updated 8/4/2006 10:01:30 AM ET 2006-08-04T14:01:30

Guests: Brad Blakeman, Andy Grotto, Walid Phares, Joseph Tacopina, Robert Butterworth

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show.  We‘re coming to you once again from the Bethel Inn, in Bethel, Maine.

We begin tonight with Donald Rumsfeld‘s uncomfortable day on Capitol Hill. 

The defense secretary testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where the question of the day was, what exactly are we doing in Iraq?  Rumsfeld was sent to defend the war even as the British ambassador to Iraq was reporting that that country is likely headed for what he called a low-intensity civil war. 

For more on what happened today, we bring in NBC‘s Chip Reid.  He‘s on Capitol Hill covering the hearings. 

Chip, what happened? 

CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, there were a lot of questions about that civil war idea.  Now, Rumsfeld never really gave an answer, but the two generals he was there with, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the top military commander in the entire Middle East, both said that yes, the sectarian violence is so bad, it is a possibility that Iraq could slide into civil war. 

However, they both did say later on in the hearing—my guess is, somebody passed them some notes and said, hey, the press is running with this story and they‘re saying you guys are suggesting civil war, and they made very clear that they do not believe it is likely, it is possible, and, in fact, they do believe it can be contained and that we will not end up in a civil war.  But they certainly opened up a can of worms there and suggested that it is possible now.  That consistent with the judgments of a lot of other people, including that former—that outgoing British diplomat who said that he thinks it‘s likely it will go into civil war. 

Now, there were some very hot moments for Donald Rumsfeld on other issues.  Hillary Clinton made very clear by sending a letter yesterday demanding that he be there.  He changed his mind last night and did show up in person.  She went through a long list of what she called the failures of the Pentagon in this administration in Iraq, and then she finished up with a very tough statement at Rumsfeld, and then he responded. 

Let‘s listen to that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  Because of the administration‘s strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. 

Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now? 

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  My goodness. 

Are there setbacks?  Yes.  Are there things that people can‘t anticipate? 

Yes. 

Does the enemy have a brain and continue to make adjustments on the ground, requiring our forces to continue to make adjustments?  You bet.  Is that going to continue to be the case?  I think so. 

Is this problem going to get solved in the near term about this long struggle against violent extremism?  No, I don‘t believe it is.  I think it‘s going to take some time.

And I know the question was, some wars lasted three years, some wars lasted four years, some wars lasted five years.  The Cold War lasted 40-plus years, and this struggle against violent extremists who were determined to prevent free people from exercising their rights as free people is going to go on a long time, and it‘s going to be a tough one. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID:  And there were some tough questions from some Republican sporters of the war, too, including John McCain, who said that what‘s going on there reminds him of Whack A Mole, the game where you hit a mole here, hit a mole there, hit a mole there.  He said you move the trips to Ramadi, to Falluja, to Baghdad, and he questioned a lot of the tactical decisions that have been made—Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Chip Reid on the Hill. 

Thanks, Chip. 

REID:  You bet. 

CARLSON:  So, after $250 billion and 2,500 Americans dead, how can the Bush administration continue to pretend that all is well in Iraq? 

Let‘s ask Brad Blakeman.  He‘s a former advisor to President Bush.  He joins us from Washington today. 

Brad, welcome. 

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FMR. DEPUTY ASSIST. TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I‘ve got a long enough memory, Brad, to remember back three years ago when none of this was anticipated and the Bush administration was telling us, you know, that all was going to be well in Iraq.  And now there are people in favor of the war, conceding that that country could be moving toward civil war.  Things aren‘t going well. 

Why doesn‘t the White House just concede that, concede reality, admit it? 

BLAKEMAN:  Well, the White House has been honest with the American people.  You saw that today with the testimony of the secretary, as well as his generals, who are running the war. 

Look, President Bush said from the beginning this is going to be a long, tough, hard battle.  And look, look what‘s happening there.  We have a region conflict happening there.  It‘s not one nation we‘re worried about. 

This is radical Islam that has spread throughout the Middle East.  Israel is now involved.  Syria and Iran are behind this, they have no regard for the U.N., no regard for international law.

So this is more than Iraq, and all the more reason, quite frankly, to stay the course.  And yes, things are going to be tough, but in the end game, it‘s in our best interest that we do have a stable and peaceful Iraq, whatever—what that will look like...

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  Wait a second.  We had a stable Iraq when Saddam Hussein was in control of Iraq.  It was an evil Iraq.  It was an Iraq that hurt a lot of people, but it was stable. 

BLAKEMAN:  We didn‘t have a stable Iraq.

CARLSON:  Yes, of course it was.  What are you talking about?  Yes it was.

