updated 7/18/2006 1:24:00 PM ET 2006-07-18T17:24:00

Guests: Dan Ephron, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mort Zuckerman, Lizzie Cohlmia, Anthony Shadid

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show.  Let‘s get right to breaking news from the Middle East.

The death toll continues to climb on this sixth day of conflict.  At least 17 people were killed in Lebanon and Israel pounded Hezbollah strongholds.  Israeli airstrikes set fire to Beirut‘s fort, while ground troops, Israel ground troops, briefly entered southern Lebanon.  Hezbollah struck back, destroying a three-story building in Haifa, Israel, and firing rockets that flew farther into that country than ever before. 

But in what could be a small ray of hope, Israel set conditions for ending the fighting, and they include the release of two Israeli soldiers being held by Hezbollah and an end to the rocket attacks on the state of Israel. 

Iran, meanwhile, said a cease-fire, a prisoner swap could be

“acceptable and fair.”  A U.N. envoy is heading from Lebanon to Israel to try to negotiate an end to the fighting. 

Joining us now on the phone from Haifa is “Newsweek‘s” Dan Ephron. 

Dan, are you there?

DAN EPHRON, “NEWSWEEK”:  Yes, I am.

CARLSON:  Set the scene for us in Haifa.  When was the last time rockets came into the city?  And are you expecting more? 

EPHRON:  Well, it‘s been a couple of hours since we heard the last siren.  You know, when the rockets are fired in Lebanon, a siren goes off at Haifa or other parts of northern Israel, and then people who are here have about a minute to get in the bomb shelters or in their secure rooms. 

So, as I say, it‘s been about a couple of hours since we heard the last siren.  And as far as the next—the next attack, it‘s hard to say.  It‘s almost arbitrary, although the pattern, in the last couple of days, anyway, has been that the attacks tend to come during the daytime and less during the night. 

The first one today was at 5:30 in the morning.  We were roused by a siren, and all of us in the hotel where we‘re staying climbed down flights of stairs into the bomb shelter, and it turned out to be a false alarm. 

CARLSON:  Tell us about the rockets themselves.  How big are they?  Are they closer to a mortar round, a howitzer shell?  How much damage can they do? 

EPHRON:  Well, they vary.  You know, they‘re firing several different sizes of rockets.  Some are shoulder-held, and some are fired from trucks.  And I think we got a good example of just how much damage they can do when they‘re firing the bigger ones and they land in a residential area. 

Today in Haifa, a rocket slammed into a three-story building, a residential building, and took off the facade of two of the floors.  And also wrecked the inside of one—one apartment.  It looked pretty bad.  There was a lot of damage, mainly to that one apartment building, but also to several apartment buildings in the area. 

CARLSON:  So these are significant munitions. 

What about—what about Israel‘s famed anti-defense systems, its anti-missile defense systems on its borders?  Are those not working? 

EPHRON:  Israel has a system it developed over many years, the Arrow anti-missile system, but it‘s not effective against rockets.  It needs, I think, a certain trajectory, a certain altitude.  Mainly, it needs time for the radar to spot the takeoff of the missile, and then for, you know, the Israeli missile to actually get up in the air high enough to knock out the incoming missile. 

This—the Arrow was developed after Scud missiles were fired at Israel in 1991 from Iraq.  And there were several minutes between the—you know, the distance was much greater, the height was greater.  And so the system had had several minutes to track the missile and to fire an anti-missile and knock it out of the sky. 

CARLSON:  Do we have any idea where these missiles were coming from?  We‘re getting some reports or claims, anyway, that they‘re Iranian-made or supplied by Iran, in any case. 

Is that true, do you know? 

EPHRON:  Well, the Israelis have said for years that Iran was consistently and steadily supplying Hezbollah with thousands and thousands of missiles.  Really since 2000, since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon.  And whenever they really did make that claim, it was—are you still with me? 

CARLSON:  Yes, I sure am, Dan.  Right here.

EPHRON:  OK.  Whenever they did make that claim, it was always hard to verify.  And we just weren‘t sure whether to report it or not. 

I think now it‘s clear that they have been getting missiles, and I think almost by a process of elimination.  It‘s probably one of two main allies that Hezbollah has, either Syria or Iran.  Israel is now saying that it has seen traces of missiles fired at Israel that are definitely from both Syria and Iran.  I think that when they say that now, people probably take that a little more seriously than in the past. 

CARLSON:  We are getting reports here about political protests within Israel.  Left wing activists protesting against Israel‘s attack on Lebanon. 

Are you familiar with this?  Can you tell us the scope of it?

