Guests: Joe Klein, Jane Fleming, Richard Wolfe
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome to the show. Tonight, the White House on a hiring spree for white collar criminal attorneys, why the Bush administration is getting lawyered up while bracing for a flood of investigations in the new year.
But first, while we in America continue to celebrate the holiday season, there is no break from the daily carnage in Iraq, not even on Christmas day. Yesterday and today saw that country sink deeper into chaos, with Shiite death squads killing Sunnis outside their most sacred religious shrine.
And today more news to brighten the spirits of blood thirsty Shiites, former dictator Saddam Hussein will be put to death within the next month for the torture and killing of countless Shiites and Kurds over his 30 year reign. But perhaps the most jolting news from Iraq today comes in the form after of a body count, specifically, the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the beginning of this war. Today that number reached 2,978. More Americans killed than Osama bin Laden killed in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001.
Now for almost four years the president and his administration have said that going to war in Iraq was necessary to face the threats confronting Americans in a post 9/11 world. But with this war spinning wildly out of control, and experts at a loss as how to best regain the upper hand in that troubled region, Americans could be justified in asking tonight whether after all is said and done, Mr. Bush’s cure has proven to be more dangerous to America than the original disease.
Here to answer that question and talk about the deadly milestone is “Time Magazine” columnist Joe Klein, Jane Fleming—she’s executive director for Young Democrats of America—and MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle.
Joe Klein, what does it mean tonight that more Americans have died in Iraq than died on 9/11?
JOE KLEIN, “TIME MAGAZINE”: Well, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. You know, in one hand you have an individual act of monumental depravity, probably the worst terrorist attack—maybe a unique act—the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world. And on the other hand you have a monumental act of individual arrogance and incompetence on the part of the president, the war in Iraq.
You know, this death total today is another mile post on the road to futility. We’ll hit another one probably next month when more than 3,000 Americans will have been killed. But, you know, every time we pass one of these it just serves to remind the public that we are in a desperate, desperate situation over there, and the president, so far, doesn’t seem to have any answers for it.
SCARBOROUGH: And Mike Barnicle, you know, Americans don’t seem to sweat the details when it comes to war and politics. But they intuitively know when and what to focus on. Do you believe the fact that Mr. Bush’s cure is more deadly than the disease will have an impact on American politics and politicians, as Democrats take control of Congress next week?
MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it’s already had an impact, Joe, clearly. You saw part of the impact in the November elections. Now whether politicians of both parties realize the depth of the impact, that’s another question entirely. I mean, they are so reliant on polls rather than their own courage, their own conviction.
And when it comes to the numbers involved in this war, we are a nation obsessed with numbers. We, of course, will make a huge deal, as we ought to, about the fact that more Americans have now died in Iraq than died on September 11th. We are obsessed with 10th anniversaries, 25th anniversaries. The problem with this war, Joe, is that it affects so few people, in terms of their service to this country, the noble Americans in uniform.
And the number one, the number one is the most important number to remember, the one son lost to family in Dubuque, Iowa, the one daughter killed in a helicopter crash in Anbar Province, who comes from Seattle, Washington. The number one, that loss is the most critical loss of all. And we are there, and we are led by a president who, during this glorious time of year, Christmas and New Years, when so very few people sacrifice here at home, we have a president of the United States who last week, just last week, told us once again to go shopping.
SCARBOROUGH: Mike, I want to read you, speaking of one, what the mother of fire fighter, who was lost on 9/11, said. She said, “I just would like this war to stop in whatever way we need to. I can hardly tolerate it when I see these beautiful people. It reminds me of my son. These people are being massacred.” Mike, is that what most Americans are thinking tonight, as they look at the news and see more and more Americans dying every day, supposedly for little gain in Iraq.
BARNICLE: You know, it’s odd that you use that from Sally Reagan Heart (ph), Joe. I’ve spoke to Sally Reagan Heart several times since she lost her son Christian, New York City fire fighter, on September 11th in the World Trade Center. He was a wonderful young fellow, obviously. He, like so many others, lost on September 11th, lost in Iraq—there are millions of Americans sitting around their kitchens tonight wondering about those who have been lost, and worrying about those who might still be lost down the road.
Could it be your 16-year-old son out there this evening who in two years from now will be 18, and perhaps eligible for the armed services, fighting in this war, that this president of the United States engaged in, when clearly, in retrospect—all of us can read the papers, all of us know a bit more about the history now than we did before—wondering why, why this president chose to go to war with Iraq, the single most important function any chief executive of any country can engage in. He started this war when he didn’t have to, and we are left with it today.