BLAKEMAN:  No, we had a ticking time bomb.  We had a guy, a dictator in Saddam Hussein who had no regard for international law, thumbed his nose at the U.N. 

Now, are we...

CARLSON:  I‘m not defending the guy.  I‘m just saying it was stable.

(CROSSTALK)

BLAKEMAN:  ... going to learn the lesson by Saddam? 

CARLSON:  Brad—Brad...

BLAKEMAN:  Look what Iran is doing now, Tucker.  Look what Iran is doing.

CARLSON:  Brad, let‘s be real.  OK, Brad.  I‘m merely saying, if our goal is a stable region, one—a region in which the different ethnic groups that compose it are not at war with one another, then this Saddam model is one to consider.

In other words, maybe it takes a strong man to keep a country together that is split pretty evenly along ethnic and religious lines as Iraq is.  Maybe a loose confederation won‘t work.  Maybe democracy won‘t work in a place like Iraq.

Ever thought of that? 

BLAKEMAN:  Yes, and it doesn‘t work when Saddam has his—in his case, had intentions beyond his borders.  He paid suicide bombers to go into Israel and kill themselves.  There was a bounty made. 

His—he exported violence.  Look what‘s happening if Iran. 

When the Iranian president, a sovereign country‘s president, tells his people that Israel should be destroyed and anyone who supports them, who thumbs his nose at the U.N., who says they have a right to nuclear weaponry, it‘s only a matter of time where we‘re going to have to deal with these people.  And 9/11 will look like a minor incident. 

CARLSON:  OK.  But I don‘t—I mean, listen, you‘re throwing in so many different elements, I actually don‘t know what this has to do with the conversation we‘re having, which is about Iraq.

BLAKEMAN:  It has everything to do with it.  It‘s...

CARLSON:  Let me—let me—let me...

BLAKEMAN:  It‘s a regional conflict now. 

CARLSON:  It certainly is.

BLAKEMAN:  It is.

CARLSON:  And shouldn‘t the Bush administration—shouldn‘t the Bush administration apologize for that? 

More than three—we‘re about three and a half years in now...

BLAKEMAN:  Apologize for what?

CARLSON:  ... and General Abizaid said—I‘ll tell you exactly what.  General Abizaid said today—we‘ve got 133,000 men on the ground in Iraq trying to keep the peace, and General Abizaid, our commander in the region of American forces in the Middle East, said today the violence is as bad as he has ever seen it.

So, three and a half years, 2,500 men, 133,000 troops on the ground, and the violence is worse than it‘s ever been?  That is a disaster. 

BLAKEMAN:  It is not a disaster.  It took us after we got our act together, after—after our independence, 11 years to get a Constitution.  We lost 600,000 Americans fighting brother against brother in our civil war. 

I mean, come on, give these people a chance. 

CARLSON:  Brad...

BLAKEMAN:  They‘ve come a long way in a short period of time, and we need to stay the course, because it‘s in our interest that we do so. 

CARLSON:  OK.  You‘re conflating two issues.

It may be in our interest to prevent the country from getting even worse, because one of the things we‘ve learned from this debacle is things can always get worse.  So I agree with you there. 

Why are we allowing a separate army to form within the country of Iraq, the Mehdi army, essentially a Shiite army, controlled by a Shiite cleric within the country?  Why are we allowing that, basically a Hezbollah to exist within Iraq? 

BLAKEMAN:  We are not allowing that.  What we are trying to do is create a nationalistic army that will overcome the secular violence that we‘re seeing. 

The Shia and the Sunnis have been fighting for years.  And what we have to do is we have to have combined forces. 

We‘re not allowing one group to form an insurgency army, if you will, within their country.  That‘s not going to happen.  We‘re smarter than that.  But what we‘re trying to do...

CARLSON:  What do you mean—what do you mean that‘s not going to happen?  Wait a minute, Brad.  There is a army, the Mehdi army.  Muqtaqda al-Sadr, the Shiite leader in Iraq, has a large number of thousands of men under arms under his control, existing in Iraq, separate from the government, separate from armed forces. 

Why are we allowing that? 

BLAKEMAN:  We are not allowing it.  We are not allowing it.

CARLSON:  Oh.

BLAKEMAN:  We‘re not condoning that type of behavior. 

CARLSON:  We‘re not condoning it.  We‘re allowing it to happen, though.  It is happening. 

BLAKEMAN:  No, we can‘t stop it overnight.  We cannot stop it overnight. 

What we have to do is invest the people in that region to stand up for themselves.  Look what the British general said.  Forget what the outgoing ambassador said.  He hopes to turn over Basra by the end of the year. 

