updated 7/17/2006 1:22:18 PM ET 2006-07-17T17:22:18

Guests: Jack Jacobs, Bill Lawson, Matt Bartel

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show.  I‘m Tucker Carlson.

Tonight, war breaks out in the Middle East.  Israel attacks Lebanon.  Fears that Iran could be drawn into the conflict very soon. 

Tonight, we‘ll ask the question our policymakers apparently aren‘t asking:

How does this affect us in the United States?  We have vested interests there.  And what can we do about it now?

We‘ll have a live report from the scene in just a minute. 

Also ahead, the Ken Lay outrage.  A minister compares the deceased and disgraced founder of Enron to Martin Luther King and then Christ himself.  What was he thinking? 

He‘ll tell us just ahead in his very first interview. 

And Bill O‘Reilly makes our inaugural appearance on our “Beat the Press” segment.  See him in action coming up in just a minute. 

But first, breaking news from the Middle East. 

Israel is refusing to back down, teetering on the edge of an all-out ground war with Lebanon.  Airstrikes in southern Lebanon reportedly killed 55 people and wounded more than 100 today.  That‘s as Israel struck bridges, roads, Beirut‘s commercial airport, and two major army bases, imposing an air and sea blockade to force Hezbollah to free two Israeli soldiers.  The group took those hostages Wednesday. 

Hezbollah, meanwhile, fired some 85 rockets into towns in northern Israel, killing one person and wounding 42 others.

Here‘s President Bush earlier today talking about the crisis. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We were headed toward the roadmap.  Things looked positive.  And terrorists stepped up and kidnapped a soldier, fired rockets into Israel. 

Hezbollah doesn‘t want there to be peace.  The militant arm of Hamas doesn‘t want there to be peace. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Joining me now on the phone outside Beirut, Lebanon, is NBC‘s Middle East Bureau Chief Richard Engel. 

Richard, where re you, how did you get there, and what‘s happening? 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC MIDDLE EAST BUREAU CHIEF:  Well, Tucker, I‘m actually now in Beirut itself.  It has been an incredibly long journey that started in Gaza this morning.  I left the southern front of this conflict, went through Gaza, went through Israel, then flew to Jordan, drove all through Jordan, crossed Syria, crossed through Lebanon, and I‘m now in Beirut. 

It was a—Lebanon is effectively cut off right now with the airport knocked out of commission.  The Israeli air force struck all three runways.  Those were just among hundreds of targets that Israel struck today.  This is Israel‘s biggest offensive in Lebanon in 24 years. 

As we came through the border, crossing at a land crossing between Syria and Lebanon, there were—all of the cars, all of the traffic was coming out of Lebanon.  I think we were the only vehicle going into the country. 

There were buses full of people heading our direction.  There were—both lanes of traffic were going out of the country. 

Then, as we crossed into Lebanon, it was a very eerie, quiet drive.  The drivers were looking up in the sky.  Israel had threatened to bomb the road between Syria and Lebanon. 

All of this, according to Israel, to punish Lebanon, to punish Hamas, and to prevent that militant organization from bringing two Israeli soldiers out of the country, as Israeli intelligence fears that Hezbollah might try and do, as risky as that sounds. 

CARLSON:  I know it doesn‘t sound like Israel is at war with the Lebanese army, such as it is, but, I mean, is the Lebanese army responding?  Is the legitimate government of Lebanon responding in any visible way? 

ENGEL:  They are calling for calm.  There was a U.N. delegation.  The government of Lebanon is very much torn on this issue.  Many people here want nothing more than peace. 

I‘m in Beirut.  It‘s normally a very vibrant city.  There‘s a lot of money in circulation, good restaurants.  The country has effectively recovered from 15 years of civil war, and a large segment of the society simply doesn‘t want this, doesn‘t want the airport cut off now at the peek of tourist season. 

However, there is another segment of society in a very decided city which is now divided effectively between the north and the south.  In the past it was between the east and the west.  Now it‘s between the rich area along the coast and the poor Shiite areas where Hezbollah is very strong in the south of Beirut.  And that is where the airstrikes have been focusing throughout the day. 

There was just a leaflet dropped a short while ago in which the—in which Israeli—by Israel in which statements in Arabic by the Israeli government told people living in southern neighborhoods of Beirut to avoid Hezbollah buildings because they will be attacked. 

CARLSON:  NBC‘s Richard Engel in Beirut.  One of the few there.  A brave man. 

Thanks, Richard. 

So, is the Middle East on the verge of full-blown war tonight?  And what can the United States do about it, if anything? 

Here with more, MSNBC military analyst, retired Army colonel, Jack Jacobs. 

Colonel Jacobs, thanks for joining us. 

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Good afternoon.

CARLSON:  Is this escalation, this war, is it good for the United States or bad? 

JACOBS:  Well, any time there‘s anything like this, it‘s not good for the United States.  If it‘s not good for the Middle East, it‘s not good for the United States. 

We need less of it, not more.  So it‘s not going to help us very much, because as you saw recently, the United States vetoed a U.N. resolution condemning Israel.  And, you know, we‘re on the short end of that.  There are very few who are on our side and on Israel‘s side with respect to this. 

So it‘s not good for the United States. 

