updated 5/8/2007 12:02:54 PM ET 2007-05-08T16:02:54

Guests: Arianna Huffington, Michael Crowley, Mort Zuckerman, Nicholas Wapshott

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight: “The LA Times” asks if “Law and Order‘s” Fred Thompson see the White House hope go up in smoke over a one-time role as a Hitler-loving racist.  That story and the fall-out straight ahead.

But first, a bloody day in Iraq after a deadly weekend for Americans troops, with eight soldiers killed on Sunday, with violence raging in Iraq, the president stuck at home in freefall, with “Newsweek” magazine reporting that President Bush now has the worst presidential approval rating in a generation at 28 percent, an all-time low for him.

The president‘s problems are increasingly damaging the GOP‘s political fortunes also.  Now the top Republican in the U.S. House is warning that congressional Republicans‘ patience with their president is wearing thin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn‘t, what‘s plan B.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  But with no plan B in place, expect more shortages for relief efforts at home.  In Kansas, the governor says the tornado recovery efforts are hamstrung because so many National Guard troops and resources are stuck in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS:  We‘re missing about half of our trucks from the National Guard units.  Clearly, trucks to haul this debris away would be enormously helpful.  We‘re missing flatbeds.  We‘re missing Humvees, which are used to get people to safety and security and haul equipment around.  And we‘re missing a number of our well-trained National Guard personnel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So tonight, the argument that America is fighting over there to keep us safe at home is becoming a harder sell here at home.  especially if you‘re from Greensburg, Kansas.

Here now to talk about the president‘s historic challenges are Arianna Huffington, the founder of the Huffingtonpost.com, Michael Crowley, senior editor for “The New Republic,” and Mort Zuckerman, publisher of both “The New York Daily News” and the aforementioned “U.S. News & World Report.”

Now, in the latest edition of “US News & World Report,” the lead story is titled “A Shrinking Presidency,” and the cover asks if the president is resolute or delusion.  Mort Zuckerman, what‘s the answer to that?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  What I think is the real

focus of that question, of course, is on Iraq, and that‘s where a lot of

people think that he has lost touch with what‘s happening on the ground

there.  I have to say, on the basis of any number of conversations with him

and he is a man who is a true believer in this stuff.  He actually is totally committed to it and he has been for a number of years.  And I think that he is aware of what the problems are.

I don‘t think that he has an easy solution because the choices that he faces are really quite terrible.  Do we stay there and face this war of attrition and the slow bleeding of American men and fighting forces there through death and injury, or do we withdraw on some basis that might very well be a much larger catastrophe for the United States?  So his choices are between bad and worse, and I think he knows exactly what he‘s dealing with and just is still striking whatever he can in the way of a compromise or of a different program to try and escape this dilemma.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, let‘s look at how isolated this dilemma has made the president as far as polls go.  Historically, you can see that the lowest approval ratings for past presidents—you have Clinton at 36 percent, Bush the elder at 29 percent, Reagan 35 percent, Jimmy Carter 28 percent, Gerald Ford 27 percent, and Richard Nixon, the gold standard for low presidential ratings right before he was run out of office, 23 percent.

Mort, it gets no worse...

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, it does...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... gets no worse than 28 unless you‘re about to get impeached.  Here we have a leader at probably the most unstable time in the world since World War I, isolated from the world and his own voters.  Isn‘t that a dangerous condition for this country and president to be in?

ZUCKERMAN:  Absolutely.  There‘s no question.  He‘s lost the confidence of the people of this country, of the media of this country, and indeed, of the Congress.  So I think he‘s got tremendous political problems in order for him to carry out his strategy.

And I think what it is really saying is he doesn‘t have an unlimited amount of time.  I mean, his—the House Republican majority leader says they‘re going to look and see where it is in September, which is what David Petraeus is also saying.  So I think that is going to be a very critical date.  And unless there is some sense of real progress there, not just in military terms but in political terms with the Maliki government, I think the game is going to be over as far as any real ability he has to carry on an aggressive strategy in Iraq.

SCARBOROUGH:  Arianna Huffington, the president is so isolated that even the head of his own party in the U.S. House is suggesting that Republicans have had enough, or at least soon will have enough.  Are we nearing a time when Congress may stop asking these type of questions and finally say the war needs to be closed down over the objections of the commander-in-chief?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Well, I think that‘s a very significant moment when John Boehner, who, after all, is a conservative Republican, the House minority leader—he‘s basically saying, Enough is enough.  We‘re losing patience.  He knows that a lot of Republican members who are going to be up for reelection are (INAUDIBLE) the same thing.  And now the very significant development is Defense Secretary Gates, who is clearly not on the same page with the delusional president.  I would definitely, Mort, answer the question as delusional rather than resolute.

