updated 3/12/2007 11:07:26 AM ET 2007-03-12T15:07:26

Guests: Craig Crawford, Ryan Lizza, Amy Argetsinger, Roxanne Roberts

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  George W. Bush leaves the not-so-friendly confines

of Washington, D.C., for the even more hostile streets of South America,

where citizens continue their clashes with police officers in violent

protests over America‘s commander in chief‘s tragic history tour.  You

know, few presidents have ever faced hostile protests from Brazilian

citizens, but George W. Bush is no ordinary commander in chief.  His

policies in the Middle East and across the world have enraged friends and

foes alike and led to some of the harshest receptions seen by any president

from Asia, to Europe, to our former friends in South America.

Mr. Bush‘s attempt to bring democracy to Iraq without the rest of the world has left the USA more alone in the world than ever.  Is the president Churchillian, standing alone in the world against an evil force, or delusional?  And what does the current tour mean for the future of America‘s national security in this increasingly dangerous age of terror? 

Here now to put the president‘s trip and the rest of the day‘s news in perspective are MSBNC political analyst and columnist for “The Congressional Quarterly,” Craig Crawford, and White House correspondent for “The New Republic,” Ryan Lizza. 

Now, Craig Crawford, time for the requisite hand-wringing and the tried and

true question that we‘ve used time and time again over the past four years

Why do they hate us so much? 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, you know, I think some of it may be after the end of the Cold War.  There‘s only one superpower on earth, so there‘s always going to be a certain element...

SCARBOROUGH:  Only one...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  ... of jealousy there, envy.  I don‘t think that explains all of this, but there‘s always going to be some of that.  But then, obviously, I think the Iraq war has hurt our credibility and our image around the world. 

I think the Bush White House in the early days, for a long time, was sort of winning the argument domestically that it‘s better to be respected and maybe even feared around the world than it is to be liked, but I think we don‘t even get respect anymore.  So they don‘t like us, they don‘t respect us.  I‘m not even sure they are afraid of us anymore.  So we don‘t get any of it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and let me just say this—they should be afraid of us, they should be very afraid.  We can‘t occupy a country, but we sure can invade pretty darn effectively. 

Craig...

CRAWFORD:  We don‘t know—we can‘t rebuild a country, but we sure know how to tear one down. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We can get in there very quickly.

Hey, Craig, answer this question for me—What‘s so offensive about a war in Iraq that has almost no bearing on Brazil or other countries throughout South America? 

CRAWFORD:  Well, I think we also have to take into account that Hugo Chavez is a major enemy of this—of this White House.  And he‘s going to stage his own protests nearby.  And there‘s every chance that he might be behind getting some of these protesters out there against the president.  So there could be a little more than just a grassroots effort here in this protest down there.  But still, I think, you know, just the image of the United States using its power excessively, even if it doesn‘t affect your own country or your region, is an image that is hurting the United States. 

You know, I talked to somebody in the movie business recently who made an interesting point, a big concern they have about our image abroad, it‘s actually getting to the point that that huge market for American movies around the would could actually be affected.  That was striking to me.  I don‘t know if that‘s actually the case, but at least someone I talked to in the movie business was really worried about that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Well, you know, and that, of course, is one of our greatest exports across the globe.

CRAWFORD:  It certainly is.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Ryan—Ryan, though, Craig brought up a very good point that “The New York Times” touched on today, talking about Chavez, the socialist leader of Venezuela.  “The Times” reported today that a lot of the protesting has to do with socialists going out on the streets and actually protesting America‘s free market approach to their economy. 

Should American citizens really be concerned about these people on the wrong side of history, what gangs of socialists in South America think of the United States?

RYAN LIZZA, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Yes, we should.  Look what‘s happened over the last six years, Joe, is that—and part of it is explained by 9/11 and the administration wasn‘t concentrating on Latin America, and, you know, partly for good reasons.  But we have been absent from a very large debate that‘s going on down there, right?  And we‘re losing the battle of ideas there. 

Chavez, by spending money and being a sort of charismatic figure, is pummeling us down there.  And we haven‘t—we haven‘t been there with the aide money that we need and we haven‘t had a presence in the media that we need, and we haven‘t—we haven‘t been showing an alternative way in Latin America.  And there are a bunch of these countries that have...

SCARBOROUGH:  But Ryan, let me interrupt you very quickly here and have you respond to this.

LIZZA:  Sure. 

SCARBOROUGH:  George Bush, though, if you look at the numbers, George Bush has actually doubled aid and humanitarian assistance to South America from $800 billion to $1.6 billion.  And it‘s like the same story—it‘s like the same story in Africa, where George Bush has spent so much more money on AIDS in Africa and other relief than Bill Clinton, but this guy gets absolutely no credit?