CARLSON:  Well, we are on Israel‘s side, and I think we ought to be on Israel‘s side.  Good for us.  But on the other hand, we have some influence over Israel, or should. 

Why do we allow this if it‘s not good for us?  And why is the president essentially endorsing it if it‘s not good for us? 

JACOBS:  Well, we have to look at it in the context of our relations with everybody else in the Middle East.  It‘s not particularly good for that.  But it is vitally important that Israel survive while these guys want to push Israel into the sea.

And the continuing problems that are the Palestinians, on the one hand, and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon on the other, are just going to get worse over time.  In particular, the Hezbollah is funded by—by the—by Iran.  It‘s a very bad situation, indeed, and ultimately there could be a very big conflagration where it‘s not going to get any better, quite honestly, and there‘s no way that we‘re going to be able to influence Israel to do exactly what we tell them to do. 

At the end of the day...

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second. 

JACOBS:  ... they can do what they want.

CARLSON:  Yes, but we—we—I mean, we give more aid to Israel than to any other country.  And again, I‘m not calling that into question.  Good for us, we ought to support Israel.  I firmly believe that.

However, that aid doesn‘t seem to buy us any influence at all?  I mean, -- again, oil prices at their highest I think recorded ever priced today in the wake of this news.  And if you‘re right that this isn‘t good for the United States, it does seem odd to me that we‘re not calling in any of the chips we‘ve accumulated over the years with Israel in trying to get them to behave in a way that helps us.  I mean, it‘s natural. 

JACOBS:  Yes.  None of our—none of our aid is going to go with any strings attached, just like none of our aid that goes to Egypt goes...

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

JACOBS:  ... I mean, they get over $2 billion a year from us.  None of that goes with any strings attached. 

At the end of the day, the bad guys are not necessarily after us.  They‘re really after countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Syria and Iraq, and they would like to see all of those regimes pushed into the sea.  Not just Israel.

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s a shame.  It seems to me our aid ought to come with strings attached to everyone, Egypt included, absolutely. 

Now, what about—what about the line one often hears that democracies don‘t attack one another?  You hear this from the Bush administration all the time, we need to make Iraq a democracy because democracies are inherently peaceful and stable. 

There‘s never been a war between two democracies.  I think we‘re witnessing one right now. 

JACOBS:  Well, writ large, it really doesn‘t matter at the end of the day.  And to paraphrase President Clinton, it depends on what you mean by democracy. 

CARLSON:  Right.

JACOBS:  You know, the Palestinians just voted a bunch of bad guys into office. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

JACOBS:  And so, would you call them a democracy? 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

JACOBS:  And so, at the end of the day, I think while the president isn‘t being disingenuous, he is being very simple-minded about this, because the question is not a fight between democracies or between people who are living in a democracy and those who do not.  It‘s one of competing interests, and it‘s a very difficult situation.  If you try to draw the line between those who are democracies and those who aren‘t, you‘re going to wind up on the short end, as we have discovered. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Or, just because you call yourself a democracy doesn‘t mean you‘re a good place. 

And finally, could you see this spinning out of control?  Could you see Iran, for instance, getting pulled into this if these hostages wind up being taken to Iran?  I mean, could, in the next couple of weeks, this become a full-scale Middle Eastern war? 

JACOBS:  Well, the only way that Iran will be involved is if they are taken to Iran.  I doubt seriously if Iran would even let that happen, because it would make life extremely difficult for them.

One option people have been thinking about is that all the Arab countries gang up on Israel now.  And I think that‘s probably what you‘re suggesting.

But there‘s been some history there.  About three or four times that‘s happened in the past, and Israel has done quite well.  There‘s certainly—none of these countries either alone or in concert are any match for Israel, and Israel will be able to hold its own. 

So I don‘t think that the war is going to widen in any way.  I think Israel is going to continue to punish Lebanon, which is effectively punishing Hezbollah. 

CARLSON:  All right.

Colonel Jack Jacobs, thanks a lot for joining us.

JACOBS:  Good to be here.

CARLSON:  Still to come, Ken Lay was found guilty of one of the biggest corporate frauds in American history.  So why did one minister compare him to Jesus?

He‘ll tell us in his very first TV interview.

And Katie Couric‘s media blackout.  Why did she silence a blogger?

He‘ll tell us why just ahead in the “Beat the Press” segment.  It‘s an exclusive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King and Ken Lay?  Which of these is not like the others? 

At Lay‘s memorial service this week, one prominent black preacher called the deceased Enron founder “the victim of a lynching.”  So how does a man convicted of one of the biggest corporate frauds in American history compare to the son of god and the slain civil rights leader? 

My next guest is here to explain. 

Joining me now the Reverend Bill Lawson.  He‘s the founding pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.  He‘s also the president of the William A.  Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity. 

Reverend Lawson joins us from New York.

Reverend Lawson, thanks for coming on. 

REV. BILL LAWSON, PRESIDENT, WILLIAM A. LAWSON INSTITUTE FOR PEACE AND

PROSPERITY:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  So, you‘ve compared Ken Lay to Martin Luther King and Jesus. 

That‘s not a comparison I‘ve heard before. 

What do you mean by it? 