EPHRON:  I think they were very minor protests.  And I think the reflection of the kind of wall-to-wall support the prime minister is getting, we saw a reflection of that in parliament today when he got up and spoke for about 30 minutes about this operation and about the goals of this operation. 

You know, Israeli politics are usually very feisty.  No Israel politician ever gets a free ride, and in parliament, usually these speeches are interrupted.  Usually the opposition is large and boisterous. 

In this case, he made his speech and was not interrupted once.  And then got wide support in parliament for the policy.  And I think what‘s true for parliament is true for Israelis across the country.  At this stage, anyway, there is virtually no criticism, no opposition to what he‘s doing. 

CARLSON:  Interesting.  When we see reports that Israel has put ground troops, forces described as ground troops, whatever that means, into Lebanon, what does that mean?  How many?  Are they likely to stay?  Have they left already?

Tell us. 

EPHRON:  I think there was a brief incursion of some ground troops, and I think they went in and they came out.  I think they had some very limited operations that the military wanted to get done just across the border. 

I don‘t—I imagine that there are other commando-type troops, special operations forces that might be operating.  I don‘t know that for sure.  I can only imagine that one of the things that you do in a situation like this is you send your elite troops inside to be calling in airstrikes and doing the other things that we have done in Iraq or in Afghanistan successfully over the last few years. 

I don‘t—I think that the Israeli military and the Israeli government, and certainly the Israeli people, are very—very hesitant, let‘s say, to commit large numbers of ground troops to Lebanon, given Israel‘s experience over the years with Lebanon and the long occupation that Israel maintained there, a painful one, from 1982 right through 2000. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  It would be like reinvading Vietnam for Americans, almost. 

What—and finally, do you expect more attacks on Israel?  I mean, do people who are watching this carefully believe that Haifa, for instance, could be hit again, or other cities?

EPHRON:  Well, Israeli—the Israeli officials certainly do, and they‘re saying that.  In fact, one of the things they said today was that they had knocked out missile batteries that were strong enough and had a long enough range to actually hit not only Haifa, but Tel Aviv, which is Israel‘s main—main city, and much further south, much further away from the Lebanese border.

And I think that means that Israelis—Israeli officials do expect more rocket attacks and are saying to their people here to brace themselves, to remain in bomb shelters, that this thing is not over and could take days and maybe even weeks. 

CARLSON:  Dan Ephron of “Newsweek.”

Thanks.  That was interesting. 

Thanks, Dan. 

EPHRON:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Still to come, Americans stranded as Lebanon goes up in flames.  Thousands of U.S. citizens desperately trying to escape.  Are we doing—and by “we,” we mean the U.S. government—enough to help them? 

Plus this... 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  President Bush‘s tough talk on the Middle East caught on tape, but the real shocker is the way one news organization reacted. 

We‘ve got it all on “Beat the Press.”  That‘s next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

Twenty-five thousand Americans are trapped as the nation of Lebanon continues to come under fire from Israeli airstrikes.  Israel says it will continue to pound Hezbollah until two captured soldiers are released and the Lebanese army takes control of the country‘s south.  But in the meantime, thousands of U.S. citizens are stranded and Israel is doing nothing to help them.  Or is it? 

What will it take to get our people out of harm‘s way? 

Here to answer that question, Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel from 1996 until 1999.  He joins us from Jerusalem.

Mr. Netanyahu, thanks for coming on. 

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FMR. ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER:  Thank you.  I was amazed at the way you just presented the problem. 

CARLSON:  Well, it is a problem.  It is a problem for Americans.  And what is Israel doing to help?  Is Israel taking active steps to help America get out of Beirut, do you know? 

NETANYAHU:  Of course it will.  America is—Israel is the unabashed friend of the United States through thick and thin, and we face the same enemy. 

Just imagine that enemy pounding Chicago with rockets.  Of course you‘d take action.  You‘d probably take at least as intense an action as we‘re taking to try to get the terrorists.  I suspect even more.

When your city was pelted not with a rocket, but with two 150-ton fully-loaded jet airliners, your government, with the support of the American people, rightly sent your army to demolish a regime in Afghanistan.  You did the right thing. 

CARLSON:  Well, and I‘m not in any way arguing...

(CROSSTALK)

NETANYAHU:  Well, trying right now to...

CARLSON:  Mr. Prime Minister, I‘m not arguing at all against Israel‘s assault on Lebanon.  I‘m merely asking as an American the obvious question, which is, how are the Americans in Lebanon faring and what is Israel doing to help them? 

It‘s not an assault on Israel, it‘s merely a question I think any American would ask.  And I‘m asking it specifically because news accounts in this country today suggest that the blockade of the port of Beirut has made it impossible for ferries to land and bring those Americans out of the country. 