SCARBOROUGH: Jane, what answer do the Democrats bring to stopping the killing and bringing our troops home, if that, in fact, is what Democrats believe needs to be done?
JANE FLEMING, YOUNG DEMOCRATS OF AMERICA: It’s absolutely what Democrats believe needs to be done. And it’s what the vast majority of Americans believe what needs to be done. Bush is in complete denial, him and McCain are talking about adding more troops.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, so tell me what Democrats are going to do when they take control of Congress.
FLEMING: Here’s a few things that we’ll do. We’ll encourage, not only the president, but our military to put the special force back on Osama bin Laden, which is who was responsible for the 9/11 tragedies to begin with. Bush cut those special forces.
SCARBOROUGH: How do we get the troops out of Iraq to do that?
FLEMING: We need to start bringing our troops out of Iraq and redeploying them to where Osama bin Laden is. Adding more troops is clearly not the answer. It escalates violence. And if the answer that President Bush keeps telling us is that we want more trained military folks in the Iraqi army, that they can secure their own borders, well then why aren’t we putting more people on training? Why are we saying we’re going to put more people --
SCARBOROUGH: Jane, do the Democrats, do you find, the war over there, is that really the only thing they can do, is to stop writing checks for the president to carry this war out in Iraq?
FLEMING: You know, more and more people in D.C. are absolutely talking about that. You’ll hear more and more Democrats, I think, talking about that. Clearly, there’s a worry that if Democrats do that, we’ll be seen as not supporting our troops. When, in reality, we’re saying, we’re not giving an empty, blank checkbook to the president anymore. All he’s doing is pushing everything through this emergency spending, which doesn’t make any sense. And it has no security of the spending whatsoever. And so I think you’ll see more Democrats talking about not doing an empty check anymore for Bush. And admitting that we were wrong to do it in the first place. We were wrong to give President Bush that ability to do that.
SCARBOROUGH: Joe Klein, what do you think Democrats will be able to offer, as far as any alternative to get America out of this quagmire, to either get the troops home, or try to figure out a way to win that war, even though the majority of Americans just don’t think that’s possible anymore?
KLEIN: Well, the first thing Democrats have to do is stop sounding completely foolish and ill informed about the military. Sending special operations forces to go hunting for Osama bin Laden at this point is ridiculous. He’s in Pakistan. You might want to send a covert action team there to assassinate him, but we need all the special operations forces we have in Iraq to make sure that as we leave, we leave in an intelligent way, and we don’t give an advantage to al Qaeda in Iraq, or the Iranians.
I think that there’s a need for more troops in Afghanistan, more conventional troops. But the Democrats have to be very, very careful about what they propose. We have to be a lot smarter about getting out of this war than the way we got into it. And we have to do it with the least possible damage. There’s going to be tremendous damage as we leave. But I’ve come to believe that, at this point, that would be less than the damage that we’re creating now by staying.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Joe, you talked about Iran. Talk about the situation that gets more dangerous by the moment with Iran. Now the “New York Times” is reporting that we’re actually arresting Iranians, high-ranking Iranians in Iraq.
KLEIN: Boy, I’d love to know more about that. The experts I usually talk to about this weren’t around today. I think they’re still celebrating Christmas with their families, but here’s what I hope that this doesn’t mean. I hope that this is not a provocation on the part—a deliberate provocation on the part of the Bush administration.
SCARBOROUGH: But Joe, isn’t that what we’re doing? We’ve got the Pentagon talking about sending a lot more troops into the Persian Gulf? It seems like we’re provoking?
KLEIN: Well, sending another carrier battle group in is what they’re talking about. That isn’t the same as actually arresting Iranian nationals, Iranian diplomats. That is inviting the Iranians to make more trouble in Iraq, to give us the pretext for attacking Iran. Now, I have to say that at this point Bush doesn’t have the political or the spiritual or the moral wherewithal to expand this war. It would be not only a disaster for this country, it would be a disgrace.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, the White House is saying that this incident shows that Iran is helping fuel the insurgency, but Iran’s Foreign Ministry warned, and said this, quote, the move against international regulations can have unpleasant consequences. Mike Barnicle, it certainly sounds like we are ramping up to a coming conflict, if not war with Iran.
