updated 5/25/2006 11:07:02 AM ET 2006-05-25T15:07:02

Guests: Joe Klein, Terry Holt, Laura Schwartz, Brian Collister, Saul Wilen, Evan Kohlman, John Heilemann, Ana Marie Cox

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, security breach.  Thousands of uniforms and badges from airport security screeners have been lost or stolen.  Could your security be at risk?  That‘s tonight‘s special investigation.  Then Al Gore‘s global warming movie opens today, and it‘s already heating up the Democratic Party.  Will he be the same old “ozone man,” or could he be the un-Hillary and the Democratic Party‘s best hope?  And speaking of Hillary Clinton, the Clinton marriage under scrutiny again by “The New York Times,” just another reason why some Democrats are very nervous about Hillary in ‘08 and why I think they‘re wrong.

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

Now, we‘re going to have those stories straight ahead.  But first, just as airport security officials announced that some 200 millions Americans are going to be flying this summer, tonight a disturbing new report is out saying that terrorists are still targeting American airports for future attacks and doing so with the help from airport security personnel.

The Department of Homeland Security is issuing warnings regarding terrorists‘ use of airport guard uniforms and badges.  Why are they using them?  Possibly to carry out flight attacks.  That‘s already happened overseas.  And the TSA warnings are being issued in part because almost 1,500 badges and uniforms have either disappeared or been reported stolen in the past two years, potentially making U.S. airports a much easier target for al Qaeda operatives.  This clearly is not the kind of security that our tax dollars were supposed to be paying for in the almost five years since September 11.

With us tonight to take us behind the scenes of this security breach is Brian Collister.  He‘s the investigative reporter that obtained the airline security documents, and he‘s part of NBC‘s San Antonio‘s station WOAI.  Brian, what do you have?

BRIAN COLLISTER, WOAI-TV:  Joe, we fought for a year-and-a-half to get records, using the Freedom of Information Act, from the TSA, and what we got were some explosive documents that show that almost 1,500 ID badges and uniforms from TSA employees are missing or have been stolen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  You may remember Debra Sander.  She made national news just a few weeks ago after she found this TSA screener‘s shirt in her luggage.  She‘d just gotten off a flight in Tampa, Florida, from Newark, New Jersey.

DEBRA SANDER, FOUND TSA SHIRT IN LUGGAGE:  And my jaw dropped.  I couldn‘t believe what was on there,  Patches for Homeland Security, tags, TSA all over, and then the name tag with the number.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLISTER:  A traumatic experience for Sander, who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.  The Transportation Security Administration says a screener took off his shirt in a hot bagroom, and it fell off a hook into the luggage while he was inspecting it.

But this is not the first time TSA screeners have lost part of their uniform.  News headlines like these caught the troubleshooter‘s attention more than a year-and-a-half ago—badges, uniforms, missing and stolen across the country.  So since that time, we‘ve been battling with the TSA, using the Freedom of Information Act.  We finally got these internal records just a few weeks ago.  They show that TSA employees have lost more than 1,400 ID badges and uniform items, like shirts and patches, since 2003.  And that‘s not everything.  TSA is still withholding much of the information.

The records are full of examples.  In Atlantic City, New Jersey, a Homeland Security patch is missing from a shirt after it comes back from a dry cleaner.  In Fort Lauderdale, three sets of uniforms lost or stolen out of luggage left in a hotel baggage room.  Here in San Antonio, six TSA uniform shirts are stolen out of this apartment laundry room.  Another San Antonio employee‘s ID badges are stolen when someone breaks into her car and takes her purse.

The airports missing the most ID badges include O‘Hare in Chicago, with 115, and topping the list is Los Angeles Airport, with 120 missing.  Here in Texas, DFW is missing 42, Bush in Houston 18, Hobby 10, San Antonio 7.

SAUL WILEN, TERRORISM PREVENTION EXPERT:  You have a very serious problem.

COLLISTER:  Saul Wilen is a nationally known expert in terrorism prevention.

(on camera):  Is this a threat to our Homeland Security?

WILEN:  No question.  If you have a badge and a uniform, you are invincible in terms of the system.  Not only can you get in and get around, you can become known and become a regular that becomes more and more recognized, so that the next time, you‘re less liable to have to go through the system security.  And the next time, even less.

COLLISTER:  The Department of Homeland Security thinks missing badges and uniforms are a big deal, too.  In just the last few years, they‘ve issued several warnings to local, state and federal agencies to guard theirs, pointing out that terrorists have used these items to pull off attacks overseas.

(voice-over):  But when we asked the TSA just this week about their own missing badges and uniforms, the TSA told us said it was not a security risk.  TSA refused our request for an on-camera interview, but said this in a written statement.  “Transportation security officers, regardless of credentials or uniforms, are screened each time they enter the checkpoint.  Badges and uniforms used individually or collectively would not allow access to a person with ill intent.