LAWSON:  What I mean is that Ken Lay has been vilified, and I understand why he has been vilified.  Many people lost money in the fall of Enron.  And it is normal when you‘ve got a CEO who was in charge that he should be blamed for that fall.  My consideration is that, while right now he is considered almost a monster, I think that history has a way of vindicating people who are looked at negatively. 

I remember that when John Kennedy was president, there were many people who looked to him negatively.  He couldn‘t get bills through Congress.  He had proposed a civil rights bill, a voting rights bill, and simply could not get them through Congress.  But after he was assassinated, then people began to look at him differently, and right now history makes him a hero. 

CARLSON:  Are you suggesting that at some point in history in the future Ken Lay will be seen as a Christ-like figure, or even—or someone on the level of Martin Luther King or President Kennedy? 

LAWSON:  I think that he will be looked at as man who has made many good contributions, as a man who has a very good character, and as a man who was not—who is not responsible for the fall of Enron in spite of the fact that he was CEO.

CARLSON:  Well, he has made many good contributions to you, I notice.  He was a board member of the William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity, of which, of course, you are the head.  It‘s your institute.  He gave money to various black churches in and around Houston, to the NAACP. 

I mean, it‘s—people could get the impression that you are very loyal, but paying back his memory for the money he gave you when he was still alive. 

LAWSON:  Which means that people don‘t know me very well.  But it is true that he gave to many minority causes.  And you have to recognize that in the South, major corporate figures would have given to symphonies and operas and to universities, but they would not normally stoop down to give to minority causes.  Lay was the first into Houston to do that, and more or less set a standard so that other corporate entities likewise did that. 

CARLSON:  But you‘d hate to—you would hate to give the impression that it‘s possible to buy support from preachers like yourself.  I mean, here you are comparing the guy to Jesus when, you know, he was only one of 15 Enron employees to plead guilty or be convicted of crimes.  I mean, it‘s not as if, you k now, he was the only one blamed.  There‘s quite a bit of evidence he, in fact, committed crimes.

So you are giving the impression that if you donate money to you or possibly other preachers, you get support.  And that‘s kind of a troubling impression to give, isn‘t it? 

LAWSON:  Well, I don‘t think that what I‘m saying is that because he gave

money he was a good man.  I knew his character, and his basic character was

was not criminal.  And so what I‘m talking about is, that once you know the real Ken Lay, then you understand that while he was involved in some things that were bad, and he certainly was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that he was not personally responsible for the fall of Enron. 

CARLSON:  “Ken Lay was neither black nor poor...”—I‘m quoting you now—

“as James Byrd was.  But I‘m angry because Ken was the victim of a lynching.”

Of a lynching?  Ken Lay was not pulled out of his house in the middle of the night by Knight Riders and strung up from a tree.  He had due process. 

He had, you know, the most expensive lawyers one could possibly have.  He had supporters like you.

A lynching?  I mean, that‘s totally over the top. 

LAWSON:  Maybe, but he didn‘t have due process.  There was a trial that was put together very quickly.  He had asked for a change of venue because Houston viewed him extremely negatively, and the judge refused to give him a change of venue. 

He had asked if it would be possible for him to be tried for his own crimes.  That didn‘t happen.  He was rather linked with Jeff Skilling, so that they were tried together. 

There are a number of things that say that he wasn‘t given due process.  And so, so far as I‘m concerned, any time you take a person who has been accused of something that hasn‘t been proven, and take away from him everything, including his good name, that would be parallel to a lynching. 

CARLSON:  I think that that‘s completely wrong, and I think most people would agree. 

But finally, there are 28,000 employees of Enron who are out of jobs.  There are investors who lost, I think, about $60 billion from Enron.  Any one of those people, any one of the victims of Enron, of Ken Lay, come forward to tell you how repelled they were by your comments? 

LAWSON:  Well, so far, I haven‘t heard that.  I was—I was at his funeral just yesterday, and I‘m sure that there probably will be people who will come forward and tell me that they were repelled.  But so far they haven‘t done tat. 

CARLSON:  All right. 

The Reverend William Lawson. 

Mr. Lawson, thanks for joining us. 

LAWSON:  Thank you, sir. 

CARLSON:  Still to come, won‘t anybody give Star Jones a job?  The cable networks are falling all over themselves, denying they‘d hire her.  But is she really the subject of a secret bidding war?  Probably.

Details in a minute.

And, Jack Kevorkian on his death bed.  Has he changed his mind about assisted suicide?

That story‘s coming up.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

It‘s time now for “Beat the Press.”

First up, a favorite of ours, Dan Rather. 

Last night he sat down with CNN‘s Larry King for his “first in-depth interview” since being forced out of CBS News.  Rather, ever the hard-nosed journalist, showed a softer side, talking about love and what‘s in his bones. 

Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN RATHER, JOURNALIST:  I don‘t want to stop doing the news.  News is—it‘s in my marrow. 

LARRY KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”:  You mentioned loving the news.  What do you mean by that? 

In other words, you get up in the morning, you love the story?  You love war stories?  You love—you love that? 

RATHER:  Well, I don‘t love war stories.  Nobody loves war stories. 

KING:  Most news is bad. 

RATHER:  But that‘s not all together true, but that‘s another subject for another day. 

What I mean by loving the news, you know what love is.  There‘s a dictionary definition of love, and there‘s inside you.  You know what you love. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  What do I mean by loving the news?  You know what love is.  It‘s inside you. 

