing with this guy here?  Where‘s Rove?  Where‘s—you know, Where are these other guys?  We‘re not saying that we didn‘t think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of but that it seemed like he was, to put it in Mr. Wells‘s (INAUDIBLE) he was the fall guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Fall guy or not, Lewis “Scooter” Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of such a serious charge since Richard Nixon‘s vice president, Spiro Agnew, was busted for tax evasion over 30 years ago.  But this conviction goes more to policy being pushed by a White House who‘s still having trouble selling the war that most Americans want over.  So will the Libby convictions further damage the president‘s case in front of the American people?

Let‘s get some insight now from Chris Matthews.  He‘s the host, of course, of MSNBC‘s “HARDBALL.”

Chris, thank you so much for being with us.  How devastating is Scooter Libby‘s prosecution and these convictions today to the Bush administration?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, MSNBC “HARDBALL”:  Well, I think it narrows in on the vice president.  I mean, the way that the prosecutor‘s been describing the behavior of Scooter Libby in this whole case, it‘s as if he were a conjoined twin with the vice president.  He said at the end of his summation that the vice president‘s now under a cloud.  So who knows?  But clearly, when you have a chief of staff and a close confidant working at the office day after day, doing things that are perceived to be illegal now, you got to wonder about the role of the boss.

SCARBOROUGH:  Why did the White House appoint a special prosecutor after the Justice Department already knew that he‘s the one that leaked the information not only to Novak, but also to Woodward?

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, John Ashcroft had Karl Rove as his consultant in a campaign, I believe.  So he had a particular conflict there, remember?  And Karl Rove was part of this investigation.  So Ashcroft believed, and I think properly, he shouldn‘t be handling this as a general line investigation from the Justice Department because of his association with one of the targets, perhaps, of this investigation.  I think that was the reason, a very particular reason.  But you‘re right, it led to a whole can of worms being opened here that couldn‘t have been a worse can to open.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ve been reading today that this was sort of a “He said, she said” investigation of perjury.  It was Scooter Libby‘s word against the word of reporters that he had talked to.

MATTHEWS:  Also, those government officials, Joe, all those people...

SCARBOROUGH:  And CIA officials...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... and all those people, CIA officials, the State Department official, all of whom who said things like, It was the vice president‘s query initially triggered that trip to Africa, evidence that just didn‘t square with what Scooter was saying.

SCARBOROUGH:  And that‘s what I wanted to ask.  What do you think the tipping point was here that finally had this jury—because they deliberated for so long...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... that finally had them come down against Scooter Libby?

MATTHEWS:  I think the number of people who said that they knew that Scooter Libby knew about Valerie Plame long before his alleged conversation with Tim Russert, the nine people.  I thought that was very impressive by that fellow Denis Collins, the juror who came out and spoke, who said, We heard nine cases. And he said, That is not explicable by bad memory.  The fact that he forgot all of those isn‘t believable.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  And it certainly wasn‘t for the jury, either.  Chris Matthews of “HARDBALL,” thank you so much for being with us.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Here now, Arianna Huffington.  She‘s the founder of the Huffingtonpost.com.  Also former presidential candidate and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  Arianna, tell us—give us the big picture here.  What does Scooter Libby‘s conviction mean?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Scooter Libby‘s conviction is really devastating for the White House because, ultimately, Dick Cheney‘s office was ground zero for the selling of the war in Iraq.  Remember, it was Dick Cheney—and Libby was known as Cheney‘s Cheney.  And it was their Iraq Study Group operated out of the vice president‘s office, that was really leading the charge in selling the war to the American people.  It was Dick Cheney who would go to the CIA and to (INAUDIBLE) and try to get the intel he wanted.  It was Libby who actually wrote the original draft of that shameful speech that Colin Powell gave to the United Nations.  They could not have been more involved in misleading the American people.

And now, as one of the jurors said, the question is, is it just going to be Libby?  Is he going to be the fall guy?  Is he going to be what Pat Buchanan called the martyr of this?  And I think there is going to be a growing demand for more.  And Andrew Sullivan today, in a really great blog, has said that—and he had been very passionate in favor of the war, and he‘s now saying that the—that Congress should actually subpoena the vice president.  If he refuses to appear, then they should actually try to impeach him.  That‘s how far it‘s going.  And this is not somebody from the left saying it.  That‘s Andrew Sullivan, and now...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, yes, there‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s no doubt from the beginning, Andrew Sullivan was with the neocons back in 2003, as was I when this war began.