BARNICLE: You know, seriously Joe, and I don’t think it’s an overstatement to sense that their might be some level in instability and isolation at the top of this administration. When we are sending elements of the Mediterranean Fleet toward Iran and Persian Gulf, as Joe Klein just mentioned, another carrier battle group, what are they going to do? What are they going to do? They’re not there to take photographs. They’re not there on a cruise. They’re there, supposedly, to saber rattle off the coast of Iran.
Now, we have the Iranians arrested within Iraq. It would come as no surprise to anyone in this country, who has followed war and the politics of this war, to find out multiple numbers of Somalians arrested within Iraq, multiple numbers of Egyptians arrested within Iraq, multiple numbers of Saudi Arabians arrested and detained within Iraq, all drawn there like a magnet to fight the United States of America. And yet our response is, well, we’re going to throw in more troops into Baghdad, which will do nothing to stem the level of violence. And we’re going to sail a new carrier battle group toward Iran, to further intimidate the Iranians. They’re not going to be intimidated by us at this stage of the war. It’s not going to happen.
KLEIN: Joe, the other thing about this, and what makes it really weird, is that we invaded the compound of Abdul Aziz Hakim, who was the guy that Bush invited to the White House three weeks ago. I mean that’s nutty. And if you really want to go against the militia that has been getting the most benefit from Iran, the shape charges that they’ve been using as IEDs, as improvised explosive devices against our troops, then you go after Moqtada Sadr, who runs the biggest militia, the biggest and most effective armed group in the country. But we’re not doing that.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, and not only are we not doing that, we’re not even going into Sadr City, because the Iraqi government doesn’t want us to go into Sadr City, because we might offend al-Sadr, who, of course, is running one of the biggest terrorist operations in the whole country. Jane, let me end with you. And we’re talking about Iran now, of course. Troubling news over Christmas weekend about Iran. What do Democrats say we do about Iran, if in fact they do develop a nuclear weapon? Do we allow that to happen?
FLEMING: I think sending in troops to escalate violence in Iran is going to be a big mistake, just like it was in Iraq. And so I think we have got to get to the table, to talk to the leaders of Iran, not only Iran, but leaders of the Middle Eastern countries. Bush has done a miserable job at engaging our international allies, and our international so-called enemies. We have got to start talking, and stop using violence as the only resource of a solution of a problem.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you Jane Fleming, thank you Joe Kline. Mike Barnicle, stick around. I would say that Iran is not our so-called enemy. Iran is our enemy. The question is, how do we deal with them?
Coming up next, is President Bush preparing for impeachment? We’re going to show you what the White house is doing to get ready for the Democratic takeover in Washington, and the investigations that may follow. They’re getting lawyered up right now.
And later, how James Brown changed music in America forever. A special look back at the Godfather of Soul’s legacy with some exclusive footage deep from NBC’s archives.
SCARBOROUGH: The White House is bracing itself for a battle. According to the reports today, the president is preparing for a fight, and not with any members of the axis of evil, but with Democrats who are taking control of chairmanships in the House and Senate. President Bush is preparedly loading up on White House lawyers that can defend him against an onslaught of Democratic investigations, ranging from how the administration made their decision to go to war in Iraq to the contacts they handed out in post war Iraq and in the aftermath of Katrina, and even probes into some of Mr. Bush’s domestic policies.
So, is the White House preparing for two long years of investigation? And how far are the Democrats willing to go? Here now, “Newsweek’s” Richard Wolfe and still with us, MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle. Richard, how ugly is the mood in the White House? Do they understand just how significant these investigations are going to be in 2007 and 2008?
RICHARD WOLFE, “NEWSWEEK”: Sure day do. Democrats have signaled very clearly what they want to do and it’s pretty broad ranging. Yes, Iraq is right up there, and that’s going to be emotional, but there’s already pledges to look into oil and gas businesses that are operating on federal property. Hurricane Katrina, especially companies that do business with the federal government, all of this stuff is going to come under scrutiny. And the White House is bracing for the worst.
SCARBOROUGH: Do they understand that this isn’t just going to be a minor part of 2007, that this is going to be significant?
WOLFE: Sure they do. The question politically is how does it square up, all of these aggressive investigations, how does that square up with the Democrats promise to work with the administration. You know, that’s why they’re taking this wait and see approach. It could get very ugly very quickly and that could spill over into what is this kind of honeymoon period we have right now, where people are still talking about bipartisan politics.
SCARBOROUGH: I don’t think there will be a honeymoon. The “Boston Globe” is reporting that Massachusetts Congressmen are planning, quote, a blizzard of investigations against Bush. Congressman Ed Markey, a guy I worked with, said, “We could be the Bush administration’s worst nightmare come to pass, in terms of questions we’ll be able to ask from positions of power.”
