updated 1/9/2006 10:50:40 AM ET 2006-01-09T15:50:40

Guest: Michael Cosgrove, Matt Pottinger, Max Kellerman, Ted Nugent

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  That's all the time we have for tonight.  THE SITUATION starts now. 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Thanks, Joe.

And thanks to you at home for tuning him.  We appreciate it, as always.

Tonight a jam-packed SITUATION.  We've got more on the Jack Abramoff scandal.  It seems to be tearing the Republican Party apart.  Plus, I'll speak to the legendary rock star Ted Nugent.

But first, we'll give you the live update on Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, from the MSNBC News desk. 

(NEWSBREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome to THE SITUATION. 

Of course, we'll continue it on monitor the condition of Ariel Sharon throughout the hour, but we begin tonight with the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal and how it has already begun to create a power struggle within the Republican Party. 

A leadership shakeup is expected, with some House Republicans wanting to cut ties with Tom DeLay.  Others are hoping the majority leader reclaims his post. 

For more on the internal battle now going on in Washington, we bring in MSNBC political contributor Flavia Colgan, joining us tonight from Philadelphia. 

Flavia, welcome. 

FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Tucker.  I'm going to stick around in the studio to see this interview with Ted.  I used to do a show with him every week on this network, and I disagreed with him a lot, but he's a straight shooter, all American, and he makes me smile.  A bit like you, only I think I'd rather have him if I were stuck in a bind. 

CARLSON:  Ted Nugent has never uttered a single word I disagree with him. 

COLGAN:  Well, that's not true for me, though.

CARLSON:  I just love him.  He's a hero, and I'm not afraid to slobber on Ted Nugent. 

All right.  Tom DeLay out, it looks like.  We predicted that last night on this show.  This morning's papers give an indication that he's lost support among his former allies in the House Republican Caucus.  I think there's no question he's gone.

I think this is a gig deal, and I think he ought to be gone, by the way.  I think he was too close to Jack Abramoff to be the majority leader with any credibility. 

But I think the Republican Party ought to think through what it does next.

COLGAN:  Right.

CARLSON:  It has two options.  It can go with a kind of Denny Hastert type figure or sort of establishment Republican who's not going to make waves.  Or it can go with an ideologue, someone who embodies what the party purports to stands for, conservatism. 

COLGAN:  Right.

CARLSON:  And I think if it takes the latter course, which is the smart course, it will choose Mike Pense of Indiana as the new majority leader, and I really hope it does. 

COLGAN:  I think—I think that your choice of Pense is a great one.  No. 1, I want to say this shows how much the environment has changed, Tucker.  Because I don't know if you recall, you and I had a conversation about this in L.A. quite a few months ago, and you know, you felt, like a lot of people felt, that DeLay was probably going to ride this out and that he was handling it well.  You know, so much has changed. 

CARLSON:  No, no.  I thought he was going to ride out the ridiculous charges against him from Ronnie Earle in Texas. 

COLGAN:  Right.  But that's what I mean.  The environment's changed. 

CARLSON:  But this is not ridiculous.  The difference is the Abramoff scandal is not ridiculous. 

COLGAN:  Yes.  Absolutely.

CARLSON:  And he is tied to Abramoff in a way that's impossible to explain.  It's a big deal.

COLGAN:  But listen, if they—if they don't do what you're saying, in terms of going with a guy like Pense, they're in very serious trouble.  But if you look at the front runners right now, like a guy like Blunt, for instance, and a guy like Boehner out of Ohio, both of whom seem to be the ones in the top position, No. 1, they're both very closely tied to DeLay, basically have risen through the ranks because of him. 

Boehner is the guy who, of course, stood on the House floor and actually had the audacity to dole out checks to the tobacco lobby.  I mean, this is more of the same. 

And if the Republicans want to be taken seriously in terms of eradicating this culture of corruption, they're going to have to look to a guy like Pense or a fresh face. 

And the Democrats, if they want to really get ahead of this, they're going to have to come out with an ethics reform package that goes beyond what George Miller is doing...

CARLSON:  I think.

COLGAN:  ... to get on top of this. 

CARLSON:  You know, corruption is actually not the problem in Washington, D.C.  It's not a particularly corrupt place.  Most people don't make more than $200,000 a year, and the people who run D.C. are poor, by global standards.  They are.  Money does not drive Washington, despite what everyone says.  That's just a lie.  You know, the people literally—the people with the most power drive K cars.  I mean...

COLGAN:  Tucker, with all due respect, special interest money does—does do a lot in Washington, D.C.  Maybe not individuals' money...

CARLSON:  A little bit more complicated than that.

COLGAN:  ... but special interest groups have a lot more influence than the average man or woman in this country, and I think Americans are sick of it. 

CARLSON:  I'll tell you exactly why—Flavia, special interests, that's just another term for a group whose agenda you don't agree with.

COLGAN:  No, that's not true.

CARLSON:  Special interests are just like everybody else.  Groups of people who get together with a point of view, with an agenda, with a series of beliefs they want to see reflected in the law. 

COLGAN:  Tucker...

CARLSON:  The difference between special interests and the rest of us, is special interests spend their lives trying to influence legislation.  The rest of us don't.  And so they have a natural advantage that we could have if we took the time. 

COLGAN:  Tucker—Tucker, you're good.  You're very sophisticated, but it's a bit more...

CARLSON:  I'm telling the truth. 

COLGAN:  You and I both know that the tobacco lobby and big energy obviously have a lot more money...

