updated 4/4/2006 11:32:30 AM ET 2006-04-04T15:32:30

Guests: Antonia Felix, Cheri Jacobus, Ana Marie Cox, John Nichols, Michael Smerconish, Al Franken

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  And right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight: 

Bill Frist fights for his right to ram immigration reform through the Senate, as in now.  Will the Bush base stand by their man?  Will illegals get amnesty?  And will John and Jerry be this spring‘s hottest couple?  Al Franken is live in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY for tonight‘s showdown.

And Katherine Harris, from GOP savior to Republican embarrassment?  More bad news for the embattled Florida fixture, as her top campaign advisers quit.  Whatever happened to those halcyon days, when $10 million could buy a gal loyalty?

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required, only common sense allowed. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to the show.  Thanks for being with us tonight.  We‘re going to have those stories in just a moment. 

Plus, Capitol Hill catcalls for crazy Cynthia McKinney, the Georgia congressman who has spent her time on Capitol Hill accusing the president of conspiracy on 9/11, suggesting the CIA dumps drugs into black neighborhoods.  And she also punched a Capitol Hill cop for doing his job.  Now, that last offense may land her in jail.  We will tell you about it.

And deadly weather, hail the size of grapefruits, and twisters a mile wide rip through eight states in America‘s heartland.  We will get you up to date with the very latest. 

But, first, Republican heavyweights spent this weekend fighting over the illegal immigration reform package that other Republicans say is not a reform at all, but, rather, a type of illegal amnesty bill, a type of bill that would make Ronald Reagan roll over in his grave, but, of course, for the fact that the Gipper signed an amnesty bill 20 years ago, to disastrous effects. 

Senate Leader and future presidential candidate Bill Frist has seen enough, and he is ready to force a vote on the illegal immigration issue, whether George Bush and his Democratic enemies like it or not. 

With me to talk about illegal immigration, Mr. Frist and John McCain‘s new political friend is Al Franken.  He‘s the host of “The Al Franken Show” on Air American Radio and author of “The Truth With Jokes.”  And Michael Smerconish, he‘s a radio talk show host from Philadelphia and the author of “Muzzled: From T-Ball to Terrorism-True - Stories That Should Be Fiction.” 

Al, Bill Frist is saying no to illegal immigration reform.  The president is saying yes.  Who are you supporting in this case, George Bush or Bill Frist? 

AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  George Bush.  Great leader. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Tell us why, Al.  You have just helped him with his Republican base. 

FRANKEN:  Well, I mean, I—I—I think these—I‘m sorry. 

I think these 11 million or 12 million undocumented people who are here, I think it‘s un—impractical to expect that we‘re going to deport them.  Many of them have children who are citizens, and brothers and sisters who are. 

I think what we have to do is tighten up the border.  I think we have to figure out a—a guest-worker program that limits the number of people who come in and that treats them well and treats America—and is fair to American-born workers. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Smerconish, you support the president and Al Franken, or are you...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... on Bill Frist‘s side? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think, in this battle, I have got to go with Frist. 

I‘m uncomfortable with—with Al‘s characterization of undocumented, because undocumented, to me, sounds as if somebody left their house for work without their wallet.  They are here illegally.  And the solution to illegal conduct is to say, well, OK, I guess we will just legalize it. 

You know, Joe, I have got a 100-year-old grandmother.  My mom is—is one of 11 kids, eight sisters, three brothers.  They came into this country late, 1926, but they—they did it through the—the proper channel at Ellis Island. 

And that‘s the difference between preserving the American dream for the way that our forefathers did it and what is going on today.  I agree with Al, we have got to close the borders first, and then address the issue of what to do with the 11 or 12 million.  But I‘m uncomfortable just saying, it‘s OK; you—you now get an out-of-jail-free card. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Al, how can it be fair to U.S. workers...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... if, as you know, there are some jobs that U.S.  workers aren‘t going to get, because these illegals are getting them, and, also, more importantly, it depresses the wages for everybody above minimum wage? 

FRANKEN:  Well, it doesn‘t real—I mean, the statistics on this will

and the studies that have been done on this would argue a bit against this. 

I mean, it‘s a matter of limiting the number of people that—that come in, not sealing off the border, but also allowing the people who come in for these guest-worker programs to organize.  And I think that would—there are jobs that Americans aren‘t taking. 

But I—I agree.  There are—that‘s part of the push and pull of this, is that—to be fair to American-born workers.  And I think you have to—you do have to limit the number of—of people who come in on a guest-worker program and give them rights. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Michael Smerconish, what do you do with 12 million illegal immigrants that are here?  Do you push them back over the border?

SMERCONISH:  I think what you do is, you—you clamp down on the employers who have hired them illegally. 

I have got to say, I think it‘s a bit impractical to say, well, we are going to round up 11 or 12 million folks and send them back to Mexico or wherever they have come from. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael, this is all about business, isn‘t it?  I mean, I—I don‘t—I‘m not going to try to figure out why George Bush is trying to help these illegal immigrants get amnesty in this country.  But this is really more about big business.

SMERCONISH:  Yes.  I agree with you, Joe.  I...

SCARBOROUGH:  Cheap Labor.

