updated 3/9/2007 10:53:20 AM ET 2007-03-09T15:53:20

Guests: Nico Pitney, John Nichols, John Fund, Mike Barnicle, Robin Leach, Kim Serafin

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Bill O‘Reilly attacks a war reporter in a war zone from the safety of his cushy Washington, D.C., TV studio.  We‘ll tell you that sad story coming up.

But first: Democratic leaders throw down the gauntlet today and tell the president to get out of Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  There are dates certain here for the first time in the Congress for the redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We have no other choice but to act boldly.

REP. STEVEN COHEN (D), TENNESSEE:  My conscience right now won‘t allow me to vote to fund a surge, to send more dollars and more lives to a bottomless pit.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS:  No more spending billions of dollars to send our children into the meat grinder that is Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  But the White House responds by setting up a showdown. 

The president tells the Democrats, Drop dead, and he threatens a rare veto.  Meanwhile, top Republicans on Capitol Hill are accusing these Democrats of voting for defeat by tying our troops‘ hands.  You know, the big question tonight, friends: Will that intimidation tactic work, or have Democrats finally found their united front against the commander-in-chief when it comes to all things Iraq?

Here now to talk about it, “Boston Herald” columnist and MSNBC contributor Mike Barnacle.  We have Nico Pitney.  He‘s the deputy research director for “The Progress Report,” and former presidential candidate and MSNBC political analyst Patrick Buchanan.

Let‘s start with you, Mike Barnicle.  You know, the Democrats today seemed like they showed a little bit of backbone, to say the least.  They have finally set a date certain to get out of Iraq.  And I‘m sure a lot of Americans who voted to put them back in power in November wanted to see this day come sooner rather than later.  How significant is the Democratic move today?

MIKE BARNICLE, “BOSTON HERALD,” MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, I think it‘s significant in terms of the fact that within the structure of the Democratic Party, at least in the House of Representatives. Joe, they seemingly internally passed a resolution—never mind getting out of Iraq, they finally decided to get out of their own way.  This is about the fourth or fifth incarnation of various proposals that they‘ve had to get the troops out of Iraq, to curtail funding for Iraq, to base funding for Iraq on several stipulations.  And now, finally, they some to have a consensus of Democrats going forward that would agree with the people who voted for them, for many of them, last fall, to set a time certain to withdraw from Iraq and to put certain structures on it.  July first next year...

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Mike...

BARNICLE:  Yes?

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike, you know, the thing is—sorry to interrupt.  But the thing that I‘ve never understood about this Democratic Party that‘s taken power, they got power by being on the side of the overwhelming majority of the American people.  And according to a “USA Today”/Gallup poll today, 60 percent of Americans are siding with the Democrats and they favor a timetable for withdrawing troops by the end of next year.  Only 39 percent of Americans oppose that plan, Mike Barnicle.

If that‘s the case, if almost two out of three Americans support the Democratic plan and one out of three oppose (SIC) the Republican plan, why is it so difficult to get this passed through the House and the Senate and set a date certain to bring the troops home?

BARNICLE:  Because these people live by polls, Joe.  I‘m not telling you anything you don‘t know.  They live by polls, although they don‘t really believe in the poll numbers that you just indicated.  They‘re afraid of their own people.  They‘re afraid of their own voters.  And every Democrat in the House of Representatives, constantly running for reelection from the day they get elected, know that a year from now, if they vote to curtail funding or to set a date—they‘re panic-stricken that a Republican will be able to say, You didn‘t support the troops last year.  You curtailed funding for people in the field of battle.

SCARBOROUGH:  But you don‘t think that‘s going to work anymore, do you?  I mean, at some point...

BARNICLE:  No, I don‘t.  No, I don‘t.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... that stops working because the Democrats won, despite the fact that a lot of Republican candidates were saying that for the past year on the campaign trail.  And Americans, did they not clearly reject that line of reasoning...

BARNICLE:  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... from the Republican Party...

BARNICLE:  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and the president?

BARNICLE:  Absolutely, Joe.  But I mean, it‘s been the history of American politics since 1965, at least, that the American public is always way ahead of its elected officials.  And the public is way ahead of the Democrats in the House on this one.  They want a date set certain.  They want the troops to begin to withdraw.  They want funding curtailed.  They want the war in Iraq over.  They want it in the rearview mirror, and the Democrats in the House of representatives are just coming to the conclusion, Oh, boy, we better—we better ride this wave now.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, clearly, the White House is angry about the Democrats‘ plan.  Dan Bartlett, aboard Air Force One, had this to say. 

Quote, “Obviously, the administration would vehemently oppose and

ultimately veto any legislation that looked like what was described today

by the House Democrats.”