CARLSON:  Yes.  Of course they do.

COLGAN:  ... to hire more lobbyists and pay for more fancy golf trips and great skyboxes and all the rest.  And they're going to have a lot more than, you know, citizen type groups.  So it's not really a level playing field.

CARLSON:  They may, but I'm not saying it is a level playing field. 

I'm saying it's a completely unlevel playing field.

COLGAN:  Right.

CARLSON:  Because the average person doesn't take the time to learn how legislation becomes law.  Right?  That's the point.  These people win because they have superior knowledge. 

COLGAN:  Well, I think that this is a big enough bombshell that the American public is going to have to change their complacency starting right now. 

CARLSON:  Yes, well, I don't know.  It's a pretty happy country in which politics rarely intrudes into people's personal lives.  So thank God at this point the average person isn't even very interested in politics.

Countries where people are really interested in politics are the countries where a lot of people get killed in civil wars, and we're not one of those. 

Speaking of changes to our nation, the president has proposed something he calls the National Security Language Initiative.  He's going to bring it before Congress to try to get Congress to pay $114 million to pay for the expanded teaching of Arabic and Chinese and Farsi and Pashtun and other languages that might be key in the war on terror. 

This is the kind of thin, it seems like a good idea, but stop and think about it for a second.  Do we really want, A, the federal government more involved in education, to the point where kindergartners are being taught Arabic to help in the war on terror?

And B, is it really such a good idea to fund trips for American students to the Islamic world to learn abroad?  I mean, the fact is that people are really influenced by their study abroad.  Do we want, in other words, the federal government paying possibly to create more converts to radical Islam?  Because that is actually what's going to happen.  Let's be honest.

COLGAN:  You might be surprised, but I agree.  I feel a little bit of discomfort on this issue.  Although it sounds great because we want to have more understanding, especially in the increasingly globalized world.  It would help with national security. 

This is something the president should have done a long time ago.  Congressman Murtha has been talking about this for years.  And you know, when I was speaking to a general in the Marine Corps the other day...

CARLSON:  Wait, wait, wait.  Just a second.  You're for it but you think we should have done it earlier?

COLGAN:  No, no, no.   I'm not for it in education.  I'm for it in the armed services.  For instance, I was speaking to a general the other day, who served in a couple theaters, including Iraq.  And he is an Arabic speaker, and he told me that it made his job very difficult that he had so little support. 

CARLSON:  Of course.

COLGAN:  But before the president starts spending money on this, I would just like to point out that, although the numbers have gone down, we have dismissed 50 Arabic and Farsi speakers from the armed services that are helping with national security because they're gay. 

So if we really are that concerned—that came out in the Mercury News, I think it was today—the northern California newspaper, if we are very much concerned with getting with getting more language speakers, which I think it's very critical, I think that we have to look again at not discouraging gays who may have those special things, as opposed to taking 10 years to train people. 

CARLSON:  Right.

COLGAN:  And I think we have to look really hard at our policy of getting rid of people who are helping make this country safer. 

CARLSON:  I would be really interested to know those numbers are true.  Possibly they are.  I'm saying the odds are they're not.  But we'll find out.  I don't have them at my fingertips, but I'll be interested to take a deeper look at those numbers.

But here, the question is should the federal government, as a philosophical matter, control the curriculum in primary schools, even in kindergarten—in the kindergartens in order to create superior soldiers and intelligence officers?  I mean, isn't there something a little creepy about that?

COLGAN:  Yes, I—yes, I do.  I think they should be spending more money to develop special sources and those things within the armed services and, you know, sort of the diplomatic ranks. 

I think even just looking at something like No Child Left Behind, where the federal government tried to get involved—my father's been a public schoolteacher for over 30 years and that's been a disaster. 

To have the federal government involved in choosing which languages and field trips to other countries, my gosh, no.  I mean, this is something where, even as a progressive, I really think it should be the states and the local areas that understand their particular culture and needs more than the federal government. 

I mean, this—this administration's unbelievable.  For Republicans, they love to spend money, and they love to have tons of executive power.  I mean, I don't know what kind of conservatives you guys have in the white House, but they're not the kind that I've been taught about. 

CARLSON:  Local power, devolve it to the states?  You sound like a right-winger, Flavia Colgan.  You're getting better every day.  Thanks a lot for joining us today.  We appreciate it. 

COLGAN:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Still to come, Robin Leech once showed us how the rich and famous lived—fancy cars, huge houses, high priced caviar—but what about those living below the poverty line in this country?  You may be shocked by the latest findings about how they live. 

Plus, from Wall Street Journal reporter to second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, the amazing story of journalist turned combatant Matt Pottinger, when THE SITUATION returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Coming up next, our lifestyles of the rich and famous really that much different from those of America's poor?  You may be shocked by the new research on that question.

Plus, a journalist joins the Marine Corps.  He'll explain why when THE SITUATION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  In 2005 the American economy turned in a performance that is the envy of the industrialized world.  And we did this in spite of higher oil prices and natural disasters.  We're strong.  And I'm optimistic about the future of this economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was President Bush speaking in Chicago earlier today.  The Labor Department says two million more jobs were added in 2005 and that average hourly earnings went up 0.3 percent from November to December. 

But if you're still not convinced Americans have it pretty good, Michael Cosgrove, an economist at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, might just change your mind.  Professor Cosgrove says even poor Americans are living better today than they were 30 years ago.  He joins us tonight from Dallas. 