In other words, Israel is preventing Americans from being evacuated, say our news organizations here.  And I‘m merely asking you is that true and how long will it go on? 

NETANYAHU:  I don‘t know.  But if it is true, I have no doubt that the government will make every effort to enable those Americans to leave Lebanon. 

The last thing we want to do is hurt innocent people, Americans or anyone else, but especially Americans.  So we‘d like—I‘m sure that problem will be resolved. 

Our larger problem, the problem that Americans face, too, is this mad Islamic militancy that is showing, giving us, really, a promo, if you will, a prelude to what would happen if the parent regime, Iran, gets atomic bombs.  These people have no compunction in rocketing and in bombing anything in sight, and if they had the weapons of mass death, like atomic bombs, then I think the whole world would be in danger. 

CARLSON:  Well, you describe Iran as the root problem here.  That sounds right by every account.  I‘ve heard, why not go directly after Iran then?  Won‘t the problem persist as long as the current regime in Tehran is in power? 

NETANYAHU:  Well, Iran is obviously behind this, and it‘s using Syria as a way station for sending the rockets.  At the moment, there is in Lebanon an enclave, an Iranian-sponsored enclave of Hezbollah that has basically made a mockery of Lebanon‘s sovereignty and is using Lebanese soil to attack Israel.

So, our first objective is, first of all, to dismantle the long-range missiles that are there that are now hitting deep into Israel, terrorizing our population, murdering our people.  I do agree with you that there has to be international action and international pressure on both Iran and Syria, and that the finger should be pinted there, and not on Israel, who‘s taking the action to defend itself that any democracy would, and probably a lot of them would do a lot more. 

CARLSON:  President Bush was caught inadvertently, without his knowledge, anyway, on tape yesterday saying to Prime Minister Tony Blair of England that this whole problem could be solved if someone—if the international community would lean on the Assad government in Syria and tell them to knock it off. 

Do you think that‘s true? 

NETANYAHU:  It‘s part of the problem, without a doubt.  It would help a lot.  I think he‘s got that right on target. 

The terrorists simply could not function without the logistics, the weapons, the support that they get from Iran and from Syria.  And from Iran it passes through Syria to get to Lebanon.  So, I think the president has an important point. 

I think it‘s also important to understand that—that Israel has vacated Lebanon with a U.N. resolution.  It left every square inch of Lebanon, where we were there in the first place because of terrorism.  We came into wipe out the terrorism, stayed in, were told, if you leave, the Lebanese government would do what it needs to do to police the area and Hezbollah would be dismantled. 

We left, we did our part.  The Lebanese did not do their part.  Now, it‘s questionable whether they can do their part, but we have no choice in that case but to act unilaterally. 

What the president is saying is that a lot of what is happening on Lebanon‘s soil is being manipulated from Syria, and although he didn‘t say it on this particular tape, it‘s manipulated also from Iran.  So, I think you need here two simultaneous actions.  One, Israel to take action against the terrorists in Lebanon.  And two, the international community to take—to take action against the two offending regimes, Iran and Syria. 

CARLSON:  How long will the Israeli offensive in Lebanon continue, do you think? 

NETANYAHU:  I don‘t know.  I think it should continue until the threat posed by Hezbollah to our cities and our civilians is removed, and that threat right now has been revealed to contain long-range rockets with very large warheads, and also precision-guided ammunitions, which is very disturbing, especially in the hands of a mad, mad fanatic group like Hezbollah. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from Jerusalem.

Thanks. 

NETANYAHU:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Still to come, imagine if you can an alternate universe in which Bill Clinton is still president.  Would he be the man to bring peace to the Middle East?  Would there be a war going on if he were in charge? 

Howard Dean has the answer. 

Also ahead, we‘ll talk live to an American who is trapped in Lebanon trying to plan her escape.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:   Welcome back. 

Time now for “Beat the Press.”

First up, Anderson Cooper of CNN, who on Friday night hosted his show from Nahariya in northern Israel.  Here‘s the anchor setting the scene for his viewers. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, “ANDERSON COOPER 360”:  We‘re reporting from the town of Nahariya, a town which is really a ghost town.  It is very early on Saturday morning, we‘re hearing Israeli warplanes flying overhead.  That has become a very familiar site.  You also may be hearing some birds chirping, greeting the new dawn. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Yes, that‘s reporting.  That‘s journalism.  But let‘s be honest with ourselves now.  That‘s also poetry. 

Take those words, take the raw transcript right off CNN.com, clean up the punctuation, change the inflexion a little bit, and what do you have?  You‘ve got verse. 

In fact, you have a poem we call “Nahariya Dawn.”