I want you to listen, Arianna, to what one juror had to say about Libby being the fall guy in this case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS:  It was said a number of times, What are we doing with this guy here?  Where‘s Rove?  Where‘s—you know, where are these other guys?  We‘re not saying that we didn‘t think Mr. Libby wasn‘t guilty of the things we found him guilty of, but that it seemed like he was, to put it in Mr.  Wells (INAUDIBLE) he was the fall guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Arianna, it certainly sounds like the jury that looked over all of this evidence and studied it a lot more than most other—well, any other Americans over the past couple weeks, have believed that these crimes go higher up in the White House.  Does that have...

HUFFINGTON:  You know...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... a political impact down the road?

HUFFINGTON:  Absolutely.  You know, Joe, I only spent one day in the courtroom, sitting directly behind where Libby was sitting at the defense table.  And it was very hard to be in that courtroom without getting the sense that Libby, responsible though he was undoubtedly for perjury and obstruction of justice, was not the real guy responsible for what the crimes what we are talking about, the bigger crimes are.  And that was partly because he‘s a sympathetic figure.  As the juror said in another sound bite, there was no animosity towards him.  It was just the facts that made the verdict inevitable.

SCARBOROUGH:  And you know, and public support right now, Arianna, for this war is eroding so rapidly for the president.  Almost 60 percent of Americans want us out of Iraq in the next year.  That‘s a staggering number.  How does this specifically hurt the president‘s case, this Libby conviction, these convictions, before the American people?

HUFFINGTON:  It‘s very significant to have somebody as close to the president and as incredibly close to the vice president convicted.  This is a conviction by a jury that spent a lot of time deliberating and could find no other answer, no other verdict than the one they gave.  So I think there is growing demand for more answers, for real answers, as to how did we get to go to war.  What happened?  How were we misled to war?  And Democrats here have a responsibility, since they are in charge of Congress at the moment, to provide those answers.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Pat Buchanan, you called this in a column today, human tragedy—a great column you wrote.  But you also said Scooter Libby was arrogant and that he lied.  That being the case, did he get what he deserved today?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, you know, I hate to see anybody in his position go through what he‘s gone through and what he‘s going to go through.  But the truth is, Joe, Scooter Libby committed perjury.  It was flat out.  I mean, nine people said he‘s been discussing with them all about Valerie Plame and Wilson‘s wife works at the CIA and this.  And then he says he learned it from Russert, the 10th guy, who didn‘t tell him.  It was open and shut.  So in that sense, I think Scooter Libby‘s going to get justice.

But let me separate—and I don‘t think—and I think Fitzgerald did a good job.  He kept it narrow, one perjury count.  He didn‘t go after Rove.  He cut slack for him.  He didn‘t prosecute the war.

Where I do agree with Arianna is this.  There is a huge case here of how we were deceived, misled and maybe deliberately lied into war.  But the place to debate that and to investigate that is the Congress of the United States.  One...

SCARBOROUGH:  Why haven‘t they done that yet?

BUCHANAN:  You know, Joe, I‘ll tell you why I believe they haven‘t done it, because if they do it, they‘re going to find out that the Democrats who voted to give Bush a blank check for war failed utterly in their constitutional duty and their duty to the American people before voting for war.  And so...

SCARBOROUGH:  So Pat, you‘re saying...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... there are people on both sides that are afraid to open up this can of worms, afraid to investigate what Libby did, what Cheney did, what Rove did, what the president did because it will reflect badly on everybody up there.

BUCHANAN:  It will reflect badly on those who gave those guys a blank check.  But one question which is really relevant, Joe.  Why did Cheney ask the CIA to look into Niger?  Because they had a report out of Italy, forged documents saying the Iraqis were going for yellowcake, which meant they‘re working on a nuclear program, which would frighten every American into going to war.  Who forged those documents?  Why don‘t we have the answer to that?  Some foreign agents or foreign intelligence agents forged those things to get us into war with another country.  That‘s what I want to know, not that Scooter Libby foolishly went up there and lied in his teeth.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, the thing is, Pat, one juror, this Denis Collins guy, said that the jury believed that Libby was, in fact, doing Dick Cheney‘s dirty work.  I mean, let‘s watch what he had to say here.

BUCHANAN:  All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS:  The belief of the jury was that he was—he was tasked by the vice president to go and talk to reporters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, that‘s damning—that‘s damning for the White House, Pat.  Do you agree that Libby was just doing the vice president‘s bidding?