SMERCONISH:  I think it‘s—it‘s more about money than it is about security in a post-9/11 world, which is sort of distressing, because we‘re approaching the five-year anniversary, and it‘s only now that we‘re so fixated on this issue, which I think is an important debate. 

But, my goodness, why in the world didn‘t we have this discussion in the immediate aftermath of September 11?  We—we didn‘t.  So, it‘s financially driven. 

And, yes, it‘s true that these folks are taking jobs that a lot of Americans won‘t take.  But Americans won‘t take them because they pay so low.  Why do they pay them so low?  It‘s because there are Mexicans willing to come in here illegally and do those jobs.  So, if you put an end to that illegal immigration, theoretically—and I buy into this—then the wage that gets paid is going to increase, and more Americans will take those jobs.

SCARBOROUGH:  Al, how hard—how hard is it for you to be with the president on this issue?  It‘s got to break your heart.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN:  It really does. 

Well, I mean...

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN:  First of all, I don‘t think this is an amnesty, in the sense that what they are talking about is an 11-year process, people paying fines, people proving that they are good citizens. 

It‘s—it‘s a long, long process.  And it‘s not—it‘s not the amnesty that—that you talked about with—with Reagan.  I—I—as far as sealing off the border, I don‘t want to seal—I—I don‘t think Reagan, like, if he were alive now, would go, like:  Mr. Gorbachev, help me build this wall. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Smerconish, almost un-American...

FRANKEN:  I don‘t think he would say that.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... having walls at our border, right? 

SMERCONISH:  It is.  There‘s something unseemly about it.  And, yet, it‘s working in the West Bank.

I mean, I—I never—I never thought it was a good idea for the Israelis to do it.  And, yet, they have done it.  And it seems to be working.  The acts of terrorism in the intifada are down.  The thing looks unsightly as hell, but it‘s working.  It‘s achieving its purpose. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Al, you know, we‘re talking presidential politics when we talk about Bill Frist pushing this bill this week. 

What about John McCain‘s interview with Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” yesterday, when he talked about the fact that, actually, Jerry Falwell may not be such a bad guy at after all? 

FRANKEN:  Well, it‘s—I mean, he called him, basically, an extremist on the level of Louis Farrakhan in 2-00. 

And, since then, Falwell said—said—and I—I—I wrote it down, so I could get it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What...

FRANKEN:  This is what he said on “The 700 Club”:  I really believe that the pagans, the abortionists, the feminists, the lesbians and the gays Ohio are actively—this is about 9/11 -- who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all those who are trying to secularize this country, I point my finger in your face and say, you helped this happen. 

And Pat Robertson said:  I totally concur. 

And he said he had been quoted out of context.  But the only way I could see this being quoted out of context is if he had preceded it with, I would have to be a total nut to say.

So, I—I don‘t see how Falwell has done anything in the last—since McCain called him an extremist, until now, for—for him to get in bed with, or, you know, to—I mean, you know, he‘s speaking at his—his university. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

FRANKEN:  And it just seems that McCain is becoming a normal...

SCARBOROUGH:  A presidential...

FRANKEN:  ... politician. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A presidential politician, and a pretty good one, probably.      

Hey, Al, stay with us.  We have got some breaking news right now.

With me on the phone, I would like to bring in Chris Matthews. 

Chris, I hear you—understand you have some breaking news regarding a very prominent Washington figure?  What can you tell us? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS”:  I just was on the phone, Joe, with U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas, who is fighting for reelection.  And he told me tonight, just a moment ago, that he‘s going to withdraw from the race tomorrow.  He‘s not going to seek reelection. 

He told me the following reasons he gave.  He thought that, although the polls showed him losing, going down, he thought he had a 50/50 chance of winning.  He said that the—the beating he‘s going to take between now and November would have made it very hard for him to win.  He thought he might be able to reverse it, but it would be very hard to reverse the polling trends. 

He said that—that it was very important for the Republicans to hold this seat, and that he believed that—that another Republican had a very good chance, in fact, would walk into this seat, if another Republican were to replace him.  And he‘s going to allow that to happen tomorrow by withdrawing from the election. 

Again, he said that the trends against him in the polling, which were

became apparent last fall, have continued now through the—through April.  And he saw that trend as being very difficult to buck. 

He said he‘s going to spend the rest of his career working with conservative organizations, with whom he has great relationship, and he‘s going to continue to be a leader in the conservative movement, but outside of Congress. 

That‘s a—the word from Tom DeLay himself, just on the phone with me. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Chris, you—you saw—obviously saw the breaking news this weekend—Tony Rudy, his former chief of staff, going to jail for an unknown number of years—others around him going to jail.

Do you think this had more to do with Republican politics or Tom DeLay

spending all of his time and energy defending himself in lawsuits—or in

in prosecutions? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that, no doubt, Joe, is a fair estimate. 

We can assume, without a lot of editorial judgment here, or a lot of analysis, that the bad news has accumulated, through both the Abramoff case and now this, and, of course, his problems with Ronnie Earle down in—in Texas himself. 

But I have to tell you, when he spoke to me tonight, he was—he called me up, and he said:  You have always been fair with me.  And I wanted you to get this story early.  It will be breaking tomorrow. 