Then why is this TSA employee not going through the security checkpoint?  Just last week, we caught him on our undercover camera, going around security by simply flashing his badge and going in through the exit.  And he‘s not the only one.  We watched time and time again as TSA employees skirted the security screening, using only their uniform and badges.

TSA refused to watch our undercover video, but they now tell us these are screeners who went through security at the beginning of their shift or supervisors, who are allowed to avoid screening.  And it‘s not just happening here.  This is video of TSA employees going around security in Miami back in 2003.  The TSA screener manning the checkpoint simply waves them past.

Saul Wilen says he‘s witnessed the same thing at JFK airport in New York back in 2004.

WILEN:  All of a sudden, three people walked around security and in. 

All of them had badges, but they certainly did not go through security.

REP. LAMAR SMITH ®, TEXAS:  All that is a clear and present danger to homeland security.

COLLISTER:  Texas Congressman Lamar Smith sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security.

SMITH:  We are dealing with people, criminals, who are smart people, who will go to great lengths to try to take advantage of any loopholes in our security.

COLLISTER:  Smith has introduced legislation he says will help better protect TSA badges and uniforms, and he wants airports to start issuing heavy fines.  TSA is not saying if it has fined or fired any employees who‘ve lost these items.

SMITH:  When we start imposing fines and hold people accountable for their identification, I promise you fewer will go missing, fewer will be left in unlocked cars to be stolen, and I think that will help our homeland security, as well.

COLLISTER:  TSA insists there have not been any breaches of security that it knows about, but experts say you don‘t want to wait for it to happen.  So what is happening to these?  Wilen thinks terrorists may be behind some of the disappearing items.

WILEN:  There is no disagreement, at this point, that there are sleeper terrorists in the United States.  And if we believe that, we have to believe they‘re doing something with their time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLISTER:  Now, TSA employees also have a second badge.  That badge is issued by the airport where they work.  It gets them into locked areas of that airport.  And get this, Joe.  The TSA tells us they don‘t know how many of those badges might be missing or stolen.

SCARBOROUGH:  Brian, is sounds like the TSA and the feds in general have their heads in the sand here, that they‘re claiming there‘s no problem, when again, there are 1,500 badges or uniforms that have either been lost or stolen.

COLLISTER:  Well, it seems to be an obvious national security risk.

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, have you talked to any officials on or off the air that tell you they understand that this is, as you just said, a national security risk?

COLLISTER:  Well, just today, Pete King, who is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, which our local congressman also sits on -- he said TSA‘s response up to this point has been totally inadequate.  It‘s an obvious national security risk, and he wants more answers, as well.

Now, keep in mind, TSA has not released all of the information yet, so the numbers that we‘ve been providing are probably low.  They‘ve been not releasing a lot of information, especially about uniform items.  And we‘re also still pushing to find out about those other badges we mentioned that are given out by local airports.  So the problem could be much bigger, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, if the past is prologue, Brian, unfortunately, it probably will be bigger.  Thank you so much for being with us, Brian Collister.  Quite a report.

And let‘s bring in right now MSNBC terror analyst Evan Kohlmann.  Evan, does all this really underline a larger point that airport security in the United States is woefully inadequate five years after the September 11 attacks?

EVAN KOHLMANN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Yes, I mean, we want to be careful and make sure that we understand that to get into an airport, the secure areas in an airport, you can‘t just have a badge.  It‘s not that simple.  But that being said, you‘re right.  There are some really large, large mistakes being made in terms of TSA policy, in terms of consistency of TSA policies at various airports.  I can tell you from traveling frequently myself that those policies tend to vary very widely, depending on what airport you go in.  Some of those policies are carried out much more strictly in certain places than in others, and that leaves loopholes.

And again, I think it‘s fairly obvious.  I know colleagues of mine who have traveled recently carrying knives, pocket knives, sharp objects, things that are not supposed to be allowed on airplanes, and yet they‘re not detected.  And they‘re going through personal security.  They‘re going through the metal detectors.  They‘re going through the X-ray machines.  So you know, we know that there are loopholes.  We know that there are ways through.  And there hasn‘t been a lot done to seal those loopholes.

SCARBOROUGH:  Evan, and I don‘t understand—I mean, you said something in the pre-interview that was frightening.  You said you believe, for the most part, our airport screeners are mainly for show.  Now, why won‘t Washington fix this?  And more importantly, why do we have this last defense for millions of people who fly being a bunch of screeners who, for the most part, get paid minimum wage or a little bit more than minimum wage?