BUCHANAN:  Sure, he was.  But the point is, if they were trying to knock down Wilson‘s story and even if they outed his wife, they did these things which are seedy and nasty, but they‘re not criminal.  That‘s why no one was indicted for the basic offense.  I don‘t like what they did.  I think Valerie Wilson served her country honorably for 20 years and what was done to her was shabby and wrong.  But the point is that Fitzgerald said it was not criminal.  But there‘s no doubt that Scooter Libby was the man carrying the hod (ph) for the vice president in knocking down Joe Wilson.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, speaking of Joe Wilson, Arianna, Joe Wilson was on “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann this past hour.  Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE WILSON, FORMER ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ:  Whatever the last four or five years have been like for us, it‘s been mere inconvenience compared to what this administration has done to our servicepeople and their families in the prosecution of a war that was justified on misinformation and lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  It this war was, in fact, justified on misinformation and lies, when are we going to get the answers, Arianna?  When is the Democratic Congress going to start investigating?  When are they going to start asking the tough questions?  When are they going to be doing more than passing non-binding resolutions or going and speaking to their local Rotary Clubs, talking about how badly this war is—if, in fact, this is happening, if, in fact, we were lied into war, when are we going to get the investigations to find out who knew what and when they knew it?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, it‘s time for the Democratic leaders in Congress to actually lead and demand those answers.  And they have the power.  They have the constitutional authority to start real hearings, to issue subpoenas, to get to the bottom of how we were misled to war.  And today was really a very dramatic day because just as the Libby verdict was being given, you had the Walter Reed—the second day of the Walter Reed hearings, which are absolutely sickening and heartbreaking, and you also had the congressional hearing into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys who had apparently been too zealous in prosecuting...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and Arianna, you also had a poll come out that said 60 percent of Americans wanted us out of Iraq in the next year.  I mean, a very bad day for the White House.  Does this actually give Democrats the backbone they need to start the investigations?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, if not now, when?  I mean, what else can they possibly be waiting for.  The chickens are clearly coming home to roost for this administration.  And Democrats have been given a mandate by the people in the last election to, A, get us out of Iraq, and B, get some answers.  And the Libby verdict is really an incredible opportunity to explain to the American people how we got here, but we won‘t be able to really get the answers without the subpoena power that only Congress has.

SCARBOROUGH:  And they have it.  Pat Buchanan, finally, quickly—we got to go here—but “The National Review” is already suggesting that George W. Bush pardon Scooter Libby.  Is that a smart move politically?

BUCHANAN:  No.  And he ain‘t going to do it.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, he‘s not, is he.

BUCHANAN:  Until about—I‘d say around January 15, 2009, Libby walks.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, Libby—and maybe Libby and Mark Rich can hang out in Switzerland together and explain how that happened.

Arianna Huffington, as always, thank you so much for being with us.

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Pat Buchanan, stick around.

Coming up next: This White House embarrassment couldn‘t have come at a worse time, with a new poll showing that almost 60 percent of Americans do want us out of Iraq in a year.  We‘re going to get the reactions from Baghdad from NBC‘s Brian Williams and see just how badly things are going over there.

And then: America‘s heroes abused at Walter Reed.  Was it all to line the pockets of private contractors who screwed up Katrina?  NBC follows the money scandal, and you will be shocked at that special investigation.

And later: Rosie thinks so, and so does Elton.  But is “American Idol” really racist?  What the latest controversy says about “Idol,” its producers, and who they really want to be the next “American Idol.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, these Scooter Libby convictions feed into the narrative that the White House lied to get the United States into war with Iraq, a war that clearly continues to spiral out of control, with U.S.  forces suffering their deadliest day in nearly a month.  Explosions killed nine U.S. soldiers—what a tragedy—in two separate attacks yesterday outside of Baghdad.  And today, 115 people were killed in a suicide bombing south of the capital city.

Now, here at home, as we‘ve said, a new poll showing that Americans are clearly losing their patience with the war.  Only 28 percent of Americans think the war is winnable, down from 35 percent in December.  And 58 percent want troops to come back to the United States, come on home within a year.  Only 13 percent want to send even more troops into that civil war.

NBC‘s Brian Williams is in Baghdad tonight with the view on the ground.  Brian, your trip is the first time a network anchor has been back to Iraq since ABC‘s Bob Woodruff was injured there.  What was your reason for returning?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  Well, Joe, good evening, and thank you.  And as you may know, we made this return visit back here because in my view, I don‘t think there‘s—this story dominates “NBC Nightly News” night after night, so many evenings.  I don‘t think there is any substitute for as close as we can get to it here for seeing and touching the story.