He was talking about his future outside of Congress.  And, of course, you, being a political expert, know that—that the factors that you mentioned, especially these scandal cases, are not helping, may well have contributed to the continuing decline in the polling he talked about. 

I guess I was surprised that, in the fall, the polling showed it—it had gone south on him in his district, the—the 22nd, but he had been so tough in the interview I did with him down there.  I thought he was going to try to buck that trend.  He said to me tonight, the trend has continued since the fall.  It has been a real problem for him, because he believes that that—that the opposition Democrats are going to pound him. 

He said:  We‘re going to take a beating all summer now.

And he expected, that would be very hard.  He said—his word was, it would be very hard to reverse that trend, which he said began last fall.  So, here‘s a man facing political reality.  And I think what you mentioned is part of that reality. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Unbelievable. 

“HARDBALL”‘s Chris Matthews, thanks so much for that breaking news. 

MATTHEWS:  Thanks, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s certainly surprising, a big scoop:  Tom DeLay, the

the man known as the Hammer, a guy that I served with in Congress for seven years, announcing tonight, telling Chris Matthews, MSNBC‘s Chris Matthews, he will be withdrawing from the race tomorrow.  He will not seek reelection, so another Republican can run and win that easily Republican seat. 

Let‘s go back to Al Franken right now. 

Al, what‘s your response to one of the most powerful men, not only in the House of Representatives, but in Washington, D.C., announcing his retirement from Congress? 

FRANKEN:  It‘s pretty sad. 

I mean, here‘s a guy who served his country so well.  He had—he had bad judgment in people, Tony Rudy, Michael Scanlon.  It looked like this guy Buckham, who was his—these are all former chiefs of staff or communications directors for him, Scanlon and Rudy now pleading and going to prison. 

And, then, he has got this guy, Buckham, who was named, pretty much implicated in Rudy‘s thing, who was his chief of staff.  He has just got bad judgment in people.  He seems to pick people who are—are criminals.  And that‘s sad. 

No.  I will tell you, I—I have given money to Nick Lampson, who I was kind of hoping would beat DeLay.  And I think DeLay probably—this—this comes out of the Tony Rudy thing.  I think you were quite right to bring that up. 

And I kind of—I was relishing him staying in and—and losing.  And I don‘t know—I don‘t know if this is going to be such a—a cake walk for the Republican that steps in either...

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael...

FRANKEN:  ... because this—this...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Smerconish, how—how ironic is it, Michael, that this is a guy that helped the Republicans pick up four or five seats in Texas a couple of years back, the now he can‘t even retain his own—his own seat because of the scandals in Washington? 

SMERCONISH:  It‘s true, Joe.  But he‘s also a guy who could have cost us four or five seats in the November general election.  And—and better that this news comes today, with a voluntary resignation or withdrawal from the race, than it comes in seven months, with a defeat at the ballot box, at least for the Republican Party. 

It‘s not going to stop the criticism of DeLay and of DeLay as being a figurehead for that which is wrong in the minds of some of the party, but best for the party that he‘s out as of now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Al Franken, just to wrap it up, I just—if—if they are keeping score at home, Al Franken says, George Bush, good, Tom DeLay, bad. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Right?  Is that where you are tonight? 

FRANKEN:  I think you are being overly simplistic, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No?

OK.  On...

FRANKEN:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... illegal immigration, Al.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  On illegal immigration, Bush, good, Tom DeLay, bad, right? 

FRANKEN:  Well, on—on—I like a guest-worker program.  And I like some glide path toward permanent residency or citizenship...

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

FRANKEN:  ... with some penalties thrown in...

SCARBOROUGH:  And I—and...

FRANKEN:  ... and a closing off of the border...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

FRANKEN:  ... but not entirely. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Al.  And I like saying...

FRANKEN:  More security. 

SCARBOROUGH:  More security.

And I like saying, Al Franken supports George Bush in the same sentence.

Al, thanks for being with us. 

Michael Smerconish...

FRANKEN:  Oh, God.  And it‘s going to hurt me.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  It‘s—it‘s going to kill you if you run for Senate.  But we will be covering that, too. 

Al, thanks for being with us.

Michael Smerconish, stick around, because you are going to be back to talk about your book a little bit later. 

We will be back with the latest news on Katherine Harris—when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They keep quitting Katherine—Katherine Harris‘ campaign for Senate, that is.  What‘s wrong with the Florida congresswoman, and why can‘t she hold her staff?  And is it time for her to give up the ghost? 

We will talk about that and more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Money can‘t buy you love.  So sang the Beatles.  But it usually helps when one is shopping for a U.S. Senate seat. 

Not so in the case of the Florida‘s $10 million woman, Katherine Harris, who promised to spend that much of her inheritance money to get elected.  But, when it comes to Ms. Harris, the promise of $10 million in cash is apparently not good enough to find good help.

This weekend, Harris‘s top campaign staff abruptly quit.  To date, the troubled campaign has lost two campaign managers, a finance director, a communications director, a lead strategist, a campaign spokeswoman, a director of field operations, a media consultant.  And the list goes on.