It‘s hard to avoid the obvious conclusion.  Dan Rather is bonkers. 

He lived among us for many years, and we sort of knew that, but we didn‘t really know.  And now we do know. 

Next up, Bill O‘Reilly.  Last night he invited on a pair of models, twins called Shane and Sia Barbi to talk about neutering dogs.  The pretext was the decision by the city of Los Angeles to distance itself from a neutering program sponsored by the Hooters restaurant chain. 

Here‘s part of their conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They were mostly offended by the picture that was on the Web , site on this city‘s Web site. 

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  A picture of what? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A girl in a bikini. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hooters for neuters.  It was a girl in a bikini.

O‘REILLY:  A girl in a bikini.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

O‘REILLY:  All right.  So you‘re blaming it on a feminist, they put pressure on L.A., and L.A. won‘t take the money.  So the animals suffer and the taxpayers suffer. 

Do I have it? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, do you.  And that‘s very nicely said. 

O‘REILLY:  Thank you.  And we appreciate you coming on the program. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thanks.

O‘REILLY:  And next, we‘ll wrap things up with the most ridiculous items of the day and some of your e-mail. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Did you hear that?  Did you notice that the Barbi twins interview was not the most ridiculous item of the day?  Which is remarkable if you think about it, because it really was pretty ridiculous. 

The Barbi twins are not veterinarians.  They‘re not castration experts.  They do not work for Hooters or the city of Los Angeles.  In other words, they have actually nothing to do with the story. 

On the other hand, they are sometime lesbian lovers who once posed for “Hustler” magazine and have overcome bulimia.  Plus, their godmother was Dusty Springfield.  So, in fact they‘re good TV.  There‘s a reason Bill O‘Reilly has such excellent ratings.

And finally, Katie Couric now of CBS News.  It turns out Madonna, Bon Jovi and the Dixie Chicks aren‘t the only ones on tour this summer.  Katie is, too, but hers is called a listening tour, an “Eye on America” road show.

The press has been barred from most of Couric‘s appearances, though.  But in the twin cities the other day, someone accidentally sent an invitation to Matt Bartel.  He‘s a Minnesota blogger.

Organizers caught Bartel before the event started, and they gave him a choice: leave immediately or hand over your notebook.  Well, Bartel opted instead to turn over his pen.   Suddenly, it became his listening tour. 

He sat and listened.  And his reaction, “No one said anything all that remarkable.  And even with the interesting things that were said, I can‘t imagine it would make any difference.  I didn‘t get anything out of it, which is exactly what the evening news is.”

Ouch! 

Joining me now in the first of many “Beat the Press” exclusives, the sort of booted blogger himself, Matt Bartel.

Matt, welcome. 

MATT BARTEL, BLOGGER:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  So, do you see the irony here in a group of journalists coming to town and barring journalists?  Do you see that? 

BARTEL:  Yes, it seemed a little strange to me.  Yes.

CARLSON:  So what was it?  I mean, since you—I mean, you‘re our window inside the shrouded secret world of Katie Couric‘s listening tour.  What happens inside? 

BARTEL:  Well, there were actually some interesting things said.  There were a pretty wide variety of people there. 

There was the Minnesota teacher of the year last year who talked actually pretty eloquently about what she says to her students about race in media coverage.  And there was a gay couple talking about how people should frame the gay marriage amendment.

And—but what really struck me was that all these people were asking for things that I don‘t think network news can deliver.  They wanted more depth to their stories and more variety and more coverage of things that matter to them. 

One woman stood up and said she wanted more coverage—more coverage of entertainment news, which is surprising.  And it just—it seemed to me that one of the top—soon to be one of the top three news people in the country is going to be basing her news and reporting on what basically amounts to a focus group. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Well, I mean, if, in fact, they‘re paying close attention to what people say in these meetings.  And that‘s a whole separate question.

BARTEL:  Yes, true.

CARLSON:  I was interested, though, to hearing your account of this that, once you were found out as a blogger, a journalist, you were essentially surrounded by two PR guys, like U.S. marshals on either side of you for the duration. 

Did they—did they intimidate you?  Were you afraid? 

BARTEL:  No.  No, no, no.  It was a little more gentle than that.  It was -

at first they said I wasn‘t going to be allowed back in, and then they realized that that was a little harsh.  And I surrendered my pen.  They gave me another one which was very nice of them. 

CARLSON:  But you did not get the original pen back? 

BARTEL:  No. 

CARLSON:  And did you have a moment with Katie Couric herself?  And if you did, did you say anything to her?

BARTEL:  No, I did not. 

CARLSON:  If you had that moment, that magic moment, what would you say? 

BARTEL:  Well, I would say that—why are you trying to market your news to all these different constituencies?  You‘re supposed to be the news expert here and the person deciding what is important and what is not. 

Why are—you shouldn‘t be listening to us when you determine what we should hear.  You should be the one to decide, because you‘re hopefully more knowledgeable than we are. 

CARLSON:  That is such a smart point.  This is like the age-old argument between couples.  Just pick where we‘re going to dinner.  I don‘t want you to ask me.

I agree with you completely.  People—people want the arbiters of the news to be the arbiters of the news.

You tell me what‘s important!  That‘s why you‘re getting paid millions a year!