Look what President Talabani said yesterday.  He hopes to have all of the 18 provinces under Iraqi control by the end of the year. 

Now, that‘s a little optimistic, but that‘s better than him throwing his hands up in the air and saying that everything is going to hell in a hand basket.  It‘s just not. 

We‘re focusing on the very bad things that are happening instead of the good things.  And it‘s going to take time. 

CARLSON:  Well, you know, I guess it depends on your perspective.  Let me give you the perspective of the majority of this country, the United States of America. 

Fifty-five percent of Americans say they want troops withdrawn, all troops withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year.  Fifty-four percent say it was a bad idea to go in the first place. 

Now, the administration has sort of said from the beginning, oh, it‘s liberals who are against this.  Well, I‘m as right wing as anybody in the Bush administration, more conservative than almost anybody that I know who works there, and I‘m against this war. 

You can‘t tell me that 55 percent of the population of this country is left-wing wackos.

How do you explain that?

BLAKEMAN:  I don‘t say they‘re left-wing wackos.  I just say that leadership requires leaders to do what‘s in the best interest of this country as they see fit and not what—what may be popular at the time.

CARLSON:  Right.

BLAKEMAN:  We don‘t—we don‘t rule our government that way.  And leaders mean making—making hard decisions that may be unpopular at the time.

But let me remind you, there were people who said we shouldn‘t get involved in World War II against Germany.  There were people who said that we shouldn‘t have—when Lincoln was president, that, “Mr. President, it‘s not worth it.”  But it was worth it, and we lost a heck of a lot of American lives.  But in the end, our leaders saw the vision of what was possible and it came to be.

So let‘s not judge this in the moment.  Let‘s give our leaders the benefit of the doubt.  Let‘s—let‘s, by all means, question their motives and intentions, but this president, for the next two and a half years that he‘s president, should, and I believe he will, stay the course, and Iraq will be a better place for it.  But let‘s not—let‘s not go...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I hope you‘re right, Brad, because you know what?  At this point, this war has been going on about as long as the Second World War, about as long.  Our involvement in the Second World War, about as long as the Civil War. 

So, you know, I think this country has been very patient.  And I hope it gets better real soon. 

BLAKEMAN:  I do, too.

CARLSON:  I appreciate your coming on and defending it.

BLAKEMAN:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Brad.

Still ahead, is Osama bin Laden plotting to join Hezbollah‘s fight against Israel?  There‘s startling new information about al Qaeda‘s plans in Lebanon. 

Plus, Bill O‘Reilly voices his outrage at the excessiveness of the Mel Gibson coverage, and he does it during a discussion about Mel Gibson on his own show.  It‘s chutzpah defined, and you‘ll see it when we “Beat the Press” next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

Time now for “Beat the Press.”

Last night on FOX, Bill O‘Reilly interviewed Geraldo Rivera about the Mel Gibson drunk driving story.  Why Geraldo?  Who knows?  But the larger question is, why was O‘Reilly doing the story at all? 

Listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:   I think it‘s sadistic now.  I think it‘s crossed the line.  I should mention the networks, but I‘m not going to do it tonight. 

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  What do I give a damn about these cable people who talk about you or me or Mel Gibson?  What do they mean to us?

O‘REILLY:  But we‘ve had this argument before. 

RIVERA:  But they mean nothing.  They can‘t even get a rating.

O‘REILLY:  You‘re right.  I think we should call these people up. 

RIVERA:  Well, then call them by name, then.

O‘REILLY:  No.

RIVERA:  Then don‘t—don‘t...

O‘REILLY:  Because then you give them more publicity. 

RIVERA:  Then just say, it said—that schmuck from MSNBC who is doing that, and call them that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Geraldo says you, me, Mel Gibson.  What an echo chamber.  But the larger question is, is Bill O‘Reilly really telling us it‘s wrong to cover the Mel Gibson story, even as he covers the Mel Gibson story, or covers the Mel Gibson story on his own show, thereby allowing him to tease the Mel Gibson story? 

Amazing. 

There‘s a reason he‘s number one in cable news.  Very clever, very diabolical. 

Well, next up, CNN.  Former MSNBC employee Rick Sanchez started his day sitting in for Miles O‘Brien on “American Morning,” which means people watching started their day scratching their heads over this... 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR:  Do you know what they he do with the oranges after at the squeeze the juice out of them in Florida? 

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, “FORTUNE”:  No. 

SOLEDAD O‘BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR:  No.

SANCHEZ:  They feed them to cows, and that‘s what increased the dairy industry in Florida for so long. 

SERWER:  They‘re all working.

O‘BRIEN:  Cows eat orange rinds?