Harris‘ campaign has been train-wreck TV from the start.  And it began with this appearance on “Hannity & Colmes.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY & COLMES”)

REP. KATHERINE HARRIS (R-FL), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Today was such an incredible day.  It was an historic day, because one woman launched a United States Senate campaign, and another woman successfully pilot—piloted the shuttle launch back to Earth.

We‘re in this race to stay.  We don‘t—quite frankly, people are going to decide who is going to be their next—next United States senator at the ballot. 

And we‘re going to get every single person involved.

Now, I know Sean is going to be involved and supportive.  But, Alan, we think you should come along for this memorable journey.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST:  Thanks for the invitation.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST:  You‘re already my adoptive congresswoman, Congresswoman Harris.

HARRIS:  And you‘re my favorite adopted constituent.

HARRIS:  Alan, I have got a great shot of you and me I thought I could put up on the Web.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY:  Of me and you or me and Alan?  I think you had one with you and Alan the last time you were here, Congresswoman.

COLMES:  That‘s right.

HARRIS:  I saw it on the Web, Alan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, is it the end for the woman Democrats have been blaming six years for George W. Bush?  Or will Katherine Harris once again prove her snarky, condescending critics wrong? 

Earlier tonight, I talked to John Nichols with “The Nation.”  And I asked him, how is Katherine Harris going to survive the latest hit on her campaign? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”:  She is surviving it because she says she intends to put $10 million of her own money in the race. 

And, Joe, you were in politics for a long time.  You know the—the complex realities of—of politics.  And the one thing that trumps almost everything else is money.  But there‘s an awful lot of pressure from people who—even folks in the Republican Party who like Katherine Harris, who want her to get out of the race. 

SCARBOROUGH:  She seems to be off of her game.  And you hear those whispers in Washington, D.C.  What‘s going on behind the scenes with Katherine Harris? 

NICHOLS:  Well, Joe, as—as you know, I wrote a lot about Katherine Harris in a book I did on Florida politics. 

And, you know, she was very close to her family.  Her grandfather was a legendary political figure in Florida, her father, a very wealthy and successful businessman.  Her father passed away not too long ago.  And some folks have speculated that that had an impact on her, as—as it would be on any of us. 

I don‘t really—I‘m very cautious about getting into psychoanalyzing politicians.  It‘s a dangerous game.  But what I would say is that I think a lot of people in the leadership in the Republican Party, in Washington and in Florida, have lost confidence in Katherine Harris‘ ability to put up a campaign that could actually take the seat for the Republican Party. 

And that‘s why there is a—you do hear a lot of those rumors.  You hear a lot of that discussion.  And think I—I would have to share your insight.  I think there is some concern about whether she has kind of got everything together.

SCARBOROUGH:  Whether she has got everything together—those concerns were being voiced to me by Republican Party operatives long before her father passed away. 

As you and I everybody else watching this show knows, Florida is the ultimate swing state.  And, yet, with Katherine Harris at the top of the Republicans‘ ticket, the Democrats know they don‘t have to put a dime in there.  Why are the Republicans afraid to cross Katherine Harris and tell her, have the president, Jeb Bush, other leaders tell her, get out of the race; we got to win it; and you ain‘t going to do it, lady?

NICHOLS:  If you take Florida out of the game, if the Republican candidate in Florida doesn‘t have a chance, that doesn‘t just make Florida a shaky place for the Republican Party.  It also allows a lot of Democratic money to flow to other states. 

So, the concern on this is—is heightening.  And I do believe that -

that it really will come down to the president and his brother, the governor.  And the—the challenge will be whether they want to step up and say:  Katherine Harris, this really is not the race for you. 

If they don‘t do that, if they decide that it‘s just not—not something that—that they want to get into, I think that they are going to run the risk of endangering their chances, not just in Florida, but in other places as well. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Final question.  I—I got to ask you this, either on the Republican side or the Democratic side of the aisle, and any campaign for public office, have you ever seen a mutiny of this scale? 

NICHOLS:  It‘s unprecedented. 

And—and I have to tell you that when have you a politician saying that they intend to spend millions of their own money, usually, staffers don‘t jump ship. 

(LAUGHTER)

NICHOLS:  When they jump ship in a situation like this, this is a message that I think goes beyond just politics.  I actually believe some of these people who are leaving her campaign are trying to speak to her directly, and say, look, Katherine, for your own good, you need to get out of this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is just not going to work. 

All right, John Nichols with “The Nation,” thank you so much being with us.  As always, I greatly appreciate it.

NICHOLS:  It‘s a—it‘s a pleasure, Joe. Thanks for having me on. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, as we told you earlier, from—from Katherine Harris to Tom DeLay—Chris Matthews came on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY just a few minutes ago with this breaking news. 

He got on the phone with Congressman Tom DeLay, a guy I knew and served with in Congress for seven years, a guy—I will tell you the truth.  I liked him.  I mean, Tom DeLay was a straight shooter.  When he told you he was on your side, unlike most politicians, you knew he was on your side, because, when Tom DeLay was against you, he would say it to you to your face. 

He was a truthful guy to me, never lied once to me in seven years. 

And I can‘t say that for a lot of people in Congress or in TV. 

I‘ll tell you what.  We‘re going to—we are going to be going to break. 