But Pat Buchanan, if the president vetoes the Democrats‘ plan, well, that‘s actually good news for the Democrats, too, isn‘t it, because at least they‘ve stepped forward and done what the American people asked them to do when they took control of Congress.  This will totally be on the president‘s shoulder again.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, look, I disagree with you.  Well, look, what the Democrats have done in the House, they‘re going to vote to fund the war, and then they‘re going to vote to end the war and attach that to the funding of the war.  It‘s got to get through—the ending the war‘s got to get through the House, it‘s got to get through the Senate.  Let‘s suppose, Joe, it does and it goes to the president.  He vetoes the funding of the war and says, Your timetables are unacceptable.  Now give me the funds to continue the war.  The ball is right back in the court of Nancy Pelosi.  And the “end the war” Democrats...

SCARBOROUGH:  And Nancy Pelosi—and what Nancy Pelosi does—she‘s a strong leader.  What she does is she sends it right back to the Senate and sends it right back to the president...

BUCHANAN:  No.  They try to...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and says, Here‘s the money.

BUCHANAN:  No, no.

SCARBOROUGH:  You want the money, Mr. President?  Fine, but we‘re going to be...

BUCHANAN:  No, no, no, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... protecting the troops and making sure...

BUCHANAN:  That‘s not how it works.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... they don‘t stay there for the next 10 years.

BUCHANAN:  Here‘s what‘s happens.  They have to...

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re telling me how it works in the Congress?

BUCHANAN:  No.  Yes.  They have to override the president‘s veto.  They will not be able to override the president‘s veto.  What do they do then?  Do they deny the funds, in which case, Mike Barnicle‘s scenario comes true?  All the Republicans say...

SCARBOROUGH:  No, they don‘t deny...

BUCHANAN:  ... You cut off the troops.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... the funds.  What they do is they send the bill right back to the president of the United States and say, Mr. President, you vetoed this once, we‘re going to send it to you again.  You know, I‘ll tell you how it happens.  You send a bill to the president, he vetoes it.  You send it back, he vetoes it again.  You send it back a third time, and if he‘s like Bill Clinton on Welfare reform, he realizes he‘d better sign it.

BUCHANAN:  Yes, well, that was three years...

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it‘s the first side that blinks first.

BUCHANAN:  That was years, Joe.  Let me tell you, he‘ll—if they don‘t override the president‘s veto, what happens is the president says, Our troops need the money.  Now, send the money for these soldiers and stop playing games.  You lost the vote.  The House will split.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Democrats say, We‘ll send you the money, Mr.

President, but we‘re going to attach these conditions to it.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t—look, they will not stand up if they‘ve been beaten.  And they‘re going to be beaten on this, Joe.  Like it or not, this is a vote to make the Democrats anti-war party but to continue funding the war.  At bottom, that‘s what it‘s going to be.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, we‘ll see whether they—I mean, there‘s no doubt, they‘re going to get beaten if the president vetoes it the first time around.  The question is, Will these Democrats stand shoulder to shoulder, like Republicans did back in the 1990s on Welfare reform, when they knew, like the Democrats know now, that they were on the side of right, and they continued pressing the issue.  And finally, you had a president who knew he was on the wrong side of the public opinion polls and that he was on the wrong side...

BUCHANAN:  But Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... of the issue, and he had no choice but to sign it.

BUCHANAN:  But you know, Joe—Joe, you know George Bush doesn‘t believe he‘s on the wrong side of the issue.  Neither does Cheney.  They will say—they will veto that thing right down the line, and Joe, they will win it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know what?  They‘ll keep putting that vote until, at some point, they need the money to continue the war.  And at that point, they will be the ones that have a decision to make.  This is not an all-or-nothing thing.  The years of George W. Bush being able to call all the shots from the White House and saying, basically, I can appropriate the money, I can spend the money, I can tell Congress who to write checks to—those days are over.

BUCHANAN:  Joe, you got more confidence in the Democrats than I do.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we‘ll see whether the Democrats have more confidence...

BUCHANAN:  The Blue Dogs...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... in the American people...

BUCHANAN:  The Blue Dogs...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... than George W. Bush does...

BUCHANAN:  The Blue Dogs...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... because the overwhelming majority...

BUCHANAN:  ... will go with the president.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... of Americans will support the Democrats doing that. 

Go ahead.  We‘ll bring you in.  Go ahead.

NICO PITNEY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Pat Buchanan is in denial if he thinks that President Bush vetoing this will somehow be a victory for President Bush.  The polls are clear.  The American public strongly supports this.  And President Bush vetoed—I mean, clearly, President Bush has no problem vetoing extremely popular legislation.  The only one he‘s done is stem cell, which has 70-plus support.  And this bill is getting close to that.

I think the Democrats had a major reset today.  They‘re on very strong footing.  And basically, the Republican line now is what John Kerry was pushing back in ‘04, We support the funding, but actually, we‘re going to oppose the funding.  And that‘s...

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the question, though...

PITNEY:  ... what they‘re staking their political fate on.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Nico, is this.  I mean, this is the question that Pat Buchanan‘s asking, and I think it‘s a good question.  Are Democrats going to have the courage to stand up when top Republicans accuse Democrats of trying to tie the hands of the generals and the president?