Having said that, what coming here does is put in great relief the fact that this is a split story.  From the soldiers, you know, the specialists, the gunnery sergeants, the company commanders, colonels on up to general officers, you hear of the victories they are proud of.  We were out in Ramadi yesterday, here in Baghdad today.  They are talking about, in some cases, a street-by-street, neighborhood-by-neighborhood evolution of the fight, very proud of the fact that we could stand in Ramadi with a general officer—yes, surrounded by a fire team—and have a conversation in a neighborhood that was a no-man‘s-land by anyone‘s definition just a few weeks ago.  On to the city of Hit (ph), where they are three weeks—a measurable three weeks ahead of where they are in Ramadi.

But then “NBC Nightly News” comes on the air tonight, and we correctly report that chain of words so familiar to American viewers, another bloody day in Iraq.  And it is provably true, and that often is the sum total picture that is beamed back into America.  And this is in the eyes of the beholder.  Those looking to make a case, those back in America looking to make a case to get out, saying there isn‘t a bright, shining, reachable goal just ahead of us to fuel progress.  That will have to be their decision.  Those we‘ve spoken to here say, We have a mission.  We will obviously follow instructions from the commander-in-chief from Washington.

But to this tip and to your question, there really is no substitute for getting here and covering and seeing what long ago emerged, really, as the story of our time.  That is an attempt at an assessment of things, again, from what was a violent day here in Iraq, in Baghdad tonight, as a Black Hawk comes in for a landing behind us.  Joe, back to you in the studio.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Brian Williams in Baghdad.  Thank you so much for that great report.

Pat Buchanan is still with us.  Pat, you heard the report.  There are some advances, obviously, a lot more bloodshed.  And let‘s talk this poll again, 60 percent of Americans want us out of Iraq within a year.  What do those numbers mean to the president?

BUCHANAN:  Well, they mean that the home front is crumbling under the president.  They mean that the president of the United States has not convinced the American people that staying the course in Iraq until victory is achieved or until we can see over the horizon to a victory—that it is worthwhile.  I think the president‘s got until, basically, the end of summer, Joe.  And if the surge is not seen to have worked, I don‘t know how he continues to sustain it, even though that was a very positive report by Brian Williams about how these guys are fighting out there and how they‘re winning and how they‘re doing a great job...

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, and Pat Buchanan...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, Pat, everybody that I‘ve talked to says these troops are doing an extraordinary job.  You know, Tom Brokaw wrote about the greatest generation.  These guys, every one of them that I talk to, these men and women, they are the greatest generation.  They‘re doing such an incredible job over there.  They‘re doing what their civilian leaders are telling them to do.  But at the same time, it just looks like more and more Americans are saying—I mean, this ain‘t Vietnam!  They‘re not attacking the troops.  They love the troops.  But it just seems, at some point, the president‘s going to have to listen to the American people.  When is Congress going to take a lead from the American people and start pushing the president a bit more aggressively?

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think—I don‘t think you can expect Congress to do it.  But Joe, the question‘s going to come down to, if the soldiers on the ground, the colonels and sergeants and the troops, are saying, Don‘t take us out of this game, we can win, how does the commander-in-chief take them out of the game?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, do they believe that, Pat?

BUCHANAN:  Well, this is what Brian Williams is saying himself, Joe. 

That‘s what we just heard, and this is what the president believes. 

Congress believes differently.  The American people believe differently.  But I honestly think that the president of the United States is not going to pull out American forces to an extent that he feels he will risk a collapse of everything that‘s been done because he does not believe the war is lost.  And so I think...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right...

BUCHANAN:  ... that‘s where (INAUDIBLE) He‘s got the courage of his convictions.  Congress does not.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, the thing is, obviously—and of course, because of that, then the president will get his way and Congress will not check the president.  Obviously, as Brian Williams reported, a lot of these guys are gung-ho and think they can win the war because that‘s what we train them to do.  And God bless them for that, but I just can‘t help but believe that they‘ve been let down by too many politicians in Washington.

Pat Buchanan, thanks so much for being with us.  I greatly appreciate it.

And coming up: NBC News conducts its own investigation into what went wrong at Walter Reed.  Is the government using a firm that screwed up Katrina to actually screw up Walter Reed?  We‘ll show you that report.