But, when we come back, we‘re going to have more with—more on the Tom DeLay story, breaking news. 

Also going to be talking about Cynthia McKinney, the crazy congresswoman from Georgia I also served with, but don‘t hold in—in as high of esteem.  We will tell you her latest problems, after she punched a Capitol Hill cop—that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A Democratic congresswoman facing charges and possible jail time for punching a cop—this is the same congresswoman that accused the president of conspiring with bin Laden on 9/11.  We will have that story and much more when we return. 

But, first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re back now with more on our breaking news: MSNBC‘s Chris Matthews confirming that Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas is dropping out of the race for Congress. 

With me now on the phone is the host of “HARDBALL,” Chris Matthews. 

Chris, you broke the story.  Give us the very latest. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the situation is the same.  He‘s going to make the announcement tomorrow.  He gave me the heads-up tonight. 

And I think, you know, when you listen to his thinking, it‘s very

interesting.  You know, you and I know that this was going to be the

premier race of the country.  Everybody wanted to know how Tom DeLay was

going to do in Texas, given all the troubles he faces, in—including the

the local prosecutor down there, who has been after him, the Democratic prosecutor, I should add. 

And I think that it has accumulated.  What he said to me tonight, just a few moments ago, was that he basically, I think, looked at the polling.  And politicians, as you know, Joe, always say they don‘t believe in polls. 

But the polling on him down in the 22nd District of Texas, which he has represented all these years, was going down on him since the last fall.  And he said the trend continued, even through his successful victory in the Republican primary. 

And he said that he expected to take a beating all summer on this, and this kind of story, the one, the Ronnie Earle prosecutor story, the—the story involving Rudy, his former staffer, the one involving Abramoff, which keeps going on and on, I guess he figured, and he told me figured, the stories were going to—I mean, the beating was going to continue. 

He thought he had about a 50-50 shot of getting reelected.  But he said, another Republican in that district would win big.  In fact, he used the term—he said, he‘s going to walk into the seat, whoever gets the—that wins the nomination, now that he‘s stepping aside. 

But, Joe, this is a—this is a—this is the biggest election of

the year.  And now we know that he‘s not going to be on the ballot come

November. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Chris, Tom DeLay was around when we were—we were having a—a debate over the future of Newt Gingrich and whether Newt Gingrich leaving was good for the Republican Party or not. 

Put on—put on your news analysis hat, new analyst hat, and tells us, do you think Tom DeLay deciding to step down now will help the Republican Party over the next six months, before the next election? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think it‘s early enough to effect a positive development.  It may save them five seats. 

He knows it‘s going to save the Republican Party seat at least.  He‘s convinced of that, when I talked to him tonight, that, as he put it, any other Republican in that ballot down there, in the 22nd, is going to walk in. 

It‘s about a—you know, a high 50 percent district of Republicans.  It‘s not an overwhelming Republican district.  But, as you know, what often happens is, when a guy goes down because he gets defeated because of a scandal or whatever, the other party wins the seat for maybe one term, and then it comes back to the party that it belonged to, basically, politically two years later. 

So, I guess he wants to save his party a step.  And I—I think he‘s an expert, as you know, about elections.  And I think he knows that this battle for who is going to control the Congress could come down to a couple seats either way.  And think that—well, what he was saying to me tonight was, he wants to make sure it goes his party‘s way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it. 

Thanks a lot, Chris Matthews.  Greatly appreciate it, and the breaking news. 

Stay with MSNBC for the very latest.

And, speaking of Congress, how do you solve a problem like Cynthia McKinney?  The troubled six-term congresswoman from Georgia has long been considered an embarrassing fact of life for constituents, congressmen, and Capitol Hill Police.  Soon after September 11, McKinney told a radio audience that George W. Bush knew about bin Laden‘s 9/11 plan in advance, but did nothing, because the attacks would help his family‘s stock portfolio. 

The good news for the congresswoman, saying stupid things is not a crime.  Thank God.  The bad news for McKinney, punching a cop is. 

Earlier, I talked to the editor emeritus of Wonkette and the author of “Dogs Days,” Ana Marie Cox.  And she gave us the skinny on Cynthia McKinney. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANA MARIE COX, WONKETTE.COM:  I think that the Capitol Hill security people are throwing—showing a little bit of detachment from reality themselves in actually bringing charges against her. 

I mean, what does it say about our national security, or, I should say, our Capitol Hill security, that, you know, she‘s a girl.  They got hit by a girl. 

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  And, like, that‘s going to be the thing that they are really concerned about? 

I mean, what happens when an actual shoe bomber shows up?  You know, I mean, they just—all they have to do is poke with their cell phone and they get through?  I mean, this seems—it seems a little absurd that they are making this big a deal.  And, of course, it just feeds into her ego, which, I think, is considerable. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about some of the other crazy things she has done in the past. 

COX:  Well, you know, one thing I was going to say about this particular instance is that perhaps—I—I hear that she actually alleges that President Bush knew about her attack in advance. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

COX:  Because, as you know, that‘s her other big claim to fame, is that she‘s alleged, in a fairly, apparently, serious way, that the Bush administration knew about the 9/11 attacks before they occurred, which, I mean, we—we can laugh about her craziness, with the celebrities, and the punching, and her, you know, kind of outsized personality, but these kinds of—these—that‘s—that‘s not a funny kind of crazy, to allege those kinds of things. 