Professor, thanks for coming on. 

MICHAEL COSGROVE, ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF DALLAS IN IRVING, TEXAS: 

Thanks, Tucker.  Glad to be here.

CARLSON:  Thanks.  I'm glad you're here, because we hear a lot about the poor in the United States, and you always wonder, what does it mean to be poor?  It's relative measure, of course.  How poor are poor people here?

COSGROVE:  Well, the way to get into this is to go with the president's talk today.  We had two million jobs created last year in the economy.  And to put that in perspective, every day during 2005 the number of job gains exceeded the number of job losses by 5,000. 

So for independence air, for example, closed its doors this week, what happened was 2,700 people lost their jobs and a lot of them were in the Washington, D.C., area.  And what that means is that the economy generated more jobs that day than what were lost by Independence Air. 

CARLSON:  Interesting. 

COSGROVE:  And the way to get into the poverty numbers is that, on average here, the income levels in the U.S., median family income, was about $55,000, and then when we talk about the middle income America, in terms of the type of Americans that a lot of people talk about, that do their shopping at Wal-Mart and Target and Best Buy.  Those people tend to have incomes in the $40,000 to $60,000 range. 

CARLSON:  Right.

COSGROVE:  Now, what happens, at Independence Air, for example, we had some of those families that are going to be caught, that lost their jobs that fall into that $40,000 to $60,000 income range.

CARLSON:  Right.

COSGROVE:  And when they lose their jobs, they fall into poverty. 

CARLSON:  But professor, I guess what I mean to say is when people say there is a permanent underclass in the United States, people who remain poor, who are poor and who remain poor, I realize that's a pretty small group.  But what does it mean that they're poor?

For instance, “The Economist” had a fascinating piece, just came out in the issue on Christmas Eve that compared a man, a disabled man in eastern Kentucky on welfare to the head of surgery in the main hospital in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo. 

And it pretty much convinced me, anyway, that the man in Kentucky on welfare was richer than the most eminent doctor in Kinshasa.  Is the measure we use for poverty in the United States valid, and what is it exactly?  How do we know someone's poor?

COSGROVE:  Well, the measure that we use for poverty, for a family of four, for example, is around $20,000.  And what that is is simply a benchmark that we in the U.S. utilize to judge whether someone falls below the poverty line. 

So like, from Independence Air, somebody that lost their job, they might have been fallen into poverty, but at the same time, they might have a house, one or two cars.  Everyone has a cell phones.  Might have a couple TVs, cable TV, computer. 

And so in four or five months, which is the average stay in poverty in the U.S., then those people move into poverty, then four or five month later they move out of poverty.  So that's the typical situation. 

So when we talk about the poor here, we're not talking about a 35 million people being poor for years.  We're talking about 35 million falling into the poverty classification for a period of four or five months and then moving out. 

CARLSON:  How many people in this country go hungry?  I mean, that seems like a measure everyone can understand.  I was just at a hunger walk a couple of months ago, and the implication was a lot of people are going to bed hungry.  Is that true?

COSGROVE:  Well, I mean, we hear a lot of that.  And I think a few people do go to bed hungry, and some children obviously go to bed hungry.  But in general when we're talk about that we're talking about 10 percent of the people in poverty fall into this classification, where they're in poverty for 12 consecutive months. 

And those are, I think, what you're talking about.  Those are probably hardship cases.

CARLSON:  All right.

COSGROVE:  And by hardship cases, they have a difficult time.  They don't have the necessities that people in general would think about.  That's about four million people in the U.S.

CARLSON:  OK.  In a nation of, what, 300 million?

COSGROVE:  Yes, 300 million.  So that's the type of numbers we're talking about. 

CARLSON:  OK.

COSGROVE:  And for those we're not talking about people having cable TV and two or three cars. 

CARLSON:  Right.

COSGROVE:  We're talking about difficult times. 

CARLSON:  Genuinely poor people.  All right.  Professor Michael Cosgrove, economist, University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, joining us tonight from Dallas.  Thanks a lot, professor.  I appreciate it. 

COSGROVE:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Still to come, why did one journalist trade in deadlines for the front lines?  We'll ask former “Wall Street Journal” reporter and now Marine officer Matt Pottinger, next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

My next guest had one of the best jobs in journalism.  He was one of the “Wall Street Journal's” lead reporters in China, until he decided to chuck it all and join the Marine Corps.  And as you might expect, there's an extraordinary story behind that decision. 

Second lieutenant Matt Pottinger joins us tonight from Washington. 

Matt, thanks a lot for coming on.  Lieutenant, pardon me.

2ND LT. MATT POTTINGER, U.S. MARINE CORPS:  Thank—thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So what—I mean, the obvious question first—and I know you explained this to a great extent in really a remarkable op-ed in the “Wall Street Journal.”  It ran a couple weeks ago.  But tell our viewers, why did you do this?

POTTINGER:  Well, it really boiled down to a desire to participate at a key moment in our nation's history.  I mean, we're really facing a tough decade ahead of us.  We are fighting a war against a formidable enemy, a totalitarian ideology pointed at us. 

And I had a terrific job covering China, another remarkable story that's going to have an impact on our country and its future, but I found myself increasingly distracted by the war on terror.  And increasingly felt this nagging impulse to actually get involved on the ground, as a participant. 

CARLSON:  You have in your op-ed a description of your reaction to a video you saw on the Internet, of a beheading carried out by al-Zarqawi or someone who works for him. 