The town of Nahariya, the town which really is a/

A ghost town/

It is very early on Saturday morning/

We‘re hearing Israeli warplanes flying/

Overhead.  It has become/

A very familiar site.  You may also be hearing/

Some birds chirping, greeting the new dawn.”

That‘s poetry, baby.  Tha‘s beyond journalism. 

Well, next up, CNN again.

By now, you‘ve heard about President Bush‘s uncensored moment at a G-8 luncheon today, a moment where he used an R-rated word.  And worse, did it with his mouthful.  It was an amusing moment, but was it really breaking news? 

CNN thought it was. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  Yes.  No, I think the thing is really difficult, is you can‘t stop this unless you get this international presence agreed. 

BUSH:  Yes.

BLAIR:  Now, (INAUDIBLE). 

BUSH:  Yes, she‘s going—I think Condi is going to go pretty soon.

BLAIR:  Right, but I don‘t—that‘s all that matters.  If you—you see, it will take some time to get out of there.  But at least it gives people...

BUSH:  It‘s a process, I agree.  I told her your offer, too.

BLAIR:  At which—well, it‘s only—I mean, you know, if she‘s

going—or if she needs the ground prepared, as it were.  It‘s obviously -

if she goes out, she‘s got to succeed, as it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.

BUSH:  See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and it‘s over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  And did you see that?  The screen actually says “Breaking News,” “President Bush heard using expletive.”

There it is again.  “Breaking News,” “President Bush heard using expletive in talk on Middle East.”

CNN ought to find the person who wrote that, who typed those words on to the screen, and fire that person for dorkiness. 

He used a bad word.  Breaking news.  Come on.

And finally, Katie Couric has her big plans for changing the face of evening news.  She revealed them at a media event in Chicago on Sunday.  The anchor-to-be talked about her strategy for changing “CBS News.”  And from the looks of it, she‘s less concerned with reporting the news than with fixing it. 

Here‘s what she said. 

“Obviously we can‘t sugarcoat what‘s going on in the world, but there are cases where I believe we can be more solution-oriented.”

Now I say this with love.  I like Katie Couric.  I have nothing against Katie Couric at all.  And I‘ve been around journalists my entire life since I was born.  It‘s the only job I‘ve ever had.  I know them well and I love them.

But if there‘s any group in American life less capable of solving anything, anything, figuring out what the tip should be at dinner, all the way up to and including the Arab-Israeli peace process, it is journalists.  Nice people, very good at reporting the news, very bad at solving anything whatsoever. 

News organizations do a very good job of gathering the news and giving it to us, telling us what happened yesterday.  But increase their role, their charge, and beyond that, move into Nobel Peace Prize territory, disaster. 

Katie Couric, just tell us what happened.  That‘s all we want. 

Still to come, the march to war in the Middle East is just the latest crisis in the Bush presidency.  You can argue with his policies, but is George W. Bush just “too dumb” to be leading this country?  That‘s what one critic is saying. 

That story is ahead.  Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  A young American student stranded in the middle of Beirut in the war zone.  What‘s being done to get her home tonight.

Plus, would Bill Clinton have managed the Middle East crisis better than President Bush has managed it?  Howard Dean says you bet he would have.  We‘ll have Dean‘s latest rant in just a minute.  But right now, here‘s a look at your headlines. 

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I never heard a bomb or a rocket before, and this is a bad feeling. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  The U.S. military is already involved in the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon, but could we soon be setting those warships back to the region with a less humanitarian purpose?  Here to help us answer that question, Mort Zuckerman.  He‘s the editor-in-chief of “U.S. News and World Report.”  He joins us from New York.  Ward, welcome. 

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT”:  Thank you, thank you.  Good to be here. 

CARLSON:  Where‘s this—you follow the subject very closely and know a lot about the Israeli domestic political scene.  Where is this going? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I mean, the critical issue here for the Israelis now is to find some way to eliminate Hezbollah as a major threat to them.  Now, why I say it is a major threat is because it is clear that they have been receiving longer and longer range missiles from Iran. 

These missiles have greater lethality, that is, more explosives and greater accuracy.  And over time, sometimes within the next few years, if this continues, they would get missiles that could strike every major city in Israel.  And given who Hezbollah is, that is a real threat to Israel, and one that they feel under these circumstances, they have the right and obligation to remove. 

CARLSON:  And I understand that.  I don‘t think most Americans would begrudge Israel that.  I mean, they‘re physically threatened by these people, and so of course they‘re fighting back.  The question is where they fight back. 