But first, it‘s “Must See S.C.,” where Al Gore tells us a real inconvenient truth.  It‘s getting hot in here!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” some video you‘ve just got to see.  First up, sure, Ben and Jerry named ice cream after Stephen Colbert, but how does it taste?  Here, he puts truthiness to the test.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  I can‘t taste it, but luckily members of the nation out there have tasted it for me.  Jimmy?

DANIEL BOULUD, MASTER CHEF:  Hi, I‘m master chef Daniel Boulud.  And this is yummy in my tummy.

TIM ROBBINS, ACTOR:  You can taste those chunks of freedom.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST:  Wow, Stephen Colbert‘s Americone Dream, that‘s 360 degrees of flavor. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And finally, “An Inconvenient Truth” may have scored gold at the Oscars, but could Al Gore really have won a Grammy? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Greenhouse gases, depleted ozone, melting glaciers.  Ladies and gentlemen, as these images clearly illustrate, it‘s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.  It‘s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.  I want to take my clothes off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, yes, baby.  Still ahead, is “American Idol” racist?  Will they kick off one candidate for having racy pictures on the Internet but not another?  So what‘s the difference?  Oh, wait, one‘s white, and one‘s black.  How are they justifying this turnaround?

But first, as the government scrambles figures out how to solve the national disgrace at Walter Reed, NBC‘s Lisa Myers looks into how one company that already had a hand in mismanaging hurricane relief in Katrina is to blame. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  What went wrong at Walter Reed?  While the White House is trying to avoid blame for the appalling conditions at the Army hospital, a blistering new NBC News investigation shows that some of the blame may lie at their feet. 

It turns out the Bush administration outsourced maintenance operations at Walter Reed to a private company, the same company that bungled some of the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina.  NBC‘s senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has the latest twist in this startling scandal—

Lisa?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA MYERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, it turns out that the private firm hired to provide maintenance and support at Walter Reed is currently under investigation by Pentagon watchdogs for its performance during Hurricane Katrina.  Now, critics question whether that company was a smart choice by the Army and whether the decision to hire an outside contractor created some of the problems at Walter Reed.

(voice-over):  Even the military‘s best friends in Congress dressed down Army leaders over conditions at Walter Reed. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  It was a failure in the most basic tenets of command responsibility, to take care of our troops. 

MYERS:  Critics say part of the problem may be an Army decision last year to contract out maintenance and support at Walter Reed to a private company, even though government workers argued they could do it better and for less. 

JOHN GAGE, GOVERNMENT WORKERS UNION PRESIDENT:  They were moving, come Hell or high water, to contract these jobs out. 

MYERS:  Congressional investigators say that, last month, about 100 private workers took over jobs previously performed by 350 government employees.  The contract went to a company, International American Products, or IAP, which critics say played a major role in the ice fiasco during Hurricane Katrina, when trucks roamed the country, delivering little and running up costs to the taxpayers. 

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA:  They didn‘t seem to be doing a very good job in even delivering the ice.  And from what we now see, is that they didn‘t do a good enough job at Walter Reed, either.

MYERS:  In fact, when the Army gave IAP a $120 million contract for Walter Reed, Pentagon watchdogs were investigating complaints that the company overcharged during Katrina and failed to meet ice delivery obligations.  Last fall, a Walter Reed commander warned of possible mission failure, with skilled government workers leaving in droves, as the hospital‘s workload of wounded vets increased. 

GAGE:  There was just a void left, and that‘s what happened. 

MYERS (on screen):  Today, the company had no comment, and the Pentagon‘s inspector general told us that his investigation of IAP‘s ice delivery work during Katrina is still under way—Joe?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much, Lisa Myers.  Shocking stuff. 

Here now, Iraq war veteran Paul Rieckhoff.  He‘s the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. 

Thank you so much for being with us, Paul.  We saw in Lisa Myers‘ report, a warning a year out of possible mission failure.  That certainly happened, didn‘t it?

PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ WAR VETERAN:  Absolutely.  The writing was on the wall here, Joe.  People knew on the inside.  General Kiley, General Weightman, people inside Congress, there were GAO reports, there were internal memos.  People knew that there were failings inside Walter Reed, and these private contractors obviously failed at their job.  I don‘t know how anyone thought that 100 workers could do the job that was previously don‘t by 350.  Whoever is doing over the math over there alone needs to be fired. 

But there was also...

SCARBOROUGH:  How does that happen, though?  You talk about all of these warning signs that came up, all the warning flags, and yet you have the administration, the White House, the Pentagon, you‘ve got Congress, the House, the Senate, the Armed Services Committee, the Veterans Affairs Committees in both House and Senate, I mean, how did everybody miss this?

