updated 5/11/2007 11:37:16 AM ET 2007-05-11T15:37:16

Guests: Joan Walsh, Michael Crowley, John Ridley, Courtney Hazlett, Cecily Knobler

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  All day and all of the night.  But tonight, breaking news from Capitol Hill, where the Democratic Congress has once again defied George Bush over Iraq war funding in what the Associated Press is calling tonight a fierce test of wills.  But the White House is gravely warning tonight that time is running out on our troops.

A day after Republicans attacked their own president over the war in Iraq, the Democratic Congress once again stared down the president by refusing to give him the funding bill he said he needed to continue the Iraq war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Let‘s give this plan a chance to work.  Let‘s stop playing politics.  You know, it‘s one thing to have a good, honest debate about the way forward in Iraq.  It‘s another thing to put our troops right in the middle of that debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, tonight, the House did that by defying the president, by cutting in half his war funding request.  Democrats used the occasion to attack the president‘s Iraq policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON:  It amazes me that people who have been wrong on Iraq for four years come down and lecture us—lecture us—about whether a timeline is going to work or not.

REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT:  What we face now is a White House that‘s dug its heels in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Our bill calls for the redeployment of our troops and allows Congress to take back from the president the reckless decision making that we have seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  But Republicans continued giving the president their own brand of problems today.  Olympia Snow became the latest senator to propose benchmarks to measure the need for troop withdrawals from Iraq.  Again, that coming from a Republican senator.  And at a hearing today, something that couldn‘t have made the White House real happy, Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander promised to put into law the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that president has already contemptuously disregarded.

Meanwhile, one political heavyweight who had supported the president‘s war from the very beginning, Tony Blair, was booted from office as Britain‘s prime minister for the first time in a decade in large part because of his friendship with—you guess who—George W. Bush.

Here to talk about all the news that‘s breaking tonight, Michael Crowley—he‘s senior editor for “The New Republic—Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief from Salon.com and MSNBC political analyst and “Congressional Quarterly” columnist Craig Crawford.  He‘s the author of the new book “The Politics of Life.”

And Craig, let‘s go to you first because you‘re wearing clothes tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank God.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I

do have the Jerry Garcia tie, though.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Exactly.  But you also have the suit on.  I was a little concerned when I talked to you in the morning.

But anyway, breaking news again tonight.  It looks like the Democrats are playing this out like their base wants them to play it out, which is—and I‘m not saying that‘s a bad thing.  You‘ve got the president passes a bill, basically says, Go ahead, make my day.  You know, the Congress passes it up to the president, he vetoes it.  He says, Go ahead and make my day.  Democrats go ahead and pass another bill that the president‘s promised to veto.  It actually looks like they are staring each other down, and this isn‘t going down the way that, let‘s say, Pat Buchanan predicted a while ago, saying that Democrats would immediately fold.

CRAWFORD:  Well, Pat and I have tangled quite a bit over his position there, but I‘ll wait until he comes back to—to attack that position.  I‘ve always thought, you know, the Democrats have one very important thing behind them, and that is the majority of the American people.  And poll after poll shows that just growing in terms of comparing and contrasting how Americans see the Bush plan and the Democratic plan in Congress.

But still, there‘s that Constitution and his constitutional role and -

but I also would say the president still has that rope-a-dope strategy in place, where he talks about a surge, puts the surge in place, gets emergency funding, then asks for a chance to give it a chance to work, and then come September—we‘ve already heard they‘re ordering up 35,000 more troops.  He could start it—just restart...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  ... the end of the year.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... 35,000 more troops.  That takes you through the end of the year.  And then you‘re into the presidential campaign.  And again, the poll that was just put up there, Joan, says exactly what Craig was talking about.  The majority of Americans want a timeline to get out of Iraq.  The “USA Today” Gallup poll says that Americans (INAUDIBLE) whether they supported the timetable for withdrawal, which is what Olympia Snow said today.  Sixty percent said they supported the timetable.  Only 36 percent said keep the troops in Iraq until the job is done.

This president continues to be more and more isolated by the day.  It looks like the Democrats may be getting the courage to stand up to him and keep sending him bills that he doesn‘t want to sign.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  I think you‘re right, Joe.  I think they do—they are showing a lot of political courage.  I mean, look, Nancy Pelosi did something kind of interesting.  She took the timelines that he didn‘t want out of the bill.  Some of the left was very upset.  Moveon denounced her and Reid last Friday.  Moveon supported the earlier bill today that didn‘t pass, that was all about timelines and quick withdrawal.