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA:  That‘s right.  I‘ll give him credit on HIV in Africa, where they really have put their money where their mouth is.  It‘s not this case in Latin America.  Most of the money we are spending down there is for the drug wars in Colombia. 

And look, what‘s happening, there are leftist leaders in some of these countries that are looking for a way forward.  They‘ve got Chavez on one hand and they‘ve got the United States on the other—on the other hand.  And we need to—we need to sort of tip the balance so some of these countries don‘t go towards Chavez, and we‘re not doing that.

And Bush on this trip is trying to play catch-up after six years of neglecting the region.  And look—and as Craig was about to say, there are some accounting gimmicks with that money.  We haven‘t actually—basically, the funding has been flat since 200. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But still, the question is, who—and I throw this up to both of you guys.  What country on the planet has given more money and humanitarian assistance and foreign aid to South America over the past six years than the United States of America? 

CRAWFORD:  But I think that to make the argument that... 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, first of all, answer that, first of all.  Is there anybody?

CRAWFORD:  No.  I agree.  I agree.

LIZZA:  I doubt it.  I don‘t know the answer.

CRAWFORD:  I mean, we‘ve got to be number one.  I haven‘t done the research, but I would assume that.

But I would say, to make that as a case for giving humanitarian aid that, well, in response we want you want to play ball with us, they...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  Which may be, you know, the real purpose, but, I mean, that doesn‘t make it very humanitarian if it comes with those kinds of strings. 

LIZZA:  Look, Chavez is spending millions and hundreds of millions of dollars on his neighbors.  You know, we‘re losing a battle down there to this guy, and it‘s really sad to see this.  We spent—an item in the paper today, we threw a couple of million dollars at some tornado-ravaged areas.  Chavez came back and threw $15 million at it.  So that‘s what we‘re up against. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what‘s sad?  Is when you look at these pictures today, but it really underlines a larger problem. 

A Pew poll came out a couple of weeks ago that shows among NATO allies, Spain, only a 23 percent approval rating for America.  Turkey, a NATO ally, 12 percent.

Consistently low ratings in Asia, the Middle East, Canada, Europe.  The only region where we actually get high marks, Africa.

Hey, guys, stick around.

Coming up next, Newt Gingrich issues a mea culpa about a personal failing during the Clinton impeachment process.  Does that admission keep Newt Gingrich out of the White House or keep his hopes alive?

We‘ll debate it next.

Plus, a call to Bill O‘Reilly‘s arms.  An attack on a journalist and a war zone that is a cheap shot.  Well, actually, that‘s an insult to cheap shots.  Will Bill O‘Reilly get away with playing fast and loose with the truth?

Not if we can help it.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, here‘s a scary number for Republicans, 56 percent -- 56 percent.  Hey, not bad if it‘s approval ratings, but we ain‘t talking about approval ratings.

We‘re talking about the paltry portion of Republican voters who say they‘re satisfied with their choices for the 2008 presidential election, which may explain why Newt Gingrich yesterday confessed to an extramarital affair that was going on while he was deeply embroiled in the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky wars of the late 1990s. 

It makes me dirty just saying those words.

Was Newt‘s mea culpa another step in a move to run for president in this wide open Republican field? 

Back with me, MSNBC political analyst and columnist for “The Congressional Quarterly,” Craig Crawford, and White House correspondent for “The New Republic,” Ryan Lizza.

Craig, you were there with me at the end of the 1990s.  It was an ugly time.  It was a dirty time.  But is anybody outside of Washington really surprised by this Newt Gingrich revelation some six, eight years later? 

CRAWFORD:  Not really, but probably enough people would be that it was smart for him.  And a very clear sign to me that he is running for president.  He didn‘t have to talk about this.

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.

CRAWFORD:  This is what you might call a preemptive confession.  He‘s—it‘s a little early spring house cleaning as he gets ready for what everyone thinks will be an announcement this fall that he‘s going to run for president. 

The idea is that you get it now, you bring it out yourself, you talk about it, and then once it comes up later on it‘s not a front-page story and he can say asked and answered old story.  I mean, this is a pattern we‘ve seen with politicians many times.  So it‘s a good move, but a very clear sign to me that he is running.

SCARBOROUGH:  And you know, Craig, what‘s so fascinating is conservatives have been talking about Newt Gingrich for the next—for the past, I would say, year.  I‘ve had conservatives inside Washington that new about all of those problems, saying he may be the conservatives‘ best chance to get into the White House. 

What does it say about the Republican Party that you‘ve got two of the top candidates that are running, Giuliani and Gingrich, that have enough wives between them to start a basketball team with a sixth man? 