RIECKHOFF:  Lack of oversight, lack of attention, failures of leadership.  The commanders inside Walter Reed didn‘t go down to the lowest levels.  Congress wasn‘t doing their job looking into these issues, and everybody assumed everything was OK.

Well, we had major problems from inside Walter Reed and also, I‘ve got to mention, at V.A. hospitals around the country.  They still really haven‘t gotten media attention yet.  We‘ve seen a systemwide failure, and I think this private contracting issue and their history of failures is another example of the failure to provide adequate overnight.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, what message does it send, also, to our veterans, to our heroes from Iraq, from Afghanistan, you know, Vietnam, I mean, what message does it send that we contract out services at Walter Reed hospital to the same organization, the same outfit, the same company that couldn‘t even deliver ice during Hurricane Katrina and left so many people stranded in Louisiana and Mississippi? 

RIECKHOFF:  It sends a terrible message, a catastrophically bad message, and it tells people that our civilian leadership doesn‘t have the same level of accountability that our military does.  If you failed in a patrol, to take care of your men, you wouldn‘t be given a second opportunity to go out with the same group of people.  They‘d fire you, replace you, and put someone else in your place that can do the job.

The same should be true with contractors.  We‘ve seen problems with contractors inside Iraq, and maybe this is just the beginning of problems with the contractors on the stateside.  But the bottom line is, we failed our veterans.  We failed as Americans, as a Congress.  The president failed to provide them with the basic tenet of honoring their sacrifice and making sure that we hold up our end of the bargain.  And we‘re going to be paying for that for decades.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  Going to pay for it in readiness, going to pay for it in recruitment.  And, you know, Paul, as you know very well, so many veterans from Iraq testified in front of Congress.  I want to play you what a pair of veterans who testified in front of Congress had to say about, you know, just how angry they were at all the things that had happened.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAFF SGT. JOHN DANIEL SHANNON, U.S. ARMY:  I personally got a little angry when Harvey resigned.  Now, I don‘t know how things work in Washington, D.C., but in combat, we don‘t get to resign, when bullets are flying and people are dying.  When they‘re receiving political incoming rounds, in the course of helping us or in the course of dereliction of duty in that requirement, they continue to fight for us, until they‘re fired.  Pull themselves up by their bootstraps, like any sergeant would to, admit to their mistakes, and work to fix them until they‘re fired. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Paul, back when I was in Congress, the vets all told me, first year I was in, about the slow roll, about how badly the V.A. was handled, mismanaged.  And you‘d get put on a slow roll, where if you needed to be treated, you know, you could make 100 calls, and you may get five of them answered, and they would put you on a waitlist, and basically they just kept the slow roll going, until you basically gave up and said, “Well, I‘m not going to get any help from the V.A.” 

So I just my question is, is how much of this is George Bush‘s fault and the fault of the Bush administration?  And I‘m not just talking Walter Reed; I‘m talking the bigger problem with veterans not being taken care of.  And how much of it is a systemic failure that‘s been happening for decades now? 

RIECKHOFF:  Well, a huge part of it is the Bush administration.  They‘re in charge here, and they‘re ultimately accountable for everything they do and everything they fail to do.  And the president‘s new budget is not going to help this situation.  They‘re actually proposing cuts for 2009 and 2010 to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

And the secretary of the V.A., Jim Nicholson, he‘s at fault here, too.  He‘s kind of like the Mike Brown of FEMA that America doesn‘t know about yet.  He‘s been telling everybody everything‘s fine, I have all we need, while we‘re getting reports from VAs around the country saying they‘re not fine, they don‘t have everything they need.  America needs to refocus on veterans issues, and we need to hold Secretary Nicholson accountable.  Because so far, throughout this administration, he‘s gotten a total pass.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Paul Rieckhoff, I‘m sure that‘s going to change now.  Thanks so much for being with us.  Really appreciate it. 

RIECKHOFF:  Thank you, Joe.  Anytime. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, and coming up next, we lighten up a little bit, not too much, though, because we‘re talking about “American Idol‘s” double standard, kicking off one contestant for racy, online photos but keeping another.  Is “American Idol” and its producers racist?  And when you‘re talking about the biggest pop cultural phenomenon in America, that‘s a question that needs to be answered. 

And coming up in “Hollyweird,” are Tom and Katie pulling a John and Yoko?  No, don‘t worry, they‘re not conducting a bed-in.  Tom would have nothing to do with that, I‘m sure.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, “VIEW” CO-HOST:  I think that was their justification.  I don‘t know if they‘ve altered the rules since...