BARTEL:  Exactly.

Matt Bartel, smart man.  Thanks for coming on.

BARTEL:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  That‘s why you‘re getting paid million as year.  That part‘s up. 

Smart man.  Thanks for coming on. 

MATT BARTEL, SURRENDERED PEN DURING COURIC PRESS TOUR:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Still to come, is the new 9/11 movie nothing but tragedy porn?  You may not plan to see it, but we‘ll talk to someone who actually has seen the latest controversial offering from Oliver Stone.  It‘s an interesting movie.  It‘s going to be an interesting conversation.  Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, is Star Jones about to land on her feet after being dumped by “The View”?  We‘ll bring you the latest on that.

Plus, has this show been too tough on fallen newsman Dan Rather? 

We‘ll get those stories in just a minute.

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

CARLSON:  Time now to take a quick look at the people and stories making news today.  Former CIA employee Valerie Plame and her husband Joe Wilson filed suit in federal court against Vice President Dick Cheney, presidential advisor Karl Rove, and former Cheney chief of staff, Scooter Libby. 

The charge?  They‘ve disclosed Plame‘s classified CIA status.  That disclosure, says the suit, was a conspiracy at the White House.  We will see.  I don‘t think they‘ve got much of a case.  If the federal prosecutor isn‘t indicting anybody on those same charges, it may be hard to prove it‘s a crime. 

But the one thing we will learn in this suit, and the one reason I‘m for it, what did Valerie Plame do at CIA?  Was she really at the very center of American national security, or was she just another CIA employee?  We‘ll find out. 

Well, it seems Dr. Kevorkian is a proponent of suicide unless it applies to him.  Kevorkian, who assisted in the deaths of more than 130 people in the 1990s, encouraging many of them to kill themselves, is now in failing health at that Michigan prison. 

As his death looms, he says he still believes in assisted suicide but he would not choose it for himself.  Oh, really?  So suicide good enough for other people.  Jack Kevorkian who clearly—take a close look at the case and you‘ll make the same conclusion—clearly had a sexual attraction to death, was a creep, full-blown, has reinvented himself as an advocate for choice in suicide. 

No.  He was someone who helped other people commit suicide because he got off on it.  And now, when his time comes, he‘s not man enough to kill himself.  Jack Kevorkian, shame on you.

Well ¼ century after HIV and AIDS hit the U.S., we are just now realizing it might be a good idea to test people for it.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will formally recommended that doctors routinely ask adult patients to take an HIV test. 

The CDC says 25 percent of Americans who are infected with HIV don‘t know they have it.  So after 25 years, this obvious step.  Just to recap.  Nobody is suggesting anybody is tested against his will.  Nobody is suggesting mandatory anything.  Merely the suggestion that doctors say, “Would you like an HIV test?” It‘s amazing and worth looking carefully at the question, why did it take 25 years to do something like this? 

Is Star Jones planning to bring her unspecified talents to the world of cable news?  “In Touch Weekly” magazine, which really is a poor man‘s “Us Weekly,” quite frankly, is reporting the talk show host diva has been approached by both CNN and FOX News. 

Well, a FOX spokesman responded by saying the network has, quote, “no interest,” which another way of saying Star Jones is driving a hard bargain, making unreasonable demands.  But that‘s why they call it negotiation.  We‘ll keep up with that story.

Oliver Stone‘s latest movie “World Trade Center” opens next month.  It documents the excruciating horrors that took place both inside and outside the Twin Towers during the attacks of 9/11.  But here‘s a question, why would do we need Hollywood to remind us of a tragedy many of us watched with our own eyes and can‘t forget?  How could the drama possibly compare to the reality? 

I‘m joined now by a man who can help us answer that question.  “Newsweek‘s” senior writer Devin Gordon was one of a slight few to actually watch “World Trade Center” at a critics screening this week.  He joins me from New York now. 

Thank for joining us. 

DEVIN GORDON, NEWSWEEK SENIOR WRITER:  Thanks for having me.

CARLSON:  What did you think? 

GORDON:  Well, I‘m not a critic, so I don‘t want to review the movie. 

But it‘s powerful. 

CARLSON:  But how did it strike you?  You live in New York, I mean. 

Tell me what you thought. 

GORDON:  Well, it tells a side of the story that we haven‘t seen to.  I mean, to answer your initial question about why do people need to see something that they watched with their own eyes 5 years ago, well, you didn‘t see this part of it. 

I‘m sure that‘s what Oliver Stone would say.  I‘m sure that‘s what Paramount would say.  They‘ve got a pretty compelling case.  What happened inside the building is not something anyone has ever seen.  What happened to these two particular guys is not something they‘ve ever seen, and that‘s what the movie documents. 

CARLSON:  The second you hear the phrase “Oliver Stone” you think, what, conspiracies?  And nobody wants to see a movie that implies conspiracies behind 9/11.  Is there any implication at all in this film that, say, the U.S. government or Israel was behind these attacks? 

GORDON:  Absolutely not.  There‘s not a bit of conspiracy theory in the movie whatsoever.  I mean, I think—to the point where it‘s almost hard to find subtle hints of conspiracy theory, which you might think that maybe Oliver Stone would try to jab something in there.  But you‘d have to go over it with a fine-toothed comb to find anything that‘s even remotely conspiracy-oriented in the film. 