SANCHEZ:  They do.  So you get a lot of Vitamin C in your milk when you drink Florida cows.  When you drink the milk—when you drink the milk from the Florida cows, I should say.

SERWER:  I got you.

SANCHEZ:  Because it‘s tough to drink a cow.  You don‘t know where to put the straw. 

SERWER:  It doesn‘t make the milk taste sour though, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Rick Sanchez.  I love Rick Sanchez.  Everyone knows Rick Sanchez loves Rick Sanchez.  But when I hear the phrase “Rick Sanchez,” this is what I think of...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ:  Do it.  Ah!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Ladies and gentlemen, that is Rick Sanchez getting tasered.  Or maybe tasering himself.

If you‘re Rick Sanchez, you should probably think twice before telling other people not to say dumb things on the air. 

I still love Rick Sanchez, though.

And finally, our own “Scarborough Country” decided to do a little bit of reenactment last night.  Joe had on one of his producers and asked him to drink until his blood alcohol level reached a 1.2 -- or a .12.  That‘s the same as Mel Gibson‘s was when he was pulled over for drunk driving.

Joe wanted to see if his producer would launch into an incoherent Gibsonesque anti-Semitic rant. 

Here‘s how the experiment played out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  We took the field sobriety test before, officer, and let‘s go ahead and show it for you right there.  Look at that. 

It is a .12, exactly what Mel Gibson—how many drinks did you have to get to .12? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That was about four drinks. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Like I showed you.  There you go. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Look at that. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He passed that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  There you go, proof that Joe Scarborough‘s producers are more sober than you would ever think.  But the idea of recreating celebrities crimes, I love it.  Next time George Michael gets in trouble, we‘re going to reenact it.  That‘s our pledge to you. 

How would you like to help us “Beat the Press”?  Give us a call and tell us what you‘ve seen. 

The number here, 1-877-BTP-5876.  That‘s 1-877-287-5876.

Still ahead, a new report shows Iran and North Korea have been working together secretly to develop long-range missiles.  Maybe there is something to the “axis of evil” idea after all.  How imminent is the threat?  We‘ll discuss it. 

Plus, a new study shows that despite decades of sex education in our schools, teenagers still are not using condoms.  As much as some teachers obviously love talking to other people‘s kids about sex, isn‘t it time to admit it doesn‘t work?  We‘ll debate that when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

There are no two regimes in the world more frightening and potentially more dangerous than Iran and North Korea.  It now appears they may be joining forces.

A report from South Korea says the two countries are working together closely to develop long-range ballistic missiles.  The United States official says Iranian representatives were also in North Korea last month to observe missile tests. 

So how scary and how real is this budding alliance?  And how big a threat is it to the U.S.? 

For answers, we turn now to Andy Grotto.  He‘s the senior national security analyst for the Center for American Progress.  He joins me from Washington. 

Andy Grotto, welcome. 

Doesn‘t this prove that the axis of evil is something of an axis? 

ANDY GROTTO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Well, yes, it does on the one hand.  You know, this cooperation on developing a long-range missile capability is certainly cause for concern, but it‘s a long way from producing a viable long-range missile capability.  I remember just last month we got a taste for what North Korea‘s capabilities were when a test of a long-range missile failed after just 42 seconds. 

CARLSON:  But, I mean, wait.  Just back up to the axis of evil question. 

There were a lot of people—and I‘ll concede, I didn‘t understand, and I still to this day don‘t fully understand the axis of evil formulation.  That is what those three countries, Iran, Iraq and North Korea, had to do with one another.  But a lot of people on the left when after Bush, the president, when he used that phrase and said, you don‘t know what the hell you‘re talking about, they‘ve got nothing in common.

I mean, does this vindicate the president to some extent?  It sounds to me as if it might. 

GROTTO:  Well, the critique of the president for using this formulation was that it sent a signal to these countries that, we‘re going to attack you.  And if you look at what happened since the president made that statement, we‘ve invaded Iraq, removed Saddam Hussein.  That country was the one country in that group that did not have nuclear weapons or is not close to having nuclear weapons.

CARLSON:  Correct.

GROTTO:  And so, in that sense, I think we fueled the problem rather than advance a more constructive path forward. 

CARLSON:  Well, I certainly agree that we invaded the wrong country, but what—is it, do you think, the result of our bellicosity, words like this that Iran and North Korea are getting together, or do evil countries just flock together? 

GROTTO:  Well, Iran and North Korea have cooperated on medium-range ballistic missiles for some time now.  North Korea has also cooperated with Pakistan on missiles and on nuclear technology.

So what you‘re seeing here is an alliance of convenience of a sort, driven by economic motives more than anything else.  North Korea is cash starved, and it want to make money by selling these components.  These other countries have a demand for weapons of mass destruction, and they‘re just going to the market to try to find these components. 