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE VIEW”:  I think it‘s racist.  I really do. 

I think it‘s because she‘s black. 

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, “THE VIEW”:  You do? 

HASSELBECK:  Is it because, you know, Antonella, she‘s so just kind of...

BEHAR:  Hot.

HASSELBECK:  Yes, she‘s hot.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, then it‘s weightist, too.  It‘s weightist and wacist, you scwewy wabbit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I think that‘s why so many people discriminate against Rosie, because she‘s black.  Rosie blasts “Idol” for being racist, and she‘s not alone.  Today Rosie‘s rant came after “Idol” producers and judges stood by contestant Antonella Barba, letting her remain on the show, despite making racy photos, and those racy photos making the rounds on the Internet.

Producers were singing a different tune four years ago, when they kicked off Frenchie Davis off the show after it was revealed that she had posed for an adult Web site.  So, does “American Idol” have a double standard?  And is TV‘s top show really racist? 

Here now to talk about it, “OK” magazine senior reporter Courtney Hazlett.  Courtney, is there a double standard going on at “American Idol”? 

COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE:  I think there‘s definitely a double standard going on here with “American Idol.”  When Rosie O‘Donnell said this, this morning on “The View,” a lot of people got caught up that it was Rosie just involved with another one of her rants.

But if take her out of this equation, if you just look at the facts here, what you have are two people who did essentially the same thing.  They have explicit photos of themselves on the Internet.  One got severely punished, and the other one didn‘t. 

And when you look at the situation, you kind of tend to say, OK, well, here‘s the difference.  The person who was talented left, and she was African-American.  And the person who is definitely less talented stayed, but she‘s not.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, it‘s not the first time that “American Idol” has been accused of being racist.  Obviously, Elton John made the same charge in the past, a couple years back, right? 

HAZLETT:  Definitely.  And what‘s happening here is “American Idol,” I think, doesn‘t really understand that right now they‘re in a position where they need to make a rule and actually enforce it.  They‘re culling from the American public.  And when you‘re using the American public, you‘re going to end up with people who have more sordid pasts than others, and they need a rule that‘s hard and fast, that says, if you do these things, you cannot participate in our competition. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, “American Idol” was called, quote, “incredibly racist” by Elton John a few years back.  We just showed that quote.

Do you agree that it‘s incredibly racist or do you think that maybe they may be engaging more in lookism, instead of racism?  Certain years they want certain people. 

HAZLETT:  I would definitely lean toward lookism.  I mean, come on.  Ruben Studdard did phenomenal in this competition.  You know, you‘ve had so many people of so many races who participate and make it to the finals and go extremely far and have somewhat successful careers. 

The problem here, really, is when you‘ve got competitors that do things that not everyone is going to approve of, the judges need to take a stand—I‘m sorry, not the judges, but the producers, rather—need to take a stand and decide who gets to play and who doesn‘t. 

Simon Cowell said, even tonight, he said, when Ryan Seacrest started talking about one of the contestant‘s current weight loss, and how he got to that point, Simon said, “Stop it, stop it.  It‘s not about that; it‘s a singing competition.”  The only way that they‘re going to be able to keep it a singing competition, though, is if they have these hard and fast rules. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, whatever.  It‘s not a singing competition.  Courtney, you know it, I know it, and the American people know it.  Hey, Courtney Hazlett, stick around.  We‘ll be right back with more in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Coming up, is K-Fed playing head games with Britney?  God, how do you do that, if she doesn‘t have a head?  The details of his unusual tribute to his soon-to-be-ex coming up.  Danny Bonaduce joins us live in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tell Ruben Kincaid your family wants a bigger tour bus.  It‘s time for “Hollyweird.” 

First up, Tom Cruise.  Tom‘s rep says he doesn‘t know anything about it, but Gawker.com reports that TomKat is looking into buying an apartment at the world-famous Dakota in New York City.  Here now to talk about it, former child star, current adult star, future geriatric star, Danny Bonaduce.  He stars in VH-1‘s “Breaking Bonaduce” and can be heard every morning on 97.1 Free FM on the West Coast.  And still with us, “OK” magazine‘s star for all time, Courtney Hazlett. 

Let‘s talk first about TomKat.  Danny, help us out here.  Tom and Yoko? 