CRAWFORD:  Yes.  I mean, if you add Gingrich to the top tier, we‘re talking four candidates with nine wives, and the Mormon being the only one with a single wife.  But I do think, you  know, it‘s a family values party.  So maybe the new twist on family values, Joe, is, have lots of families. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I support marriage so much that I‘ve done it three times.  I think they‘ll buy that in Iowa.

Ryan, what does it say about the fact that, really, at this point, nobody really cares if Giuliani has had three wives?  Nobody seems to care if Gingrich has had three wives.  Nobody has really cared if a couple of them ended kind of ugly. 

Has the Republican Party become the new Democratic Party? 

LIZZA:  Well, I was going to say, if marriage and marital fidelity is your issue, then you‘re voting for a Democrat this cycle.  Hillary and Obama and Edwards are looking a whole lot better when stacked up against Gingrich and McCain and Giuliani.  And I don‘t know—look, I don‘t think it‘s an issue.  I don‘t care if these guys were married before or divorced or not.  But it does seem like social conservative do care about that kind of thing.  So, if you‘re a social conservative and, you know, you really care about marriage, you‘re either voting for a Mormon or a Democrat this cycle.

CRAWFORD:  And Joe, I‘ve got to say—I mean, as you say, we—I go back to the ‘90s, along with you, as a journalist in those days, when you were in the House and I—I like Newt Gingrich.  I always say, I don‘t always know what he is talking about, but I love listening to him. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s a brilliant man.

CRAWFORD:  He‘s a brilliant man, and I really hope he does run because I think his voice in the debate in the presidential campaign will be totally fascinating. 

LIZZA:  Well, it will be fascinating in debates...

SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s no doubt, Ryan, that if Newt Gingrich runs, regardless of what you think about his wives or his views...

LIZZA:  Right.,

SCARBOROUGH:  ... I think we can all agree that it will be one of the most intellectually stimulating presidential races in some time.  I used to be fascinated...

LIZZA:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... by how bad this man was throwing out 10-second sound bites.  He was the worst in the world.  But you can sit there for 60 minutes and listen to him, and by the end of the hour, you would be more impressed by him than you were at the beginning.  There‘s not a another politician out there like him.

LIZZA:  Yes, but I mean, look, what‘s happening here is conservatives are dissatisfied with the top three, so they are looking for someone else.  So the fact that Gingrich isn‘t in the race makes him more appealing.

The problem in the Republican Primary seems to be, as soon as you get in the race and are exposed, and are actually part of the process, you start to do a lot worse.  Romney had this bubble, and it sort of burst now.  McCain had a bubble and Giuliani sort of burst it.  And now we‘re on the—we‘re on the edge of Giuliani—you know, of McCain‘s guys and Romney‘s guys going after Giuliani, and his bubble will burst a little bit. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  That‘s so true.

LIZZA:  I think Gingrich is like a placeholder right now for—for the sort of—you know, for the unease.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, no doubt about it.

CRAWFORD:  That‘s why he is so smart to put it off. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

CRAWFORD:  I think it‘s just a brilliant move to put off...

SCARBOROUGH:  It is a smart move.

CRAWFORD:  ... officially running until the fall so that he‘s not the stale candidate come the fall, these other guys are. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I think so.

LIZZA:  Yes.  Running is the worst thing.

SCARBOROUGH:  I think you‘re going to have McCain and Giuliani going up and down probably three or four times before the fall comes. 

Hey, guys, stay with us.

Coming up next, there‘s reasonable criticism and then there‘s venomous spew that crosses a line. 

Stick around for our analysis of Bill O‘Reilly‘s latest attack on a war correspondent that shows just how fair and balanced he really is.

Then, “TIME” magazine calls Dick Cheney the enemy within the White House. 

We‘re going to talk about the administration nightmare that was a Scooter Libby trial and look forward to see just how damaged Dick Cheney is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, they say every bully needs an enemy, and FOX News‘ Bill O‘Reilly‘s current straw man is none other than NBC News.  On his show last night, O‘Reilly attacked NBC and a war correspondent—a war correspondent in Iraq—from the safety of his cushy FOX News Washington D.C. studio.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  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 antiwar position in general.  That‘s not what correspondents are supposed to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘ll tell you what people like Bill O‘Reilly are not supposed to do... skew the facts.  Talk about the spin zone? 

With me now to talk about it, MSNBC political analyst and columnist for “The Congressional Quarterly,” Craig Crawford, and White House correspondent for “The New Republic,” Ryan Lizzy.

You know, Craig, what is so disturbing about this Bill O‘Reilly thing,

attacking a war correspondent in a war zone while you‘re sitting in a cushy

studio in Washington, D.C., is the fact that he didn‘t even get his facts

right.  You talk about spinning?  Richard Engel actually quoted that same

80 percent number that Bill O‘Reilly was talking about.  In fact, the White

House sent it out in a blast fax earlier that day

What‘s Bill O‘Reilly trying to do here?