And Mike Barnicle, Democrats have not been in positions of power, certainly not in the House, since George Bush became president in 2001. Is this going to be bad for the country?
BARNICLE: Well, I think the interesting thing, Joe, is that the series of inquiries, congressional committees assembling and investigating various things, as Richard pointed out, form the war in Iraq, how we got into the war in Iraq, oil and gas policy, interlocked corruption, the money being stolen in Iraq, the money being squandered in Iraq, all of those things are going to be vital. They will all, obviously, these investigations be conducted by Democratic chairs in the House and the Senate.
The interesting thing is going to be whether or not the Democrats can do two things. Whether they can conduct the inquiries that they have now indicated they are going to conduct, and get something accomplished for the average American citizen, who voted for a change in November, seeking change, hoping for change? If they can come up with something on health care. If they can come up with something on energy policy, then that will be a benefit to the country. Whether they can do both, I don’t know.
SCARBOROUGH: But, you know Mike, when Republicans were investigating Bill Clinton in the 1990s, we heard time and time again, you guys are just interested in investigating the president, instead of doing things for America. My question again, are these investigations good for America?
BARNICLE: I think they are. I think they are good for the country.
I think most people—our attention span as a nation is about that long. I think most people need to have, and I think a lot of people in the media, need to have further reinforcement of the fact that this war, the way we got into this war—not everyone reads “Fiasco.” Not everyone reads the books. Not everyone reads Bob Woodward. And I think more the country learns about how we got into Iraq, the more the country learns about our energy policy, yes, it’s going to be good for the country.
SCARBOROUGH: Richard, a recent “Newsweek” poll asked Americans if the Democrats should investigate the president’s decision to go to war in Iraq. Forty nine percent said yes, 26 percent said no, not a priority, 23 percent said they shouldn’t bother with it at all. Do you expect the White House at some point, if these investigations come fast and furious, do you expect them to take the approach Bill Clinton took, and actually attack Congressmen, saying, well they’re just more interested in beating me up than they are in doing the business of America?
WOLFE: Sure they will. They’re going to present that kind of argument about the run up to war as backward look. Although 49 percent is a high number, surprisingly high number. When you look at the contracts question, the numbers are even higher, up to 70 percent. Where the Democrats are going to get into political trouble really, is in things like investigating eavesdropping, interrogations of prisoners. (INAUDIBLE) on the Judiciary Committee is already committed to that. These kind of political fights the president has won before. I suspect he can frame it again as Democrats trying to undermine the war on terror. But when it comes to contracts, Democrats are on a much safer ground.
SCARBOROUGH: Richard, that’s fascinating. And I agree with you 100 percent. If they do go in and start seeming like they’re conducting investigations to protect the rights of terrorists, as opposed to the rights of American, even on eavesdropping, I think you’re right, it’s something that Democrats may find blowing up in their face. So, on a scale of one to 10, how worried would you say, Richard, is the White House on these investigations?
WOLFE: Let me put it like this, I would say, a number term, about seven. When, after Hurricane Katrina, the Congress, the Republican Congress started investigating everything there, the White House counsel’s office was swamped. They couldn’t look after job number one, which at the time was looking after Harriet Myers and her nomination to the Supreme Court. So they’re worried about being overwhelmed and quite rightly so.
SCARBOROUGH: And finally Mike, we got to go, but in the end, this is a White House that is not used to be questioned, are they?
BARNICLE: Well not, they’re not used to being questioned. They’re not used to giving straight answers either. The next three months, six months are going to be very interesting.
SCARBOROUGH: No doubt about. Hey, thank you so much Mike Barnicle.
Thank you Richard Wolfe. We greatly appreciate you coming in tonight.
Still ahead, imagine a private performance by Kelly Clarkson. How much would you pay for a moment like this? Try 300,000 dollars. Good lord, who would spend that much money on her? Well, the latest craze in Idol mania coming up. We’ll tell you who. but first Jay Leno shows us which doll is Barby’s biggest competition, coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, get grandma away from the eggnog, it’s time for tonight’s must see S.C., video you’ve just got to see. First up, now that Christmas is over, it’s time to return those unwanted gifts. Like Barbie? Well, Jay Leno shows us a new toy that’s giving the doll a run for her money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It’s Nicole Richie. The cops are on her tail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don’t worry, she knows what to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She slipped under the door.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It pays not to eat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where did she go?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better drive against traffic to get away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now Nicole comes with best friend. Now you see it, now you don’t Britney. Now you see her, now you don’t Nicole comes with all you see, and don’t see here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: And finally Jimmy Kimmel gives us a holiday treat with the best of 2007’s unnecessary censorship. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you see certain basketball players like Shaq’s (bleep) it’s like this—you can’t even fit it in the camera.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We’re going here (bleep). Not the number one answer? (Bleep). (Bleep). (Bleep).