KOHLMANN:  Yes, well, I mean, these people are really not qualified to be doing the kind of screening that we need.  I mean, they‘re not being trained in counterterrorism techniques.  They‘re not being trained in how terrorist groups operate.  These guys are basically security guards, and I mean, they‘re being given a task which is very, very difficult.  And I‘m not making light of it.  They do a—they do as best they can, but we‘re not giving them the money, we‘re not giving them the resources or the personnel, the trained personnel, to do this in such a way that it would really be effective.

I think when it comes down to it, anyone who knows security knows that there are still major loopholes.  And for that matter, look, even if you don‘t go through security, there‘s nothing stopping a suicide bomber from detonating a weapon in the middle of a security line, in the middle of hundreds of people lined up.  What difference is there between blowing up a bomb on an airplane or in a security line?  And there‘s—we really haven‘t done a very good job at trying to stop that kind of a threat.

SCARBOROUGH:  Not at all, experience when you go top to bottom.  Obviously, you‘re only as strong as your weakest link.  And there‘s some great people that work for the TSA, but at the same time, a lot of the entry-level position—again, they just aren‘t up to the task.  And you‘ve said also that al Qaeda, if you look in some the al Qaeda training manuals, they talk about how to infiltrate American airports.  They understand it‘s a real weakness in the system, don‘t they.

KOHLMANN:  Well, I mean, there‘s been specific examples.  I mean, in 1994, a group of Algerian terrorists connected to the plot to blow up LAX here inside the United States tried exactly that, tried sneaking into an airport in Algeria, boarding an aircraft and suicide-crashing it into the Eifel Tower in Paris.  Now, that plot failed, but how do you think that those guys got on the airplane?  They got on by wearing airport security uniforms.  They pretended to be airport security personnel.  They got all the way on to the jet before anyone realized that anything was wrong.

As recently as 2001, in Kashmir, Lashkar Itaiba (ph), a designated foreign terrorist organization, sent a suicide squad wearing security uniforms into an airport.  They took over a security checkpoint.  They destroyed the X-ray machines.  They killed all the personnel there scanning the luggage.  Then they went out for a rampage on the tarmac.  They shot up airplanes.  They shot up airplanes with people in them.

I mean, this is a very serious threat.  There are groups that are directly linked to al Qaeda that have done this overseas.  And we know that terrorists continue to target U.S. airports.  As recently as three months ago, we convicted right here in the United States an American who was conspiring with al Qaeda to try to get on board aircraft leaving Latin America or Europe and suicide-crash some targets here.  So it‘s a—you know, it‘s an ongoing threat.

SCARBOROUGH:  It is an ongoing threat.  And unfortunately, it sounds like, Evan, our leaders in Washington aren‘t doing enough to protect Americans from that threat.  Evan Kohlmann, as always, thank you so much for being with us.

And when we come back: He‘s tan, he‘s rested and he‘s rocking the Hollywood set—Al Gore, the movie star.  Is the former vice president using his new film to warn the world about global warming or to launch another presidential campaign?  And why some Democrats who want to stop Hillary from running for president—why they think that that‘s the best thing for them, and why I think it may be best for the Democrats that she is allowed to give them a shot at retaking the White House.

We‘ll have that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Al Gore is back, and politically, he appears more potent than ever.  The former vice president‘s new movie on the dangers of global warming debuts in Los Angeles and New York today, and the man who received the most votes in the 2000 election is rapidly becoming the darling of the Democratic left.  Is Al Gore trying to save the world or launch his bid to replace a man many believe he beat?

NBC‘s Tom Brokaw sat down with the vice president to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM BROKAW, FORMER NBC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over):  What is Al Gore up to?

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Live from New York, it‘s Saturday night!

BROKAW:  From the small screen, to the big screen...

GORE:  Is it possible that we should prepare against other threats besides terrorists?

BROKAW:  ... the man who lost the presidency in the U.S. Supreme Court is suddenly everywhere again, the leading man in a new documentary that graphically describes the realities and consequences of global warming.

GORE:  If this were to go, sea level worldwide would go up 20 feet.

BROKAW:  It‘s a long-time favorite Gore subject with a new urgency.

(on camera):  So far, it‘s played mostly to the choir, people who go into the theater inclined to want to believe it.  How do you think it‘s going to do in primetime, so to speak?

GORE:  We‘ve actually had some screenings in areas where the audiences were predominantly Republican, skeptical, and they came out with the same exact reaction.  But more and more people, without regard to political party, are now saying, yes, I get it.

BROKAW (voice-over):  Gore‘s involvement with the environment goes back to his earliest days in Congress.  As vice president, he helped negotiate the Kyoto climate treaty, but the Clinton administration couldn‘t get it ratified, and President Bush pulled out altogether.

GORE:  Will there be a successor treaty?  Yes, there will be.  But the current administration is not even participating in that process.  So I think the most crucial question is to try to convince the current administration, within their remaining two-and-a-half years, to change on this issue.