CARLSON:  This is so threatening potentially that shouldn‘t we do something about it?  I mean, if we in invaded Iraq based on really a theoretical idea of it‘s a threat to us, why wouldn‘t we do something aggressive about North Korea and Iran, like, yesterday? 

GROTTO:  Well, first off, you know, the administration said that we had a slam-dunk case against Iraq.  So this was not—they presented it to the American people not as a theoretical, hypothetical possibility.  The imagery that Secretary Rice used about a mushroom cloud is certainly no hypothetical possibility. 

Now, in the case of North Korea and Iran, the problem is that there is no real military solution to these crises.  Both countries are formed (ph) military powers, far more so than Iraq.  So military power in this case is not going to solve the problem. 

CARLSON:  Why would China help North Korea build long-range missiles?  And we know that China doesn‘t want North Korea to collapse, because it doesn‘t want millions of starving refugees coming over its border.  I get that.  But why would China have an interest in making North Korea a military threat to the West? 

GROTTO:  I think in this case, the Chinese government does not have an interest in supporting North Korean missile programs.  In fact, the Chinese told the North Koreans not to test—in this July, the North Koreans thumbed them in the eye.

I think what you‘re seeing here is Chinese companies, not the government, helping these countries develop the capabilities.  What China needs to do is clamp down on these companies and develop stronger export control regulations and enforcement measures, too. 

CARLSON:  And finally, sum it up for me.  Where do we think Iran and North Korea are respectively in developing nuclear weapons?  Do they have them?  If not, when are they going to get them? 

GROTTO:  North Korea probably has enough plutonium that it gathered during the first Bush administration for at least one or two nuclear weapons.  Since it pulled out of the (INAUDIBLE) and started reprocessing the spent fuel rods—these are the fuel rods that you extract plutonium from—it‘s probably required enough additional plutonium for perhaps a dozen nuclear weapons. 

Iran is, according to the CIA, five to 10 years from having a nuclear capability.  So, you know, North Korea is—it‘s gotten worse in the past six years.  Iran is getting worse, but it‘s still some years away from having a nuclear capability. 

CARLSON:  Boy, if you thought Saddam was bad, these guys—Andy Grotto, thank you very much. 

GROTTO:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Coming up, new developments in one of the biggest crime stories of the past year.  We‘ll bring them to you exclusively. 

Plus, reports say Osama bin Laden‘s son has been dispatched to Lebanon to lead the fight against Israel.  Does this mean al Qaeda is forming an alliance with Hezbollah?  Is Hezbollah ready to bomb Tel Aviv?

We‘ll find out when we come right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, Hezbollah‘s leader threatens to strike at the heart of Tel Aviv.  Did Israel vastly underestimate the strength and capability of its enemy?  Plus, the bin Laden name rears its ugly head once again.  What is Al Qaeda planning now?  We‘ll get to that in just a minute, but right now here‘s a look at your headlines. 

(MARKET UPDATE)

CARLSON:  Another ominous threat from the leader of Hezbollah.  In a new televised message, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warns his militants will target Tel Aviv if Israel attacks central Beirut.  He dismisses Israeli reports that Hezbollah forces are weakening, and he vows Lebanon will never fall into the hands of the Israelis or the United States. 

For more on the worsening situation in the Middle East, we go now to Richard Engel in Tyre, Lebanon. 

Richard, what‘s happening there? 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, this was a fairly significant speech by Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, for several reasons.  One, he made that threat.  And I was watching the speech on television here with some refugees from further south in Lebanon near the Israel-Lebanon border. 

And as he was talking and building up to this moment—you could see where he was going in the speech—he said, “I had promised that our missiles would strike beyond Haifa, and beyond, and beyond,” and people in the gallery, I think you could call it, started cheering and started saying, “OK, he‘s going to make the threat.  He‘s going to say they‘re going to hit Tel Aviv,” because that‘s what many people here in south Lebanon would like to see Hezbollah do.

Then, Hassan Nasrallah made that threat.  He said that, if Israel continues to attack Beirut like it did yesterday, that Hezbollah would respond and fire on Tel Aviv.  It‘s the first time that Hassan Nasrallah has acknowledged that he does have the long-range missiles that could hit Tel Aviv. 

But he also, at the end of his speech, potentially opened the way for dialogue.  He said that, if Israel stops attacking Lebanese cities and towns, then Hezbollah would do the same.  So while he was making these threats, he was also potentially for the first time trying to talk of a way to calm the situation down.  It could be a way to save his organization while he‘s at the peak of his popularity—Tucker?