And you know, we gave the Republicans, I think, a little too much credit the other night.  They‘re starting to talk tough.  You know, all day long, I watched television and people are making such a big deal of this meeting they had yesterday, this—the “angry 11”—with the president.  You‘d think the ghost of Barry Goldwater rose and came, like he confronted President Nixon, that this was such a serious meeting yesterday.  And in fact, all 11 voted with the president today.  So they want credit.  They want political cover for talking tough and confronting the president, and then at the end of the day, they go out and they vote with him and they give him what he wants.  So it‘s very cynical.  The Democrats are the ones showing courage.  And I don‘t really know how it ends.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Democratic congressman Jay Inslee took to the floor, and he talked about the Republicans‘ meeting with the president that you were just talking about, Joan.  Let‘s take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INSLEE:  The GOP members went and told the president, This is hurting the GOP.  It doesn‘t matter who‘s getting hurt politically here.  I‘ll tell you what matters.  Our sons and daughters are being killed in Iraq.  And I hope that some of my GOP colleagues, the next time they go to the White House, says, We don‘t care about the GOP or the DEM (ph), we care about the Army and the Navy and the soldiers who are being killed and join the people (INAUDIBLE) Iraq and get a timetable to get us out of there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  But you know, Michael Crowley, it‘s like Joan brought up.  They all went there.  You had press coverage, everybody breathlessly talking about it.  “The New York Times” put it on the front page of their paper today.  Everybody was talking about it throughout the day, that the Republicans were finally standing up to this president.  And yet they all went along with him again.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Well, Craig had a—you know, Craig used the phrase “rope-a-dope,” and I think it‘s a good way to talk about what happens here.  There‘s a lot of kind of theater to buy time.  And you know, I‘m surprised that Bush didn‘t do more of this earlier and the Republicans in Congress with him didn‘t do more of this earlier, that they‘re about it, they‘re struggling with it, they‘re—you know, in Congress, you can...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... you say you‘re surprised, but at the same time, this White House has been removed and they‘ve been arrogant from the very beginning.  So it‘s not really that much of a surprise.  It‘s just taken them seven years to figure out they can‘t run Washington by themselves.

CROWLEY:  That‘s right.  But I mean, you look at what—you know, you would think, at some point, when their poll numbers broke, you know, the mid-30s and the low 30s and now they‘re into the 20s, maybe then they‘d finally realize, We better look like we‘re actually listening to somebody because, you know—because—because we—nothing else we do is working.

So I think that, you know, there—for Republicans, it‘s very difficult because they‘re forced to make this binary choice between voting up or down.  So I think to the extent that they can do things where it looks like, Well, we‘re meeting with the president and working behind the scenes to negotiate things, that‘s very useful for them.

I will say, Joe, that, you know, I think the undercovered story right now is the fact that the Iraqi parliament is talking about taking a two-month summer vacation and...

SCARBOROUGH:  Where do they go?  I mean, if you‘re the Iraqi parliament, where do you go for two months?

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  I think they go to Crawford, Texas.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  ... in Basra or something, you know...

WALSH:  Maybe they go to Crawford, Texas.  The president spent six weeks there in 2001.  Maybe they can all get together and have a good time.

CROWLEY:  But let me just say very quickly...

CRAWFORD:  Where do you go on vacation when you have to wear a bulletproof vest everywhere?

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  I wonder if that just kicks the last leg out from under the

stool.  I mean, that is just a very easy thing for the average person to

seize on, not that they have trouble seizing on what‘s happening now, but

really drives home.  Our guys are dying over there, and the parliament is

going to go on vacation.  It‘s just kind of shocking, and I just don‘t know

I know Cheney was trying to talk them out of it, but I don‘t know how that can happen and—and really, you‘re going to see a lot of Republicans kind of—kind of start running away from...

CRAWFORD:  And you know, that—that is what I‘ve heard from Republicans that worried them the most, is what Michael‘s talking about.  I mean, that‘s why I think what moved a lot of them is, you know, they‘ve been hiding—or not hiding, but they‘ve been standing on this ground so long, that it‘s up to the Iraqi people and we‘ve got to support the government, and now with the government going on—the parliament going on vacation, they just—they just couldn‘t sustain this anymore.

WALSH:  Well, and a majority of the Iraqi parliament is actually getting ready to call for timelines for withdrawal and a freeze on the number of U.S. troops.  So they might—before they go on vacation, they might get something done that the American Congress can‘t seem to do themselves, so...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, though, George Bush—again, tonight, George Bush is very angry about what Congress has just done.  Congress has passed this timeline.  Let‘s talk about what our legislature is doing.

Craig Crawford, the president—I wrote the line down here—said “Democrats need to stop playing politics with the troops,” saying that Democrats by this vote are putting the troops, our U.S. troops, in the middle of a political battle.  Does that work with the American people?

CRAWFORD:  No, because, for one thing, I think the American people see anything that goes on in Washington all about politics.  And the idea that, you know, politics shouldn‘t be played is like saying democracy shouldn‘t work.  I mean, politics is what democracy runs on, particularly in a debate, a big national debate about war.  Let the politics happen.

Here‘s what I think the worst thing—on the political point—that these Republicans who met with the president did.  It wasn‘t so much news that they told him these things because you and I both know, Joe, they‘ve been saying these things for a long time, Republicans on the Hill, just privately.  What was different is they tripped all over each other to go tell reporters what they had told the president, and that...

SCARBOROUGH:  Which means, of course, they‘re scared, Craig, right?

CRAWFORD:  And—and—but here‘s—the dumbest thing I think they did in doing that is what they told reporters their message to the president was, is that it‘s hurting our campaigns...

WALSH:  Right.

(LAUGHTER)

CRAWFORD:  ... that it‘s hurting the Republican Party.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

CRAWFORD:  They didn‘t say it‘s because soldiers are dying over there, they said it‘s because our jobs are at risk.