BROKAW:  But James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who‘s chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, calls global warming a great hoax.  For his part, President Bush says he won‘t see the film starring his old adversary.

GORE:  I am Al Gore.  I used to be the next president of the United States of America.

BROKAW:  Gore‘s high-profile involvement in this film, and in other public appearances these days, is causing a political buzz.

(on camera):  Already, your friends and admirers are saying to me after seeing the film, He‘s running again.

GORE:  I have no intention of being a candidate again.

BROKAW:  No intention, or a firm commitment?

GORE:  Well, no intention, no plans.  And I am involved in a kind of campaign, but it‘s not for a candidacy, Tom.  It‘s a campaign to change the minds of the American people.

BROKAW (voice-over):  Change the minds of the American people about global warming—and maybe, just maybe, about Al Gore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  So should we all expect to see much more of Al Gore as the upcoming presidential race heats up?  I‘m joined now by Ana Marie Cox.  She‘s a ‘Time” magazine columnist and author of “Dog Days,” and also by John Heilemann.  He‘s with “New York” magazine, has written a fascinating piece this week called “The Un-Hillary.”  Well, John, as we all know, Al Gore has a movie out on global warming.  He‘s back, and some are saying he may run for president.  Talk about the new Gore.

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE:  Well, you know, the movie is an incredible kind of campaign document, if he—whether he runs or not.  It‘s—you know, he comes across in this movie in a way that no one would remember (INAUDIBLE) comports with no one‘s memory from 2000.  He is kind of passionate and authentic and full of conviction and lacking utterly in caution and contrivance.  And everyone I know who‘s seen this movie—and they have seen it at screenings across the country—are kind of amazed not just by the science of the movie but by this new Gore that they see.  And they‘re amazed and impressed, and suddenly, everybody‘s taking a second look at him.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it sounds almost Nixonian—the new Nixon, the new Gore.  You talked about Al Gore‘s Nixonian retreat.  Isn‘t it surprising that the Al Gore that we knew in 2000 was a guy that was seen as being too stiff by the Democratic base, but now the Democratic base‘s hero.  Why is that, John?

HEILEMANN:  Yes, well, a lot of that comes back not just to this global warming issue, but prior to that, of course, he‘s become really one of the most forceful and full-throated critics of the Bush administration on a range of issues, but in particular, on the Iraq war, which, of course, he criticized the administration for loudly before the war started, at a time when very few Democrats did.  And so on the left wing of the party, he‘s seen as a guy who basically got this issue right from the very beginning in a way that almost no one else did, including, in particular, Hillary Clinton.

SCARBOROUGH:  Ana Marie Cox, you say that this movie is just one long campaign commercial.  And absolutely I love the slogan.  I wish I could have put on my congressional bumper sticker when I ran—Vote for me or die.  Talk about it.

ANA MARIE COX, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Or we all die.

SCARBOROUGH:  Or we all die.

COX:  It‘s a very terrifying film.  I mean, I went into the movie already pretty convinced about global warming, and I came out of the movie terrified, really.  And it‘s true, though, I don‘t know if I see is personally as a campaign ad, although I can tell you that people are definitely hoping that it is.  John and I were both at the same screening, and you could really almost feel the hopefulness in the room of the journalists there that really wanted Al to run, not necessarily because they want to vote for him but I think just because they think it would be an exciting race.  I think they want an un-Hillary as much as anyone else..

SCARBOROUGH:  Who would have believed, though, that again, the Democratic base, Ana Marie—I‘ll send this one to you...

COX:  Particularly journalists.

SCARBOROUGH:  The Democratic base, which is, of course—you‘re right, it does include most journalists—that people would actually be excited about Al Gore running.

COX:  I think what people are really excited about is what John gets to in the very—you know, the title of his piece, the un-Hillary.  I think there are a lot of people out there that want to have a legitimate challenger to her, that want to have someone who basically just isn‘t her.  And it‘s also true, however, that Al Gore didn‘t have to become that much more lively to appear lively, compared to what he used to be, if you know what I mean.  So I think that that‘s part of it.

I also think that part of it is journalists especially love it when you don‘t know what‘s going to happen, when there‘s, like, a new horse in the horse race.  So I think that his appeal really lies in the fact that no one knows what he‘s going to do.

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s a great story.  And John, a lot of people have said to you, you know, if Al Gore had only been this way when he ran in 2000, he would have won.  I always said if Al Gore would have delivered one or two speeches like the one he gave when he was stepping out of the race, the guy would have been elected.  What about Al Gore personally?  When you sat down and talked to him for these interviews, did he seem to be a liberated man?