CRAWFORD:  Well, he cherry-picks what he wants to make the case that he‘s been making for some time, because NBC is his new whipping post.  CBS just fell apart after his attacks and FOX‘s attacks, going all the way back to, you know, Dan Rather‘s demise.  So now they‘ve got to pick on somebody else, I suppose. 

Everything this guy does is always centered on hating somebody.  I mean, rallying his troops against somebody.  And NBC‘s just his latest one for doing that.

But, you know, I‘ve been watching Brian Williams‘ reports all week from over there on the “Nightly News,” and I really have been learning a lot on the positive side about what is happening with these new tactics and...

SCARBOROUGH:  Craig...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  And that‘s one of the only places I‘ve been learning that. 

They‘ve been very balanced in those reports.

SCARBOROUGH:  And you know, Craig, we‘re going to talk—we‘re going to talk about that in the next segment, Craig, because Brian Williams‘ reports have been eye-opening to me. 

CRAWFORD:  They have been.

SCARBOROUGH:  Not that it hasn‘t been negative, but because he‘s talked to the troops.  And Brian Williams has said the troops believe in what they are doing. 

He‘s talked to the Iraqi people.  He said they‘re all saying America has to stay.  I have not heard conservative—this isn‘t conservative reporting, but I haven‘t heard reporting that conservatives would like as much as Brian Williams‘ reports. 

So, if that‘s the case, Ryan, what is going on here with Bill O‘Reilly. 

Isn‘t this really about Keith Olbermann?

LIZZA:  Oh, it‘s obviously about that—I don‘t want to get in between the two networks here, but it‘s obviously about that spat.  And, look, going after O‘Reilly, there‘s a certain fish in a barrel element to this.  The guy‘s never been a very intellectually honest talk show host.

But look, Engel is doing what reporters do.  He‘s telling you what the government is saying on that 80 percent figure, and then he‘s going out into the field and to the best of his ability trying to discover what it‘s like on the ground, and presenting both of those facts. 

O‘Reilly has decided that the Army‘s figure is gospel, and from a studio in New York, is deciding to attack a guy who is putting his life on the line in Baghdad.  It‘s pretty gross.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  O‘Reilly is a classic provocateur.  I mean, that‘s the way I see O‘Reilly.  He‘s not a journalist, he‘s a provocateur.

LIZZA:  Right.  And look, there‘s a certain quality—just like with Ann Coulter and some of these comments, at a certain point, it‘s, you know, how seriously should you take these people?  And, you know, there‘s a certain element in what they‘re doing is they like to provoke a reaction from folks.  And, you know, sometimes—you know, it‘s worth reacting sometimes, and sometimes I feel like maybe it‘s not so worth it.

SCARBOROUGH:  And I guess, Craig, that‘s the question we need to ask right now, is it not worth reacting?  As Ryan said, this is somewhat gross, but is it not worth reacting to when Bill O‘Reilly goes after a war correspondent like Richard Engel, who puts his life on the line every single day, is there, and reporting back to the American people? 

Listen, I loved having this guy on my show.  I supported this war for several years, and I always found his reports straight down the middle. 

We can‘t go over there.  Isn‘t it great to have somebody like Richard Engel there?  And isn‘t it, as Ryan said, sort of gross that Bill O‘Reilly is attacking him in the war zone?

CRAWFORD:  I think it‘s critical to respond, Joe.  Just like in politics...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  ... you can‘t let those negative charges hang out there.

I wrote this book you‘ve been generous about promoting in the past, “Attack the Messenger,” and one of the things I looked at is how in the early days when networks like CBS were under attack, they just didn‘t say a word.  And that, in the long run, didn‘t help. 

Media doesn‘t like to be put in that position.  We don‘t like having to get in the middle of the fight like that.  We‘re a great target, really, because, you know, we tend to objectively report all the accusations against us and then say, yes, yes, we really do suck.

(LAUGHTER)

CRAWFORD:  But we really do need to defend ourselves when the defense is worth making. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I was going to say, not this—not this time.  We‘re not the ones, in your words, Craig, who suck. 

Coming up, it‘s not all bad news over there, as Craig was telling you.  American men and women are making some real progress in Iraq, even if some are saying it‘s hard to find.  We‘re going to bring you the very latest in some reports out of Iraq from Brian Williams. 

And, he‘s got style, looks, and even charisma.  And he‘s up against a wealthy mastermind determined to dominate the world.  No, it‘s not James Bond.  It‘s Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton.  Does he have the tricks to do it? 