CARLSON:  Richard Engel in Tyre, Lebanon, thanks a lot, Richard. 

Today‘s message from Sheik Nasrallah is Hezbollah‘s first direct claim that it has long-range missiles, the kind capable of striking Tel Aviv from southern Lebanon.  But just how seriously are Israeli leaders taking Nasrallah‘s latest threat?

Peter Alexander joins us now from Tel Aviv with that part of the story.  Peter, are they scared? 

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Tucker, we were just out on the streets of Tel Aviv tonight.  And in the restaurants, cafes and bars, frankly, you wouldn‘t know the difference here tonight, as we spent the last two weeks in the north of Israel.  It is very much a different scene there, as it has been, with between a million, maybe half-million to a million people essentially living underground. 

Very different here tonight, even as they hear these words.  As the rocket flies, it would be about 80 miles to hit Tel Aviv with one of these long-range missiles.  Within the last three minutes, I just got off the phone with the deputy director general of the foreign ministry here.  His name is Gideon Meir.  And his quote was that Hassan Nasrallah is an extension of his Iranian patron that‘s the president of Iran, Ahmadi Mahmoudnejad (sic). 

He also once again called tonight for Israel‘s extermination.  He wanted to make it very clear, did the foreign ministry spokesperson tonight, that this is not exclusively being said by Nasrallah, but by his friends if Iran.  And he closed by saying that Nasrallah is working for his Iranian masters serving as their subcontractor. 

There have been some reports late tonight that a senior military official here, according to local media, has said that, if Tel Aviv is hit, Tucker, Israel will hit back at Lebanese infrastructure, but no one from the foreign ministry‘s office or anywhere within the government will confirm that line tonight.

CARLSON:  Well, Peter, how likely do Israeli officials think it is that Hezbollah could hit Tel Aviv or do they think they‘re bluffing?  It seems to me if they he could, they would, no?

ALEXANDER:  Well, no doubt that‘s what it would seem to be the case.  U.S. and intelligence sources are telling NBC News that, as of now, they believe that Nasrallah and Hezbollah has roughly 70 to 80 percent of its long- and medium-range rocket launchers depleted by the incursions and the strikes across south Lebanon and into Beirut and really throughout the entire Lebanese area. 

They believe that as a result the real threat comes from the short-range Katyusha rockets.  They were saying earlier today, I believe, that there have been 3,000 targets hit, 3,000 targets hit throughout Lebanon, including 1,000 buildings, that again according to U.S. and Israeli intelligence through this last Sunday.

But again the concern is in the north specifically, where today for the second day in a row more than 100 rockets rained down, 180-plus at this point, 400 over the last two days, meaning that 2,200 total have fallen on this country in the last three-plus weeks. 

CARLSON:  Peter, this conflict has gone on so much longer and become so much more intense, I think, than virtually anybody expected when it first began, I‘m wondering if you can give us your impressions of Israeli public opinion about it.  Does the public in Israel still support this war wholeheartedly or not? 

ALEXANDER:  Tucker, when this war first began, the public opinion polls listed at more than 90 percent the support for this effort against Hezbollah in south Lebanon and throughout Lebanon in general.  After nine Israeli soldiers died a couple weeks in, the support dropped to low 80s, and there hasn‘t been a new poll tonight. 

But as best we understand right now, the Israelis support this.  They say, if they don‘t do this now, they will have to do it again in the future, which is why, in particular, as the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has said, this will be difficult days. 

He is specifically referring to the fact that these ground invasions, which obviously Israel had tried to make this mostly an air strike campaign, these new ground invasions, which are trying to build this buffer zone, perhaps even 18 miles to the Litani River, are so difficult to swallow, because with it so many Israeli soldiers will die.  Already 40 have died in the course of a 23-day campaign. 

CARLSON:  Peter Alexander in Tel Aviv, Israel, thanks a lot, Peter. 

We have some exclusive breaking news to bring you now about the Natalee Holloway case.  We‘ve just received word that the civil lawsuit filed in New York by Natalee Holloway‘s family against Joran Van Der Sloot and his father have been dropped. 

What does this all mean?  Well, we are joined on the phone now by Joe Tacopina.  He‘s the attorney for Joran Van Der Sloot, and he hopefully can explain. 

Joe, welcome.  What does this mean? 

JOE TACOPINA, JORAN VAN DER SLOOT‘S ATTORNEY:  Hey, Tucker, well, let me correct one thing:  It hasn‘t been dropped.  It‘s been dismissed.  The Supreme Court of New York State heard oral arguments on May 17th.  We argued that the case had no connection to New York, no nexus to New York, and it wasn‘t appropriately to be litigated here.  And the Supreme Court Justice Ciparick (ph) just rendered the decision, an order granting our motion to dismiss. 