Lebanon seems a poor place to do it.  Lebanon is a real country, a democracy of sorts, a very affluent country.  It‘s being destroyed, obviously.  Is Lebanon really the place to take the battle, or is it Syria and Iran? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, you know, Syria and Iran are different problems than Lebanon.  For the moment, Hezbollah is in Lebanon.  The Israelis have good tactical intelligence on where the Lebanese missiles are.  They‘ve taken out about 30 percent to 40 percent of them to date.  They have special forces on the ground pursuing the missiles, pursuing the leaders of Hezbollah. 

They are bombing the Hezbollah sites all throughout Lebanon.  It‘s not just an indiscriminate bombing of anything in Lebanon.  They are really going after what they know to be Hezbollah sites.  Now, you understand that Hezbollah pays people to store these rockets, so some of this is going to involve civilian casualties without question. 

But this is something that the Israelis feel they have to do, given the fact they withdrew from Lebanon completely.  There‘s a U.N. resolution establishing their full withdrawal, and yet Hezbollah continues—it‘s not just now.  Several years ago, they kidnapped some children.  They‘ve been firing rockets or missiles for years.  So this is something that is a continuing problem. 

CARLSON:  I suppose that‘s the root of my question.  This has been going on for a long, long time.  Whenever you talk to Israeli officials, they complain about the Hezbollah rockets from Lebanon.  I mean, this has been going on a long, long time. 

But all of a sudden, it‘s this crisis.  All of a sudden there‘s so much talk about the funders of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.  It does make you think that this is part of a larger strategy to go after one of those countries.  Do you think it‘s not? 

ZUCKERMAN:  No, I don‘t.  I think what they are trying to do is to eliminate Hezbollah and Hamas as serious threats to their country, since they‘ve withdrawn, as I mentioned, from both of those countries.  And what they need, and what the Israelis have received now because of Nasrallah and Hezbollah has done, is the political space in which to do this. 

And now that the world—look, even the Arab League is divided. 

Hezbollah is being attacked by Egypt, by Saudi Arabia, and by Jordan. 

They‘re all Sunnis. 

They don‘t like what‘s happening with Hezbollah, because they believe Hezbollah is a Shiite organization, sponsored through Syria by Iran, and this is, to them, just as much of a threat almost as it is to Israel.  So you do not have the kind of political opposition to what Israel is doing, and that‘s why they‘re doing what they‘re doing. 

CARLSON:  And I think the gulf countries in particular are absolutely right to be afraid of Hezbollah.  But can you eliminate this organization as the Israelis say they‘re going to do, as you said they‘re going to do, as well, without going after Iran. 

I mean, in other words, why are we pretending here? Iran is the problem, not just for Israel, but for the rest of the civilized world.  When is someone going to act against Iran if a military way?  It feels like it‘s becoming inevitable, does it not? 

ZUCKERMAN:  That is the critical question.  But it ain‘t going to be easy, as they say.  The Israelis don‘t have the military capacity to deal with Iran.  The United States does.  The United States, at this point, as you know, is fully preoccupied in Iraq.  You can‘t do these things all at once. 

And the United States is trying to find a way, in effect—since Iran is waging a proxy war against Israel, the United States, in a way, is going to wage a proxy war against Iran by going after Hezbollah and Hamas.  And, at some point, as they almost succeeded in doing, overthrowing the government in Syria, which they almost did last year and then backed away from putting the pressure on Syria that they previously had been exercising. 

Syria is going to be next in the crosshairs of the United States.  The question is, how do you change that regime?  And we haven‘t that answered easily because we don‘t want to get involved in another ground war in the Middle East.  One of them is maybe even more than we can handle.  So that‘s why we‘re going to have to find the particular way to do it over time.  It‘s not going to happen easily, and it‘s not going to happen overnight. 

CARLSON:  So if you‘re going to be in a ground war in the Middle East, this one makes a lot more sense than the one we‘re currently engaged in, in my view. 

Now, what about the evacuation of these large numbers of thousands of Americans in Lebanon, mostly in Beirut?  It sounds, by all account, like the U.S. government has done very little and that the Israeli government has been not much of a help at all.  Why is that? 

ZUCKERMAN:  No, no, no.  Look, the only way you can get them out is by ship.  The Americans who are there are not going to walk into Syria.  That‘s the last place they want to go to.  And there‘s no way they can fly out at this point because the airports have been shut down and many of the highways have been shut down. 

So where do they go?  They have to go it by ship.  Now, there is no ship in the region.  We are going to have to find some kind of cruise ship, in effect, or some kind passenger ship to get them out.  Now, that means you have to find somewhere—we can‘t just see the cruise ship. 

We have to find some American ship that‘s willing to work with us, and what we‘re going to do is find a way to empty the cruise ship.  Because if you find any cruise ships in the region, they‘re going to be filled with several thousand people. 