I want you to take a listen to what Democrats are going to be hearing over the next several months.  Roll the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  Republicans are not going to vote to tie the hands of our generals and our troops on the ground, slowly bleed the resources away from them, and we‘re not going to vote for failure in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle, is that the debate that George W. Bush and the Republicans on Capitol Hill want?

BARNICLE:  Well, it might be, if they‘re stupid, because if—out in

the country, Joe, all any Democrat has to do is to say, The same people—

like John Boehner, who we just heard, who are saying, We‘ve got to support

the troops—take a look at Walter Reed.  Look at how they support the

troops.  They supported the troops in the mismanagement of the war.  They

support the—they don‘t support the troops when they return from the same

mismanaged war.  These are the people telling us that we won‘t support the

that we‘re not going to be supporting the troops if we cast this vote? 

I mean, they‘re not going to win that argument, Joe.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, how do you respond to that?

PITNEY:  ... how scared Democrats are of this argument?  Look at their

first plan.  Their first plan was targeting the surge only.  Now, you know

and the Republicans went after them with that rhetoric.  Now they‘ve actually gone further.  They‘ve set the timeline.  They‘re—you know, they‘re fully—they‘re moving towards what is even further than what they had initially proposed.

BUCHANAN:  This is a free throw.  This is a free throw.  They can do that—this is what I‘m telling you.  Look, they‘re all—if they can do this, they all get well on that.  The crunch comes when the president vetoes it and—if it gets through—and says, All right now, give me the money for my troops that are out there.  You‘ve lost this round.  Give me the money.

PITNEY:  But this is exactly...

BUCHANAN:  Are they going to stand up and say no?

PITNEY:  They are offering the money.

BUCHANAN:  Will the Blue Dogs—will the Blue—I know they will fund the war in the end.  That‘s what I‘m saying.

SCARBOROUGH:  But Pat—you were suggesting...

PITNEY:  They‘re offering the money...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... though, Pat...

BUCHANAN:  Pardon?

PITNEY:  ... with the same benchmarks that the administration says it wants.  It wants to make progress, and the Democrats are demanding it.

BUCHANAN:  The administration‘s going to knock those benchmarks in the head, and when they do, the Democrats will fund the war without the benchmarks.

PITNEY:  But when they miss the benchmarks, that‘s even more reason.  You know, they claim this is the one last chance.  That‘s what Mitch McConnell says.

BUCHANAN:  Look, what‘s going to happen is the president‘s going to decide this after the surge is over, around August or September, and after the Taliban offensive.  I believe, at that point, the president‘s going to have to decide on both these wars, whether they can be sustained.  But I don‘t think this thing is going to impose a timetable, ultimately, on this president.  Do you, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  But you know, Mike Barnicle, though, if you look at the president‘s standing, he‘s about as unpopular since any president since Jimmy Carter.  What does this guy do?  I mean, it‘s exactly not like he‘s negotiating from a position of strength.  He‘s—if the Democrats look at the polls, Mike, then they‘re going to be able to say, You know, maybe we can take this guy on.  Republicans were scared of Bill Clinton when he had 60 percent approval rating, but when he was in his 40s, we went after him.

BARNICLE:  Joe, I‘m with Pat Buchanan on this.  This president has nothing to lose.  He doesn‘t care about the polls.  He doesn‘t care about the Democrats‘ vote in the House of Representatives.  He will veto that bill.  How can he go any lower?  He‘s got his heatshield in Dick Cheney, to help him preserve the 27 or 28 percent of the Republican right.  That‘s the only thing standing between him and complete collapse, is Cheney.  Cheney is the heatshield for his conservative base.  He does not care about the poll numbers.  He‘s going to do what he thinks is right.  He‘s demented on the war, there‘s no doubt about it.  It‘s been totally mismanaged.  But he‘s going to continue to do it.

SCARBOROUGH:  So Mike Barnicle, I guess you can say if you‘re a supporter of Bush, you should have a big old bumper sticker in the “Redneck Riviera” that says, God is my co-pilot and Dick Cheney is my heatshield, right?

BARNICLE:  Yes, that‘s it.

SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s a nice ring to that.  I don‘t know.  We shall see.  Mike Barnicle, Pat Buchanan, Nico Pitney, thank you so much.

Here‘s my point, friends.  You know, regardless of whether you‘re for the president or the for the Democrats on this issue, the Democrats do have the opportunity to stand up and provide a viable alternative to George Bush‘s vision of what we should and shouldn‘t do in Iraq over the—you know, what we should do over the next year.  The president‘s had his way over the past four years.  The American people said in November they want the Democrats to step forward and lead.  Today I think was the first time that happened.  And they do have the power, if they‘ve got the guts to stare down the president, to change policy.

Coming up next: Is Dick Cheney on the outs with President Bush after the Libby verdict?  We‘ll show you why the vice president‘s days in power may be numbered, according to a “Time” magazine report.