And then we have the additional problem, when you have Kathleen Sebelius, the governor of Kansas, show clearly that the absence of the National Guard is making it so much harder here at home to deal with a natural disaster, you realize that there is a tremendous opportunity cost we are paying by diverting so many resources in Iraq.

So taking all that together, it‘s clear right now that we can no longer call this president resolute.  Mort said that he‘s a true believer.  Absolutely.  So are many suicide bombers.  Being a true believe is not, unfortunately, any kind of substitute for judgment, wisdom and stopping taking this country over the cliff, which is what this commander-in-chief, or the “commander guy,” as he calls himself, seems to be determined to do.

SCARBOROUGH:  Mort, you wanted to jump in.  Go ahead.

ZUCKERMAN:  Yes, I mean, look, you know, you can make all of these analogies, but I think it is not reasonable to underestimate this man.  I think the war has turned out to be an enormous disaster for this country.  The only problem is that pulling out precipitously might be an even greater disaster because unlike Vietnam, these are people who are going to chase us or chase our allies across the borders of Iraq into countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

So this is a hugely dangerous situation for us, in addition to which, we created a huge mess in that country and we have some moral responsibility to prevent the possibility of a major, major catastrophe.  The Brookings Institute suggests there may be hundreds of thousands of people, even more, who would be killed in the event that we withdrew.  There‘s no way that with 150,000 American troops there, and we still can‘t control the violence, that if we were to withdraw, it wouldn‘t be an even greater catastrophe.

So nobody has easy choices, at this point.  I don‘t envy anybody having to make those choices.  But I don‘t think it‘s easy just to dismiss him by comparing him to a suicide bomber.  I think that‘s just nonsense.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and I was going to ask, Arianna, did you compare -

for the record, for the transcripts, did you compare the president of the United States to a suicide bomber?

HUFFINGTON:  No.  What I compared is the true believer nature of this president.  Being a true believer is not a positive thing here.  All I‘m saying is that many true believers take recourse to incredibly violent and incredibly unreasonable ways of dealing with whatever situation they‘re confronted with.  And the true believers are very dangerous in many instances.  And that‘s the comparison I made.

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Crowley, this president seems, of course, to be standing alone on the world stage, and his one major ally that he‘s had from the beginning of this war, Tony Blair, is about to be run out of his government because of the war.  And yet Mr. Bush soldiers on.  Answer Mort‘s question.  Is the president determined or is he delusional?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Well, I think, in a way, they kind of blend into one thing.  I mean, Joe, I think I‘ve made this argument to you before, but I think that Bush sees standing, quote, unquote, “resolute” as an end in and of itself.  And so in this bizarre way, the less popular he is, the more he‘s convinced he does the right thing.

And I say this because constantly hear this line from the White House that, Well, it doesn‘t matter, we don‘t listen to the polls.  The polls are sort of this trashy thing to pay attention to.  And you know, the fact that we‘re not following the polls actually somehow puts us on the moral high ground.  And I think that in some way, Bush really—he talks as though he‘s being tested somehow, and the worse the polls get, the stronger he is for not paying attention to them and for standing firm and for kind of...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  ... telling the world to go fly a kite.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... just about the polls.  I want you to look at the quote from “The LA Times” suggesting that the top leadership at the Pentagon is now doubting the president‘s war.  Quote, “I believe Gates is on a completely different page than President Bush and General Petraeus.  He wants to see some results by summer.  If he doesn‘t see those results, he seems willing to throw the towel in.”

Michael Crowley, when your own secretary of defense is starting to doubt you, it certainly is getting awfully hard for the president to make this case to Congress, to make this case to the world, to make this case to his own troops that this is a war that‘s worth fighting for the next six to nine months.

CROWLEY:  No, I think that‘s right.  I mean, there‘s virtually no one who‘s sort of got his back anymore, so to speak, and he‘s starting to look kind of ridiculous.  Although I will say the one thing that could be useful here is if there‘s a kind of a good cop, bad cop strategy, where Gates is going to the Iraqis and he‘s saying, Look, you know, just between us, I don‘t think this can go on forever.”  And he‘s apparently saying the Democrats in Congress pretty soon are going to break through and be able to cut this off.

And probably, there is value to that, for the Iraqis to believe—you don‘t want the Iraqis to think that Bush is going to keep us forever and we‘re definitely going to be there until the next presidency, if there‘s some sense that this—the gig might be up, it might pressure them to speed up the political reconciliation process, if you believe that‘s possible.  I‘m not sure I believe that political reconciliation is possible.  But if you believe it is, a good cop, bad cop kind of game, which they may be playing, is probably a smart thing right now.

HUFFINGTON:  But Michael...

SCARBOROUGH:  Mort...