And you said, quote, “At first I admit I felt a touch of the terror they wanted”—they being the terrorists—“they wanted me to feel, but then I felt the anger they didn't.  We often talk about how our policies radicalize young men in the Middle East.  We rarely talk about how their actions are radicalizing us.  In a brief moment of revulsion, sitting there in that living room, I became their blowback.” 

POTTINGER:  Sure.  It sounds a bit hyperbolic, maybe, but...

CARLSON:  No.  It's a great paragraph. 

POTTINGER:  It was—it wasn't the only decision.  I mean, one moment of sort of getting caught up in emotion isn't enough to justify a career change like the one I chose, but it was definitely one of those moments that kind of hit home.  I mean, it was one of these wake-up moments. 

I mean, when I would come back from—I mean, it's easy to forget in America today, that we are at war.  Right?  I mean, of course, you're watching what's happening on the news, but when you walk the streets of New York, for instance, you don't feel like we're a country at war. 

And then when you really focus and pay attention on what's going on and the nature of the enemy that we're fighting, for me it was watching one of those videos, the snuff film, of an American contractor that really knocked me down. 

CARLSON:  You've taken the most radical possible step.  I mean, you didn't just join the military.  You joined the Marine Corps, as an officer.  I mean, the chances are you're going to see combat.  Obviously, you know that.  Are you ready?

POTTINGER:  I need to train before I'm going to be ready, but, yes, in my—I'm certainly ready for whatever challenges are ahead.  And the Marine Corps' going to make sure that I'm prepared for them. 

Yes.  Why the Marines?  You know, while I was living in China and covering events in Asia I ended up bumping into a lot of Marines.  I—at one point during the Asian tsunami, was flown in to cover the devastation in Thailand.  And a lot of—I ran into Marines who were actually spearheading a lot of the rescue efforts in the region. 

And I was just impressed, again, by the flexibility, the leadership, the sort of no-nonsense, let's get the job done approach of the Marine Corps.  So I started doing more and more homework on the Marines, reading up on them, and the more I learned about the Marines—specifically, the more I came to respect the institution and wanted to be part of it. 

CARLSON:  What do your fellow journalists think?  I mean, you were a reporter for a long time.  It's not like you were a reporter for six months; you were a reporter for years.  What do the guys you work with say?

POTTINGER:  Yes, you know, my colleagues at the “Wall Street Journal” have been overwhelmingly supportive.  I was really happy about that. 

I mean, if you look back to the 1940's and 1950's, it wasn't that unusual of a shift.  I mean, it was generally the other way around.  You would have people writing for the “Wall Street Journal,” for any newspaper, who had served in the military.  A lot of reporters back in the '40s and '50s served in the military.  It's rarer, today, unfortunately.  And so I think that my colleagues were, by and large, pretty supportive of my move. 

CARLSON:  Now, you're in your—I think your early 30's, 31 or 32. 

Is that right?

POTTINGER:  Thirty-two years old, yes. 

CARLSON:  Which is older than most people who go up and join the military for the first time.  What—I mean, how is that possible?  Were you up to it physically?  What did you have to do?

POTTINGER:  I had my work cut out for me, after I made the decision to try to tackle this and become a Marine.  I spent about six months of doing pretty intensive training, trying to run, do pull ups and sit-ups and—you know, get my butt in shape, really. 

And I was fortunate that I ran into another Marine in Beijing, who was studying there.  He's on a fellowship.  Who—and, you know, classic Marine teamwork.  This guy would get up, set aside his schedule and get up at 5, 6 in the morning to go running with me every morning, make sure that I was sticking to a tough schedule.  And that's what motivated me. 

CARLSON:  I understand the running.  It's the pull ups that kind of blow my mind.  How many can you do?

POTTINGER:  Last check I was up to 20, but a few turkey dinners later, after the holidays, I may be down a bit. 

CARLSON:  so what's your next step?

POTTINGER:  The next step now is to train.  I've got six months at the basic school, with all my fellow graduates from officer candidate school.  We are all going to be trained to be infantry platoon commanders and to take other jobs in the Marine Corps after about six months. 

So it's been pretty extraordinary.  I mean, I'm—I am a little bit older than the group of people there, but it's an amazing assortment of men and women who graduated with me.  These are all people who—I know there's been attention on me because of my previous career—in the Marine Corps.  But these people who have all made sacrifices.  They have postponed jobs in finance and in law and in real estate, and they're really amazing. 

CARLSON:  That is amazing.  And finally, quickly, what do your parents think of this?

POTTINGER:  They're supportive.  I think they're apprehensive, as any parent would be.  But after they came to the graduation ceremony, they saw the professionalism.  They met all these other terrific candidates.  They met my commanding officers.  And both of them said to me that they came away feeling a lot better, having—having—the more they got to know the Corps, the more they get to know the Corps, the more impressed they are. 

CARLSON:  Well, I'm impressed by you.  Second Lieutenant Matt Pottinger, good luck. 

POTTINGER:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Thanks. 

Up next, why some gamblers in Illinois could forfeit their winnings and be kicked out of casinos.  That story next on THE SITUATION. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Etiquette maven Emily Post once said, “Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory.” 

Joining me now, a man whose wit is exceeded only by his profound thoughtfulness, the Outsider, ESPN radio and HBO boxing host Max Kellerman.

MAX KELLERMAN, ESPN RADIO:  That, and use your salad fork.

CARLSON:  Use your salad—which one is that?