HEILEMANN:  Yes, I think he is.  I think he feels that really strongly.  I mean, there‘s certainly still a huge amount of pain for him around the 2000 campaign.  I mean, I asked him at one point whether he thought the election was stolen, and he walked right up to the edge of saying the answer was yes.  I later talked to David Boies (ph), his lawyer in the Supreme Court case, and David Boies said, Yes, I think Al Gore certainly thinks the election was stolen, and he‘s right.

But you know, Gore is—he‘s—he‘s I think torn.  You know, he is -

there‘s no question that this is a man who wants to be president, who thinks he should have been president, who thinks he would be a good president.  And if you go out to Hollywood, he is the candidate of Hollywood all of a sudden.  He is the candidate certainly of the Green movement, of the anti-war left and of a lot of Democrats quietly in Washington, who look at Hillary as a disaster in the making.  Those people are all thinking, Could this be the guy?

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  Ana Marie, I‘ll throw the last question to you.  Do you think, in the end, Al Gore will jump into the race?

COX:  No, I actually don‘t think so.  I think right now, he‘s a rock star.  At these screenings, you can feel the rock star vibe, complete down to the cell phone pictures people have taken with him.  As soon as he becomes a candidate, he stops being a rock star.

I also think he‘s smart enough to know that the speculation about him running or not does much more for the movie than the movie does for him.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  Thanks so much.  Greatly appreciate both of you being here.  And I agree, Ana Marie, he probably is not going to run.  It‘s a lot more—I‘ve been in politics, I‘ve been out of politics.  It‘s a lot more fun being out of politics.

And now it‘s time for another “Flyover” of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  The first stop, Salem, Oregon, where state officials have taken the extraordinary step of telling legislators not to show up drunk on the house floor.  The recommendation came from a public commission and is in response to allegations that lawmakers were caught with alcohol on their breath while debating on the house floor in Oregon.

So what‘s that called anyway, legislating under the influence?  I mean, they‘ve been doing that in Washington for years.

Next stop, Keller, Texas, where the PC hall monitors are at it again.  Their latest target, the nickel, that‘s right, the 4-cent piece.  It seems a local elementary school principal there was worried that the words “In God we trust” might offend some students.  So she ordered that the picture of the nickel in the school‘s yearbook remove those words.

After parents raised holy heck, the school then printed stickers that they melded (ph) the students to affix the words on the back of the nickel‘s yearbook image.

Hey, principal, your village called, and they‘re missing their idiot.!

And finally, Evansville, Indiana, where a childhood classic is under attack.  “Cinderella” has actually been deemed offensive for small children in that community.  Among the objections, an evil stepmother and ugly stepsisters.  The PC police are also upset about beauty being associated with goodness and ugliness being associated with evil.  What‘s wrong with that?

A local children‘s center is putting on a new version which includes a happy ending for all the characters—including the evil stepsisters?  Give me a break!  Those evil stepsisters should have been forced to eat her glass slippers for what they did to Cinderella.  You know, the PC police really need to give it a rest.

But we won‘t because coming up next: Bill and Hillary Clinton—are they the Tomkat of American politics?  Not quite.  But how will the state of their marriage affect the senator‘s presidential run?  That‘s straight ahead.

And later: Mr. Clinton isn‘t the only William Jefferson that‘s caused some heartache for Democrats in recent years.  We‘ll tell you how Democrats may be catching up with Republicans in the sleazy scandal sweepstakes that‘s sweeping Capitol Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They‘re the unrivaled superstar couple of American politics, so why are some Democrats starting a “Stop Hillary” movement?  We‘ll ask Joe Klein and Tucker Carlson when we return. 

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

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Agents raid a congressman‘s office.  Bad behavior by Democrats helping the GOP shake off the sleaze factor or is it just bad news for both parties?

And later, we‘re all excited about the birth of Brangelina‘s baby. 

But is it really worth a national holiday?  I‘ve got issues.

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Those stories in minutes, but first time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” video you‘ve just got to see. 

First up, the other SC, South Carolina, where crowds gathered in Charleston this morning to watch wrecking crews demolish this bridge that‘s been closed since last year.  The 300-ton bridge dropped into the river below, where it‘s going to be retrieved and recycled. 

And up next, we‘ve come a long way since the exploits of the Wright brothers, but apparently not far enough for these Lithuanians.  A hundred and forty flight fanatics took part in the annual flying bikes competition, creating decorated bikes they hoped would fly. 

Not surprisingly, every contestant wound up face first in the lake below.  So much for what we‘ve always heard about that famous Lithuanian engineering. 

But finally, to Geneva, Florida, where this black bear got itself into quite a bind when it got stuck in a tree.  Wait a minute, we‘ve seen this video before, haven‘t we?  We know how it ends. 

Actually, that‘s another bear.  This Florida bear managed to get itself down before the trampolines had to be moved in.