HUFFINGTON:  ... this is to assume that Maliki has the power to deliver.  And if you talk to so many people who are on the ground, they will tell you he simply does not have the power to deliver, so...

CROWLEY:  You may be right.  You know, you may be absolutely right.

HUFFINGTON:  And also, just one more thing.  When we talk about true believers, we are also talking about fanatics.  And the essential element of so many of our enemies is fanaticism, which is basically being...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, but the only argument I would make there, obviously, that Mort Zuckerman and other would make, is that Winston Churchill in 1940 was considered a fanatic.  In fact, Churchill was considered a fanatic from 1931 to 1940 because he was standing alone in Great Britain and standing alone in his war cabinet, standing alone against the world, suggesting that Adolf Hitler needed to be challenged.  The same thing about Ronald Reagan.  Ronald Reagan was mocked from 1981 until the time the curtain fell in 1989. 

So...

HUFFINGTON:  But what‘s the comparison?

ZUCKERMAN:  I don‘t think there is a comparison.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I‘m sorry...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s the comparison?

HUFFINGTON:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m just telling you—Mort Zuckerman, is that not what George W. Bush sees himself as?  He doesn‘t seem himself as a terrorist, he sees himself as being Churchillian or being...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... being like Harry Truman.

ZUCKERMAN:  ... you know, being like Abraham  Lincoln, you know, fighting his way through—look, I think the use of words like fanaticism and suicide bombers just is a diversion from what the real issues are.  The real issue does go back to the role of the Shiites, for example, in the Maliki government.  The fact is, I‘m not sure that even if he had the power, that Maliki is interested.  The Shiites have been suppressed by the Sunnis in that country for hundreds of years.  They—because we decided to impose democracy on them, the Shiites...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  And you know what?  I knew Arianna was one of the most powerful people in new media.  I didn‘t know she could actually take a satellite feed down.  Arianna, congratulations for that.  I will let you finish Mort Zuckerman‘s statement.

(LAUGHTER)

HUFFINGTON:  Well, actually, Mort made my point, which is that not only is Maliki powerless, but he may also not be interested in delivering on what he supposedly promised the administration to deliver.  So what are we doing there?  Why are we putting our own men and women...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  That‘s the problem with the surge, is no one can really explain what the end game is.  I mean, we secure Baghdad and therefore what?  They come to these big agreements on sharing oil revenue?  I mean, security in Baghdad is not the obstacle to some a long-term agreement on how you spread out the oil revenue.

SCARBOROUGH:  And of course, Michael—and Michael, it‘s not even geographic.  I mean, the surge at the beginning—I didn‘t think the surge was going to work because I didn‘t think we‘d be able to rein in the Shiite death squads, but we were able to rein in the Shiite death squads, and once we reigned in the Shiite death squads, the Sunnis were able to go out and kill indiscriminately because the Shiite death squads weren‘t there to keep them in check.

So again, it is a lose-lose situation until somebody explains to us—and Arianna, I don‘t think you can, and Michael, I don‘t think you can, I certainly can‘t—I mean, what is the end game here?  I mean, what happens?  We suppress the Shiite death squads, the Sunnis kill more.  We suppress the Sunnis, the Shiites kill more.  We are in the middle of a two or three-sided civil war, and it is an absolute mess.

Arianna, I agree with you.  Michael, thanks so much for being with us.  Mort Zuckerman, thank you for being with us.  Sorry for the satellite (INAUDIBLE) It is—when I say I agree with Arianna, I agree that this is a mess, and right now, we don‘t have an official in Washington, D.C., that‘s able to spell out an end game.  Can our troops stay there and continue to do a great job, do a better job than anybody else at policing an untenable situation?  Of course they can.  But what is the end game?  Right now, there doesn‘t seem to be an end game.  And supposedly, that was a lesson that we were supposed to have learned from Vietnam.  I guess we haven‘t.

And a special note.  This week, I‘m going to be doing double duty, hosting MSNBC in the morning Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Our broadcast is starting 6:00 AM Eastern.  We‘re going to have a lot of big-name guests, including Christopher Hitchens, Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, Kinky Friedman, George Stephanopoulos and some presidential candidates, big presidential candidates.  So make sure you wake up bright and early—I sure will! -- starting this Wednesday.

And coming up here tonight: President Bush may not speak the queen‘s English, but some are suggesting he ain‘t even talking the same language.  Why this royal visit‘s not gone according to script, and why it‘s got the British laughing.

Plus: Should a controversial role for Fred Thompson‘s acting career be fair game for his possible president‘s bid?  A political firestorm involving Nazis, “The LA Times” and Rush Limbaugh straight ahead.