KELLERMAN:  I don't know. 

CARLSON:  It's the big one.

KELLERMAN:  Oh, which—which...

(CROSSTALK)

KELLERMAN:  ... little one, come on.

CARLSON:  First up, most parents would call a good education for their kids priceless, but the price tag in one California public school system is pretty steep, $1,500.  That's the cost of an Apple iBook G-4 laptop, required equipment for kids as young as the first grade.  The parents in Fullerton public schools are being asked to pay for the laptops out of their own pockets. 

Some are calling it financial segregation, which a term I think is completely overblown, like financial segregation, but it is dumb, and it reflects the kind of reflexive belief on the part of many educators in technology, the idea that a machine will somehow make kids better-informed or smarter.  And it's absolutely ridiculous.  I never turned a computer on until I got my first job at a magazine, and I'm only 36. 

KELLERMAN:  So you did what I did in high school, which is you took those pads, you wrote on double space, you had to write it out and then you had to type it out on a typewriter? 

CARLSON:  Yeah!  

KELLERMAN:  What a pain!  Come on, computers are so much better.

CARLSON:  No, no, but it is—of course a computer is better, but the idea that you need one so much that the school is going to require it—and it is an onerous burden, $1,500.... 

KELLERMAN:  It is. 

CARLSON:  It's ridiculous.

KELLERMAN:  It is.  Here's the devil's advocate position, though.  They're really—what they're really saying is, we're putting a certain emphasis on these computers—you're correct, that their belief is they really are necessary technology.  For instance, you don't need one to learn, but do you need a refrigerator to eat?  You really don't.  If you live in a cold-weather place, you can put your food outside the window ledge. 

If you found out a kid in your class didn't have a computer and his parents were at all financially able to get one, you might suggest that it's a good idea for all the kids in the class to have refrigerators at home.  I mean, you know, it's technology.

CARLSON:  Yeah, you might, and technology definitely is a good thing that makes our lives easier, but making life easier is not the goal of school.  In fact, making life more difficult...

KELLERMAN:  Apparently, for no apparent reason, most of the time it (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  For its own sake.  Actually, for two good reasons.  The first, school is so unpleasant that once you graduate, you're thrilled to be in the real world.  And second, actually, there is value in doing things the hard way, because you learn how things work.  Actually going to the dictionary and looking up the spelling of a word helps you understand the meaning of the word. 

KELLERMAN:  I think—what would you call it, technophobe?  What's the word for it?  I think it really comes from—I had to do it, I had to go to the dictionary and do it, you're going have to do it too! 

CARLSON:  No, I just think—it's always, you know, educators—on the long list of sins I attribute to educators, trendiness is right at the top.  You know what I mean?  It's new, it must be good.  Not so!

KELLERMAN:  It's not so new anymore, by the way. 

CARLSON:  Well, it feels new anyway.

Illinois is trying a novel approach to compulsive gambling.  Every gambler who walks into a casino will now have to show an I.D.  It's part of a program in which compulsive gamblers can voluntarily sign up for the state's no-bet list.  If someone gets on that list and is caught in a casino, they forfeit any winnings.  So far, the state has collected $244,000 from 173 gamblers. 

Kind of amazing that compulsive gamblers actually win.  It's sort of mean, you know, they finally win, and they take their money away. 

Here's the problem I have with it.  I actually think there are a lot of compulsive gamblers, and it's kind of a problem in our society.  I just object to the state playing a role in this.  The state is not your mom.  It's not the state's job to make sure you don't gamble too much or drink too much or smoke too much or stay in bed too long or not work hard enough.  It's just not the state's job.  If you break the law, bust me. 

KELLERMAN:  How expensive is something like this?  First of all, it seems to be paying for itself.  They're—as you said, they're taking the winnings away when these people finally win.  But I mean, think about it in terms of preventive cost.  You know what I mean, in terms of preventive measures.  If a guy's a compulsive gambler, he may not be paying his rent, the electric might not be on, the phone bill might not be paid.  You may have deadbeat fathers, you may have people—well, not—with bankruptcy laws now maybe not so much, but just, you know, welching on the money they owe. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

KELLERMAN:  Isn't it better for these people to have a little money in their pockets? 

CARLSON:  It might be better for them not to gamble at all.  It might be better not to have casinos at all. 

KELLERMAN:  Wow, slow down!

CARLSON:  No, no, the whole point is, the only reason we have casinos and the lotto, which really is a tax on morons, is because the state benefits from it.  The greedy state gets money from gambling—except Indian gambling, unfortunately.  But all other kinds of gambling, they profit from, so they endorse gambling.  Maybe the state should be held accountable.  Maybe legally liable for all these compulsive gamblers.  This is—this (INAUDIBLE).

KELLERMAN:  I don't see how it's any different than alcohol companies, you know.  You have Anheuser-Busch and all these guys putting out warnings, don't drink excessively.  In other words, don't give us all your money; at least not at once, because if you give us all your money at once, then there's no more money to give later.  You know what I mean?  It's better to have the state, if they're going to be in that business, involved in it in a responsible way, which allows kind of maximum revenue over the long hall.  If you want to look at it purely financially.

CARLSON:  Well, that's really creepy, having the state involved in that. 

KELLERMAN:  I'm just trying to..

CARLSON:  See, I just want—I just want the state to pave my roads, field an army to protect me from the infidels at the gates, and that's just about it. 

KELLERMAN:  You know what, that's not a bad plan. 