So it wasn‘t dropped; it was dismissed.  What it means is the litigation is over.  That‘s what it means. 

CARLSON:  So for those of us who haven‘t been following this case maybe as closely, does this mean the story is over?  Does this mean Joran Van Der Sloot didn‘t do it, in the eyes of the government? 

TACOPINA:  Well, Joran Van Der Sloot didn‘t do it.  And as far as the eyes of the government, I mean, look, he had initially been the prime suspect.  I think the new investigation, there‘s been a breath of fresh air brought into that investigation several months ago, and they sort of moved off of Joran as the chief suspect and started opening their eyes to other evidence that pointed away from Joran. 

There‘s plenty of evidence out there, Tucker, that exonerates Joran in Natalee‘s disappearance.  He had nothing to do with this girl‘s disappearance.

What this means though, Tucker, is that the Holloway family filed a lawsuit against Joran in New York State Supreme Court.  What this means, that the civil suit against Joran and his father, Paulus Van Der Sloot, by the Holloways has been dismissed and it‘s over.  The only thing left is, you know, hopefully some resolution for that family, for the Holloways in, you know, Aruba, where they‘re still continuing to do a criminal investigation. 

But hopefully this is the end of the line for Joran and his being tied to this case. 

CARLSON:  Well, when you say hopefully doing some investigation, criminal investigation, is there still a criminal investigation ongoing in Aruba, do you know? 

TACOPINA:  You know, Tucker, there is supposedly, but I‘ve got to tell you, it‘s not been a very competent investigation.  I mean, they arrest people and release them, you know, almost very casually.  And it seems like...

CARLSON:  Yes, I know, I‘ve been afraid to go there.  I don‘t want to get swept up in this thing.  I mean, everyone gets arrested...

(CROSSTALK)

TACOPINA:  ... I don‘t know many teenage males who haven‘t been arrested yet in the Natalee Holloway case if Aruba, and it‘s a scary thing.  I mean, you generally like to arrest people when you have some evidence, not based on a desire to question them and then hold them for eight days as a suspect to release them, but that seems to be the order of the day down in Aruba. 

You know, unfortunately they started this investigation with blinders on.  I mean, they were right to suspect Joran from the get-go.  He was the last person known to have been with Natalee, but there was plenty of evidence early on that pointed in other directions that showed that it was really physically impossible for Joran to have harmed her, coupled with the fact that...

CARLSON:  What...

TACOPINA:  Go ahead.  I‘m sorry, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Well, I was just wondering, where is Joran—if that‘s his first name—Joran Van Der Sloot?  Is he in this country now?  Is he still in Aruba? 

TACOPINA:  No, he‘s...

CARLSON:  What‘s he going to do with the rest of his life? 

TACOPINA:  Well, you know, hopefully recover from this, and that‘s not going to be an easy thing.  I mean, he‘s been a 17-year-old boy who people have gone on the airwaves, and slandered, and libeled, and called him a murderer and a predator, and it‘s just not been true. 

What he‘s doing is he was an honor student in high school, continues to be an honor student in college, where he goes in the Netherlands, and he‘s with his family right now.  And clearly, you know, hopefully this is the first step towards justice creeping through all the smoke that that sort of corroded this case. 

CARLSON:  So he‘s not in Aruba anymore? 

TACOPINA:  He‘s back and forth.  I mean, his family lives in Aruba. 

Where he is right now, I don‘t really feel like sharing, because there‘s too many people out there who, you know, want to play Charles Bronson.  But, you know, he‘s back and forth between the Netherlands and Aruba. 

And he‘s tried to, you know, get some normality in his life and do things that other teenage boys do, and, you know, have fun with his friends, and go to school, and all the while still holding out hope, however faint, that, you know, something is done in this case that gives the Holloway family some solace, and breaks the case, and, also quite frankly, takes the monkey off his back once and for all. 

CARLSON:  All right, Joe Tacopina on the phone.  Thanks a lot, Joe. 

TACOPINA:  All right, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Coming up, a new study confirms what we‘ve known for a long time.  Teenagers don‘t like condoms.  So what exactly are your kids learning in sex-ed class?  We‘ll ask that question when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Here‘s more disturbing news from the Middle East.  A German newspaper reported today that Osama bin Laden‘s son recently moved from Iran to Lebanon to organize terror attacks against Israel.  Twenty-seven-year-old Saad bin Laden reportedly was under house arrest in Iran but was released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  So has Al Qaeda formed an alliance with Hezbollah? 

Walid Phares is an MSNBC terrorism analyst and author of the book “Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America.”  He joins us tonight from Springfield, Virginia.