And later: Paris gets 45 days of hard time, and her parents are already reportedly trying to sell the story.  Did she get off too easy?  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUEEN ELIZABETH II:  Mr. President, I raise my glass to you and to Mrs. Bush, to the friendship between our two countries and to the health, freedom, prosperity and happiness of the people of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  It was a moving moment.  It would have been a little more moving if hadn‘t have said, Hell, yes.  The Queen invades D.C., the White House rolling out the red carpet tonight for the queen‘s visit to the nation‘s capital, hosting the first white tie dinner of the Bush presidency.  But despite all the preparations, pomp and circumstance, President Bush managed to steal the show with what the British at least are calling the royal blunder.

NBC‘s White House correspondent Kelly O‘Donnell‘s at the White House tonight with the latest on the star-studded affair that didn‘t always go according to script—Kelly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  ... tonight at the White House.  This will be the most formal event ever held by the Bushes, the attire, white tie and tails, and the guest list just 134.  Among them former first lady Nancy Reagan, famed golfer Arnold Palmer and the winner of the past weekend‘s Kentucky Derby, all here to share a special evening with Queen Elizabeth.

For all the fuss about protocol, the unexpected and not so perfect made this day grand.  On Pennsylvania Avenue, a first, school kids greeted like this.  While the elaborate official ceremony in all its spectacle and precision included one presidential slip-up.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 -- in 1976.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH:  She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child!

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  The queen chose not to play along.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II:  I shall enjoy not only renewing old acquaintances and making new ones...

O‘DONNELL (on camera):  To pull off an ultra-formal event—that

takes the work of a team always inside the White House but seldom seen

(voice-over):  The first lady‘s chief of staff watches over it all.

ANITA MCBRIDE, FIRST LADY‘S CHIEF OF STAFF:  This is a part of history, planning for something like this.

O‘DONNELL:  In the cramped White House floral shop, each bloom must live up to the occasion.  The chief usher handles everything outside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re going to make it pristine for the queen. 

You want the White House to be white.  You want the grounds to be perfect.

O‘DONNELL:  The kitchen is whipping up five intricate courses.

CHRISTETA COMEFORD, WHITE HOUSE EXECUTIVE CHEF:  The closer you get to the event, you get a, you know, flutter in your stomach.

O‘DONNELL:  The social secretary‘s seating chart looks like a big-screen chess board.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The president always sits at this spot, at table 11, and to his right will be the queen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  All to create a setting fit to honor one woman and her remarkable reign.  During her 55-year reign, the queen has dined with 10 presidents, but she‘s only been here to the White House a handful of times, the last 16 years ago, 1991, when the president‘s father was the queen‘s host—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks so much, Kelly O‘Donnell.  So how is Britain reacting to George Bush and this meeting?  Here now, Nicholas Wapshott.  He‘s the national and foreign editor for “The New York Sun.”  Nicholas, what are the headlines in Great Britain about George W. Bush greeting the queen?

NICHOLAS WAPSHOTT, “NEW YORK SUN”:  I‘m afraid that not withstanding the wonderful pomp and circumstance—and there‘s no doubt the Americans can pull it off every bit as well as the British can, really—when it comes to the gaffe, that‘s what‘ll be over every single front page, I‘m afraid.  And let‘s talk about the queen‘s English.  I mean, he really did trip up, didn‘t he.  And she...

SCARBOROUGH:  How unpopular is George W. Bush in England?

WAPSHOTT:  Very, very unpopular.  The war is immensely unpopular, and he is very unpopular.  Now, a lot of this is unfair, to be fair to George Bush, but the fact is that the British judge people by their speech more than anything else.  They can tell with a single sentence, even sometimes with a single word, exactly where someone comes from, which social position they have, which part of the country they had.  And George W., I‘m afraid, doesn‘t cut the mustard when it comes to...

(LAUGHTER)

WAPSHOTT:  ... when it comes to trying to, you know, live up to the queen.

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course, and you know, George Bernard Shaw said that every time an Englishman opened his mouth, he had the rest of the country hating him, basically because they really do judge the way one talks.  So I would guess tonight they‘re reveling in this president making a public mistake in front of queen?

WAPSHOTT:  Yes, they‘ll relish it.  I‘m afraid the fact is that one of the functions of America and British public life is to provide ludicrous examples of things that can go wrong.  They love things—they love humorous moments, but they also enjoy tragic moments because it‘s an example of the way that somehow, notwithstanding the 1776 events, that in the end, the Americans haven‘t learned (ph) as much as the British thought that they‘d left behind.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Nicholas, at the G-8 summit, remember, the president famously started to give the German premier a back massage at an open session.  I would guess that touching the queen would probably be off-limits for him tonight, right?

WAPSHOTT:  Absolutely.  The worst thing you can possibly do.  If he puts his—slips his arm around her just to usher her down the line, in order to speed up the handshaking, then he‘s going to be in big trouble.  There are all sorts of other things that he...