And, as a Democrat, I have to worry, kind of I worry that—that—that she makes us all look a little bit crazy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about how somebody like Cynthia McKinney, who wouldn‘t be recognized by 99 people out of 100 people on the street out there, pre-new hairdo...

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  Yes, right.

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about how they walk around in their own world, and they really do think the world revolves around them, that America‘s security and well-being all revolves around what they do in their cubicle day in and day out.

COX:  It‘s true.

I mean, I think what is really interesting is—is, like, these people are, perhaps, you know, big deals back in their own district.  But, when they get to Capitol Hill, there really are hundreds of them.  I don‘t know a maitre d‘ in Washington that will seat you faster if you say that you are a representative. 

And I think that one reason it—that—that—maybe that is why they are so easy to bribe, when it comes right down do it.  I mean, maybe that is why we look at these lobbying scandals.  It‘s the congressmen that get caught, because they are the ones who feel like maybe they really deserve some kind of recognition. 

It‘s hard to explain, really, because they are—they—they are the smallest cogs in this great wheel of government.  But I guess it‘s the smallest cogs that—you know, that need all the grease, as it were. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I guess so.  I guess so. 

They may not be big deals in their—listen to this segue—in their home districts.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Ana Marie Cox, you are always a big deal in

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Thanks a lot for being with us.  We greatly appreciate it. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And another guy who is a big deal on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY

in fact, he‘s the guy that runs SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY when I‘m away—is Michael Smerconish.

He asks the question, are the P.C. police ruining America and leaving us open to more terror attacks?

Our guest says yes.  He has written a new book called “Muzzled: From T-Ball to Terrorism - True Stories That Should Be Fiction.” 

In it, he says—quote—“We have become a country of kvetchers and apologists.  We‘re literally scared to death to offend.  All of this limp-wristed worry over hurt feelings is compromising our ability to defeat radical Islam and might just get us killed.” 

With us now to talk about it, the soft-spoken Michael Smerconish.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael, let‘s launch right into it—“The New York Daily News” apologizing for putting mug shots of criminals on the cover of their magazine...

SMERCONISH:  You...

SCARBOROUGH:  On their newspaper.  What is it about? 

SMERCONISH:  You can‘t talk about race, Joe. There are a number of things—and it‘s a growing list—that you just can‘t talk about it.  This is one of them. 

Look at that cover that‘s being shown right now.  All of those individuals were wanted for murder at the time.  And, yet, the newspaper felt compelled, within days, to apologize, after publishing the mug shots.  Why?  Because all of the individuals who were then wanted for murder were people of color.  So, it was an accurate story, but the fact that there were no Caucasians caused the newspaper to say, maybe we should have rethunk the—the idea of—of running that cover.

In similar fashion, down in Delaware a month ago, I saw a headline.  It said, “Bearded Man Wanted For Rape.”  I‘m thinking, bearded man, what a strange headline.  They tell you he has got a blue car, that it‘s four door, that it‘s a Chevy, and that he has a beard. 

But nowhere will they tell you if he‘s black, white, or an Indian chief.  I mean, it has gotten crazy in this country.

SCARBOROUGH:  And you—you talk about race.  But, also, more importantly, as far as national security goes, you also talk about the—the racial profiling, or lack thereof, when it comes to Arabs or Arab-Americans. 

Talk about the most bizarre profiling that you have heard of when it comes to airport security and pulling over a passenger. 

SMERCONISH:  Well, and the argument that I try to make in the book is that this limp-wristedness at home, it has spilled over into the war on terror.  It‘s like a cancer that has metastasized into the war on terror.

And I think border control and airport security is a great example.  Let me just tell you about the—the case of Claire (ph) and Frank Yoakum (ph).  They are in Phoenix, where they just have quadruplets.  The quadruplets are all of two months old.  There‘s a photograph of Claire (ph) with the four babies. 

She‘s now flying out of Phoenix.  I—I‘m telling you, it makes you laugh and then it makes you cry.  The kids, because they‘re—they are newborns, are wrapped in gauze.  And, at the Phoenix airport, they get selected for secondary screening.  The kids have to be unwrapped, tubes removed.  That‘s what we‘re wasting our time on, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  And I told—I have told you my story before, where my six-month-old baby girl, when she was six months then, yanked out of her mother‘s hand—hands—and then frisked, along with my 15-year-old son, and my 12-year-old son at the time, and my wife, and then me. 

And, then, at the end of that, what did they say?  “Hey, we‘re big fans of your show.”

SMERCONISH:  Love the show, right.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

SMERCONISH:  Love SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘m OK, well, so, why are you frisking me? 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I—I mean, I‘m not asking for special treatment.  I‘m just asking that you profile the people that are most likely to blow up planes. 

SMERCONISH:  And, listen, you and I ought to have some level of screening. 

But when it comes to secondary screening with those—those critically few resources, don‘t waste them on us.  Don‘t waste them until guys like Scarborough and Smerconish are out there flying airplanes into the Twin Towers, which isn‘t going to happen. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Speaking of the Twin Towers and the financial district in New York City, talk about this Wall Street whiz kid...

