Britney Knows Bestest

Britney Spears has once again proved herself to be a valuable political operative, keeping Osama bin Laden out of the news, as well as a war assessment by Gen. David Petraeus and – yes– even a new hairdo for Paris Hilton.

The MTV Video Music Awards – for all of its glitter, its re-imagining and its highlights and lowlights – was basically finished as soon as it started. Spears may not have been as "fat" as the press claimed but her "singing" sure made it look like the fat lady has sung.

Her brief September 9th reemergence was heralded as a comeback – but no one has explained why a mother of two who has spent her recent days running into parked cars and having alleged breakdowns was ready for a worldwide reveal.

In fact, Kanye West suggested MTV exploited Spears, knowing she wasn’t prepared, and using her to bring press to the event, even if it was negative press.

If so, it worked. The media had a field day, writing vitriolic reviews that haven’t been seen since, well, "Balls of Fury." It dominated the news – and it dominates this story – at the expense of what would have been a career-making performance by Chris Brown and a rocking number by Alicia Keys.

For the few that didn’t get a chance to see Spears’ performance on television or online, the pop star staggered, looked nervous and made lip-synching an afterthought. She needed assistance to move up and down stairs. The reaction shots – especially that of 50 Cent – revealed the audience’s confusion and surprise.

The next day on MSNBC, newsroom general manager Dan Abrams began his show with a valid question: Where were Britney’s people? Were there no handlers at the Palms to step in? According to unnamed sources in the New York Post, there were plenty of clues during rehearsal that Brit-Brit wasn’t ready to go onstage.

First of all, the pop star was supposedly scheduled to arrive for rehearsals at 1 p.m. but arrived at 4:30.

"The production people at MTV were freaking out," one source said. "Nobody can tell Britney what to do anymore. No one can control her. She is a mess."

The source added that when Spears arrived in Vegas, she eschewed rehearsals and instead went to her hotel room to order food and booze.

"She came down, like, an hour later with a frozen margarita in her hand."

Spears rejected a corset outfit MTV wanted her to wear for the skimpy two-piece she brought with her, a source told the Post. Meanwhile, dancers supposedly had to abandon the more difficult moves they rehearsed (like lifting Spears in a helicopter move) and were allegedly "texting pals, asking them to pray for them. They were worried."

The New York Times confirmed the gist of the Post story, adding that Spears had spent a good month exercising and rehearsing for the event. Things were looking good: she had a new manager in Jeff Kwatinetz, whom she met through her entertainment lawyer, Gary Stiffelman (the two worked together on the Korn "profit sharing" plan). Stiffelman reportedly endorsed the VMA appearance. Jive Records wasn’t so sure but got updates from Las Vegas on Spears’ progress from management, the Times said.

Then the worm turned. Spears fired Stiffelman, got her drink on and the rest was history. Kwatinetz and Stiffelman declined comment for the Times piece. So, maybe there wasn’t anyone there day-of-show to stop the madness.

Simon Cowell, a record industry guru as well as a scowling judge on "American Idol," told London’s Sun, "If I had been looking after Britney I’d have taken one look at her in rehearsals and I wouldn’t have allowed her on stage. It would have been worth pulling her off the bill – no matter what the cost – to save any chance she had of resurrecting her career."

Cowell added, "The problem she has now is that she could have killed her career. It’s difficult to come back from that performance, for a while at least."

Teary fan commentator Chris Crocker had a different viewpoint: "She’s a human. … She hasn’t performed onstage for years. Leave her alone. You’re lucky she even performed for you bastards."