CARLSON:  Any politics in it at all? 

GORDON:  No.  Not any.  It really is a personal story about these Port Authority cops and their families and dealing with whether or not they were alive or dead, and then the cops trying to get out of alive.  That‘s what it‘s about. 

CARLSON:  How sad is it? 

GORDON:  It‘s pretty sad.  I mean, you know, sometimes it‘s tough to distinguish between what you‘re feeling because you remember that day and the power of that story itself and what the movie is stirring in you. 

I haven‘t figured out which is which.  But either way you cut it, it‘s a very powerful story; it‘s a very emotional story.  And especially if you were in New York on that day.  It‘s hard to imagine not being moved by it. 

CARLSON:  Why would you want to watch that?  I mean, I look at that and I think—I mean, I‘m glad to know that Oliver Stone isn‘t pushing some bizarre agenda, and he is a talented filmmaker.  And I‘m sure it‘s a beautiful picture. 

But I look at that and I say, “The last series of emotions I want to reawaken are the ones I felt on 9/11.”  Why would I want to watch this? 

GORDON:  Yes, it‘s weird.  I mean, a lot of people have that exact same feeling.  That, you know, “Why would I want to watch a movie about 9/11?”  I‘ve had that thought sometimes myself. 

But on the flipside, there are people who very much want to see movies like this.  They want to remember these things.  They want to be reminded of what happened.  And this movie is one of those movies that will offer you some good feelings about what happened because these people do actually survive. 

You know, it‘s the same thing like watching a movie called “Hotel Rwanda,” which is a very movie.  People will say the same thing.  Yes, it‘s powerful, but it‘s also very tragic.  Why do I want to see it?  It just comes down to personal test. 

CARLSON:  Well, but also—that‘s Kigali.  This is New York.  I mean, this is us.  This is our country.  This is a defining moment for us, and it‘s something that every American shared and, I think, still feel sad about. 

GORDON:  Yes, but again, the personal feelings that we‘re talk being here are basically the same.  Some people want to see a movie that talks about these tragedies and goes through them again, and some people don‘t want to go anywhere near it.  It‘s just a personal choice, I think.

CARLSON:  Would you recommend it to people who lost a loved one on 9/11? 

GORDON:  I don‘t know.  Like I said, I think those people sometimes divide into the same exact camps, that they want to see it, and they want to remember just like everyone else does.  And some people don‘t want to go anywhere near it.

I mean, I would have felt the same way about people when “United 93” came out and the families of those victims—I would have thought, “Well, how could they possibility want to see the movie?”  And yet, there they all were on the premiere night, watching the movie in the theater as the rest of us. 

CARLSON:  How did that movie do? 

GORDON:  How did “United 93” do? 

CARLSON:  Yes.

GORDON:  It made some money.  It didn‘t cost thatch.  So when you consider how much it cost, you know, I think Universal made a profit on it;

I think they did very well.  But it certainly wasn‘t a runaway hit. 

CARLSON:  Do you think there‘s something immoral about Hollywood making a profit on 9/11? 

GORDON:  Immoral?  I‘m not sure I...

CARLSON:  How about unseemly? 

GORDON:  I don‘t even know if it‘s unseemly.  I mean, I think it all depends up on how you approach the subject and how well you handle it.  I think there are definitely—it raises questions.  There are some things that can be considered over the line.  It‘s very dangerous.

But, you know, what tends to make people uncomfortable with it about 9/11, I think, is because it was only five years ago.  No one seems to have any problem with Hollywood making money off of World War II or Vietnam or telling those stories. 

I think it‘s the proximity to the date that raises those questions.  And, frankly, I don‘t think that that‘s really an issue.  I think if art is done well—it‘s never too soon when art is done well. 

CARLSON:  Interesting.  Overall, I think it‘s a very fair analysis. 

Devin Gordon from “Newsweek.”  Thanks a lot for joining us. 

GORDON:  Thanks for having me.

CARLSON:  And now, the truth about lying.  A new survey by the Associated Press reveals that more than half of those polled think lying is never justified.  And yet, 2/3 of the respondents also believe it‘s OK to lie in certain situations—figure that out—situations like sparing someone else‘s feelings. 

Then again, can we really trust the finding of a survey compiled from admitted liars?  Good question.  We decided to conduct our own search for truly infamous lies, and we came up with some real whoppers.  We could say today‘s “Top Five” will add new meaning to your TV viewing habits, but that, of course, would be merely just another lie. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

We‘re all taught as children that honesty is always the best policy.  Unfortunately, that‘s a lesson that quite honestly is forgotten by many adults, often with dire consequences. 

When it comes to stretching the truth, you might say author James Frey did it by the book.  His memoir, “A Million Little Pieces” was a bestseller until we learned that his personal accounts of drug abuse and criminal behavior were just a million little lies. 

JAMES FREY, AUTHOR:  I think I made a lot of mistakes. 

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST:  Do you see the mistakes as lies? 

CARLSON:  And let‘s not forget plagiarists.  Kaavya Viswanathan and ex-“New York Times” reporter Jayson Blair, two other literary frauds who just didn‘t have the right stuff. 