COOKIE MONSTER: Oh, yes, oh, yes, yes, that even smells like letter F. Oh, (bleep).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Coming up, if you can’t wait until the next season of “American Idol,” you may not have to. We’re going to find out who’s crazy enough to shell out a few hundred thousand bucks to buy a song or two from their own private idol. Former “Idol” favorite Carmen Rasmusen joins us live.
And later, the life and legacy of the godfather of soul, what other music ledges are saying today about James Brown.
SCARBOROUGH: Coming up, remembering the life and times of James Brown. Rare footage of the godfather of soul you’ve never seen before. We’re going to be talking about that and much more, straight ahead.
But first, it’s just three weeks until the ratings juggernaut and pop culture phenomenon, “American Idol,” returns to the airwaves. But if you just can’t wait for the new season, why not invite your favorite “American Idol” to your New Year’s Eve party? NBC’s Lisa Daniels explains how you can get your own private “Idol” concert for a price.
LISA DANIELS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): America can’t seem to get enough of their “Idols.” Kelly, Ruben, Carrie, Taylor, singing sensations who may soon be coming to a party near you. That’s right:
“American Idols” are for sale. And for the right price, they’ll sing at your next party.
MIKE ESTERMAN, CELEBRITY BOOKING AGENT: If you had a celebrity at your party, wouldn’t that be exciting to see?
DANIELS: So just how much does it cost to have the coolest party in town?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe $10,000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $5,000.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A half a million dollars?
DANIELS: The real answer depends on who the “Idol” is. Taylor Hicks reportedly gets $150,000 per private performance. Ruben Studdard less, about $75,000. Sources say Carrie Underwood rakes in about $250,000 to sing. And the queen of the “Idols,” Kelly Clarkson, a whopping $300,000.
ESTERMAN: It depends on where they’re going, what they’re actually doing. Are they just appearing for meet and greets with no performances? It depends on a lot of factors.
DANIELS: So why do they do it? Experts believe it a lot of it has to do with economics. Not only is the music industry in a sales slump, but “Idol” champs aren’t doing as well as expected. Case in point: Taylor Hicks. His debut CD was much hyped, but in its first week not one of his singles made it onto the top 50 charts.
Still, it isn’t all about the dough.
KIMBERLY CALDWELL, FORMER “IDOL” CONTESTANT: You get to travel and meet so many different people. We’d get to meet the fans that you wouldn’t normally get to meet, you know, just performing.
DANIELS: Second-season “Idol” finalist Kimberly Caldwell can get more than $2,000 for parties like this one in Washington, D.C.
CALDWELL: And these kind of gigs, they really hook us up. I mean, they give you, like, limos to ride around in. You stay in the nicest hotels.
DANIELS: Are they worth it? America’s votes seem to be split.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn’t pay anything. No, I’m perfectly fine with my friends attending a party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would definitely have one come to a party. Two maybe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I had the money to spend, no, I have a lot better ways to spend $10,000. Jewelry!
DANIELS: Maybe, but some people believe the best party accessory is an “Idol,” even if they can’t sing.
Lisa Daniels, NBC News, New York.
SCARBOROUGH: So are you ready to pony up some “Idol” dough? And will the hype around the show ever die? Here now, former “American Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen and also “Star” magazine’s deputy New York bureau chief, David Caplan.
So, Carmen, let me begin with you.
CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT: OK.
SCARBOROUGH: We had Lisa Daniels in this package talking about the fact that that some “American Idols” are going and singing for these private parties because they’re not doing as well on the charts as they expected and they talked about Taylor Hicks, in particular. Talk about that, if you will.
RASMUSEN: Well, it’s a well-known fact that artists don’t make as much money, especially on their first records, as they can going on tour or being on the road. And after I was on the show, I didn’t have a record deal, and that’s honestly how I got around was doing performances like this.
And if people are willing to shell out, you know, anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 for a private performance, why not do it? I mean, it’s a great way to keep yourself out there, to keep yourself performing, and keep polished. And if people are willing to pay for it, then, you know, it’s a great thing, because usually the money doesn’t come in from record sales for at least six months to year, so you have to do something.