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

SCARBOROUGH:  Half past the hour on a Friday, time for the potpourri.  and We begin with surging campaign of Barack Obama, which I admit I still don‘t get.  The latest edition of the “New Republic” describes Obama‘s prolific money raising machine and his recent bite out of Hillary Clinton‘s lead for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

Is Obama now the smart bet to lead the Democratic ticket.  Two people who would know are with us, MSNBC political analyst and columnist for the “Congressional Quarterly,” Craig Crawford and the White House correspondent for the “New Republic,” Ryan Lizza.  Ryan, who of course wrote the cover story on Obama for the “New Republic,” which releases today.  Ryan, tell us about Obama.  Why has this guy surged so far ahead.  And is he the smart bet to win the Democratic nomination?

LIZZA:  I wouldn‘t go as far as to say that he‘s the smart bet, but in another month, he and Hillary are basically going to be tied.  That‘s the trend line right now.  He‘s just six or seven points behind her.  My take away after spending a couple of months on this piece about Obama is that his political instincts are underestimated.  I went back and explored the period of time he spent in the ‘80s on the south side of Chicago, learning how to be a community organizer. 

That was the starting point for the piece, and I looked at all the campaigns he has run and looked at him as a politician, and I think the that people don‘t quite realize is he has this image of being this ponderous, self-reflective guy, the person I compare him to in the piece is maybe Bill Bradley, who never really wanted to engage Al Gore in 2000, and that led to Bradley‘s undoing.  Bradley, similarly, talked about rising above the pettiness of politics.  And he rose so far above it that Gore just destroyed him.

I think there‘s a similar dynamic going on with Hillary and Obama. 

Obama is the candidate who‘s trying not to be a traditional politician and

sometimes those politicians are very easy to crush.  What I discovered, I

think, is that Obama has this side to him, where if he gets into a knife

fight, he will pull out the knife.  He won‘t ignore it.  His first

campaign, in fact, 1996 for the state Senate, the way he won is he knocked

all the other candidates off the ballot by challenging their petitions

That‘s one big point I took away in the piece and look, that race is going to be a two-person race, Hillary versus Obama for a long time to come and they are basically squeezing out all of the other candidates. 

(CROSS TALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Craig, I want you to answer, but first I want you to explain this to me.  I don‘t understand how a major candidate for one of the two big parties that a few years ago was in the state legislature in Springfield, Illinois, could now in this day and age be one of the favorites to be the next president of the United States?  Explain it to me.

CRAWFORD:  Of course, the Obama forces would respond, Abraham Lincoln never even got to the Senate.  But you do say this day and age.  It is probably different now.  I think we‘ll see if he has the sort of skills Ryan‘s talking about in the campaign.  We haven‘t seen it yet.  He is walking into the valley of death, running against the Clintons.  They play serious hardball.  We‘ve already seen a little bit of it so far.

And I have not seen him rise to the challenge, pull out that knife, yet, and I am going to be looking for that.  But, on the other hand, I realize staying above the fray appeals to a lot of people.  But I just got to quarrel with one thing Ryan said, is I don‘t think we should forget about poor old John Edwards. 

He is in the mix.  He‘s got a lot going for him in Iowa.  And after all, he is the only white male in the Democratic race. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m glad you brought up race.  You know, it‘s so interesting and I hate to bring this up.  The fact is, I was at a meeting out in L.A. last week and people were talking about the Democratic candidates.  And when Hillary Clinton‘s name came up, everybody said, oh, we‘re not sure whether America‘s ready for woman to be president, maybe she needs to be vice president first.  We went through an hour or two of these people talking and nobody brought up the fact that this guy is an African-American. 

Ryan, in your piece, is America ready to elect an African-American to be president of the United States?  And I‘m talking about America outside the beltway, America outside of Manhattan, and America outside of Beverly Hills.  And this isn‘t a southern thing.  It‘s is a Midwest thing, a Northeast thing, a South Boston thing, a Western thing.  Are they ready?

LIZZA:  Well, look, you‘re right it‘s not a southern thing, because the Democrats don‘t necessarily need to win a southern state to win the presidency.  So if you just look at the map, and you think of the country as basically a 50-50 country still, I think any of these guys can do it.  I don‘t think race will necessarily be as big an issue.  If you just look at the map and you look at the states the Democrats need to win.

SCARBOROUGH:  In blue state America, it won‘t matter? 

LIZZA:  Well, in blue state America, certainly on the coast it‘s not going to matter, I don‘t think so, no.  But one thing I want to get at is the experience question about Obama.  It‘s like experience compared to whom.  If Romney is the Republican nominee, that guy has had one term as the governor of Massachusetts.  I mean, arguably Obama dealt with the same kind of state wide issues that any governor has dealt with, right?  If you‘re in the state Senate, you‘re negotiating with the governor and other state legislators.

SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s a big difference between a state senator and the governor of the state of Illinois. 

(CROSS TALK)

CRAWFORD:  The quick answer to your question, Joe, is America ready?  America doesn‘t have to be ready.  Only enough electoral college votes have been ready.  So only about 25, 26 states have to be ready.  If you start with the blue states, which of the blue states would Obama or Hillary lose because they‘re not white men? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Craig, that‘s what I want to ask you Craig.  And, of course, Florida was almost a blue state in 2000.  It was a blue state in 1996.  Is Florida a state, a state that went for George Wallace in 1968 and 1972, a bit more progressive now, but is Florida a state that may not be ready to elect an African-American president, since that‘s going to be a swing state? 

CRAWFORD:  It may not mean much, but Florida just recently had a female lieutenant governor.  That might not say a lot.  I think Florida is more progressive than some of the deep south states.  I don‘t think there‘s any question Obama and Clinton will lose red states by historic margins.  I don‘t see a blue state that would automatically lose.  There‘s a new collection of western states that could overcome the need to win Ohio or Florida, to add those to the blue states, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, out there, some of those states, you put them together. 

You don‘t need Florida, Ohio, so long as you have the blue state base that Gore and Kerry had.  So the math does work.  And it is true, they could lose the popular vote and still win enough in the electoral college.  But I guess it‘s way early for that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Ryan, let me ask you this question:  There have been some people that have suggested that Obama was too thin skinned, that he got upset when people made fun of his ears.  He got upset when they talked about how sexy he looked in his bathing suit.  Is he a bit thin skinned?  Did you find that when you were reviewing him? 

LIZZA:  I think he can be little prickly.  He wasn‘t—right now, he is facing basically what will be the toughest period of his life.  This is the first national vetting he is going to be getting.  I would not say there‘s not something to that argument.  I was at a press conference with him during his announcement tour, and he took a strange shot at the press that seemed like it had come out of nowhere, that a lot of reporters were shocked by, the line you‘re talking about, about how we were concentrating on his bathing suit.  I think that‘s what got that theory going that he was a little thin skinned.

CRAWFORD:  Especially since it‘s the media that‘s made him such a star.

SCARBOROUGH:  I know.  I think, Craig, it was interesting that Pat Buchanan said he shouldn‘t attack the media, that‘s his base right now.  They absolutely worship him. 

LIZZA:  To be honest, that‘s what all the people on the press plane were saying, what have we done?  All we‘ve done was write puff pieces about this guy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  I want to move on now and talk about—We were talking about Iraq in the last segment a little bit, but Craig, let‘s start with you.  Brian Williams has been doing some extraordinary reporting from Iraq over the past week and actually talking about some very positive things that have been going on over there.  You know, night after night after night, we hear the negative news, but Brian has been talking about how the troops seem to be very positive about their mission over there and also about how the Iraqi people want us to stay.  

What‘s your take on that?  Is the surge is working? 

CRAWFORD:  I think there‘s a real chance that it could work, or that they can make it look like it‘s working, because if they get Maliki, if they get the Iraqi government to help out with the bad guys, send a message, say, hey, get out of this neighborhood, the Americans are going to come and clear, and hold, and do that.  And say, look, hey, we‘re winning, we are leaving now. 

That is the scenario I really see down the road, Joe, is creating enough of the perception that the momentum is there that they can then start to pull out.  I think Jack Jacobs has been making that point all along.  It makes a lot of sense to me.

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s interesting is al-Sadr has left the country.  He‘s told his Shiite death squads to keep their guns in their homes and it seems as if violence in the Sadr City and among the Shiites that have been the most violent over the past year, since the bombing of the Samarra mosque, have actually been behaving.  Something is going on over there.  What is it?

LIZZA:  I guess you have to wonder if this is a tactical response to the surge.  And if Sadr‘s thinking is, well, let‘s just go to ground.  We‘ll wait the American‘s out, let them think that the surge is a success and then we‘ll be back in business when they leave.  I would just caution, any single piece of information about the level of violence in a small snapshot in time is not the best way to judge whether things are working or not. 

I remember being on a show like this years ago and it was after elections had taken place and we were all talking about how great elections were, and this solved all of Iraq‘s problems.  So, I think we have to be careful about saying violence is down X percent over a short period of time, or looking at these impressionistic snapshots of violence being down.  We‘re not going to know for a longer chunk of time.