As a four-time all-star, Rafael Palmeiro was a hero to millions of baseball fans in America and his native Cuba.  But then, he was accused of juicing his muscles.  Stay it ain‘t so, Rafael. 

RAFAEL PALMEIRO, BASEBALL PLAYER:  I have never used steroids, periods. 

CARLSON:  Wrong answer.  Subsequent tests reveal Rafael was lying, and he was suspended for 10 days. 

PALMEIRO:  I made a mistake, and I‘m facing it.  And I hope that the fans forgive me.

CARLSON:  Fertilizer salesman turned wife-killer Scott Peterson not only sold maneuver, he shoveled it.  And he did it pretty well.  But then mistress Amber Frey his true gift for gab.

AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON ACQUAINTANCE:  How as your New Year‘s Eve?

SCOTT PETERSON, CONVICTED MURDERER:  It‘s good.  I‘m just—everyone‘s in the bar now, so I came out in an alley, a quiet alley.  Isn‘t that nice?

FREY:  Yes, it is.  I can hear you.  Very good.

PETERSON:  It‘s pretty awesome.  Fireworks there at the Eiffel Tower, a mass of people of people playing American pop songs.

CARLSON:  Caught on tape.  Peterson was, in fact, home in California at the time.  Nowadays, Peterson still makes his home in California, though with slightly less impressive surroundings. 

Cold feet got this runaway bride in hot water when she decided to skip her nuptials and hop a Greyhound bus instead.  Then, Jennifer Wilbanks foolishly decided to alter the truth. 

OPERATOR:  And the person that did this to you, was he—was it a he or a she?

JENNIFER WILBANKS, “RUNAWAY BRIDE”:  It was a Hispanic man and a Caucasian woman. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If she had called and said, “I got scared.  I‘m coming home,” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and never lied, we wouldn‘t all be standing here. 

CARLSON:  Jennifer‘s punishment?  You could say she cut a deal with prosecutors. 

Sure he may have sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but the truth of the matter was, Bill Clinton‘s record for recalling the truth is at times, somewhat shady. 

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn‘t like it.  And didn‘t inhale and never tried it again. 

I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski. 

That is not a sexual relationship.  That isn‘t accurate. 

CARLSON:  Let‘s face it.  If Bill Clinton‘s knack for skirting the truth doesn‘t get the cigar, who does? 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Coming up, President Bush is not often compared to FDR or JFK, but will he be on this show?  We‘ll tell you what he has in common with those three-letter presidents in just a moment.

Plus, Tom Cruise richly deserves every ounce of mockery he gets on this program.  But is it time finally to back off?  We‘ll hear from someone who says we ought to let Cruise alone.  We‘ll be coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Coming up, Michael Jackson is in trouble with the law again. 

Are slumber parties and Jesus juice involved?  We‘ll tell you

Plus, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald takes a break from the CIA leak investigation to go after condiments.  We‘ll be back to explain it all I n 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  You know, I am not the only person in America with strongly held opinions.  No.  How do I know that?  Because a lot of you call in and leave messages in our voice mailbox.  It‘s time to listen to them.  First up. 

GAIL, SOUTHBURY, CONNECTICUT:  Gail, Southbury, Connecticut.  The rest of the world did not hate us under Eisenhower, FDR, JFK, or Clinton.  We have a president who is arrogant and brags and makes the world hate us. 

CARLSON:  Yes, take a history course, Gail.  I mean, that‘s the problem with political partisans.  They have a time horizon of about eight minutes long.  I don‘t think Bush has helped.  I think the war in Iraq weakens this country.  I‘m opposed to it, as I have said countless time. 

But the fact is, they, meaning Islamic extremists, have hated us for many years over many presidents.  In 1979, the Iranians took the hostages.  In 1983, they bombed the barracks in Beirut and killed all those American marines.  They bombed the World Trade Center under Bill Clinton.  I mean, that‘s ridiculous.  This is a problem that is deeper and more complex than a single president, and you ought to know that, Gale.  Next up.

MICHAEL, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA:  Michael from Las Vegas.  Quit picking on Dan Rather so much.  He actually is an honest journalist who happened to make a mistake.  Switch over to FOX News.  Every time they say, “Fair and balanced,” now there‘s a lie. 

CARLSON:  Oh, please.  An honest journalist admits his mistake, admits he‘s wrong, doesn‘t hide behind the mantle of false martyrdom.  “I‘m an independent journalist,” blah, blah, blah.  No.

Look, even I, many, many years younger than Dan Rather, never would have accepted at face value the source he accepted at face value.  And you know why he accepted that source at face value?  Because that source had the same political view as Dan Rather.  That‘s letting your personal politics infect your reporting, which even I, as an open ideologue, I‘ve never done.  I never will do.  No, I have contempt for his reporting.  Sorry.  Next up. 

CARROLL, SAVANNAH, GEORGIA:  Carol, in Savannah, Georgia, and I wish you would leave Tom Cruise alone. 

CARLSON:  Well, I think you make a fair point, Carol.  I mean, at some point, it is mean.  It‘s kind of mean to beat up on Tom Cruise.  I‘m sure he‘s a nice guy.  I‘ve heard that, actually.  So you‘re right.  We‘re going to try.  Willie Geist and I pledged in public on this program to stop being mean to Tom Cruise.  We fell off the wagon.  These things happen.  We‘re going to get right back on it.  We‘re going to take the pledge again.  We‘re not going to be mean to Tom Cruise.  Thanks for reminding us.