(LAUGHTER)

WAPSHOTT:  No, it‘s true.  And you know, when we were talking earlier, weren‘t we, about how the last time the queen was here, was at the White House, and Barbara Bush pointed out her son, George W. Bush, and said that he was troubled, and therefore, he‘d been sat miles away from the queen.  Of course, the queen instantly took a beeline and went to him and said, I understand you‘re the black sheep of the family, and he quipped back, Do you have black sheep in your family?  And she was smart enough not to answer that.  They then got into a conversation about Texas boots, which he was wearing to that white tie dinner.

SCARBOROUGH:  Very funny.  Well, thank you so much, Nicholas Wapshott. 

Greatly appreciate it.  Of course, this isn‘t the first time, friends, that

a president‘s got in trouble.  And in 1976, I remember Captain and Tennille

remember them?  They played when the queen came over.  There‘s a picture.  They were dancing.  The queen was dancing with Gerald Ford, and Captain and Tennille was playing “Muskrat Love.”  And Queen Elizabeth then was very shocked that there would be a song played while she was dancing about animals loving one another.  I‘ll just leave it there.

Anyway, speaking of animals—coming up, Paris Hilton behind bars.  Will 45 days in the slammer be enough for Paris to change her ways?  It isn‘t the first time that Hollywood may be cleaning up its act.  That‘s ahead.

But first, Conan hits a grand slam with the cast of his new baseball movie.  That‘s next in “Must See S.C.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Wake up the kids.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See SC” video.  You‘ve just got to see. 

First up, even politicians need friends.  After watching the candidates compete for our affection, Bill Maher comes up with a new rule.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME”:  New rule:  Political debaters must stop pretending they have a friend in the audience.  I don‘t know who started this hacky tradition of randomly pointing at people, but it‘s got to stop.  Look, there‘s my friend.  I‘ve got a friend, too.  So do I.  I‘ve got two friends.  You know, it was cool when Clinton did it, but only because he was going, “Need her, need her, got her, got her, need her, need her, got her.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And finally, controversial slugger Barry Bonds is getting closer to the all-time homerun record, and Hollywood is already planning the movie.  Conan gives us a sneak peek at the cast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT”:  Barry Bonds will be played by Gary Coleman.  Former homerun super star Mark McGwire will be played by former child star Danny Bonaduce.  The sultan of swat himself, George Herman “Babe” Ruth will be played by Rosie O‘Donnell. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up, could Fred Thompson‘s one-time acting role as a Hitler-loving racist hurt his possible presidential bid?  We‘re going to show you the clip the “L.A. Times” dug up and ask if political opponents may try to use it against him. 

Plus, will Paris Hilton‘s jail sentence force other Hollywood starlets to sober up?  That coming up.  Plus, the story on how her parents are trying to sell her trashy tale already.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Paris goes to jail, or maybe not.  The socialite‘s attorney already appealing the sentence.  Take a look at what he had to say after leaving court. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD WEITZMAN, PARIS HILTON‘S ATTORNEY:  ... sentenced Paris Hilton to 45 days in jail to me was uncalled for, inappropriate, and bordered on the ludicrous.  And it was clear that she‘s been selectively targeted, in my opinion, to be prosecuted because of who she is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, because of who she is, Paris‘s parents are already looking to capitalize on her trip to the clink.  Her mother is reportedly simultaneously pleading with the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce Paris‘ sentence and pitching an exclusive interview with her daughter on the TV celebrity shows. 

Meanwhile, we just learned the celebrity princess has rehired her publicist, but is reportedly getting ready so she can can her attorney.  So is Paris being thrown in the slammer as an example to other Hollywood starlets?  Or is she just getting what she deserves?  And why is she blaming everybody but herself?

Here‘s John Ridley, the screenwriter and commentator.  We‘ve got Robin Leach, TV host and celebrity editor for LasVegasMagazine.com, David Caplan, “Star” magazine‘s deputy New York bureau chief.

David, tell me.  How concerned is Paris Hilton right now? 

DAVID CAPLAN, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  From what I‘m hearing, Paris is very concerned and so are her parents, Rick and Kathy.  They believe that they may not win this appeal that they lodged today, actually, and that she can go to prison, but they are convinced that Paris is being made an example to all the Hollywood stars that go out drinking and driving.  And, again, there are a lot of celebrities who did get busted for DUI, and they never see the inside of a prison cell.  So it‘s not that common.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Robin Leach, this woman for years has been behaving badly.  She‘s been rewarded for it.  She set a bad example for other Hollywood starlets.  She shows up 10 to 15 minutes late in court.  She gets pulled over week after week after week by the L.A. cops and nothing ever happens.  I mean, come on.  This isn‘t ludicrous.  This girl should go to the clink, shouldn‘t she? 