CRAWFORD:  The best thing for the country, I deeply believe, is for this to work, because I am very upset, actually, by what I‘ve heard from some of these like Obama and John McCain.  They both retracted the statements, but saying American lives have been wasted in Iraq.  I think the great fear is, if we do pull out of there and it falls apart and it‘s seen as a big disaster, that is going to become the consensus view, that all of those American lives were wasted, and I think that would be a horrible thing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That would be a horrible thing.  There is certainly hope right now that, as you said Craig, that this looks like it could work, or it could certainly look like it could work.  And with al-Sadr and the Shiites, again, backing up a little bit and getting out of our way, there is a possibility still that we could figure out a way to get out of that country without the entire region going up in bloodshed and warfare. 

Guys, thanks so much.  Greatly appreciate it.  Coming up next, who is the most powerful woman in Washington?  Well, the one who knows which politicians paid for carnal encounters with professional service providers.  The feds busted DC Madame, and she‘s talking.  Stay tuned to see if she names any names.

Plus, she does name names.  See if they‘re yours.  Plus, late night ended the glorious run of another famous Washington temptress, Antonella Barba, who gave the world quite a show under the fountains of the World War II memorial. She got booted from “American Idol.”  MSNBC‘s chief incriminating photo correspondent Willie Geist has a post game analysis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know the different kinds of news, there‘s hard news, there‘s human interest, there‘s weather, there‘s sports and then there‘s everybody‘s favorite type of news, idle gossip.  Here with this week‘s dose of dish from inside Washington‘s beltway, the first ladies of salacious innuendo, from the “Washington Post” universally ready gossip column, the “Reliable Source.” 

ROXANNE ROBERTS, “THE WASHINGTON POST:  Idle gossip?  We work very, very hard to get our gossip, thank you very much.   

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, I appreciate it so much.  Let‘s start with Anne Coulter.  I understand she has a fan.  Amy, let‘s start with you.  Talk about Anne Coulter‘s female impersonator.  What does she/he think about the dust up this week? 

AMY ARGETSINGER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well exactly.  Anne Coulter was in the headlines once again for her comments about John Edwards.  And once everyone else had their say about it, we thought, but how does this all affect Bill Putrisca (ph), who is the city‘s preeminent Anne Coulter impersonator.  He might be city‘s only Anne Coulter impersonator.

ROBERTS:  He‘s got the blonde hair.  He‘s got the skinny legs.  He‘s got the Adam‘s Apple.  He is perfect. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you, who is hotter? 

ARGETSINGER:  Good question. 

ROBERTS:  That‘s all in the eye of the beholder. 

ARGETSINGER:  It really is.  It depends on what you are looking for, I guess.  He does his Anne Coulter routine at different clubs in town and cabarets and parties in town.

ROBERTS:  He thinks it‘s good for business.

ARGETSINGER:  He is pretty sanguine about the whole thing.  He says Anne is the gift that keeps on giving, always gives him lots of material.  He hasn‘t really made any decisions about how or if he‘s going to work this particular John Edwards slur into his act.  But his overall advice to Anne Coulter is that she just needs to chill. 

ROBERTS:  What was it, the girl needs some Prosac in her oatmeal, something like that. 

ARGETSINGER:  Though, I think he she did that, he would regret it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Or as we used to say in the House Judiciary Committee, that guy needs to take a chill pill.  Let‘s talk about Jenna Bush.  Roxanne, tell me about Jenna‘s an author, and what‘s she going to be righting about, sexy cable talk show hosts?

ROBERTS:  That was her first choice, but you wouldn‘t give her permission, and so she decided that she would go heartfelt, go charitable.  You know, she‘s been serious.  Actually, she‘s growing up.  She‘s been in central America, working for UNICEF.  And now she‘s going to write a book aimed at teenagers and young adults about a 17-year-old single mother with HIV.  They‘re not going to identify the mother.  But they‘re going to talk about the issue.

And then Jenna is going to go on a huge book tour this fall, where she will be talking about her charitable work, trying to get more and more kids to do the kinds of things that she was doing down there, to get involved.  It‘s sort of a call to action.  But it‘s the first time we‘re going to see her out in public as an adult, because they have been so press shy. 

ARGETSINGER:  Yes, they‘re very, very press shy and this time she will be out there.  She is going to have to be in front of the cameras to sell her book.  And this is great.

SCARBOROUGH:  This is great stuff and I‘m very disappointing, Amy and Roxanne, that you brought such a heart warming and uplifting story to our show. 

ROBERTS:  We‘ll try harder next week.

SCARBOROUGH:  If you can, do me a favor—

ARGETSINGER:  They said we couldn‘t talk about you, so we thought it would be a heart lifting day. 

SCARBOROUGH:  The things, there‘s a fine line between gossip and sleaze.  We want to stay on this side of gossip.  So you really can‘t talk about—I‘m on the sleazy side. 