And now from bouncing bears to the state of the Clinton union.  When he ran for president, Bill Clinton‘s campaign stressed the advantages of his wife‘s experience.  But with Senator Hillary Clinton possibly preparing for her own presidential campaign, many are asking whether the former president will be a drag on possibly the next Clinton to be president?

Let‘s bring in “Time” magazine columnist Joe Klein.  He‘s also the author of the new book, “Politics Lost.”  And Tucker Carlson, he‘s, of course, host “THE SITUATION” with Tucker Carlson. 

Hey, Joe, let me begin with you.  Is President Hillary Clinton possible?  Is it inevitable? 

(LAUGHTER)

Why do you laugh, Joe? 

JOE KLEIN, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Why?  Because, you know, for Republicans, she‘s obviously inevitable.  I love the spin on this.  You know, Republicans are saying, “Oh, she‘s so formidable.  She‘s going to be a tough candidate.  You know, she‘s got it wrapped up.”  Baloney, baloney, salami. 

This thing hasn‘t even started yet.  I‘m not entirely convinced that she‘s even going to run.  And if she does run, I don‘t know how good she is at presidential politics, and she has a tremendous millstone around her neck:  her husband. 

Not because of tomcatting, but because of the fact that he‘s been president for eight years.  We have a constitutional amendment about that.  And I don‘t know how enthusiastic the American people are going to be about trading our most precious office, the presidency, back and forth between these two families. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it‘s interesting you say that.  Of course, if Hillary Clinton were to be elected and then re-elected, you could go back to 1980 and there would have been a Bush or Clinton as president or vice president from 1980 to—I guess it would be 2016. 

KLEIN:  Gag me with a spoon.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, but, Tucker Carlson, I guess we‘re going to play right into what Joe Klein was laughing about.  Not only do I think she can win the Democratic nomination; I think she will win the Democratic nomination.  And then I think she will take a page right out of another divisive candidate‘s playbook, George W. Bush in 2004, and possibly be elected in president in ‘08.  What do you say? 

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  It‘s certainly possible.  I mean, think about 2000, since you brought it up.  You had Al Gore, who was derided as a weak, maybe even ludicrous candidate that year, and he ended up getting the popular vote.  So, I mean, things look a lot different for the candidates once they‘ve won the primaries that made them into candidates.  And now there‘s an intimate... 

SCARBOROUGH:  But what about 2004, though, Tucker, where you have George W. Bush and Karl Rove, they did not play to the middle at all?  They said, “We‘re going to bring out our most rabid conservative base and that‘s how we‘re going to win.”  Hillary Clinton can do the same thing, can‘t she, in ‘08, by playing to her base? 

CARLSON:  Well, they actually enlarged their base in 2004.  Look, my only point is:  It‘s not a talking point, it‘s not spin to say that she could win.  Who knows what will happen?  But I think it‘s possible.

I absolutely agree with Joe, though, that her husband is something of a millstone.  For all of his much-reported-upon political talents—and they‘re real, in my opinion—the guy‘s endorsement isn‘t very helpful. 

Think of all the people he‘s endorsed for president, from Al Gore, to Erskine Bowles, you name it.  All the people from his administration, with the exception of maybe Rahm Emanuel and a couple of others, they all failed.  I mean, Clinton campaigning for you, as great as he was at campaigning for himself, is no guarantee of anything.  In fact, it doesn‘t seem to help one bit. 

I think people will be uncomfortable to think of Bill as lurking in the shadows.  I think it‘s bad for her to have him there, and I think her staff knows that.  And the “New York Times” piece yesterday suggested that they‘re very worried about him.

SCARBOROUGH:  They did talk about keeping him away, and it certainly helped her an awful lot, Joe Klein, over the past 5, 5 ½ years.  So, Joe, if you don‘t think Hillary Clinton can win, what Democrat rises up and challenges her? 

KLEIN:  You know, this will be my ninth presidential campaign, God help me, and I‘m going to be very patient.  I‘m going to just watch and see what happens. 

It‘s really hard to predict these things in advance.  You know, if Al Gore gets in, that will be interesting.  You know, there may be other candidates.  Chris Dodd announced yesterday.  We don‘t know how he is on the stump.  Barack Obama may well run.  Who knows?

But the other hilarious thing about listening to Republicans talk about Hillary Clinton is that they always kind of portray her as La Pasionaria, you know, the communist princess of the left. 

But when you look at what she actually says—first of all, she supported the war.  And you look at the big policy speeches she‘s been giving the last couple of months on economic policy, energy policy this week, they‘re like these solid bran muffins of rhetoric that aren‘t very exciting, but are very responsible and respectable. 

And if she were to run—and I‘m not saying that she won‘t, and I‘m not saying that she won‘t win.  I‘m just saying it‘s ridiculous to judge it at this point.  But if she were to run, she‘d run from the middle and she‘d govern from the middle. 