ROBIN LEACH, LASVEGASMAGAZINE.COM:  I don‘t know, Joe.  I think you‘re being just a little dramatic and exaggerating just a little bit. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What part? 

LEACH:  Well, you kept on going “week after week after week after week.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  How many times has she been pulled over? 

LEACH:  I have no idea, but not week after week after week after week. 

JOHN RIDLEY, SCREENWRITER AND COMMENTATOR:  I have an idea, Joe. 

LEACH:  No, but I think the judge is making an example of her.  I think that he is telling Hollywood that nobody is above the law, and I think that the message is loud and clear.  The bigger problem here is that nobody is paying any attention.  And this is the sad thing about all of this.  It seems at the moment in “Hollyweird” that, if you go to jail, you come out bigger than when you went in. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, I was just going to say, John Ridley, that‘s the story of Paris‘s life, isn‘t it?  The worst she behaves, the more she‘s rewarded.  Her parents seem to encourage it.  And maybe she doesn‘t get pulled over week after week, but she got pulled over so many times that, if it were my son, and he got pulled over that many times, he‘d be spending at least 45 days in jail. 

RIDLEY:  Yes, actually, Joe, you‘re not far off.  She was originally sentenced back in November of last year.  The sentence ran from November to March of this year.  In that time, she was pulled over three times, and one of those times the law enforcement official, the CHP officer, actually found a citation in her car for driving under a suspended sentence from a previous stop. 

She knew when she was doing.  She was given a reprieve time and time again.  That‘s not an exaggeration, time and time again.  If this was a young, black girl from South Central L.A., she would have been in jail long ago.  I don‘t know whether people listen.  I don‘t know whether Paris Hilton would change.  That‘s not the issue.  The issue is, she broke the law.  She needs to go to jail for 45 days.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, Robin Leach, in an interview with “Harper‘s Bazaar” for their June issue, Paris says she gets in more trouble because of who she is, telling the magazine, quote, “Cops pull me over to hit on me.  It‘s really annoying.  They‘re like, ‘What‘s your phone number?  Want to go to dinner?‘  I have so many cops‘ business cards.”

Robin, this quote probably doesn‘t help her in front of the judge any more than showing up 15 minutes late, does it? 

LEACH:  I bet he reads “Harper‘s Bazaar” as well as he reads TMZ, as he admitted to doing.  Look, there‘s no doubt that this young lady, whether she‘s guilty or not guilty, or whether she didn‘t know or did know, is the subject of probably the most extraordinary scrutiny by the public and the media of anybody since the ‘70s and ‘80s with Farrah Fawcett.  There‘s never been a media frenzy like this one around this woman. 

And when you live your life in the goldfish bowl, you are going to get hit on people who stop you.  You are going to get stopped by people.  Whether it‘s right or wrong, that‘s just a fact of life.  It goes with the territory, though, so you can‘t bemoan it the same time that you profit from it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, David Caplan, talking about the parents? 

CAPLAN:  Rick and Kathy Hilton, these are obviously people with a lot of access to politicians, to a lot of the policymakers in Los Angeles.  Very wealthy, of course.  You know, their fortune comes from the Hilton hotel chain. 

And if you notice, Kathy Hilton is very much like her daughter was back in the day.  So that‘s why we‘re seeing Kathy being so vocal here, because she was very rambunctious herself as a teenager and as a girl in her 20s.  And they are protective of Paris.  I mean, These are parents who have seen their daughter in a sex tape.  You know, most parents would shutter at that.  So they have seen everything about Paris, so they‘re very used to it, and they just keep going forward.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and John Ridley, the story—some stories written about them suggest that they actually encourage her to behave badly because they know that it helps Paris, Inc., as “The New York Times” called it? 

RIDLEY:  Well, I don‘t know if they encourage her because it helps her business, but clearly—and I‘m sorry, this is bad parenting.  If there‘s one thing I tell my kids, on a daily basis, I say to my two young boys, “If you tell the truth, you won‘t get in trouble.  You might get punished, something might happen, but I‘m going to get mad at you.  But if you lie, then you‘re going to get in trouble.” 

Paris had every opportunity in this instance to do the right thing.  I think, as wild as some kids are, they don‘t go out and make sex videos and then put them out there or allow them to get out there and not really care about it.  What I‘m concerned about is kids see her.  I mean, if a couple of kids see her go to jail and say, “You know what?  Maybe I won‘t drink and drive,” at least some good, some good has come out of this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think so, and especially with a lot of the Hollywood starlets that have been following her lead and had some disastrous results.