Keep those calls coming.  The number, 1-877-TCARLSON.  That‘s 877-822-7576.  And if you‘re voicing your opinion and not satisfied with that, make into a video clip and send it to us by email.  The address, Tucker@MSNBC.com.  Just to make it totally clear, we‘re soliciting your home movies.  So send them to us. 

Still ahead, Patrick Fitzgerald is taking on the White House and the CIA, but he‘s now tackling the toughest most delicious opponent yet.  We‘ll explain when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Time for the cutting room floor.  Joining us, our producer Willie Geist, back at headquarters with all the stories that slipped through the cracks today—Willie? 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Hello, Tucker.  Yesterday, we wished Richard Simmons a happy birthday.  And we mentioned that as we were speaking, he was on a competing network wearing a purple suit.  Here is the evidence, yesterday over on FOX News.  There he is.  Not “Beat the Press,” “Beat Richard Simmons‘ Tailor.”  That‘s what this clip is all about.  I think we should do a stick with the bedazzled tank tops and dolphin shorts and never dress semi-formal again. 

CARLSON:  You‘re not going to hear a bad word out of my mouth about Richard Simmons. 

GEIST:  I didn‘t say anything about him.  I was talking about his tailor.  Wear the dolphin shorts. 

CARLSON:  Love that man. 

GEIST:  Me, too.

CARLSON:  Well, Kevin Federline is growing up before our eyes.  Britney Spears may soon be able to cut back her husband‘s allowance because of the cash he‘s reportedly making just for existing.  “In Touch Weekly” reports K-Fed is paying $20,000 just to appear at parties.  The magazine also reports Federline made $250,000 for endorsing a new clothing line. 

GEIST:  Tucker, Federline is a whipping boy, a punch line to everyone except you and I, as we have discussed.  Go back five years ago.  He‘s sitting in his basement, playing video games in his underwear.  He‘s now married to Britney Spears, and they pay him $20,000 for leaving the house.  Bravo, K-Fed.  Keep up the good work.  You‘re a hero to all of us. 

CARLSON:  As you point in the beginning, Willie, he‘s living the dream. 

Michael Jackson‘s second wife is suing the King of Pop for money she says she needs to continue a different case against him.  Isn‘t that a slap in the face?  Debbie Rowe has filled a lawsuit that claims Jackson has failed to pay her what he promised when they divorced in 1989.  Rowe, who is the mother of two of Jacko‘s children, wants almost $250,000 so she can continue her child custody case against Michael Jackson. 

GEIST:  And Debbie Rowe also goes by Debbie Rowe.  It depends how she‘s feeling that day. 

CARLSON:  How am I supposed to know?  I‘m a newsman, Willie.  Come on.

GEIST:  That‘s right.  You‘re a hard news guy.  Sorry.

CARLSON:  Yes.

GEIST:  I don‘t feel sympathy for Michael Jackson.  You shouldn‘t either.  The guy has magicians and chimpanzees on his payroll.  He has a roller coaster in his backyard.  But this is a little low, don‘t you think?  “Can you just float me some cash so I can sue you?”  No.  I mean, there‘s a point, right, where it‘s too much?  Don‘t you think? 

CARLSON:  That‘s chutzpah.

GEIST:  It is.  She‘s got some nerve.

CARLSON:  Well, see if you notice anything strange about this cat. 

I‘ll give you a second.  If you said it has two faces, you are correct.  The two-faced kitten was born in Ohio yesterday.  It has four eyes, two noses, two mouths that yawn in unison.  The owner says he hasn‘t decided on the name for the cat yet, but he‘s leaning toward Tiger. 

GEIST:  To me, the strangest thing about this story is that the owner couldn‘t come up with a more creative name than Tiger for a two-faced cat.  I think we can do a little bit better than that if we put our heads together.  I think it‘s the yawning in unison part that creeps me out the most, Tucker.  I can‘t even call it cute.  It‘s just odd. 

CARLSON:  I kind of like this cat, and I wish this cat well.  I‘m a borderline PETA member, as you know, Willie, and I hope this cat thrives. 

GEIST:  I wish it well too. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

Apparently, bored with the pedestrian business of investigating the highest reaches of the United States government, the CIA leak case among others, U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has set his sights on salad dressing. 

Fitzgerald‘s office has charged two men with changing the expiration dates on bottles of Henri‘s salad dressing and then selling them to grocery stores.  The men made a reported $546,000 selling the post-dated salad dressings. 

GEIST:  Boy, that is it such a come down for Fitzgerald.  I hardly know what to say.  That reminds me kind of like when Marcia Clark was doing the O.J. trial and she was on TV every day, and now she‘s like a DUI attorney or something.  You know what I mean?  It‘s like you‘ve been to the mountaintop and it‘s a long way down. 

CARLSON:  $546,000. 

GEIST:  That‘s a lot of salad dressing.

CARLSON:  It‘s amazing.  Willie Geist.

GEIST:  All right, Tucker.  See you tomorrow.

CARLSON:  See you tomorrow.

That‘s SITUATION for tonight.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you tomorrow.

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

END   

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

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