SCARBOROUGH: And you and other “American Idols” that go out and do this actually get to keep more of your money, then, because the record company doesn’t get as much of it, right?
RASMUSEN: Right, right, exactly. Your manager gets a fee, and then you get the rest of it. And it depends on if you bring tracks and you do karaoke. It depends on if you bring a band or if they fly you out there and where and what it is.
So it’s actually, I think, a great way—and you can honestly—like Kimberly was saying, it gives you a chance to meet the fans one on one, shake their hands. It’s a more intimate setting and be able to tell them thank you for all the support that they’ve been giving you.
SCARBOROUGH: But, David Caplan, $300,000 for Kelly Clarkson.
RASMUSEN: That’s ridiculous.
SCARBOROUGH: I must say, I just don’t get it.
DAVID CAPLAN, “STAR” MAGAZINE: I mean, that is a huge amount of
money. Kelly Clarkson definitely has her fans out there. I mean, I will -
but, you know, those rates are pretty shocking, and even when you’re talking about in excess of $100,000.
That’s a lot, when you think about other celebrities—I mean, I can tell you for a fact, this New Year’s Eve, for example, if you even want a Paris Hilton at your New Year’s Eve party, it’s going to be around $100,000 to $150,000. So these “Idol” alums are getting the same amount of money that we sort of, you know, expect from other type of celebrities.
But what makes, I find, “Idol” alumni really appealing is that they’re sort of perceived as more accessible celebrities, and when their fans see them, they go crazy. So it’s a bit much, but there’s a lot of money out there, and there are a lot of rich people holding these fancy affairs that want “Idol” singing.
SCARBOROUGH: And, David, of course, the new season is coming up, so it’s only going to make them more valuable. But I read today that it’s not for an American show, but Simon Cowell’s getting paid something like 60 million pounds for his TV work in Great Britain. And, of course, over here, he’s one of the most powerful people. I mean, is “American Idol” going to just keep getting more and more powerful in defining what American pop culture is?
CAPLAN: I mean, “American Idol” really has had this sort of snowball effect on American pop culture. And I don’t see it slowing down any time soon, especially not for the next couple of seasons. People continually love the show.
And, again, the ratings speak for themselves. The ratings continue to go up and up. Now, of course, it would be great if record sales of “American Idol” contestants matched the ratings going up, but, you know, for the network, you know, for FOX, it’s great.
Everyone’s watching the show, and this year the producers have announced they’re going to have a new aspect to the show that’s going to surprise us. So they’re very well aware that the show can’t go on forever. They have to keep reinventing itself. I think we’re going to see that. And everyone loves “American Idol,” and they hate Simon Cowell. So I don’t know what the Brits are thinking paying him, but he’s doing something right.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, he certainly is. And, Carmen, “Idol” producers already hyping this new season. And they’re telling the “New York Daily News,” quote, “Something we’re working on is a big event show sometime in the middle of the season, something that will blow America away.”
Talk about this hype. Do you know what it’s going to be?
RASMUSEN: I have no idea. I think it’s really smart of them to keep reinventing themselves, as David was saying. I think it’s kind of like Madonna—everyone says, “Well, when is she going to die out? She keeps reinventing herself. She keeps getting bigger and bigger and keeps doing more outrageous things.” And it’s because she knows how to transition herself. She knows what’s popular.
And I think that “American Idol,” as David was saying, is doing the same thing. They’ve been able to transfer from country, to pop, to R&B, kind of go with the American music and the feel of what’s out here, what people are liking. They get a different variety of contestants every year. I think it’s going to be bigger and better, and I’m excited to see what the surprise is. I don’t know, but I’ll definitely be watching.
SCARBOROUGH: It’s interesting though, Carmen, that they feel a need to hype their show even before the season starts, when, again, they’re the ratings champ year in and year out. It’s kind of like—you know, is it overkill?
RASMUSEN: I don’t think so. I think they’re brilliant in their strategy, because it’s huge. They start promoting it, you know, in November with all the auditions and get people excited. In January, that’s when the big show starts. And then it kind of dies off, and then you hear about them going on tour. But it’s not overkill.
I don’t think that it’s shoved in your face, but you can still hear it. You still know that there are people out there, that they’re on tour. And then when the other season comes around, it’s fresh. It’s new. I don’t think that they’ve overdone it at all. I think it’s brilliant.