CARLSON:  Oh, thank you, thank you.  I'm all for it.  Max Kellerman, thank you, as always. 

There's still plenty more ahead on THE SITUATION.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON (voice-over):  Armed and dangerous, and live on our set, Ted Nugent.  Wait until you hear why he is about to give his fans a new dose of reality. 

TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN:  It's so simple it's stupid.

CARLSON:  Plus, we've got the skinny on the fattest city in America. 

Where does your town weigh in? 

And can you guess which of these newsmakers will be the honored recipients of this week's human and nonhuman dubious achievement awards? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That's kind of scary.

CARLSON:  It's all ahead on THE SITUATION.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Cool, man.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUGENT:  Steve Eadle (ph) is the quintessential New Yorker goes south.

Insert pole and then erect flag.  Number two.

I figured old Stevie might spontaneously combust into a “Saturday Night Fever” dance routine at any moment, and go for a gold medallion and shave his chest hairs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was the great guitarist, activist, survivalist, and yes, reality TV host Ted Nugent, skewing one of the five city slickers living on his Michigan ranch for his hit show “Wanted Ted or Alive.”  The new season premieres Sunday night at 10:00 on the Outdoor Life network. 

We are honored and a bit awed to be joined live in the studio tonight

by the great Ted Nugent. 

NUGENT:  My pleasure, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Good to see you.

NUGENT:  Happy Nuge year. 

CARLSON:  Happy Huge year to you.

Now you live most of the time now, you just told me, in Crawford, Texas. 

NUGENT:  Crawford, Texas.  They need me there.  Yes.

CARLSON:  I think they do need you there.

NUGENT:  I do agree with that.

CARLSON:  Do you feel as represented by the president as you once did? 

NUGENT:  No.  They're a bunch of failures.  But he's great man, oftentimes, a very great man, but all too often, less than a great man.  I think his tax and spending is just very un-Republican.  His failed—there is no border policy.  Immigration, I don't know what that policy might be.  He's done a great job on the war on terror.  You know, I'm no military strategist, but I'm from Detroit, so I have some tactical background.  I think he's done a great job there.  The military has certainly done an amazing warrior job. 

But I like the president.  He's my neighbor.  I respect him greatly.  He's my commander in chief.  But there's a lot of room for upgrade, is there not? 

CARLSON:  Seems to be. 

NUGENT:  Seems to be, yes.  The Nugent family prays for him, and we communicate with our employees, including the president, so he knows how we feel and what we expect.  And I believe upgrade is on the horizon.  Somebody's got to teach him the basics of public relations.  He doesn't need to smile when things are terrible.  You know what I mean?

CARLSON:  I know exactly what you mean.

NUGENT:  Just the presence, he needs to just let it rip, be down to earth, be that working hard, playing hard guy that got him elected and return to those basic constitutional, Ten Commandment, golden rule, guts of the American dream. 

CARLSON:  The guy freezes up in public.  He gets too tense when he's in public. 

NUGENT:  You know, nobody's crazier than I am, but I have no responsibility to perform for anyone.  Just talk to me, man.  What do you believe?  Forget the consultants.  Talk to me.  That's what America's looking for, I believe. 

CARLSON:  Tell me about—America is also looking for a show like “Wanted Ted or Alive.”

NUGENT:  Funny, funny (INAUDIBLE).  You know, Tucker, I understand I'm going to win the black redneck of the year award again. 

CARLSON:  I don't even know what that is.

NUGENT:  In the precious and adorable categories.  It doesn't matter.  I think that this show is the personification of the middle finger in the world of political correctness, where I celebrate hunting, fishing, trapping, the shooting sports, Second Amendment, rugged individualism, resource stewardship, killing, gutting, skinning, barbecuing and digesting the perfect flesh of our sacred renewable resources.  Hallelujah!

CARLSON:  And also, you're tormenting people in the process. 

(CROSSTALK)

NUGENT:  I prod. 

CARLSON:  Yes, you are...

NUGENT:  I don't torment.

CARLSON:  (INAUDIBLE) prodding.  Here are some of the contests in “Wanted Ted or Alive.”

NUGENT:  But I'm cute when I do it.  Don't you see?

CARLSON:  It's pretty good.  Naked offer.  Ted offers a grand to anyone willing to forsake their clothing for a 24-hour period and dress only in garments they must construct from the skin of a buffalo Ted hunted. 

NUGENT:  You know, what does recreation mean other than—we should start a new offing in our life, take a deep breath and let nature heal us.  And I think we should start like our birth, naked.  Especially our contestants, who are oh so handsome and firm.  Some of them...

CARLSON:  You saw your contestants naked? 

NUGENT:  ... make for great ratings.  Well, you know, I don't give a darn, I've got the world's most beautiful mate on the planet, so I'm not in any need of that, but nonetheless, eye candy is eye candy.  And there's a certain mental rebirth necessary to function as a proper outdoorsman.  You need to understand the primal scream.  You need to understand...

CARLSON:  What's a primal scream? 

NUGENT:  The primal scream is our origins to be rugged and individual.  I mean, you stop and think, surviving Nugent now, or “Wanted Ted or Alive,” is about reminding modern people that there's a warrior inside of us.  Remember the citified people in New York on September 11th, 2001?  Those were city people, but were they not the warriors of all time?  The people who went and saved their fellow man and sacrificed their lives to help their neighbor?  Those were city people, but they were tougher than Davey Crocket that day, weren't they?