CARLSON:  But that‘s the distressing thing, I think.  I mean, if she ran as Russ Feingold, that would be kind of impressive.  You know, if she ran as Ralph Nader, if she ran as a candidate of principle, someone from the left who believed—no, I‘m serious—who believes—that‘s why I like Russ Feingold. 

I mean, I don‘t agree with anything he says, but you‘ve got to respect the guy.  I mean, he says what he really believes.  To see Mrs. Clinton triangulating this early out, you know, and is actually being more right wing on the war than I am, you think, “Well, what do you stand for, exactly?”

KLEIN:  Well, I disagreed with her on the war.  I was against it.  But, you know, why can‘t we just believe that she believes what she believes?

I mean, I believe that the future and the most progressive force in the country isn‘t on the left or the right, but it‘s in the middle, and that‘s how you govern in this country.  She learned it the hard way in health care. 

I remember Daniel Patrick Moynihan said to me, in 1994, you pass a piece of legislation like health care, or immigration reform right now, with 75 or 80 votes in the Senate or it doesn‘t pass.  You have to govern from the middle to govern successfully in this country. 

George Bush has certainly failed governing from the right, and Bill Clinton failed in his first two years governing from the left. 

CARLSON:  I must say I don‘t buy—with all due respect, I don‘t buy that at all.  I don‘t think this current president has been governing from the right, and I think that‘s his problem.  I think you look at Bush and you sort of wonder, in the end, what are his principles?  In contrast to Reagan.  I think the most successful presidents are those who aren‘t extremists, but do have an ideological cast to the way they govern.  They stand for these principles. 

KLEIN:  You want to know what his principles are?  His principles are: 

Rich people shouldn‘t have to pay taxes on their wealth. 

CARLSON:  Oh, come on, that‘s a talking point.  There‘s a talking point.

KLEIN:  And his other principle is that we should be able to go off and do anything we want in the world without planning. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not sure that‘s a serious point at all. 

KLEIN:  You don‘t think?  Well, look at Iraq.  Look at what happened...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what, we‘re going to debate—I‘ll you what, guys.  We‘re going to debate George W. Bush on another night.  But Joe Klein and Tucker Carlson, I appreciate you being with us. 

I do want to say this, though.  I believe Hillary Clinton is going to win the Democratic nomination and could be the next president of the United States for the exact point that Joe was making, that she has—as a senator, she‘s played to the center. 

She hasn‘t played to the left.  That‘s why the left is angry with her.  She‘s more conservative than Tucker Carlson and Pat Buchanan when it comes to the war in Iraq.  She‘s more conservative than the president from time to time on issues like immigration. 

And when she was senator, first elected senator, her approval rating was below 30 percent.  Now, her approval rating is in the 60s.  Why is it in the 60s?  Not because they love her on the Upper West Side, but because they love her, the west side, the western half of New York State. 

And I lived in upstate New York for a while.  And it‘s hard to believe that those people have embraced Hillary Clinton the way they have, but they have because she‘s been governing like a centrist. 

Now, when we come back, which party has more congressional crooks?  I‘ll tell you, the race is on, Republicans and Democrats, or both?  We‘ll talk about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  First there was the Jack Abramoff scandal, and then the resignation of Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham, and then Tom DeLay.  Now, Democrats have their own bribery scandal to contend with. 

This weekend, FBI raided Democratic Congressman William Jefferson‘s office.  Among the allegations, Jefferson accepted $100,000 in bribes and kept the cash in his freezer. 

While Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called on him to resign from the Ways and Means Committee, key Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, actually came to his defense, saying the FBI overstepped its bounds in raiding a congressman‘s office. 

So what role will corruption scandals play in November?  With me now, Laura Schwartz.  She‘s a former special assistant to President Clinton.  And former Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt. 

Terry, let me start with you, man.  The race is on.  Which party is the most ethically challenged?  Is it the Republican Party, with Duke and DeLay and Jack Abramoff? 

TERRY HOLT, FORMER BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN:  Well, I think if you looked—if you asked more Americans, they would say that the average politician today only rates just a little bit above the average used car salesman. 

The fact is we‘re in an era where people have anxiety and frustration about public policy at all levels.  We saw that in the spring primaries.  It didn‘t matter if you were a Democrat or Republican, you are going to be facing a tough challenge.  People are taking their anger and frustration out on politicians, as they should.  That‘s what the democracy is all about.