Then they have to go through, if they‘re, for example, in the Indian Ocean or off the coast of Africa, they‘re going to have to go through the Suez Canal.  So it‘s a long journey.  You have to get the people out who are on the ship.  You have to work on how we‘re going to get the ship. 

It‘s just not easy to do, and it‘s not quick to do.  And it‘s not being easy for anybody else to do.  Nobody else is being able to do it.  So it will take its time, and it will probably be another week before we can get a cruise ship on site. 

Now, I will tell you one other thing.  That cruise ship is going to be protected by Israel because the last thing in the world that Israel wants is to tick off the United States by not providing protection for American...

CARLSON:  A cruise ship hit by Hezbollah, would be a disaster on all accounts.  Mort Zuckerman, thanks a lot for joining us.  I appreciate it.

ZUCKERMAN:  Always a pleasure. 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s time now to take a look at some of the other people and stories making news today.  Would the world be a safer place right now with Bill Clinton in power?  In a speech over the weekend, DNC chairman Howard Dean said the current Middle Eastern situation would have happened, wouldn‘t have happened in the first place, had Democrats if control. 

He cited, quote, “the moral authority” President Clinton established during his Arab-Israeli mediation, mediation that the history-challenged Mr. Dean should be reminded failed.  We should also never forget that it was Mr. Clinton, the former president, who announced a couple of years ago in a speech in Toronto, that he would be willing to die for the state of Israel. 

An American who dodged his own country‘s draft willing to die for the state of Israel.  May be good, may be bad, but the point is, it hardly positions him to be an even handed mediator in the Arab-Israeli.  He is not the man to bring peace to the region, obviously.

President Bush‘s perceived intellectual shortcomings have been a source of late night comedy.  One man says the joke isn‘t funny at all.  In an “L.A. Times” column entitled “Is President Bush Still Too Dumb to be President,” Jonathan Chait writes that the president‘s lack of intellectual curiosity has deadly consequences, from warnings about September 11th to the Katrina response. 

With all due respect to the author of this op-ed, come on.  You may not like Bush, you may not like the way he talks, you may be offended by his policy, but debate the policies, debate the ideas he brings forward.  They may be totally wrong, but honor them by rebutting them rather than just attacking the man as a moron.  That‘s the cheap, easy way out, and it‘s one of the reasons that, despite his profound unpopularity, Democrats are hardly more popular.  Because they‘re lazy.

An update now to a story we brought you on this show.  A bizarre get-out-the-vote proposal in Arizona that would award randomly selected voters $1 million in every general election.  It‘s now been certified, and it will appear on the ballot in November.  The so-called Arizona Voter Reward Act has been promoted with the slogan, “Who ants to be a millionaire?  Vote.” 

No word yet on whether complimentary bottles of malt liquor will be handed out to voters he who participate.  This is ridiculous.  You vote because you know what you‘re voting for, because you‘re interested enough in how your government works to have a say in it, to have a hand in choosing your leaders.  If you need to be bribed to vote, you shouldn‘t be voting in the first place.  I don‘t want you picking my government if that‘s what it takes to get you to the polls.  Sorry.

Well, environmentalists have had a hard time getting people excited about global warming, so they‘ve literally created an alarm to signal the problem.  University of Colorado biologists have set up a system that alerts them to the movement of tundra plants.  With an alarm, the plants go to the higher elevations in response to global warming.  As it gets warmer, the alarm goes off.  Pretty tricky. 

The question is, what are you supposed to do it?  You‘re dead asleep and the alarm goes off.  Is it the carbon monoxide alarm, the smoke alarm?  No.  It‘s the global warming alarm.  And there‘s nothing you can do.  It sounds like hell.

Still ahead, an American student stranded in Beirut.  She‘d like to know what‘s taking the U.S. so long to get her out of Lebanon.  We‘ll talk to her in just a minute.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Coming up, you‘ll hear from an American student stranded in Beirut.  What is the U.S. doing to get her home? 

Plus, has Israel overreacted to the threat from Hezbollah?  Former President Clinton thinks so.  We‘ll discuss that when we come back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We spoke a moment ago to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the struggle to evacuate Americans from Lebanon.  We‘re joined now by one of them, one of the 25,000 or so stranded there.  Lizzie Cohlmia is a student at the American University of Beirut this summer.  She joins us on the phone right now. 

Lizzie, are you there? 

LIZZIE COHLMIA, AMERICAN STUDENT TRAPPED IN BEIRUT:  Yes, I‘m here. 

CARLSON:  So how long have you been in Lebanon? 