DANNY BONADUCE, RADIO HOST:  I think it‘s a very interesting choice, that one of the most famous men in the world would move to a landmark building.  I mean, it‘s a scream for attention.  But, on the other hand, with Yoko Ono and Tom Cruise as neighbors, you would have two raving lunatics.  If you just took away their gate openers, you could actually confine them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Courtney Hazlett, could it be that Tom sees a lot of celebrities in the Dakotas?  And I mean, those are possible converts for Scientology, right?

HAZLETT:  I guess anything possible.  I think when a celebrity sees a building that already has another celebrity in it, it‘s kind of a safe place for them.  So the Dakota, in some sense, is definitely a fitting place for them to move.

They‘re looking at this enormous, 10-room spread, with views of a courtyard, and an option to buy another studio apartment or one bedroom that‘s adjacent for any help or Scientology-minders or anyone they want to bring along. 

BONADUCE:  You know, I was going to say real quick, I just watched your segment on “American Idol.”  I thought you were really on the money.  But I beg to differ with you on the celebrity thinking the Dakota is a safe place.  I‘m positive John Lennon would disagree on that point. 

HAZLETT:  You raise a very good point.

SCARBOROUGH:  A very good point, no doubt about it.  One of my heroes, John Lennon, of course, assassinated there in 1980, December of 1980. 

Let‘s move on.  I‘m depressed now, and I want to just do something that makes me forget that.  And who else but K-Fed to help soothe my jangled nerves?

Kevin Federline hits Las Vegas this weekend sporting a shaved head, and the “Sun” reports he did it to support Britney Spears.  Tell me about it, Courtney.  Is he playing those mind games? 

HAZLETT:  I think, for the first time ever, a lot of people are looking back at Kevin and saying, wow, he‘s actually being a good dad.  He was so not the picture of fatherhood for so long.  But if this is some sign of solidarity, as if to say, hey, look, kids, both mom and I have the same hair cut now, then I say more power to him.

And, Danny, I can predict what you‘re going to say here, which is he shouldn‘t be taking the kids to Vegas, but mom, Lynn, was there to watch after them.  And all our sources on the ground say he was actually very behaved.. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It could be, also, that K-Fed shaved his head because he‘s worried about drugs, also, right, Danny? 

BONADUCE:  Well, it could be that.  It could be a lot of things.  The idea that he‘s supporting his wife by shaving his head, let me make a prediction here.  Here‘s my prediction.  When I did my reality show, mine was real, and you can tell because sometimes I wasn‘t lit, and you couldn‘t see me, or I wasn‘t wearing a microphone and you couldn‘t quite hear what I was saying. 

What was always intentional and thought-out was well-lit and miked.  I‘ll tell you, there‘s going to pictures of K-Fed shaving his head to the highest bidder, well-lit, with perfect pictures.  So he didn‘t support his wife.  He‘s going to do it to support whatever he‘s up to these days.  He did it for himself.  I think that guy is a villain. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All about the bottom line and making a little bit of money off of Britney, right?

BONADUCE:  I think you will see those pictures at whatever tabloid pays the highest price.

SCARBOROUGH:  Man.  Well, let‘s move on.  Speaking of tabloids, Paris Hilton played a little celebrity poker this weekend, and she played it with Vince Vaughn.  The camera caught them flirting.  Could this be the next hot celebrity couple?  It makes me feel dirty even thinking about it.  What do you think, Courtney?

HAZLETT:  I think I‘m going play the lottery and have better odds than Vince Vaughn and Paris Hilton actually becoming a couple.  If that is the case, I think we‘ll hear a resounding “Poor Jennifer Aniston” on this front.  I mean, after Brad and Angelina becoming such the, you know, quote, “perfect couple,” and then her ex, Vince, taking up with Paris Hilton, I‘m not quite sure how she‘s going to deal with that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, Danny, it means only one thing.  If it does happen, Vince Vaughn headed straight to rehab. 

BONADUCE:  Well, I‘ll tell you, exactly right.  She is Patient Zero and Typhoid Mary, as I said here on this very show.  But I will tell you this, and let me represent all men honestly right here.  I find Paris Hilton reprehensible, and vulgar, and horrifying, and I would most certainly sleep with her. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, well, you know what?  I think that‘s probably where we‘ll leave it tonight.  Danny Bonaduce. 

HAZLETT:  What could I say?

SCARBOROUGH:  What else can you say, Courtney Hazlett?  Courtney Hazlett, thanks to both of you all for being with us.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  We‘re going to see you here tomorrow night again in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

But don‘t go anywhere.  Coming up next, was it murder or politics as usual?  MSNBC‘s doc block starts right now.

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

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