WALSH:  Awful.

CRAWFORD:  That‘s what they told the media they told the president.

WALSH:  Awful.

SCARBOROUGH:  Certainly sounds cynical.  Of course, you know, Tony Snow was on earlier today and said the president isn‘t running the war based on those polls that those Republicans seem to be watching.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The president‘s commander-in-chief, and is president of all the American people.  He understands the political concerns of people, but as commander-in-chief, his job, his solemn obligation really is one toward national security.  And that is first and foremost.  If you‘ve got success, if you have things turning around, guess what‘s going to happen.  Public opinion will follow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Joan, I guess you could say that if it‘s a bad thing that the Republican congressmen are looking at the polls and worried about themselves and—instead of the guys and the women over in Iraq, you‘ve got a president, at least, that doesn‘t seem to pay any attention to polls.

WALSH:  Well, it‘s sad, though, because he doesn‘t pay any attention to polls or to real signs of success.  I mean, we have said, you and I, for months, Joe, this surge really can‘t work because there simply aren‘t enough troops to control the country.  Its whack-a-mole.  You might control a neighborhood, and then there‘s an outburst somewhere else.  And in fact, more soldiers are dying because we have taken the fight to where the insurgents are and put more people in harm‘s way, but it‘s a cynical strategy because there aren‘t enough troops to really, really make a permanent difference.

So he‘s not really looking at polls.  OK, I guess that‘s great.  But he‘s not really looking at what‘s on the ground, either.  He didn‘t listen to his generals.  He changed up his generals when they told him news he didn‘t want to hear.  He put poor Petraeus in there.  He‘s not listening to Gates.  I mean, he‘s not listening to anyone.  It‘s this stubborn...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, it is—and again, you‘re exactly right, Joan.  We‘ve been talking about it for months.  This is a president who appears to be standing alone in the world, at least alone with 28 percent of the American people on his side.  Everybody else seems to be against this plan of fighting this war until the bitter end.  And I think most Americans think that, you know, it‘s time to bring the troops home, at some point soon.

Now, everybody hold on.  We‘re going to keep talking about this when we move forward after the break.  But also ahead: Fighting terror is no Mickey Mouse game.  So why is a character that looks suspiciously like the beloved Disney character being used to spout violence against Israel?  That frightening story ahead.

And later: One predator tries to talk his way out of trouble.  Yes, like that‘ll work!  “DATELINE‘s” Chris Hansen takes us behind the scenes of one of his hidden camera investigations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tony, of course, there‘s big news about a fascinating meeting.  You had Mark Kirk (ph) and some other Republicans that went over the White House and told the president, Hey, you know, Mr. President, you‘re on a short leash.  What can you tell us about that meeting?

SNOW:  Nothing.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s why we love you!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Absolutely nothing.  That was White House press secretary Tony Snow on the air with me this morning.  He was tight-lipped about the president‘s private meeting with some top Republicans earlier this week.

Our panel is still with us—Michael Crowley, Joan Walsh and Craig Crawford.  And you know, Craig, he was talking about—Tony Snow was talking about how there was this great exchange back and forth.  But it seems to me that it‘s a symbiotic relationship.  The president‘s allowing (ph) the Republicans to come over, talk to him, but it seems like they‘re just doing that, as you all said earlier, to protect their own backsides, and then they go ahead and vote with the president.  Is this just all a big PR game?

CRAWFORD:  I really wonder, you know, how—how new or different this meeting actually was.  You know, Tony Snow did say this is part of routine meetings we have with lots of lawmakers.  I have a feeling, you know, the president may have been hearing a lot of this kind of stuff for a long time, even back before the mid-term election.  But as I say, what‘s different here—and it‘s significant—is that Republican, unlike—uncharacteristic for them, when they put on a united front in the public, even though they‘re giving the president a hard time in private meetings, here they were most eager to put the word out that they had had this meeting and that they have said these...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and they ran out.  Obviously, they‘re very scared about what‘s going to happen next year.  And if I were a Republican in a swing district, I‘d be concerned, too.

CRAWFORD:  But you know, they weren‘t telling him anything he didn‘t know.  I mean, they were saying the war‘s unpopular.  Well, he knows that, and that it‘s hurting them politically...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But Joan...

CRAWFORD:  I mean, there wasn‘t a whole lot new they were telling.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, but Joan, they did said, Shut up.  I mean, they said, If you‘re going to talk about the war...

WALSH:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... let General Petraeus talk instead of you, Mr.

Commander-in-chief.

WALSH:  You‘ve got no credibility...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  ... from you anymore.

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s some tough medicine.

WALSH:  That might have been the toughest thing they said.  But you know, this is one of those times that I‘m actually prone to believe Tony Snow and not the Republicans or the media.  Tony Snow said they did not read him the riot act, and I believe that.  I think that they walked in.  They probably got coverage in their districts for standing up to the president.  They got a lot of political credit for doing something tough.  And then at the end of the day, they don‘t put anything behind it, and hundreds of American soldiers are dying.