COHLMIA:  Actually, I‘ve only been here two weeks. 

CARLSON:  Two weeks.  And things started to fall apart and you—what was your response?  Have you tried to get out? 

COHLMIA:  Well, I‘m here for a summer program.  And we finished one week, at the end our second week, things started to get bad.  And the initial response was just wait, let‘s see if this blows over.  But as it got worse, it was like, “OK, you know, we‘ve got to get out of here.” 

CARLSON:  So what did you do? 

COHLMIA:  Well, we had to kind of wait around and see what was going to be the best plan.  We couldn‘t immediately flee to Syria because we have a lot of people, and as soon as we decided that that might be a viable option, they started bombing the roads. 

And one of the civilians buses was hit and people were killed at the border, so we decided that might not be the best route for us and just wait for the American evacuation.  But a week later, we‘re still here. 

CARLSON:  Have you had conversations with the U.S. embassy?  Have you been promised that you‘ll be taken out of the country? 

COHLMIA:  I have not talked to the embassy, nor have any of my friends.  We call and no answers.  But the directors of our program is been in touch with them.  The most I‘ve received are emails and they say, “Yes, we will get you out eventually.  We‘re working on something, but we don‘t have any for-sure plans,” and we will be billed for it.  Basically, that‘s what I‘ve heard the most is, you know, “We‘ll come and get you, but you‘re paying for it.” 

CARLSON:  The U.S. government will pill you for the evacuations? 

COHLMIA:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  What are the conditions like now?  Where are you living, and what‘s it like? 

COHLMIA:  I‘m in the women‘s dorm on campus.  It‘s actually really comfortable.  We‘re in a part of Beirut where there isn‘t Hezbollah activity, so they‘re not targeting us.  Plus, we‘re on an American campus of students, and so the Israelis aren‘t really after us. 

So we‘re pretty safe, but we‘re right on the bay.  And boats just fired the missiles outside of Beirut.  We can see out our windows.  So all night, they‘re shooting and all day, and we hear them.  So it‘s noisy, but we‘re not the target.  So it‘s not as scary as it would be in other places. 

CARLSON:  Have you gotten out and about in Beirut?  Have you driven around since this started? 

COHLMIA:  Ever since the stuff as gone on, we pretty much stay confined to campus.  I‘ve ventured out a couple blocks by foot, just to get food and take care of some last minute details.  But as far as going into downtown, or even trying to see south Beirut, no, it‘s too risky. 

CARLSON:  And do you have electricity full time? 

COHLMIA:  Yes, we have electricity.  It‘s gone out once or twice, but the university, as well as most of the places in Beirut, have generators.  So it goes out, but then it comes right back on. 

CARLSON:  Lizzie Cohlmia, an American student in Beirut.  Good luck. 

COHLMIA:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  For more on what‘s happening on the ground in Beirut, we go to “Washington Post” foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid.  He joins us on the phone now from Lebanon. 

Anthony, are you there? 

ANTHONY SHADID, “WASHINGTON POST” FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m here. 

CARLSON:  What‘s it like? 

SHADID:  It‘s a quiet night right now, at least from the vantage point of downtown Beirut.  We‘re probably about a 10 minute drive from the southern suburbs, which has had the heaviest bombing over the past 24 hours.  It lays off and picks up in intensity a few hours from now, pretty deep into the night. 

CARLSON:  Wherever there is gunfire, you seem to be.  How did you get in?  It was my impression the whole country is sealed off.  Is it possible to get into Beirut easily? 

SHADID:  I actually live in Beirut, so I was reporting in Egypt for a month and I returned here to finish a story.  And three days later, Hezbollah seized the two soldiers. 

CARLSON:  What about people who would like to leave?  Is it difficult? 

SHADID:  It‘s very difficult.  In fact, there‘s one road—you do hear reports there‘s a certain route, a very circuitous route on mountain back roads that can get you to Damascus.  It‘s a very precarious road, and as recently as today, Israeli forces have struck that highway, the Damascus-Beirut highway. 

I think in light of that, that‘s where you‘re starting to see these evacuations mount.  I was at a French school today where 1,200 people had gathered, mostly French but other Europeans as well, and they are being taken in buses to the Beirut port for a boat that would bring them to Cyprus.  The Americans are talking about beginning evacuation as early as tomorrow, which might be even bigger.  I think there‘s 25,000 American citizens that are here in Lebanon.

CARLSON:  What kind of physical damage has been done to the city?  Can you tell? 

SHADID:  Well, I think it depends on where you are in the city.  Central Beirut, which is kind of the gem of the city, in some ways, the reconstructive part of downtown Beirut, has been pretty much unscathed.  There was a rocket fight into the lighthouse on the coastal kind of cornice (ph), but that‘s about it. 