David Caplan, thanks a lot.  John Ridley, Robin Leach, stick around.  When we come back, we take a tip from David Hasselhoff on how to keep visitation rights with the kids.  Don‘t let them videotape you drunk.  New developments in “Hollyweird.”

Plus, can voters separate facts from fiction when it comes to picking the president?  The “L.A. Times” is worried that Thompson‘s racist TV role that‘s making headlines decades later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Fred Thompson‘s rumored run for the White House may have run into its first pothole, thanks to the “Los Angeles Times.”  An obscure TV role the former senator played almost two decades ago sparked this headline, quote, “Will Fred Thompson‘s Racist Role Have Political Repercussions?”

They went on to write, “Thompson played a white racist spewing anti-Semitic comments and fondling an autographed copy of ‘Mein Kampf‘ on a television drama 19 years ago.  That TV drama was the hit CBS show ‘Wiseguy,‘ where Thompson played this anti-Semitic, racist named Knox Pooley.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)  

FRED THOMPSON, ACTOR AND FORMER SENATOR:  They say, Dr. Pooley, who are these enemies?  Some folks say it‘s the Jews.  In fact, if I had a quarter for every time I‘d heard that, I‘d be $10 bucks shy of being Jewish myself. 

We have allowed them to exercise their genetic need to dominate a Christian world.  So don‘t blame it on the Jews for doing it.  Blame it on yourselves for letting it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Somebody better bet that boy a phone number for AIPAC. 

Will Thompson‘s racist role come back to haunt him in his run for the White House?  Or is the “L.A. Times” just stirring up trouble.  Here now to talk about, MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell and, still with us, John Ridley.  He‘s a screenwriter and a frequent contributor to National Public Radio. 

Lawrence O‘Donnell, you know, the acting career, we heard time and time again, helped Ronald Reagan get elected president of the United States.  Will Fred Thompson‘s acting role indeed help or hurt his presidential bid? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Acting doesn‘t help, Joe.  It‘s something you have to overcome with the voters.  The voters think it‘s not a substantial occupation, it‘s not real work, and so you have to kind of—after having done it, you have to convince voters that you are a person of substance. 

Now, you know, he has been a senator for one term, so he‘s got that going for him.  But the acting part is not an advantage.  It‘s something he‘s got to convince people is not the real him, that the senator is the real him, and the future president is the real him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, John Ridley, Rush Limbaugh took on the “L.A.  Times” for their treatment of the story today.  Take a listen to what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST:  He is an actor who‘s playing a role.  Do we start with all of the horrible characters liberal Democrat actors have played and start asking, “Well, they‘re not seeking political office”?  You tell me that there is not racism in the drive-by media?  And, by the way, where are the usual Hollywood people coming out to defend this?  Where‘s the Hollywood crowd defending its craft?  Where‘s the Hollywood crowd defending its art?  One of their own, Fred Thompson, is being labeled a racist here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Ridley, do you think it‘s unfair to label—do you think it‘s unfair of the “L.A. Times” to bring up this racist role? 

RIDLEY:  Well, first, it‘s interesting, Rush Limbaugh is picking on Fred Thompson or defending Fred Thompson and picking on Michael J. Fox‘s acting, when, in fact, he wasn‘t, when he had the Parkinson‘s disease.

I guess I would be—I hate to say it—I‘m supporting Rush Limbaugh, one of the Hollywood crowd coming out defending it.  He was an actor.  He was acting.  It was a part.  It was 20 years ago. 

I do think the lead on the “L.A. Times” part was just more than disingenuous.  Instead of saying, “How will Fred Thompson‘s body of work affect his bid?”  I mean, they pick one role out of the many roles he‘s played as a CIA operative, FBI, White House chief of staff.  I think he‘s playing Ulysses S. Grant in an upcoming movie, and they pick this one role and say, “Will his racist past hurt him?” 

I don‘t think it‘s going to hurt him.  I agree with Lawrence that I think the acting is something that you have to get beyond.  And, for goodness sakes, I mean, a guy like Sonny Bono, he got past his variety show past and did an OK job as a representative.  So—I‘m sorry, go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH:  I was saying, Gopher.

RIDLEY:  And Gopher.  You know, Fred Grandy did it.  Schwarzenegger got past “The Last Action Hero.”  When you act, every role you do was not good, it‘s not great, it doesn‘t always make money.  And I think what people are excited about is the fact that he brings like Ronald Reagan the ability to communicate whatever that message is.  Maybe you don‘t agree with it.  Maybe you do, but they‘re looking for a communicator.  I don‘t think a lot of people on the right who are thinking about abortion or gun control or the war are going to go, “Well, jeez, he played a racist 20 years ago.  We‘re not going to vote for him.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t think so.  And, Lawrence, of course, you can say Arnold Schwarzenegger also got past “Jingle All the Way” and still made it to the governor‘s mansion in California.  So, Lawrence, what should Fred Thompson do?  Should he get out in front of this or ignore it? 