I mean, the cynicism of this idea, that they‘ve been privately telling him, privately telling reporters, We don‘t support it, we don‘t think it‘ll work, but we‘re going to give him until September, when, you know, a hundred—at least 100 soldiers die a month—it‘s really quite mid-boggling.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know what‘s been mind-boggling to me for some time is the fact that, Michael Crowley, you‘ve got actually Democrats and Republicans who have done very little to bring the troops home, done very little to defund this process.  But Democrats appear now finally to be stepping up and challenging this president.  They sent him a bill, he vetoes it, they send him another bill, which he‘s going to veto again.  I mean, you can‘t—we cannot say that the Democrats are not staking out their own distinct position, can we.

CROWLEY:  No, that‘s right.  I mean, I think they feel like they had a mandate in the last election and that the public is with them on this and that they can keep swinging.  The polls look pretty good.

We should differentiate, though, What happened today was in the House, and the House is more liberal than the Senate.  And there are people in the Senate—it‘s not going to play out the same way in the Senate.  Carl Levin, who‘s the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, takes a lot of heat from the anti-war left because he is not in the same place.  He is not in a quick withdrawal place, and he commands a lot of respect over there.  So it‘s not quite as clear in the Senate.

But I just want to say, you know, I think Craig—Craig is right, they‘re not telling the president anything new, these Republicans in that meeting, that the difference is that they‘re now going to the media and undercutting the president.

The other thing is, you know you‘re in trouble when the president has, basically, the credibility—you know that guy, Baghdad Bob?  I mean, is it sort of bad taste to say that the president is kind of becoming like the Iraqi information minister, which is—stop talking.  Nobody believes you.  And when you say something, everyone assumes the opposite.  And you get the feeling that people in the Republican Party are treating Bush like Baghdad Bob, at this point.  It‘s really kind of...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  Baghdad Bush.

SCARBOROUGH:  It is so interesting, though, that Republicans behind the scenes have been criticizing this president now at least since Hurricane Katrina, and moving forward about Katrina, about Harriet Miers and about this war.  Craig, they haven‘t been happy with this president for a long time, have they.

CRAWFORD:  They got—that‘s true...

SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘m talking about Republicans.

CRAWFORD:  They got—Republicans—they have a tough choice coming soon because it‘s getting closer and closer to the next election, and the more they tear down this president and try to, you know, seek distance—it may not be what they want because at the end of the day, he‘s the Republican Party leader.  He‘s the president of their party.  They‘re going to be running with him, love him or hate him.  And I think they got to start making some decisions about where they‘re going to tear him down and where they‘re not.

I think they‘re backing off on the Gonzales case, for example, as an area where they‘re probably not going to push any further on that and further undermine the administration.  It‘s part of the Democrats”—one thing quickly I want to point out is, one thing is now missing from the debate.  Remember what everybody used to say, Well, what‘s the Democrats‘ plan?  Where‘s their plan?  Republicans ran in the mid-term.

WALSH:  Right.

CRAWFORD:  Well, careful what you wish for.  They got a plan.

SCARBOROUGH:  Democrats have a plan.  And the question is, if the Republicans are going to step forward with their own individual plan, I can tell you, Americans always reward members of either party when they show independence and are willing to fight for what they believe in.  And if the Republicans just stand behind this president and don‘t come up with an alternate plan, they will pay at the polls next year.

Joan Walsh, Michael Crowley, Craig Crawford, thanks so much for being with us.

And Craig, of course, will join us tomorrow for “MORNING JOE.”  God knows what he‘ll say.  I‘m sure it‘s going to be hilarious, though.  Going to be hitting the airwaves bright and early, 6:00 AM Eastern.  I‘m going to be joined by panelists John Ridley and Willie Geist.  Our guest tomorrow (INAUDIBLE) Walter Isaacson, Peter Gammons (ph) and Senator Hillary Clinton.  Quite a lineup—Russert, Isaacson, Gammons and Clinton.

And coming up, a new low in children‘s television as Hamas tries to use Mickey Mouse to teach—hey, we‘re going to show you why Palestinian efforts to take it off the air may not work.

But first, Conan shows us what celebrities really think about current events.  That‘s next in “Must See S.C.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, it‘s time to let the horse out to pasture.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” some video you just got to see.  First up: Do celebrities really have all the answers?  Well, not according to Conan O‘Brien‘s celebrity survey.  Survey says?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN:  When I watched David Hasselhoff‘s drunk tape, I thought—Tom Arnold wrote, I know how he feels.  Dr. Phil wrote, He‘s crying out for help.  Paula Abdul wrote, You call that drunk?

Now that King Herod‘s tomb has been discovered, Ted Koppel wrote, The veracity of scripture will finally be tested.  Matt Lauer wrote, Age-old questions will finally be answered.  Larry King wrote, I can finally get my frisbee back.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And finally, (INAUDIBLE) the most damaging thing (ph) in this president‘s legacy, David Letterman‘s “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches.”