And later: Bill O‘Reilly‘s at it again, linking together ABC, “The New York Times” and CBS all in an effort to take down NBC and what he calls our “secret liberal agenda.”  His theory on a vast left-wing conspiracy coming up, and where he talks about an NBC reporter in the war zone.

And later: A nasty new money grab in Paul McCartney‘s divorce.  His ex, Heather Mills, says she only needs $20,000 a day to survive.  I ain‘t saying she‘s a gold digger.  Uh!  Uh!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It looks like it‘s a White House divided.  Vice President Dick Cheney‘s now finding himself caught in a media firestorm tonight, just days after his former chief of staff was convicted.  Now some Washington insiders are openly wondering whether Dick Cheney should resign.  And the latest edition of “Time” magazine” is even calling him the administration‘s, quote, “enemy within.”

Are the vice president‘s says in the White House numbered?  And is he becoming a liability to President Bush?  NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, is here tonight with more on the growing rift within the West Wing—Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Joe.  Well, the White House says the vice president remains the president‘s most trusted counsel, but many people are now asking how badly has the conviction of his closest aide hurt Dick Cheney?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  He is the most powerful vice president in history, but is he beginning to lose his clout?  Critics caricature Dick Cheney as the Darth Vader of the Bush White House.  They say wrong on everything, from the treatment of prisoners to Saddam Hussein‘s weapons.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.

MITCHELL:  And then that embarrassing shooting accident last winter, when he shot a friend in the face.  Bush aides whispered that Cheney waited too long to alert the president.

TODD PURDUM, “VANITY FAIR”:  There has to be some part of him that is irritated that Vice President Cheney has caused him a certain amount of trouble.  He‘s caused him trouble in the Libby case.  He‘s caused him policy trouble.  And some of his advice has clearly turned out to be, I think, objectively bum advice.

MITCHELL:  After the election losses last fall, Cheney could no longer protect his closest ally, Donald Rumsfeld.

CHENEY:  Don Rumsfeld is the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had.

MITCHELL:  And Condoleezza Rice starting winning battles over Iran, Syria and North Korea.  Did that signify a split?  Perhaps when Cheney praised former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who had just blasted those decisions.

CHENEY:  I especially want to recognize Ambassador John Bolton, who did a superb job for America at the United Nations.

MITCHELL:  Even though Bolton clearly infuriated the president.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I strongly disagree, strongly disagree with his assessment.

MITCHELL:  But Mr. Bush still relies on his vice president for crucial talks with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.  Cheney says his value to the president is he has no political ambition for himself.

CHENEY:  I‘m not worried about what the folks in Iowa are going to say in the caucuses in January of next year.  I‘m there to do a job, and that‘s to call them as I see them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MITCHELL:  Others say that is also a weakness making Cheney, who is also on the cover of the new “Time” magazine, less sensitive to the political fallout from his advice.  The president and the vice president are still very close, and there is no question that the vice president will stay in office.  But this interesting footnote.  Instead of expressing disappointment over the Libby verdict, as Dick Cheney did, the president said he respected the jury‘s decision—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, thanks so much, Andrea Mitchell.

Right now, let‘s bring in John Nichols from “The Nation” magazine.  He‘s also the author of the book “The Rise and Rise of Dick Cheney.”  Now, John, let me ask you.  Are the people around the president‘s inner circle telling the commander-in-chief tonight that the vice president is dead political weight?

JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”:  I think I‘d be a little more cautious than using the word “dead political weight.”  Let me put it this way.  There are clearly people who care deeply about the president and who want him to succeed, particularly in this legacy-making time of his presidency, these last two years, who are saying he has to distance himself from Dick Cheney.  In fact, Josh Bolten has already begun to erect some of those walls within the administration.  And intriguingly, they‘re much the same walls that Cheney and Don Rumsfeld erected back in 1975 and 1976 to keep Nelson Rockefeller away from Gerald Ford.  So Cheney understands...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, John, you look at...

NICHOLS:  ... the situation he‘s in.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... the “Time” magazine cover today.  That certainly is not helpful to this vice president in the eyes of the president‘s inner circle, either, is it.

NICHOLS:  No it‘s not.  Although, what I would counsel is that if you want to look for the people who will be, and in fact, are talking to the president about their concerns as regards Dick Cheney, look more to Republicans in Congress, particularly in the Senate.  These are people who have never liked Cheney that much anyway, or at least have had a lot of problems with him, and are now seeing him as a genuine liability to the president‘s final two years, as well as a potential liability for the party.

SCARBOROUGH:  For the Republican Party.  Let me ask you, John, how badly did the vice president‘s reaction to Scooter Libby‘s verdict hurt him in the White House?