But I think that, when it comes down to it, the races are going to come down to basic choices between the parties.  And, you know, while the Republicans have been in the spotlight, with immigration, and national security issues, and health care, the Democrats have been able to lay in the weeds a little bit and not expose their positions.  But as we get to Election Day and a clear choice emerges, I think we‘re going to find that it‘s going to be a very tight race coming up in Election Day. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Laura, Representative Jefferson is not the only problem for Democrats.  This is just amazing scandal.  West Virginia Representative Alan Mollohan was forced to step down from the House Ethics Committee after allegations he earmarked more than $250 million—I‘m like Dr. evil, “million dollars”—in federal funds for nonprofits he set up.  Employees of those nonprofits then allegedly turned the money around to Mollohan‘s campaign, and he got rich in the process. 

Laura, is it a pox on both the houses, or do you think Republicans still, because of Abramoff, because of DeLay, because of Duke Cunningham...

LAURA SCHWARTZ, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: 

Cunningham in prison? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, do you think Republicans are going to have the taint of scandal on them more than Democrats? 

SCHWARTZ:  Absolutely.  You know, Jefferson has definitely brought more attention to the dissatisfaction with Congress, but the voters are going to take it out on the majority.  You know, in 1994, you were part of the revolution, Joe.  And right before that, in ‘92, there was a huge House banking scandal that involved both Democrats and Republicans. 

But when it came time to go vote, people voted out the majority, the Democrats, and that‘s when the Republicans came in.  I think we‘re going to see that same revolution this fall.  You know...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, let me stop you there, Laura, because you made a great point, because that House banking scandal—when I ran in ‘94, I used that time and time again.  I got up to Washington and I found out, upon closer inspection, Republicans were involved in that, too, but, Laura, voters took it out on Democrats, because they were the party in power.  That‘s your point, right? 

SCHWARTZ:  Absolutely.  And on the Republican side, there is a culture of corruption, a complete abuse of power.

When you look at the Jack Abramoff pay-to-play scandal, from the White House to K Street to Capitol Hill, and, as you‘ve said, I mean, we‘ve got Scooter Libby under indictment, Rove under investigation.  Safavian, the White House procurement officer is on trial this week for his connections with Abramoff.  And then on Capitol Hill, you‘ve got Frist under investigation, Cunningham in prison, and DeLay stepping down. 

So people will see that these Republicans, this abuse of power and giving tax cuts to pharmaceutical companies while seniors can‘t pay for their medication, people can‘t get access to the right chemotherapy and experimental therapies, they are going to take that out on the Republicans, because Americans know they‘re in control. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, they‘re in control, Terry.  And isn‘t that right—isn‘t that how we got into power in 1994, by saying, “Democrats are in control.  Washington is a sleazy place.  We‘re going to clean it up”? 

HOLT:  Well, I was in Spokane, Washington, in 1994 actually managing a campaign.  We won that campaign on the ground with significant grassroots support from people there.  Elections are won and lost precinct by precinct, block by block, by better candidates that are funded by the people in those districts. 

And in that year, more than 100 races were truly in play.  And a lot has changed since then.  We still don‘t have even half that number that are in play this year.  And again, the Democrats were promoting policies like increasing taxes on seniors, like higher gas taxes... 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

HOLT:  All across the board, the issues...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m being told we have to go.  Laura, Terry, as always, thanks for being with us. 

HOLT:  My goodness.

SCHWARTZ:  Thanks, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  This will be continued.  We‘ll be right back with more

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back.  I‘m Joe, and I‘ve got issues. 

First up, I‘ve got issues with Namibians who are calling for a Brangelina baby holiday.  Now, these star-struck fans think the day that Angelina Jolie gives birth should be a national holiday in their country.  It‘s a honor usually reserved for kings, and queens, and national heroes. 

But you know what?  After Zahara Marley and Maddox Chivan, I the Namibians should be more concerned about the child‘s name.  Maybe they could cast a vote on it. 

And, finally, I‘ve got issues with a doctor from Tucson, Arizona, who‘s decided to turn that state‘s election into a lottery.  The doctor bankrolled a campaign to get a proposal on the November ballot that would give one lucky voter $1 million.

Under the measure, anybody who casts a ballot would be eligible win.  It‘s all an effort to bring people out to the polls.  So in case you‘re keeping score at home, Iraqis risk life and limb to go out and vote, but this guy thinks that people in Arizona have to be bribed to do the same thing. 

And we‘ll be right back with tonight‘s mail bag.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back.  It‘s time to open up SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY‘s mail bag.  We get this letter from Bill in Arizona.  He says, “No doubt there‘s a lot of controversy in showing the truth of war.  I haven‘t seen the movie ‘Baghdad E.R.,‘ but as a veteran I can say that war is Hell.  The people back home should see the images and see how brave the soldiers are and what they face so they can understand what kind of heroes they truly are.”

And you can send me your e-mails to Joe@MSNBC.com.  And, please, include your name and hometown.

Hey, that‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Stick around, because Rita Cosby “LIVE & DIRECT” starts right now.                                                                                             

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

END   

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