(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:  The—first question.  Our reconstruction strategy initially...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh!  And coming up, “To Catch a Predator” (INAUDIBLE) finds himself face to face with Chris Hansen.  Come on, buddy.  You should have known better.  Some never-before-seen footage from the hugely popular undercover sex sting investigation.  Plus: From “Idol” to just plain dull.  Are “American Idol‘s” final three really the best singing this country has to offer?  We‘re going to take a look at why the hit show may not be staying alive much longer, thanks to this year‘s finalists and dropping (ph) ladies (ph).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OxyContin is addicting?  Coming up, he looks like Mickey Mouse, but his message is anything but kid-friendly.  How a children‘s show sponsored by Hamas is teaching terror.  That story and a lot more, in just minutes.

But, first, you‘ve seen “Dateline‘s” hidden camera sex predator series, but now take a look at these predators like you‘ve never seen them before.  “Dateline” is taking you behind the scenes with never-before-aired raw footage, including predators who‘ve seen Chris Hansen and his sting operations before, but still try to talk their way out of it. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hello? 

DANIEL PULIDO, CAUGHT ON “DATELINE NBC”:  Hello, Sammy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, come on in. 

PULIDO:  Where are you? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I got to finish brushing my teeth, OK?  Just wait at the counter for a second. 

PULIDO:  OK. 

CHRIS HANSEN, CORRESPONDENT, “DATELINE NBC”:  We had already done two investigations.  Going into this third one, I wondered to myself, what if nobody shows up?  I mean, people must know that “Dateline” is out there doing another investigation.  Well, in fact, we had guys show up who had seen our previous shows and came in anyway.  And Daniel Pulido was one of them. 

How are you tonight?  Why don‘t you have a seat right there please?  Do me a favor and keep your hands out of your pockets, OK?  What are you up to tonight? 

PULIDO:  Nothing. 

HANSEN:  Nothing?

PULIDO:  No.

HANSEN:  Nothing good? 

PULIDO:  Nothing good, no.

HANSEN:  Nothing good?  Yes, who are you here to see? 

PULIDO:  The girl on the Internet.

HANSEN:  The girl on the Internet.  And what is that girl‘s name? 

PULIDO:  I think it was Sammy. 

HANSEN:  Sammy?  Right.  And how old is Sammy? 

PULIDO:  I don‘t know.  She said that she was 14.

HANSEN:  And how old are you? 

PULIDO:  I‘m 40. 

HANSEN:  Forty.  And you think it‘s OK to come see a 14-year-old girl at 40? 

PULIDO:  No, it‘s not OK. 

HANSEN:  Then why did you do it? 

PULIDO:  You know what?  It‘s going to seem crazy. 

HANSEN:  Try me. 

PULIDO:  But I was going to tell her that there was a lot of people who do that stuff at times.  I wasn‘t going to do anything to her.

HANSEN:  You allowed her to see these pictures of yourself.  This? 

PULIDO:  Yes.

HANSEN:  That, that‘s you.

PULIDO:  Yes.

HANSEN:  And you‘re, what, masturbating there?

PULIDO:  Playing with myself. 

HANSEN:  Playing with yourself, yes.  And you knew that a 13-year-old girl was going to see those? 

PULIDO:  Yes. 

HANSEN:  And you did this just to teach her a lesson? 

PULIDO:  Well, basically, yes. 

HANSEN:  Basically.  Do you see why that‘s hard to believe? 

PULIDO:  I know it is. 

HANSEN:  First of all, you lied and told her you were 30, and you‘re really 40. 

PULIDO:  I‘m 40.

HANSEN:  You say, “You‘re cute.  You don‘t look 13.”  You ask where she is, “just asking because I‘m naked.”  “You ever see a naked guy before?  You ever feel a blank before?  What have you done?  Did you like it?  How old was the guy?  Will you give a” slang for oral sex?  “But, remember, I‘m 30.” 

It sounds like you wanted to date her, not teach her a lesson about the dangers—I mean, I guess you would have learned about the dangers of the Internet, had I not been there and had she been here, huh?

PULIDO:  Well, you‘re going to make it sound like that, you know, so (INAUDIBLE)

HANSEN:  Would you be OK if a grown man of 40 years old walked into your home to meet your daughter?

PULIDO:  Of course not.  Of course not.

HANSEN:  Then why is it OK for you to do this?

PULIDO:  I don‘t know.  It‘s stupid.  Very stupid. 

HANSEN:  So then all that stuff about teaching her a lesson and being the protector, that‘s a big lie, then? 

PULIDO:  No, it‘s what I was going to tell her, too.

HANSEN:  Why couldn‘t you just tell her that on the Internet?  Why couldn‘t you just say, “This is a bad idea.  You‘re young.  You shouldn‘t be doing this”?

PULIDO:  That‘s true. 

HANSEN:  Why not call the Internet service provider and say, “Look, there‘s a girl here.  She might be in danger”?

PULIDO:  It‘s true.

HANSEN:  But you didn‘t do any of that, did you? 

PULIDO:  No. 

HANSEN:  No, you came here.  Did you bring condoms with you? 

PULIDO:  No. 

HANSEN:  Are you sure?

PULIDO:  Yes, I did.

HANSEN:  You did bring condoms?

PULIDO:  Yes, I did.

HANSEN:  And what part of the lesson...

PULIDO:  I wasn‘t going to use them.  I was going to give them to her.

HANSEN:  You were going to give her condoms?