But when you get to south Beirut, the southern suburbs, which are largely Shiite Muslim and Hezbollah‘s stronghold, it‘s been battered.  And battered is probably an understatement.  Whole apartment buildings have been brought up.  The bomb blast has been sheered off the face of other apartment building, and it‘s become kind of a no man‘s land. 

When you drive through there, hardly anyone is in the streets anymore.  And then Hezbollah is thought to have evacuated it.  Thousands of people have left the neighborhoods to try to take refuge in schools and clubs and churches and mosques, seeking shelter for as long as this thing lasts. 

CARLSON:  There‘s probably no more politically loaded question, but what do you think the casualties have been there? 

SHADID:  Well, what we know—and this is an official statement—I think 180 at least -- 180 people killed so far, almost all of them civilians.  That seems to be a low figure.  That‘s  only after hospitals have actually identified the bodies. 

Reports seem more like 200, several hundred wounded, which is a much more dramatic toll than Lebanese have seen in the last conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.  (inaudible) in 1996 when the Israelis launched Operation Grapes of Wrath.

CARLSON:  Are you staying? 

SHADID:  Well, I live here, so I guess I‘m staying. 

CARLSON:  You‘ve got nowhere to go.  Anthony Shadid, I hope you come back.  Thanks. 

SHADID:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Coming up, some, including former President Clinton, are calling Israel‘s response to Hezbollah disproportionate.  Is it?  We‘ll discuss that when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Time for our voicemail segment.  Just to make sure I don‘t do all the talking, we invite you every day to call and leave your messages on our voice mailbox.  And you do.  First up.

PABLO IN JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA:  Pablo from Jacksonville.  I think Israel was doing the right thing, and we should do the right thing as well.  We‘ve got to get rid of these terrorists once and for all. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that.  I absolutely agree with that.  I‘m completely sympathetic to Israel in this and almost every other circumstance.  I wish that we had the same attitude Israel does.  Israel wakes up every morning and thinks to itself, “What is good for us?” 

And I wish we had that same attitude.  We don‘t think that.  We are far too polite, far too weak, far too lacking in self-confidence oftentimes, when we address the rest of the world.  Israel doesn‘t care what Belgium thinks.  And good for Israel.  Next up. 

TERRY IN GLEN BURNIE, MARYLAND:  Terry Hart (ph), Glen Burnie, Maryland.  I heard the you other day that you had the temerity to actually suggest that the United States government start searching for terrorists in places where they live and worship, like mosques?  Maybe you‘re going to suggest that we stop shoe-searching little old grandmothers at the airport.  I don‘t know what you‘re smoking, but hey, maybe you should give it to some of your media friends, and send a little bit over to W while you‘re at it.

CARLSON:  I agree with that.  I hate to see a day in this country when my 6-year-old daughter isn‘t frisked at the airport as a terror threat, and instead someone from, say, Yemen is given the extra scrutiny that is the hallmark of racial profiling. 

No.  Of course, we‘re not serious about fighting terror, obviously.  We weren‘t serious, I think, right after 9/11 when the president got on television and said, you know, “Islam is a religion of peace.”  This is not a war that has anything to do with religion.  Really?  Tell that to the people who are waging the war.  It has everything to do with their religion.  Sorry.  Next up. 

KEVIN IN SAN CLEMENTE, CALIFORNIA:  Kevin Kelly of San Clemente, California.  I was stunned by your suggestion that Jack Kevorkian should commit suicide because he was ill.  Surely, a fellow as bright as you should be able to distinguish the difference between compassionate assisted suicide and what you suggested.  The only person who has suggested sick people kill themselves is you. 

CARLSON:  Well, of course, I was being facetious.  I‘m not for suicide in that or any other circumstance at all.  But the idea that Jack Kevorkian is not for suicide, merely assisting in making the choice to commit suicide or not, is a total lie.  He‘s not pro-choice.  He was actively pro-suicide.  He helped more than 100 people kill themselves.  That means you‘re for suicide if you‘re assisting people to commit suicide.  Sorry.  Let‘s just be honest about it.  Next up? 

MARK IN BARKENSTEAD, :  Mark in Barkenstead.  Do you really want to be rid of our beautiful space program?  Did you watch that thing come down?  That is incredible. 

CARLSON:  Yes, Mark, that was cool.  It would have been even cooler if GM or Ford or Chrysler had done it, not the federal government.  That‘s my view.

Thanks for watching.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is next.  We‘ll be back tomorrow.  See you then.

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.

Transcripts

Watch Tucker each weeknight at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,