NICHOLS:  I think it hurt a lot.  Look, this is a very simple situation.  The executive branch doesn‘t tell the judicial branch it made a mistake, especially when you have a number of open legal concerns.  The vice president‘s statement that he was disappointed in the verdict on Scooter Libby was precisely the wrong thing for him to do.  He should have stepped back on this one, let the White House press office write the statement.  He‘s continuing to signal both within the White House, and obviously beyond it, that he‘s going to go his own way, and this is not a time for him to be going his own way.

SCARBOROUGH:  And finally, John, if you had the president‘s ear, would you advise him to get rid of Dick Cheney before 2008?

NICHOLS:  If I was a senior Republican senator, I would say, Mr.  President, it‘s time to ask the vice president to resign.  It will allow you to pick a new vice president and perhaps to reposition your administration for its last two years.

SCARBOROUGH:  And it certainly would help the Republican Party going into the 2008 elections.  John Nichols, as always, thank you so much for being with us tonight.  Great insights.

Coming up next: O‘Reilly goes after NBC again, but this time going after one of the bravest reporters in Iraq, from O‘Reilly‘s cushy Washington, D.C., television studio.  The details on Bill coming up.

But first, Jon Stewart gets ready to play ball next in “Must See S.C.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you got to see.  First up: Baseball season‘s right around the corner, but as Jon Stewart points out, the steroid controversy is just heating up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, “DAILY SHOW”:  This week, “Sports Illustrated” reports on a series of raids on on-line pharmacies that allegedly provided athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.  Among the big names discovered on the client list, baseball All-Star Gary Matthews, Jr. (ph), heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, and noted swimmer Wilma Johnson.  She‘s a very good swimmer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  From East Germany.  And finally, the president and the podium (ph) together again.  David Letterman says it‘s one more example of great moments in presidential speech-making.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  ... that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Yes.  I think—tide turning—see, as I remember, I was raised in the desert, but tide‘s kind of—it‘s easy to see a tide turn.  Did I say those words?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Did I say those words?  I do that all the time.

Coming up next: O‘Reilly attacks again, going after one of the bravest reporters in Iraq from his cushy Washington studio and charging that he‘s part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to take down our army.

And later: Heather Mills gets greedy in her divorce with Paul McCartney, but as Wings said, I doubt she‘s giving it all away to a registered charity.  It‘s wedding bands on the run, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, money, that‘s what she wants.  Can anyone really live on $20,000 a day?  The latest on the Heather Mills money grab from Sir Paul McCartney, straight ahead.  That and a lot more in just minutes.

But first, Bill O‘Reilly goes off the deep end with the attack tonight on NBC News, so over the top that we changed our show after hearing it less than an hour ago.  Now, Bill is suggesting that the “New York Times” run a negative article against ABC‘s Charlie Gibson because “World News Tonight” is edging out NBC in the ratings for the first time in I think like a year. 

Well, take a look at what Bill had to say about what he thinks about this vast left-wing media conspiracy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  In a blatant attempt to prop up the fading “NBC Nightly News,” Stanley attacked ABC News anchor Charles Gibson, calling him lazy, and saying he got his anchor job by default. 

Stanley writes, quote, “Mr. Gibson hasn‘t exactly overexerted himself in his new job.  This week, while Brian Williams is in Iraq, Mr. Gibson is on vacation,” unquote.  Is Ms. Stanley desperate or what?  Charles Gibson is not entitled to take a vacation?  Completely absurd.

Stanley is denigrating Gibson because he is beating Williams and because the “New York Times” and NBC News are ideological soul mates, sympathetic to the far left and hostile to people with whom they disagree. 

“Talking Points” has no problem with Brian Williams, but NBC‘s coverage remains dubious.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, they beat us in February for the first time in 10 years.  And anybody that‘s read Alessandra Stanley‘s columns, like about Katie Couric back when she was with the Peacock Network, Bill, would understand that she goes after everybody.  That‘s her job. 

But, you know, that was just the beginning.  That‘s just funny.  It‘s delusional.  This got personal and nasty very quickly.  Bill O‘Reilly then turned his guns on one of the bravest and most respected correspondents in Iraq, a guy who has put his life on the line for years.  His name, Richard Engel. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  What Richard Engel and Brian Williams did not report last night is that violence has dropped about 80 percent in Baghdad since the surge, according to the Army.  Mr. Engel is a brave man but has consistently taken an anti-war position in general.  That‘s not what correspondents are supposed to do. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, that‘s just a lie.  And we‘ll get to that in a second and show you why he‘s lying. 

The big question is, what‘s Bill O‘Reilly‘s obsession with NBC?  And has he gone too far this time by attacking a brave war correspondent from the safety of his Washington, D.C., studio?  Right now, with us again, MSNBC contributor and “Boston Herald” columnist Mike Barnicle.  Also, John Fund from the “Wall Street Journal.”

You know, we could all laugh at Bill O‘Reilly and him going after NBC all we want, Mike Barnicle, but it seems to me that, when he attacks Richard Engel from the safety of his cushy D.C. studio, he‘s really crossed a line here, hasn‘t he? 