ARGETSINGER:  We‘re on the same page.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll break the code for you.  All right, Amy and Roxanne, thank you so much, as always, greatly appreciated.  And coming up here, Antonella‘s luck runs out on “American Idol.”  But did she get what she deserved?  Willie Geist demands a recount when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They got the names.  I don‘t know, baby, I don‘t know, we‘re going to find out.  I‘m a little concerned.  Hey, I got Willie Geist here.  Hey, Willie, I understand that the D.C. Madame is talking and she‘s naming names.  Do me a favor.  Do another story first.  I may have to get out of here and then update us on the matter. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, I hope that was your attorney because you‘re in big trouble.  I have some inside information.  You may want to get out of here before the show ends. 

SCARBOROUGH:  First “American Idol” and now this.  This is a bad, bad weekend. 

GEIST:  It‘s a dark day.  I want to show you quickly some incredible

video from a mall in Augusta, Georgia, reminiscent of that great Blue‘s

Brothers scene, Joe, where the car just cruising through the entire second

floor of the mall.  I can tell you for a fact, I‘ve been in the Augusta

mall, it‘s fantastic.  They‘ve got Dillards, J.C. Penny, Macy‘s, a terrific

food court, actually, which is where he ended up and was finally arrested

by the cops. 

So pretty tricky driving out of that guy Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s awesome.

GEIST:  Pretty cool.  Well, Antonella, you know, Joe, we knew this day was going to come, but it sure as heck doesn‘t make it any easier.  The pride of New Jersey, Antonella Barba, voted off of “American Idol” last night.  Her singing voice was roundly criticized by the judges throughout the competition, but viewers kept her around perhaps because of some steamy Internet pictures that popped up.  Sadly though, she couldn‘t muster enough votes last night to stick around. 

That certainly was not for a lack of Joe Scarborough speed dialing and incessant texting.   

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I can only do so much Willie.  I can only do so much. 

GEIST:  Goodbyes are never easy, Joe, but this one is particularly difficult for me.  I will miss her desperately. 

SCARBOROUGH:  She was the wind beneath our wings, Willie. 

GEIST:  She lifted me up twice a week.  It was amazing.  Joe, now to this story that‘s got you in trouble, the alleged Madame who has Washington holding its breath in a U.S. District courtroom today.  Deborah Palfrey (ph) pled not guilty to federal racketeering charges.  Prosecutors say she ran an illegal high end prostitution ring in D.C. for years.  Palfrey claims it was a legal escort service. 

She has threatened to sell that client list, look out Joe, to the highest bidder, in order to pay for her legal defense.  It‘s a list that could include some of the biggest names in Washington. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH PALFREY, ALLEGED D.C. MADAME:  Both the independent contractors and the clientele were upscale and came from the more refined walks of life here in the nation‘s capital. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are telephone records from 1994 until August of 2006, detailing every call in and out of the service.  It conservatively is 10,000.  If you do the math. it may be clear to 15,000. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Joe, would it help you just to confess now, get the legal ball rolling? 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it‘s not a coincidence that her best years began in 1994 when I went to Washington. 

GEIST:  That was a revolution, wasn‘t it, Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  It was a revolution, baby.  We were hard chargers.  We worked hard.  We played hard.  And sometimes we paid for play. 

GEIST:  I noticed Tucker went into hiding today too.  I haven‘t heard much from him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s not a coincidence that I‘ve been hung out here to dry. 

GEIST:  Convenient timing.  You talked about it earlier, Joe, President Bush having a tough time south of the border. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s ugly down there. 

GEIST:  It‘s bad for him.  The first full day of his Latin American tour today in Brazil, he got a nice warm reception from the Brazilian president, but as you discussed earlier, the story a bit different outside, as angry protesters took to the streets in Sal Paolo.  Mayan priests in Guatemala were preparing for Bush‘s visit to that country in their very own way.  You see, the priests say they will purify a sacred site Mayan site after President Bush leaves next week in order get rid of his, quote, bad spirit.

They say Bush‘s presence is, quote, an offense for the Mayan people and for their culture.  And Joe, when things are going bad, they‘re really going bad.  It‘s one thing to have low approval ratings, but when they‘re fumigating rooms and exorcising demons when you leave, things are bad. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know Willie, actually the thing is, that‘s not that strange for people around MSNBC, because what I found is every time I leave a room, up in Secaucus (ph), they get the lisol and mops out.  So, you know, you do what you have to do. 

GEIST:  We‘ve actually condemned your office at this point.  It‘s gotten that bad. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s ugly out there.  Hey, Willie Geist, as always, thank you so much. 

GEIST:  Joe, good luck with that legal trouble. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what, we can only do what we can do.  I‘m a man.  I‘m only a man.  Thanks, Willie Geist.  That does it for us.  I want to thank you so much for watching.  Up next “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. 

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 NBC.  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 NBC 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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