That's in all of us, and I try to inspire that so we're more responsible in our earthly consumerism.  Resource stewardship doesn't just mean using petroleum, it means—doesn't mean just using wood products, ti means planting more and using it more wisely.  And as a hunter, I truly understand that, because I kill my own food.  And I'm not going to be part of an assembly line.  I'm just going to take my arrow and kill the one I need.  I think it's more responsible. 

CARLSON:  How does the human scarecrow fit into that?  Human scarecrow is—you describe it, the ultimate endurance test.  Contestants are transformed into human scarecrows to scare off varmints in the field. 

NUGENT:  Didn't you mention I torment these people?  I guess you're right.

CARLSON:  I (INAUDIBLE) mentioned it, yes. 

NUGENT:  Well, again, I'm a bow hunter, and I'm also the Motor City Madman.   I love rock'n'roll and the sonic bombast of rhythm and blues dreams, and I've got the world's greatest musicians.  And we did 120 concerts last year—I'm about to do my 6,000th concert this year—because I crave that stuff. 

However, did you notice how much I need to shut up and relax once in a while?  I get my bow and arrow, and return to that primal scream, and I get into the swamps, way beyond the road less traveled, and I calm down and prod my level of awareness, my omniscient capability that God has blessed us with, if we use it properly—and I suppose you could say I torture myself, because I sit in a tree stand for 12 hours without moving, because I want to understand the bird life, the flora, the fauna, and ultimately maybe that big buck that will provide food for my family. 

Well, if I can do it, anybody can do it.  So I wanted to see these people get into a stealthy, statuesque, silent, Zen-like behavior, which is good for us on occasion. 

CARLSON:  And the crows pick at them?

NUGENT:  Well, I wish, but no crows showed up.  I think I'd already killed them.  But they did have to become like scarecrows, and the one who could stay motionless and stay in this uncomfortable position the longest got the biggest cash. 

And it was quite telling, because it brought out the good, the bad and the ugly in spades.  And it's quite entertaining, and quite telling about our fellow humans. 

CARLSON:  That, in my view, that's the whole reason TiVo was invented.  “Wanted Ted or Alive.”  It's going to be on my favorites list.  Ted Nugent, thank you.

NUGENT:  Outdoor Life network, baby.  (INAUDIBLE).

CARLSON:  I appreciate it. 

NUGENT:  All right.

CARLSON:  Coming up on THE SITUATION, Pat Robertson opens his mouth again, this time to explain Ariel Sharon's latest stroke.  We wonder aloud why anyone pays attention to this guy.  THE SITUATION coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Time for our voicemail segment.  Our machine is clogged with messages from you.  First up. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY:  Jeremy from Glen Burnie, Maryland.  I'm just wondering, why people are still giving the time of day to one of the most un-Christian people in the world, Mr. Pat Robertson?  I mean, the guy is a Pharisee, and people should just ignore him. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Here's a question, Jeremy, who has convinced more people there is no God, professional atheists or Pat Robertson?  Pat Robertson.  His most recent comment, Ariel Sharon had a stroke because he gave Gaza back to the Palestinians—he has this habit of explaining people's deaths and natural disasters by the sins they must have committed.  When he dies, the rest of us can sit around and imagine what he must have done wrong for God to smite him down.  It's pretty offensive. 

Next up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS:  This is Chris from Westbury, New York.  I just wanted to say that the woman that you just had on about immigration rights is so totally out of left field.  I remember where my relatives came from.  They came from Italy, but they came here legally.  And everybody else who's in this country should be here legally.  And if they're not, then they should just get out. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well, of course, of course, Chris.  Nobody—I mean, most Americans are for immigration, very much including me.  I love immigrants.  Everyone loves immigrants.  They work hard.  They're decent people.  Illegal immigrants are in a completely different category.  I love bank tellers.  I don't like bank robbers.  There's a difference.  Of course.

Next up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA:  I'm calling from central Illinois.  I was just wondering what happened to all of the kind of combative arguing that I so fell in love with your show for?  And besides, Max Kellerman is kind of hot, so I kind of miss that one, too. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That's just sick.  Oh, that's just disgusting.  That's vile. 

You ought to be ashamed of yourself for entertaining a thought like that. 

How is that for combative arguing? 

Let me know what you're thinking.  1-877-TCARLSON is the number.  That's 877-822-7576.  You can also e-mail tucker.MSNBC.com.  You can also read the blog, tucker.msnbc.com.

Still ahead on THE SITUATION, do you live in America's fattest city?   That's fat with an f, by the way, not a p-h.  There's a new champion atop the list of tubbiest towns.  We'll unveil the winner on “The Cutting Room Floor,” next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  It's time again for “The Cutting Room Floor.”  And in response to your demands, vocal as they were, we bring back Willie Geist. 

WILLIE GEIST, THE SITUATION PRODUCER:  Thank you to the people. 

Otherwise, I would be out of a job. 

CARLSON:  Yes, you would.

GEIST:  Ted Nugent, one of the best guests we've ever had, I had to say.  And also, I just saw him upstairs in the cafeteria, he shot a ham sandwich with a crossbow.  It was amazing.  I told him, you don't have to kill your own food in the dot-commissary.

CARLSON:  His last book, “Kill It and Grill It,” really one of the great—one of the great books ever written, and this just shows how reckless and easily impressed I am, I would vote for Ted Nugent for almost anything. 

GEIST:  I believe you would.  Were there recipes in “Kill It and Grill It?”  And had you used any of them?  