PULIDO:  And tell her, look, if you‘re going to do this (INAUDIBLE)

HANSEN:  All right, so you just came over to tell her it‘s a bad idea to talk to guys on the Internet, but if you‘re going to talk, “Here, use some condoms”?  Danny, it doesn‘t wash. 

PULIDO:  I know.

HANSEN:  It doesn‘t wash.

PULIDO:  Well, I‘m sorry.

HANSEN:  Why don‘t you start again and just tell me what your plan was tonight?

PULIDO:  Just to meet her. 

HANSEN:  Just to meet her?  But the condoms, the sex talk...

PULIDO:  I know, I‘ve never done this before.  I mean, I have never been (INAUDIBLE)

HANSEN:  Do you ever watch TV, Danny? 

PULIDO:  Yes.

HANSEN:  Do you ever watch “Dateline NBC”? 

PULIDO:  Yes.

HANSEN:  Have you ever seen our stories on computer predators? 

PULIDO:  Yes.

HANSEN:  This is one of them.  Now, if there‘s anything else you‘d like to say for yourself...

PULIDO:  (INAUDIBLE)

HANSEN:  ... then obviously you‘re free to leave. 

PULIDO:  Thank you. 

HANSEN:  I think some of these guys truly believe that “Dateline” can‘t be everywhere.  “What are the odds of it happening to me?  Law enforcement can‘t be everywhere.  I‘m not going to get caught.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Walk all the way to the street.  Stop.  Turn around. 

HANSEN:  There‘s another group of guys who I think, you know, are so caught up in the chance and the addiction to the porn sites that they get to a point where nothing will satisfy them but a face-to-face meeting. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And make sure you catch the full hour “Predator Raw,” the unseen tapes.  That‘s going to be coming up next.

Now, if adults seeking sexual favors from kids isn‘t bad enough, how about using a beloved cartoon character to spew hatred against Israel?  It‘s happening in the Middle East on a Hamas-run television network, and NBC‘s Martin Fletcher has all the details. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC NEWS (voice-over):  It isn‘t what “The Mickey Mouse Club” had in mind.  A Palestinian rip-off called Farfur, with a message to little children.

“Oh, Jerusalem, it is the time of death.  We will never surrender to the enemies.”

ITAMAR MARCUS, DIRECTOR, PALESTINIAN MEDIA WATCH:  See, these are very, very problematic messages.

FLETCHER:  The programs run at least twice a week on Hamas TV.  A lot of it is innocent fun, and a lot of it isn‘t. 

MARCUS:  We would like to hear Mickey Mouse teaching these kids coexistence.  We‘d like to hear him telling them that they have a neighbor who they can live with.

FLETCHER:  Israelis aren‘t the only ones worried.  This morning, the Palestinian minister of information said he‘d order the Mickey Mouse rip-off off the air. 

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN INFORMATION MINISTER:  It‘s a primitive show, and it‘s wrong.  And we‘ve contacted them, and we asked them to revise it, and they agreed.

FLETCHER:  But Hamas TV told NBC News they‘d received no such order, and Mickey‘s message to Palestinian children continues. 

Martin Fletcher, NBC News, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  It is the time of death, it is the time of war, M-O-U-S-

E. 

Coming up next, “Idol” ratings down.  It‘s complete anarchy.  What‘re going on next?  Dogs and cats living in harmony?  We‘re going to be talking about how and why the ratings juggernaut may be going out with a whimper this season and why it may mean the end of America‘s most popular phenomenal TV show. 

And later in “Hollyweird,” Britney Spears strikes again.  Does the pop tart want all of her dancers to go bald?  Michael?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Blake, you are safe.  That means we lose LaKisha tonight. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  How can you lose LaKisha?  Another one bites the dust, as “American Idol” sheds another singer in its race for the finish line.  But is “Idol‘s” reign as TV‘s top show coming to an end?  The shows ratings have plunged this season, down double digits from last year, causing media insiders to take note.  “Media Life” magazine reports, quote, “The declines are undeniable.  The show has been losing audience steadily for several weeks.  Are viewers growing tired of ‘Idol‘s‘ act?”

Here now to talk about it, Courtney Hazlett.  She‘s the senior reporter for “OK” magazine.  And still with us, screenwriter and commentator John Ridley, who‘s been with us, I think, since 6:00 am yesterday morning.

John, “American Idol‘s” ratings are not what they used to be.  In fact, I think “House” at least tied them a couple of nights ago.  That just never happens.  Is it because “American Idol” has just gotten too dull this season?

JOHN RIDLEY, SCREENWRITER AND COMMENTATOR:  We know the show now.  We know it from the very beginning.  You have the auditions across America.  You get a bunch of wacky, bad singers who come in.  They cut those together  You get your core group that comes in.  Then you have Randy Jackson, who‘s a very nice guy, but he says, “Dawg, dawg, dawg,” Paula says something about sunrise or sunset, Simon says something snarky.  None of it matters.  America votes, and then we winnow it down to whoever that person who is supposed to be the “American Idol” that goes onto America.