SMERCONISH:  Oh, man.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... that—that—that got fired for a joke. 

SMERCONISH:  Andrew Susser, his name, Vassar graduate.  Then goes to the University of Pennsylvania, gets a J.D. MBA., the Wharton School and the Penn Law School.

SCARBOROUGH:  As good as it gets. 

SMERCONISH:  As good as it gets.

He goes to Bank of America, setting the world on fire.  He‘s like that character in “Bonfire of the Vanities” that Tom Wolfe wrote about.  He‘s making a reported $4 million a year.  And he‘s an analyst of the gaming and hospitality industry.  And he has got a sense of humor.

And, at the end of the year, Joe, he turns out a circular, a

publication for his clients, where he talks about trends in the hospitality

and the casino industry.  And, in a sort of “National Lampoon”-ish fashion

there it is—he has his face superimposed on the fully clothed body of a woman—no profanity, no nudity.

And, for that picture, he got fired, because even Wall Street has become an intolerant place. 

Joe Scarborough, you have to get all the e-mails that I get via—you know, the jokes and so forth.  If you scroll to the bottom of your jokes, don‘t they always seem to come from brokerage houses. 

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH:  I mean, these guys on—these guys on...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

SMERCONISH:  ... Wall Street are the funniest guys around. 

But even they have become intolerant.  That‘s the point. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s—it‘s very frightening. 

Michael Smerconish, thanks so much.  I appreciate you being here.

SMERCONISH:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I hope you are going to tell more stories.  We got—there are lots more stories I want to cover, like...

SMERCONISH:  Too many.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... the San Francisco 49ers story.  When you come back and you are the mayor of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY next week...

SMERCONISH:  I‘m the mayor.  I love it.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  You like that?

SMERCONISH:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I hope you will talk more about “Muzzled.”

SMERCONISH:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Always great to have you here. 

And always great to be talking to Tucker Carlson.  He‘s host of “THE

SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”

Hey, Tucker, what‘s the situation tonight? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Joe, what don‘t we have on the show tonight?

Tom DeLay leaving Congress after all these years, leaving Texas, in fact, and moving to Virginia.  We are going to get the very latest on that.  We are going to talk to Chris Matthews.  And we‘re going to get some background on what else is going on here.  It seems like the story is maybe bigger than we‘re hearing immediately. 

Then, we have, in addition to many others, the head of the Minutemen, the anti-immigration people who are patrolling our borders, in lieu of federal agents.  He will joining us live. 

It‘s going to be a great show. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Tucker, thanks so much.  You look tan, rested, and ready. 

CARLSON:  I have been seeing America, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  All...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  We won‘t tell them what part of America. 

Tucker Carlson, thanks so much.

Tune—make sure you tune into “THE SITUATION,” coming up next at 11:00. 

And next here, Hillary Clinton is used to hearing Republican criticism from—for her political work, but what about her housekeeping skills?  Tonight, first lady wars—straight ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Did Hillary Clinton leave the White House in shambles?  Well, according to a new book, first lady Laura Bush found worn and outdated furniture, frayed carpeting, and just absolutely tasteless decorations, from the Oval Office to the East Wing.  Was Hillary Clinton too busy trying to play assistant president?  Or is Laura too concerned with style, instead of substance? 

We begin with somebody who has spent a fair amount of time in the White House, MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell. 

Norah, what you got? 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Joe. 

Well, Laura Bush is very influential and immensely popular with the American public.  But, unlike Hillary Clinton, she has always remained very quiet about the advice and power she wields in the White House.  Well, this new book out by Ronald Kessler says that Laura Bush plays a much greater role in shaping White House policy and personnel than previously known. 

But you mentioned it.  The juiciest tidbit of all is that she was—

quote—“quietly dismayed” by the decor that the Clintons left behind in

the White House.  This book reveals that Laura Bush thought that not only -

not only were the carpets and furnishings fraying and in disrepair, but that the Oval Office was done in loud colors, red, blue, and gold, also that the Lincoln Bedroom was outdated and needed updating. 

But, despite her opinion of the decor, Laura Bush never said anything critical of Hillary Clinton.  Still, the White House did get a huge makeover when the Bushes moved in. 

And I can tell you, I have interviewed Mrs. Bush five times while covering the White House, and several of those times at Christmas.  And, of course, she‘s very involved in the style of the decor at the White House.  And, this past year, she wanted all things very natural, all fresh flowers, which many thought was a sign that they wanted a fresh start in the second term. 

But I must tell you, Joe, I think what is most interesting is that the Bush family decided to cooperate with the author of this book.  And her friends are revealing very intimate things, like that she used fertility drugs to conceive the twins.  And there‘s other information.  So, some who watch Laura Bush very closely say that this book is a very flattering portrayal of the first lady and also a sign that this is the beginning of the Bushes‘ effort to shape their legacy for the history books—Joe.   

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks a lot, Norah. 

And here to talk about it are Antonia Felix.  She‘s the author of “Laura: America‘s First Lady.”  We also have Cheri Jacobus, a Republican strategist. 