SCARBOROUGH: And, David, if you take a look at former “Idols” on the Billboard charts, they’re doing very well. Seven former “Idols” currently on the album chart, with three “Idols” in the top 10. That’s just a remarkable track record. I mean, we have people talking about how Taylor Hicks isn’t doing well. He’s number two on the charts!
CAPLAN: I mean, it really shows the staying power of “American Idols.” I mean, it really is shocking that, you know, years after some of these people appear on the show, they have such a huge fan base. People are still buying their albums.
And you’re right: Taylor Hicks didn’t do too bad considering before “American Idol” it was “Taylor Who”? So he’s doing great. And so many established artists would love for his spot on the album charts. So I think he’s doing great. And we’re just going to see more and more stars. And, again, let’s not forget the rags-to-riches story of people like Fantasia Barrino, Jennifer Hudson, all “American Idol” alums who’ve done fantastic thing with their careers...
SCARBOROUGH: And they keep doing very, very—no doubt about it.
Hey, Carmen, thank you for being with us, as always.
RASMUSEN: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: And thanks for coming without having to pay you. We appreciate that, too.
RASMUSEN: Absolutely. And merry Christmas to you.
SCARBOROUGH: Merry Christmas to you, too, Carmen. Thank you so much.
Hey, David, stick around. Coming up next, how’s the godfather of—we’re going to talk about how the godfather of soul changed the music industry forever by looking back at the life and the legacy of James Brown, including some footage you just won’t see anywhere else.
And later in “Hollyweird,” could the rumors about Oprah be true, moving in with her, quote, “lover”? The latest of Oprah’s love life, coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: The music world is mourning the death of a legend tonight. James Brown, the hardest working man in show business, died in a Georgia hospital Christmas morning. The godfather of soul will get a public send-off later this week at New York City’s Apollo Theater, where his body will lie in state. Tonight, NBC’s Lester Holt takes us deep into the NBC archives to show you footage of James Brown you haven’t seen before.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was born James Joseph Brown, Jr., in Depression-era South Carolina, but he became the godfather of soul and the hardest working man in show business.
He begged. He pleaded, but he always gave. Fellow R&B icon Little Richard, whom Brown once called his idol, says James Brown redefined entertainment for a generation of artists.
LITTLE RICHARD, MUSICIAN: With no James Brown, you wouldn’t have no disco, you wouldn’t have had no hip-hop, no rap, and the type of rhythm and blues soul, you wouldn’t have had that.
HOLT: But whether supporting Live 8 to raise awareness of third world debt...
JAMES BROWN, MUSICIAN: We have to solve it by loving each other.
HOLT: ... or simply inspiring young kids, Brown sang with a message:
Sometimes love, sometimes empowerment.
BROWN: Always say it loud that you’re proud.
HOLT: He was black, and he was proud, and his music was hardcore soul. Yet even as James Brown was bringing black audiences to their feet in places like the Apollo Theater, his style and sound were also resonating across racial and cultural divides. His crossover appeal was embodied by this performance in “Rocky IV.” And before that, appearing at the Nixon White House. And, of course, nobody owned the stage like James Brown.
LITTLE RICHARD: To me, he had electric legs. He was an explosion on stage.
HOLT: He was never formally trained in music, but he gave the songs he sang rhythm and life and made them timeless. At the 2005 Grammys, he collaborated with one of today’s hottest artists, Usher. His final performance was just last month at his induction into the U.K. Music Hall of Fame, where, as always, he left the audience with something to feel good about.
SCARBOROUGH: Geoff Mayfield is the director of charts for “Billboard” magazine. Geoff, thank you so much for being with us.
I mean, this guy just—you can’t begin to talk about how big he was in music. Rock and roll has Elvis. Country music, Hank Williams, Sr. But James Brown really did define soul music, didn’t he?
GEOFF MAYFIELD, “BILLBOARD” MAGAZINE: They called him the godfather of soul, and there’s a reason for that. And you think about his career. There will be very few others that you could put alongside his.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, talk about also, not only his great singing, but also talk about his performances. Again, this guy was considered over the top a long time ago. I mean, he was just dynamic in a way that few performers have been—were before or have been since, right?
MAYFIELD: The impact that he has on live performance continues today. I think, if you think of any young performer out there who sings R&B music or R&B-related music who dances, whether it be someone like Justin Timberlake or Chris Brown, these folks have been influenced by James Brown one way or another. He was fluid on stage, absolutely a lot of fun to watch.