In the first year with Kelly and Justin, that‘s the way it worked.  It was a big, big deal.  Now, you know, Elliot Yamin has got an album out.  Chris Daughtry has got an album out.  Kellie Pickler has got an album out.  If you‘re in the top 10, you‘re going to get an album.  So what difference does it make?  The dullness has set in from the format structure.  It‘s a victim of its own design.

SCARBOROUGH:  Dawg, dawg, dawg...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  One marketing executive told the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” “The show‘s become too much of a freak show.”  She said, quote, “FOX has been outfoxed.  They turned it into such a freak show at the beginning, they were a lot meaner, and that, in turn, gave life to outside efforts by people like Howard Stern to basically destroy the show.”  And, of course, I think they had some people, Courtney, this year at the beginning that were mentally challenged.  It just got so mean and ugly. 

COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE:  I hear what you‘re saying, but to say that “American Idol” is gone is just crazy talk.  It‘s still the number-one show.  Even the results show is still top one or two at the very, very worst. 

I hear what every one is saying about “House.”  They‘re retaining viewers.  “House” is retaining “Idol‘s” viewers, which is really a compliment to “House” and not so much a diss on the “American Idol.”  It‘s still a phenomenal show.  Millions of people are watching.  I understand the shtick isn‘t a novelty anymore, but it‘s still fun to watch. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But it‘s dull.  I mean, you know, this year‘s auditions were marked by their meanest that was just talking about and that others like the media buyer said many have actually hurt the show.  Take a look at some of the auditions that set the judges off this year. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  I don‘t know what I would do if I didn‘t have you in my life. 

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  That comes under the category of annoying. 

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Oh, come on. 

COWELL:  Oh, for God‘s sake. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Loving you—sorry. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Because I‘m dreaming of you tonight, until tomorrow I‘ll be holding you tight. 

COWELL:  I believe I‘ve got to stop this.  I‘m sorry. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Dawg, dawg, dawg.  John Ridley, we‘ve seen it before, what, four, five, six years?  I mean, they‘re jumping the shark, aren‘t they? 

RIDLEY:  Well, the thing is, I think, with William Hung a couple of years ago, it was so bad, it was funny, and he actually got a recording contract, and, you know, some people thought it was so horribly awful.  Other people thought it was kind of cute.  But that was sort of the nadir of everything, where it becomes its own joke. 

And the other thing, as the show goes on, with all the respect I have for Courtney, there are economics involved.  And the fact of the matter is, as any show goes into its life, the license fees for these shows go up and the amount of money that the networks can make from it starts to diminish.  So even a 15 percent drop, if you extrapolate that year to year, it‘s still a juggernaut.  And Courtney is right:  This show is not going to disappear tomorrow or next year.  But it becomes about how much money are they making on a show that is getting a little bit long in the tooth?  And is this drop going to become precipitous?  When the stink of failure gets on something and it gets out there and people talk about it, how much longer is “Idol” actually going to last? 

(CROSSTALK)

HAZLETT:  I think that‘s a really interesting point.  And, actually, I think it will be interesting to see if “American Idol” takes a note from the pages of “Lost.”  It was just announced that their end date is going to be in 2010.  They said, you know what?  We see this story ending.  This is when we‘re going to stop it, and maybe actually see viewership for “Lost” and “American Idol” actually go up, when people say, “OK, there‘s an end date for this.  This is all the time we‘ve got for it.”  Because, you know, I was watching those auditions again right there, and I wanted to put a fork through my eye. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They are painful.  And who‘s going to want to watch it next year?

HAZLETT:  But what network is going to pull the plug right now? 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, they had people come in this year who were mentally challenged that they made fun of.  They had a guy come in, in a spacesuit.  That‘s what goes on at the beginning of the year.  And, yes, everybody is going to want to get cutlery out and stick it through their eyes when this starts up next year, but that happens at the beginning of the year.  At the end of the year, there are always questions about whether they‘re trying to fix these things.  And there‘s something online in the “Chicago Tribune” that offered up a theory today that producers are trying to pick their own winner.  And they write, quote, “It couldn‘t be more clear that the producers are trying to engineer a Jordin Sparks win.  She‘s gotten to do all the important closing numbers.  And the judges are, in general, being awfully kind to her.”

And, you know, it‘s just like LaKisha just she got pounded starting about four or five weeks ago.  And a lot of people—I think the “Washington Post” wrote that it was obvious they were trying to get her off the show.  I mean, for some reason, these producers seem to pick who they want to win.  And all of a sudden, placement is so important, isn‘t it, John Ridley?  And I guess all to put forward a narrative.

RIDLEY:  Well, we know by now, Joe, that reality television is not always reality television.  It‘s edited in certain ways.  There are people involved who shape these stories.  And, certainly, in terms of who goes where, can make a difference.

So it‘s not real—I think they would like to try to put together the most exciting finish that they can have.  The problem is, though, it‘s not scripted television.  You can‘t change it that much.  You look at a show like “E.R.” that‘s been on forever, you can change it.  You can bring in new characters and alter the show.  It‘s going to be very hard to change “American Idol” for the long run.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  I think the numbers are going to keep going down. 

Courtney, stay with us.  John Ridley, go home and catch some Z‘s. 

RIDLEY:  Thank you.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll see you back—I‘ll see both of you back here tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. for “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.  And we‘re going to be talking with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tim Russert, and many others. 