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, what line is there to be crossed in cable, Joe?  I mean, where is the line in cable?  Look, I like Bill O‘Reilly.  I‘ve known him a long time.  I can‘t figure out what he‘s trying to do here.  Is he so mad at Keith Olbermann that he‘s lashing out at NBC and Richard Engel?

Richard Engel needs no defense.  And Bill in his commentary that we just heard, his indication that violence is down 80 percent in Baghdad, according to the Army.  Well, it‘s Richard Engel‘s job and the job of other correspondents in Baghdad, a very difficult war to cover, an almost impossible war to cover, in terms of physically covering it, it‘s his job to figure out the truth between the 80 percent that the Army says and what is the reality on the streets.  And it‘s a daily and lethal job that they‘re doing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is a tough job that they‘re doing, John Fund.  Do you think Bill O‘Reilly had it right? 

JOHN FUND, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  Any time you focus on personalities rather than the substance, I think you‘re probably going down a blind alley.  The whole Brian Williams-Charlie Gibson thing is just weird.

As for Richard Engel, I don‘t know specifically all of his reports, but I do know this.  Al-Jazeera, not our friends, has reported there is a dramatic reduction in violence in Baghdad in certain neighborhoods.  And overall, the situation has stabilized in other neighborhoods.  So...

SCARBOROUGH:  But, John Fund, hold on, though.  And that‘s the point.  I mean, Bill O‘Reilly said that Richard Engel and NBC did not report yesterday that violence dropped. 

I want to read you this, because, you know, this is important.  Every day the White House releases an Iraq update, where the White House, not Al-Jazeera, not FOX News, the White House cites new stories that it chooses to highlight.  Tuesday‘s edition noted three NBC News stories.  The first was from an interview Brian Williams did with retired General Wayne Downing, who‘s quoted saying, “U.S. soldiers are proud of what they‘re doing in Iraq.”

The second is from NBC‘s Richard Engel, quoting Iraqis on the ground, saying they finally feel like there‘s security in their region.  Engel also cited statistics from the U.S. military that indicated that violence was down, indeed, down in Sadr City. 

And the third was an interview Brian Williams did with day-to-day commanders of U.S. troops in Iraq.  And Williams said to the general, quote, “They just said they don‘t want us to leave.  You know, that‘s the tenth time I‘ve heard that today.” 

What‘s trouble to me, John Fund, is that Bill O‘Reilly goes on an hour ago—he claims Richard Engel didn‘t cite those Army statistics, claiming that violence was down 80 percent, when, in fact, Engel did last night and, in fact, the White House quoted Engel. 

So Bill O‘Reilly goes on his air, he lies about a reporter who puts himself in harm‘s way, and so many millions of Americans just digest it.  Isn‘t that troubling? 

FUND:  Well, if that‘s the case, the research department sure failed.  I‘d be very interested to see what kind of comments along those lines Bill O‘Reilly allows tomorrow night on his opine segment, where he allows readers to write in and question him.  That‘ll be the standard.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, John, you do have a bigger problem with NBC News, don‘t you?  Do you think it‘s liberal? 

FUND:  Well, there are parts of NBC which I think have sensationalized their coverage, so it‘s basically just a daily op-ed page.  Keith Olbermann would be an example of that.  Other shows are more balanced, yours included.

I would say that, in general, in the Iraq war, we have seen the, I think, too little attention paid to questioning the administration‘s premises for the war in the beginning and now they‘ve made up for that by going too far the other direction, reporting no good news. 

For example, tonight on another network, they literally made the statement the war in lost.  So I think that there has been too much negativity, given the fact that the surge has to be allowed a chance to work. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle, have people like Keith Olbermann and myself been too negative? 

BARNICLE:  No, I mean, it‘s what you do, Joe.  It‘s what Keith does.  But I don‘t think we have paid enough attention—and I don‘t think the public cares about it, as a matter of fact—the degree of difficulty in covering this specific war. 

There are enormous numbers of good things happening in Iraq thanks to the American Army, thanks to the American military, the Marine Corps, enormous numbers of good things are happening.  It‘s just almost impossible to get reporters to those places to cover those events.

I think we‘re in the process now of seeing perhaps just two major newspapers, “The Times,” “The New York Times” and the “Washington Post,” with established bureaus in Baghdad.  My understanding is that the “L.A.  Times” is beginning to phase out their bureau.  We have a series of stringers representing American newspapers.  But this is an impossibly difficult and dangerous war to cover. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is so dangerous, and isn‘t that damning in and of itself? 

And let me ask you again.  I want to ask you this, Mike.  Why is it that Bill O‘Reilly feels safe attacking Richard Engel from Washington, D.C.?  And why this obsession with NBC?  Why does he lead his shows going after this network?  What‘s he trying to prove? 

BARNICLE:  Well, you‘d obviously have to ask Bill.  But I think clearly Keith Olbermann has gotten under Bill O‘Reilly‘s skin, with the “Worst Person of the Week” deal.  I think clearly that has bothered him. 