CARLSON:  Absolutely.  He and his wife are going out and killing boar and then throwing it on the coals.  Oh, yeah, it's pretty cool.

GEIST:  Sounds delicious. 

CARLSON:  Thank you, Willie.

Well, when China isn't threatening Taiwan with full-scale military invasion, the country is offering its renegade province cuddly baby pandas. 

GEIST:  Oh.

CARLSON:  The gesture is an effort by the Chinese government to boost public support for uniting Taiwan and mainland China.  The Taiwanese government says it has not yet decided whether to accept the gift.  Officials say China is forcing the pandas on Taiwan, and nobody likes a panda forced on them. 

GEIST:  No, we've all been there, it's not—it's uncomfortable. 

Tucker, a word of advice to Taiwan: Take the pandas, because the next offering is a three-million-man army.  So I would go with the pandas, because the alternative is not good.

CARLSON:  Never look a gift panda in the mouth. 

GEIST:  That's right.  When the tanks start rolling to Taipei, you're going to wish you had those pandas. 

CARLSON:  That's exactly right. 

We're back to the panda thing in China.  A country that obsessed with pandas could never overtake our country.  I agree with that.

Chicago is one of the America's greatest cities, or so people say.  It's also one of America's fattest cities—actually, it's the fattest city.  A report released today by “Men's Fitness” magazine shows deep dish pizza and Polish sausage have made Chicago the most out-of-shape metropolis in this country.  Chicago takes the honor from last year's champ, Houston.  Las Vegas was second fattest.  Baltimore, weirdly enough, rated America's fittest city. 

GEIST:  Baltimore a city technically?

CARLSON:  No one really lives in Baltimore anymore, that's why. 

GEIST:  It's kind of a per capital thing.

CARLSON:  Well, I think the people, like the city, are just desiccated.  You know what I mean?

GEIST:  That's right. 

I don't believe this at all, by the way.  Chicago, I've been around the country a little bit.  Chicago, I don't notice them to be particularly fat. 

CARLSON:  Every four years, I go to Iowa for the Iowa caucuses, and I love Iowa, but I have to notice, when you get to Iowa, it's a big state in every sense.  Yes.  There is a donut shop about every 20 yards in Iowa. 

GEIST:  Yes.  I think in middle America, there are some places. 

CARLSON:  I stop at every one personally.  I'm not ashamed.

Norwegian chess champion Alvard Agustauer (ph) is so tired of beating people at chess that he is now taking on opponents 10 at a time.  The Norwegian waltzed into a bar in Farmington, New Mexico this week and lined up 10 suckers.  Believe it or not, Alvard lost one of the matches, to a 17-year-old.  He said if he had played the kid head to head, he would have beaten him quite easily.  This Norwegian's arrogant.

GEIST:  Feisty.  So does that make the 17 -year-old the new Norwegian chess champion?  Technically...

CARLSON:  Probably.

GEIST:  Even though he's from New Mexico.  By the way, I for one would like to know what the Norwegian chess champion is doing trolling bars in New Mexico, hustling 17-year-olds. 

CARLSON:  What is a 17-year-old doing in a bar in Mexico playing chess?  And why is there—I have been to many bars in my life, I've never seen people play chess in a bar. 

GEIST:  No, you shouldn't play chess in a bar.  We need to look deeper into this story. 

CARLSON:  That's for public (INAUDIBLE).

It's time to unveil the human and nonhuman of the week.  First, the human.  He's an Indian man named Radwa (ph) and he's being heralded as the real-life Rapunzel.  I think the actual Rapunzel was a woman, but we'll let that one slide for now. 

The man's hair is a staggering 42 feet long.  The 50-year-old hasn't cut his hair in 40 years.  Radwa has to round up a dozen of his friends to clean his hair, which we suspect is not something that happens very often. 

GEIST:  No, I wouldn't think it happens very often.  Can you imagine the wildlife that's taken up residence in his hair?  You could probably explain the food chain to a school child if you just went through his hair.  Here's the blue green algae, and just go all the way on up to the primates. 

Just amazing. 

CARLSON:  What's the appeal? 

GEIST:  Of having hair like that?

CARLSON:  Yeah.

GEIST:  He's trying to get in the Guinness Book of Records.  And he's not yet.  I'm not going to say anything bad about the Guinness Book of Records...

CARLSON:  It's a lot -- (INAUDIBLE).  It's pretty easy.

Well, if you're a cat who knows how to dial 911, you sure as heck are going to be the nonhuman of the week, at least on this show.  Police in Columbus, Ohio say Tommy the cat dialed 911 on his owner's phone after the man fell out of his wheelchair.  When cops arrived, they found the cat sitting next to the phone.  The man says he trained Tommy to call 911 in the event of an emergency. 

GEIST:  Yeah, I said it earlier in the week, Tucker, I'm glad everybody's healthy.  I have some real questions and some concerns about teaching your cat to dial 911.  I think it might be abusive in some way. 

CARLSON:  Well, also, it's not—that is not what happened.  No animal in the entire animal kingdom is more indifferent to human suffering than a cat.  No cat would bother.

GEIST:  As we said earlier, the cat wants you to die. 

CARLSON:  That's exactly right.

GEIST:  He would not call 911. 

CARLSON:  On that happy note, Willie Geist.

GEIST:  Have a good weekend, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You too.

That's THE SITUATION for tonight.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.  Have a great weekend.  See you Monday.

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

END   

Content and programming copyright 2006 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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