Now, Antonia, what is going on here.  Laura Bush never critical of anybody that I know of, and, yet, some of these sort of snarky attacks behind the scenes about Hillary Clinton‘s taste in decor.

(LAUGHTER)

ANTONIA FELIX, AUTHOR, “LAURA: AMERICA‘S FIRST LADY, FIRST MOTHER”: 

Yes.  It‘s interesting. 

It sounds like a rather petty remark to make about a first lady who had broken so many molds and really, I think, was on her way to transforming this whole role of first lady to bring it into the 21st century, to—to modernize it, and to raise the bar very high for all first ladies to come. 

So, if Hillary was—was very busy trying to write some policy and really tackle head on, trying to get health care for all Americans, as she was doing, maybe she was a little bit too busy to be supervising the dusting, and, you know, watching the fraying on the carpets. 

I—I don‘t think that a lot of people would argue with—those priorities aren‘t—are not real awful. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Cheri...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Cheri Jacobus, is this an example of Laura Bush choosing style over substance? 

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Look, she knows what the job is.

And Hillary Clinton probably knew and just didn‘t care.  This is not a life-or-death situation.  But the American people do care about this.  And taking care of the White House and the decor and keeping it in order is basically what the first lady does. 

Laura Bush wanted the job.  Hillary Clinton didn‘t want the job.  She wanted her husband‘s job.  So, consequently, I don‘t think that the excuse that she was trying to do health care policy, when she was not elected to anything at that point to do that is really just sort of weak. 

It just shows us a little bit more of the difference between the two first ladies.  I also doubt very much that Laura Bush specifically sat down and made the criticism on Hillary about this.  She was merely relaying, when she did a walk-through, what she noticed. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But...

JACOBUS:  She didn‘t hold a press conference on send out a press release on this.  So, we might be making a mountain out of a molehill. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I know, but Cheri, you know, the thing is, we have

we have seen the presidents become closer as the years go by, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

But, at the same time, it—it seems like Laura Bush‘s friends have made it known to anybody that wants to listen that she didn‘t think Hillary Clinton was a first lady the way a first lady was supposed to be. 

JACOBUS:  Well, yes, and Laura Bush would know. 

She‘s first lady herself.  And she, obviously, very well knows the predecessors to the Clintons, because it was her father-in-law and her mother-in-law.  And, then, also, when her father-in-law was vice president, she saw the example that Nancy Reagan set.  So, she pretty much is an expert, I would say, more than anybody.

She knows what a first lady goes through.  She knows what the American people expect of a first lady.  And she willingly and joyfully takes on that role.  Hillary Clinton didn‘t.  And I don‘t—I don‘t think Hillary Clinton well—I—I think she accomplished about as much as first lady as she has as senator, which is basically nothing. 

She has yet really to prove herself to the American people with anything, really. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Antonia, when I look at these pictures of Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, it‘s striking.

Earlier today, somebody, when we were talking about this segment,

said, well, you know, it‘s a lot like Mamie Eisenhower and Jackie Kennedy -

well, except, they were from two different generations.  Here—here are two couples that are from the same generation, but it‘s like they grew up on different planets.  You—you can see, there is that real cultural divide there between the two families, isn‘t there? 

FELIX:  Well, there absolutely is. 

And I think another—another important point here is, when we talk about the role of first lady, and that, you know, Hillary didn‘t want the job and Laura did, there‘s no official job description.  There‘s nothing written down that says the first lady has to be the top hostess in Washington, who does so many dinners a year, or she has to commit herself to this particular facet of the Washington scene 20 percent at a time. 

And, you know, there‘s—there‘s nothing laid out by—about that. 

JACOBUS:  There isn‘t, but there is a tradition.  And there‘s no arguing about that.  There‘s an American tradition.  And most first ladies know that. 

And, again, it‘s not a life-or-death thing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

JACOBUS:  It‘s just gives us some insight into Hillary Clinton...

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re going to...

JACOBUS:  ... which is what we will be doing for a while.

SCARBOROUGH:  We are going to have to leave it there. 

Antonia, thank you so much. 

Cheri Jacobus, we appreciate it. 

FELIX:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And we will be right back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Time for another “Flyover” of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

Despite a report last week that said prayer didn‘t help heart patients, a new study out of Pittsburgh finds that people who are actually doing the praying and attending religious services weekly fared better over a 10-year period than people who don‘t go to church at all.  Churchgoers even fared better than those who got regular exercise. 

                One of the researchers in the study is also an Episcopal priest.  He

speculates that the social aspect of religion could be good for the heart

and the soul. 

And, finally, anyone who has ever had the pleasure of dealing with a building project can relate to this next story.  The plumbers union in Philadelphia is angry.  They‘re angry because the developer of a new high-rise building wants to install state-of-the-art waterless urinals in what‘s about to be that city‘s tallest building. 

The plumbers union says the urinals will require less maintenance, meaning less money for them.  The developer says the urinals will save 1.6 million gallons of water each year.  Good for the environment, good for the economy, bad for the plumbers. 

Hey, we will be right back. 

And make sure to stick around, because “THE SITUATION” with Tucker is just minutes away. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s all the time we have tonight. 

“THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts now. 

CARLSON:  Thanks.

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

END   

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