And I just wish that Bill would take on Keith rather than throwing Richard Engel into the harbor here, because he‘s an established correspondent.  He‘s done an incredible job.  He‘s got the credentials that any news organization would want in a correspondent. 

So if it‘s Keith versus Bill O‘Reilly, let‘s get it on.  Leave Richard Engel and the war in Iraq out of it.  I absolutely agree with John Fund.  When it gets down to personalities, what‘s the point? 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Fund, do you agree? 

FUND:  Look, reporters report, and I think you have to go after the substance.  But the one thing you don‘t want to do is do what Hillary Clinton did, which is invent some giant conspiracy.

I do know that the “New York Times” and the NBC television network are not in bed together.  I mean, they may share a certain worldview, but there‘s no coordination going on there. 

Having said that, I think the healthy criticism—you know, it used to be the networks would never criticize each other.  A certain amount of this not focused on personalities is very healthy.  It‘s sort of like ombudsmen.  You know, you‘re acting as the guard against excesses by any network, because you know you‘re going to be slammed by your competitor.

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  ... but let‘s keep it out of personalities. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, John Fund, I agree with you completely.  For too long, three networks just patted each other on the back and the top newspapers did the same thing.  I‘ve got no problem with them going after each other.  My question is, who‘s Bill O‘Reilly‘s ombudsman going to be now?  Now that we found out that he goes on TV, he lies about Richard Engel, he lies about NBC, he lies about statistics that he claims weren‘t given, and he just keeps barreling forward. 

Will Bill O‘Reilly apologize to Richard Engel?  And will he apologize to NBC?  I won‘t hold my breath. 

FUND:  You know, Bill O‘Reilly went on “The Colbert Report,” and Colbert went on the Bill O‘Reilly‘s report.  I think it‘s about time that you go on the “O‘Reilly Factor” and O‘Reilly comes on your show. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, I would love that to happen, and I would love us just to debate one issue:  Who‘s the true conservative?  I‘ll win that one any day of the week. 

(CROSSTALK)

FUND:  That would be a good topic, and I know you‘d have some ammunition. 

BARNICLE:  One thing, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead, Mike.

BARNICLE:  Cable TV, a lot of it is show business.  Covering the war in Iraq, that ain‘t show business. 

FUND:  Exactly.  We have to separate the two. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is not show business at all, and I think covering the war is extraordinarily important.  And I hope the first 30 to 45 minutes of this show every night is not show business.  We try to tackle Iraq, Iran, the war on terror, and the important issues that face us.  Now, the last 15 minutes, that is show business, and that‘s why we call it “Hollyweird.”

Mike Barnicle, John Fund, thank you for being with us.  Coming up next, as we take that shift from hard news to “Hollyweird,” all you need is love, unless you‘re Heather Mills.  That‘s when you need $20,000 a day.  That‘s what Heather says she needs.  The latest in their nasty divorce, coming up next.

And later, Lindsay goes blonde, K-Fed gets greedy, and Britney causes problems in rehab.  What a surprise.  Robin Leach joins us with lifestyles of the rich and infamous in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH MILLER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Well, the saying is that marriage is made in heaven, but this divorce looks like it‘s being happening in a bank.  Look at this headline from “The Sun” today:  “I want 10,000 a day.”  That‘s British pounds on the conversion.  That amounts to $20,000 U.S. dollars a day, which Heather Mills says she needs just to get by. 

Certainly, Paul McCartney has got the money.  He‘s estimated to be worth $1.5 billion U.S. dollars, but there‘s no way he‘s going to want to pay that kind of money, so the fight has been going on inside the court, behind closed doors.  They‘ve had three sessions so far.

We‘re told by people who leaked a little bit about what went on behind those closed doors that McCartney is actually fighting as much as he can against the accusations from Mills‘ attorneys that he‘s an abusive drunk.  The ex-wife or soon-to-be ex-wife claims that he threw her into a bathtub when she was pregnant, that he stabbed her with a broken wine glass, that he was basically abusive, and actually made fun of her disability.  She lost a leg in a motorcycle accident.

Meanwhile, we‘re told that there‘s been a lot of yelling and screaming behind closed doors and that, perhaps, what we‘re seeing today in the newspaper headline is that, in fact, they want to reach some sort of monetary agreement to avoid the P.R. that‘s bound to come out of this, perhaps damaging to both of them.

Meanwhile, Heather Mills is not making any friends on this side of the pond.  Many people calling her a gold digger, to go after that much money.  We‘re told one other figure, which is kind of astounding, that she‘s willing for a quickie settlement, a no-contest divorce that‘s just ended, for a lump sum payment of $80 million.  That accounts, if you count her four years of marriage, to about $20 million a year, extraordinary money, a shock to the British public and perhaps to McCartney, as well. 

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  That was NBC‘s Keith Miller.  I‘ll tell you what, $20 million a year, I‘d consider marrying Paul McCartney for that. 