O‘DONNELL:  I think he should ignore it.  I think he should trust the Hollywood crowd like John Ridley and myself to defend him on this, as Rush predicts we won‘t.  Of course we think it‘s ridiculous to criticize Fred Thompson‘s choice of roles. 

Look, one of my dear friends, Martin Sheen, who played a great president, also played, in one of the finest film performances in history, a serial killer in the movie “Badlands.”  And it was just a fantastic and great work of art the way he handled that role.  To pick on individual roles and say, “This has something to do with the human being,” is to not understand acting at all.

It‘s odd that the article appeared first in the “L.A. Times,” in an area where this is very, very well understood.  We‘re not going to hear any more about this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks a lot, Lawrence.  Greatly appreciate it.  Thank you, John Ridley, as always. 

And coming up next, he thinks he‘s the king of sexy.  Now “Time” magazine says Justin Timberlake is bigger than President Bush.  I‘m not going to call him a weasel.  I‘m not going to call him a weasel.  What‘s so fascinating about this guy?  The truth in the box, coming up in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell your daughter to shut off the camera, baby.  It‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, “Extra‘s” drunken video of David Hasselhoff is now keeping him from seeing his children.  Here now to talk about it, editor-at-large for “Star” magazine Jill Dobson and still with us, Robin Leach.

Robin, let‘s take a quick look at this tape. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR-ANN HASSELHOFF, DAUGHTER:  Tell me you‘re going to stop. 

DAVID HASSELHOFF, ACTOR:  I‘m going to stop. 

TAYLOR-ANN HASSELHOFF:  Promise? 

HASSELHOFF:  Yep. 

TAYLOR-ANN HASSELHOFF:  Yes? 

HASSELHOFF:  This is a mess. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Robin, not good news for the Hof, is it?

LEACH:  It‘s very sad news, and it‘s very tragic, and I think that all it does is further inflame a very fiery situation.  David really is a nice guy.  David has some troubles with alcohol.  He faces up to it.  He admits it.  But for this videotape to have been leaked by, as he said, malicious people is pretty disgusting, and the subject matter is also disgusting. 

But it‘s an attempt by his children, Haley and Taylor, to save him from his own hand.  And I think that this was a wakeup call for him, and he started to deal with it and then had this whole thing backfire when it was released by, who knows? 

It‘s interesting that it‘s Debra Opri, the new lawyer, that comes into the picture, and then the judge rules that he can‘t see these two children, who are his best friends.  They are his support system, and they‘re the ones that came out against his estranged wife, Pamela.  And this never-ending, evil, ugly lawsuit that‘s dragged on for years has just been inflamed by all of this.  No wonder the guy is drinking. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, well, you know, Jill Dobson, and, of course, we saw a few weeks back, you had, of course, “30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin get in trouble for leaving a very nasty voicemail on his daughter‘s—I mean, it seems that stars are getting tripped up by their children recording them, right? 

JILL DOBSON, “STAR” MAGAZINE:  Yes, you know, sometimes the lifestyles of the rich and famous aren‘t so glamorous, and that‘s what we‘re seeing today with these different stars who have been caught on tape in some of the most negative situations in life, and it just goes to show you have to be careful in life, especially if you‘re a celebrity, and especially because everyone has a camcorder or a voicemail, and you don‘t want to be caught on tape misbehaving, especially where your children are concerned, and you want to be a good parent for them.

SCARBOROUGH:  Getting ugly.  And speaking of ugly, Justin Timberlake, AKA Mr. Sexy, is now bigger than the president?  Well, Jill, that‘s what “Time” magazine says.  Help me out with this, explain it. 

DOBSON:  Well, Joe, this is going to be hard for you to believe, because I know you‘re not Justin Timberlake‘s biggest fan, but he ranked very highly on “Time” magazine‘s influential list of people.  And they say he has more influence over Americans than the president.  You know, I kind of in some ways hope that‘s not the case, unless you‘re talking about album sales.  Then Justin does have an influence. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Maybe so.  Robin Leach, this guy is big, isn‘t he? 

LEACH:  Well, he‘s big, but I think it‘s a sad commentary and a terrible indictment against America.  And if these are the kind of people that you look up to as influential people, this country is going right down the toilet.  We don‘t need to think of these people as heroes or influential people.  We need sensible people.  We need people who have strong, good opinions that make the country better, not worse. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  Robin Leach, Jill Dobson, thank you so much.

And that‘s all the time we have for tonight.  We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  But up next, the shocking story of a mild-mannered widower leading a double live in “Sex Bunker.”

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

END   

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