But coming up next here, you can call Paris Hilton a dumbbell, but she might kick your butt.  Tell your personal trainer “Hollyweird” is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tell your personal trainer you got to bulk up fast, baby, because you‘re going to jail.  It‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, Paris Hilton looks like she‘s concerned about tough prison chicks.  Here now to talk about it, from VH1‘s “Best Week Ever,” Cecily Knobler, who I‘m sure was with the queen this past week, and “OK” magazine‘s senior reporter Courtney Hazlett.

Courtney, what is the latest on Miss Paris? 

HAZLETT:  Paris Hilton has been spotted leaving the gym with a very, very bulky and surely looking trainer, leading people to think that she‘s trying to bulk up in case she gets roughed up a little bit when she‘s in the slammer.  I can‘t say that it‘s a bad idea.

SCARBOROUGH:  Cecily, what‘s your take on this?

CECILY KNOBLER, VH1‘S “BEST WEEK EVER”:  I think it‘s great.  I agree, I think it‘s great if she‘s getting buffed up, because I don‘t think her jail mates are going to like her very much.  And I will say, when she does get in her first fight, if one of her inmates, you know, say like burns her with a cigarette, I so hope she goes, “That‘s hot,” because it really will be hot.

HAZLETT:  I hope she saves it for HBO.  I mean, this would be great.

SCARBOROUGH:  That would be very good.  I can‘t wait to see the movie from the book.  And I don‘t know who‘s going to write it for her, but maybe she could take dictation.

Anyway, Britney Spears made headlines a few months ago when she shaved her head.  Now she wants all of her dancers to do the same.  Tell me about it, Courtney.

HAZLETT:  Well, she‘s had about an hour-long come back, when you add all the concerts up together, and now she‘s (INAUDIBLE) dancers who, quite honestly, have upstaged her in all these 12- to 15-minute concerts.  And she said, “Hey, y‘all, can you just shave your head like me?” 

SCARBOROUGH:  “Hey, y‘all.”

HAZLETT:  Exactly.  She‘s a little bit jealous of their dancing ability and their hair, it would turn out.

SCARBOROUGH:  Can you call it a comeback, though, Cecily, if you‘re lip-synching and chewing gum and smoking a cigarette at the same time?  And also carrying around a chicken bone that you‘re chewing on while you‘re supposed to be singing “Hit Me Baby, One More Time”?

KNOBLER:  Yes, I don‘t think it‘s quite a comeback, but, you know, as far as asking her—I mean, she just wants to look better than her dancers, right.  And at least she‘s not saying like, “Hey, y‘all, can you all have two babies with K-Fed and have a complete meltdown?  Then we‘re all even, OK, y‘all?  Thanks.”

SCARBOROUGH:  Just wants her to look obviously a little bit trouble there.  And I think—I mean, that‘s what I do with everybody around here, all the guys that are behind the cameras, to make sure that—actually, they look like mutants.

But, anyway, apparently trouble—speaking of mutants—troubled actress Lindsay Lohan doesn‘t even have enough sense to look both ways before crossing the street.  Please, Courtney, tell me this beautiful young woman got run over by a bus in Los Angeles, didn‘t she?

HAZLETT:  I think it was a cab in New York, but you‘re close.  She was in L.A. for a long time.  She was on her way to the after party for her premiere of “Georgia Rule,” which I hear is a fantastic movie.  And I haven‘t seen it yet, but apparently the cab driver didn‘t think so much.  And there was near-miss involved, and she barely escaped harm and disfigurement.

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s frightening.  Cecily, just think of all the great movies we could have missed if she had been run over.

KNOBLER:  I know.  To be fair, I have actually seen the movie, and I will say that, in it, just like now, she looks like one, big, giant carrot.  She is so orange, it‘s unbelievable.  But to be fair, as far as almost getting hit, I think she thought the cabbie was her dealer and she had to get there quickly.  So we understand that, right?

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, dealing in carrots.  Yes, that‘s right.  No slander statements here.

KNOBLER:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  Courtney Hazlett, thank you so much.  Cecily Knobler, as always, love having you here.  And, Courtney, we‘re going to see you tomorrow morning right here on MSNBC “Morning Joe.”  Courtney, you know, it‘s like we‘re the iron men and iron woman.  You‘ve got Lou Gehrig.  You‘ve got Cal Ripken, Jr., and you‘ve got us, right?

HAZLETT:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re here first thing in the morning; we‘re here last thing at night.  And, of course, our broadcast starts tomorrow at 6:00 a.m.  Eastern.  That‘s 3:00 a.m. where you are, Ms. Knobler.  And I‘ll be glad to see y‘all out there.  We‘re going to be joined by panelists John Ridley and Willie Geist and, of course, Courtney Hazlett.  And our guests tomorrow include Tim Russert, Walter Isaacson is going to be talking about that great Einstein book.  Peter Gammons is going to be asking about the Sox.  And Senator Hillary Clinton.  It‘s going to be an exciting show.  I hope you‘ll be there tomorrow morning.

That‘s all the time we have for tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Up next, it‘s “Predator Raw: The Unseen Tapes.”

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

transcript

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,