Here‘s a man who knows a thing or two about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, TV host and Las Vegas editor for AOL, Robin Leach.  Robin, my God, what would Heather Mills need with $20,000 a day?  I mean, what type of gold digger is she? 

ROBIN LEACH, TV HOST:  Probably the best.  They don‘t come any bigger than this.  This is astounding.  What does that work out to be, about $7 million a year for the rest of her life?  For doing what, providing one child that was born in 2003? 

You know, this woman has a terrible past, a terrible reputation, built on making money from what we might call unsavory affairs.  And I‘m afraid Paul is just a victim of her greed. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How are people in the United Kingdom who love Paul McCartney so much reacting to this? 

LEACH:  Ugly.  They don‘t like her.  They despise her.  They think that she—and she knows it, because she‘s talked about moving to Los Angeles, where she thinks that the climate would be much warmer for her, and I‘m not talking about the weather. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Robin Leach, stay with us, because we‘re going to see you up next, the $25,000 cover charge to get into K-Fed‘s birthday bash.  That‘s coming up in “Hollyweird,” along with the latest from Britney and Lindsay. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s fulfill all your champagne wishes and caviar dreams.  It‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, Britney Spears.  “Us Weekly” is reporting that Britney‘s managed to stay in rehab, but she‘s not exactly the best patient. 

Here now, Kim Serafin.  She‘s with “InTouch Weekly.”  And still with us, Robin Leach. 

Robin, what‘s going on with Britney?  I understand she‘s not being the best patient there. 

LEACH:  I don‘t know.  Some of the stories that are coming out and are being leaked to the British newspapers say that she‘s even wilder, crazier than she‘s ever been, and that rehab is not working.  Also, stories that her parents have basically given up on the fact that she will be made whole and well again during this rehab period. 

The big problem we have here now in “Hollyweird,” Joe, is that we have more stars inside rehab and prison than we have stars on the outside to shoot television shows.  This is a crisis of unbelievable proportion. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I know, it just keeps going on. 

And, Kim Serafin, is Britney going to actually make it through this time? 

KIM SERAFIN, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  Well, I think the good thing is that she‘s got a lot of people on her side.  Now, she is saying apparently that she thinks she has postpartum depression, not a drug or alcohol problem, but there‘s a lot of people coming to her defense and people that want to help her.  Timbaland, the big music producer, wants to help her out.  He wants to take her overseas and get her back on track.  Justin Timberlake might want to help her out.  Courtney Love may want to help her out. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, good god.

LEACH:  That‘s some nurse for you.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, exactly.  Yes, that is a big problem.  Keep her away. 

And speaking of Britney, the “New York Post” is reporting Kevin Federline wants to sell exclusive rights to a tabloid to cover his 29th birthday.  Robin, why would anybody pay a dime for this? 

LEACH:  That was the first question I asked when I heard.  Why would anybody?  I mean, he can‘t even get people to go see him for free, so I don‘t know why he thinks that $25,000 grand for his birthday in L.A. is important. 

He was here last weekend in Las Vegas at the Revolution Lounge that is run by the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage, and that was not a big turnout, and there was nobody there willing to come up with $250, let alone $25,000.  So when he comes back at the end of the month to Pure, nobody will be shelling out that kind of money. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t think they‘ll shell out 25 cents.  Let‘s talk about Lindsay Lohan.  She‘s out of rehab, Robin, and there‘s one...

LEACH:  Why? 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Hollywood star—yes, why?  And making changes, she‘s died her hair blonde.  Kim...

LEACH:  Holy moley, stop the presses!

SERAFIN:  Well, the last time Lindsay Lohan went blonde, do you remember, people didn‘t recognize her.  They didn‘t know who she was.  Now, this could be for a role.  It could be just sort of as a new change.  I mean, she‘s hitting the bottle, not that kind of bottle.

But, look, I think, as a blonde, blondes definitely have more fun, so maybe she can‘t go out and drink and party now, but she can have a little more fun as a blonde. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know...

(CROSSTALK)

LEACH:  She‘s had more fun in her 21 years...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, Robin, I was saying at least she didn‘t shave it off.  What do you think? 

LEACH:  No, no, no, she didn‘t.  And, you know, one of the stories about Britney with the shaving off was so that she could put the numbers 666 on her head.  Did you hear that story? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, that was a nice one. 

LEACH:  When she was screaming, screaming, and the staff couldn‘t control her.  I mean, this is really sad.  And I‘ve got to tell you, the postpartum, as much as I feel sorry for women who have children and have to deal with that, when I saw Britney go down on the floor at New Year‘s Eve, that was no postpartum depression.  That was good, old-fashioned alcohol. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Robin Leach.  We‘re going to have to end it there.  Thank you so much for being with us. 

Kim Serafin, thank you also.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘ll see you tomorrow in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, but don‘t go anywhere.  Up next, a marriage gone very bad, on our “Doc Block.”

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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