SCARBOROUGH: And a lot of fun to watch. I remember one time I was watching—I think it was an ABC rock series called, “Heroes of Rock and Roll.” And they had that scene where James Brown would go down while he was singing, and somebody would come out and put a rope over him, and they started to take him off-stage, and he’d throw it off, and then get back in front of the microphone again, again just electrifying, even, you know, 20 years after the performs were done.
Do you think that’s what he’ll be remembered for the most, his live onstage performances, or what he was able to do in his studio?
MAYFIELD: I think both. I mean, you know, in terms of his onstage performance, look, even when James Brown was corny—and this is true whether he was onstage or making a record—even when James Brown was corny, he was cool. There was something about him that underlined everything.
So even if you saw something that was like—it just kind of made your eyebrows rise if anyone else did it, you looked at James Brown and you’d say, “OK, you know, it’s the godfather of soul.”
His legacy is in terms of recordings, though. I mean, you’re talking about a guy whose first chart success happened in 1956 and continued to chart well up through the ‘80s. Wasn’t on the Billboard 200 since 1988, but during his career, he had 118 songs that made the R&B singles chart. That’s more than anybody else; 100 of those made top 40, which is more than anyone else. And then I’d say another 60 of those made top 10. And, again, that’s a record.
SCARBOROUGH: Just an unbelievable legacy. Thank you so much for being with us tonight, Geoff Mayfield.
MAYFIELD: My pleasure.
SCARBOROUGH: We greatly appreciate it.
All right. Stick around, “Hollyweird’s” next.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, remember to strap the baby in the car seat, because the paparazzi’s watching. It’s time for “Hollyweird.”
First up, “Life and Style” reporting that Oprah and Steadman are taking their relationship to the next level. He’s moving in. Here now to talk about it, editor-at-large for “Life and Style Weekly,” Ashlan Gorse. Still with us, “Star” magazine’s David Caplan.
Ashlan, OK, what’s going on here? Haven’t these people been dating for like 50 years?
ASHLAN GORSE, “LIFE AND STYLE WEEKLY”: Oprah and Steadman have been the best couple that is really just the perma-couple. They’ve never wanted to get married. They’ve always refused that they’re getting married, but they’re taking the first step, and they’re moving in together.
GORSE: Oprah is actually asking Steadman to come in into her $6 million apartment that she just bought in Chicago. It’s 5,000 square feet, and it’s the perfect little love nest.
SCARBOROUGH: I would guess that would be a pretty good little love nest.
David, I don’t want to sound cynical here, because, you know, my heart is pure as driven snow on Christmas Eve. But isn’t there a chance that she might be trying to get those nasty lesbian rumors pushed to the side?
CAPLAN: You know, this is perfect timing, because we know, within the last few months, Oprah has really fielded a lot of those rumors. And all of a sudden, it’s like, “You know what everyone? It’s only taken, oh, two decades, but Steadman is finally moving in.”
So it’s so unbelievable, and this announcement is just being met with a lot of eye-rolling.
SCARBOROUGH: And I’m rolling my eyes, too.
Ashlan, and the “Washington Post” is reporting that Britney Spears’ soon-to-be-ex-husband Kevin Federline doesn’t like being called K-Fed. My question is: Why the hell is the “Washington Post” reporting on K-Fed anyway?
GORSE: It must be a slow news day when the “Washington Post” in taking up K-Fed’s news. But, yes, excuse me, Kevin Federline, as we now need to call him. He is taking on John Cena, who is a WWE wrestler. Yes, he weighs 240 and he’s 6’1”. I don’t think K-Fed has a chance. I think I could actually possibly beat up K-Fed. I mean, I’ve got some muscles. I don’t know.
SCARBOROUGH: We can see. And, David, it just shows—I mean, people love talking about Britney, even the “Washington Post,” right?
CAPLAN: I know. It must have been a slow day on the Hill that day, because they’re, like, in Kevin Federline-gate here, so it’s fascinating. But I guess, you know, he’s taking the city by storm, and now that’s going to be the latest buzz now. They’re going to be writing about Lindsay next.
SCARBOROUGH: Exactly. And, finally, Ashlan, before we leave, Paris Hilton taking acting lessons. What is that about?
GORSE: You know, who could have forgotten Paris’ great performances in the “House of Wax” and “Bottoms Up,” which actually went straight to DVD? But, yes, Paris, thank goodness, is taking some acting lessons, and she’s ready for her next role in “Hottie and Naughty.”
SCARBOROUGH: We cannot wait. Thank you, Ashland. Thank you, David.
GORSE: Oh, yes.
SCARBOROUGH: And thanks for watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. See you tomorrow night.
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