Walid Phares, thanks for coming on.

WALID PHARES, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Sure.

CARLSON:  Is that what we‘re seeing, some sort of connection, some sort of alliance between Al Qaeda and Hezbollah?

PHARES:  That, Tucker, would be a very big exception, because Iran and Al Qaeda do not see eye to eye.  Zarqawi and Hezbollah do not see eye to eye.  But in jihadi strategies, everything is possible. 

This goes back to the end of 2001, where a number of Al Qaeda operatives, possibly Saad bin Laden and possibly also Slama Abu Galthi (ph), spokesperson for Al Qaeda, may have left Afghanistan to Iran and stayed there to the moment the Iranian Revolutionary Guards needed them.  And according to that report, they may have released them, but under conditions to come to the Lebanese-Syrian borders and stage attacks against either Israel or potential deployment of future multinational forces.  That‘s a possibility. 

CARLSON:  It seems to me a pretty dangerous game that Iran is playing here, though.  I mean, if it can be proved that Iran was harboring members of Al Qaeda and then set them loose to go wage war against the West, it seems to me they‘re begging for bombs from the United States.  I mean, this administration, you know, has a track record of bombing people over things like that.  Why would they do that? 

PHARES:  Well, first of all, one important ally of Iran has done something similar back in 2003, all the way to last year, that is to allow jihadists from Lebanon to cross into Syria and into Iraq and to fight and support Zarqawi at the time.  So that was done. 

For Iran to do it, if that report is verified, it means that Iran is throwing most of its last cards in the confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel and trying to deflect attention, actually, from a discussion of its nuclear crisis with the United States.  That would be dangerous, but that would be the last card Iran will have against the United States in this case. 

CARLSON:  So the idea is that Saad bin Laden, bin Laden‘s son, would be fighting just Israel in this conflict or would be engaged in a broader campaign against the West? 

PHARES:  Well, what we need to understand is there is a geographical area extremely important in this whole conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and the broader conflict between the international community and Iran, which is the Lebanese-Syrian border, because it is through these borders two things have been happening:  weapons and jihadists from Lebanon to Iraq; and soon-to-be, possibly jihadists, Al Qaeda and others, from Syria to Lebanon to fight the Israelis if they come closer.

But possibly, as I said earlier, Tucker, if the United Nations would decide to send multinational forces, including Western forces, this would be the border that Al Qaeda and Hezbollah may use potentially to strike against the West, as well. 

CARLSON:  I mean, I‘m a little disappointed by what you said a minute ago, Walid, that Syria has been doing things like this since 2003 and we haven‘t done anything about it.  Now Iran apparently harboring Al Qaeda members and we‘re not doing anything about it.  I mean, is the United States going to at some point hold up a hand and say, “Stop, we‘re not going to put up with this anymore,” and take action, use force to stop this? 

PHARES:  Well, first of all, the action in Lebanon over the past two years, that is the issuing of Resolution 1559 from the Security Council, getting the Syrian forces out of Lebanon, and that was a very important step to be done, because the Syrians do make about $300 million out of their occupation of Lebanon, and an attempt to disarm Hezbollah, which has failed.  These were actions taken against Syria and Iran. 

They are 50 percent successful, because Hezbollah still has its weapons.  As far as Iran, that‘s a big piece, and the problem is not just Iranian involvement with Hezbollah.  It‘s the Iranian nuclear issue again. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it certainly is.  Walid Phares, an expert on this subject, thank you very much. 

PHARES:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Coming up, yet another study shows teenagers don‘t use condoms.  So can we finally admit sex education classes don‘t work very well and get them out of schools?  We‘ll discuss that when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

Despite a decades-long effort by public schools to teach kids about safe sex, most sexually active teenagers still do not use condoms.  A new study found that 47 percent of boys surveyed said they always used a condom, but many of them were obviously lying, because only 28 percent of girls said their partners used them. 

So here‘s the question:  If sex-ed classes in school, and they‘re ubiquitous, are not changing kids‘ behavior, why do they still exist? 

For the answer to that question, we turn now to Dr. Robert Butterworth.  He‘s a clinical psychologist who specializes in teen behavior.  He joins me from Los Angeles. 

Dr. Butterworth, that‘s the question.  Decades of teaching the same thing, “Use a condom,” hasn‘t worked.  Time to try something new, no? 

DR. ROBERT BUTTERWORTH, PSYCHOLOGIST:  Yes, but the thing is we can‘t just throw it out of the schools.  I mean, we‘re going to go back to the dark ages.  We have a problem.  It‘s working in one respect:  Teenage pregnancies have gone down.  So the teenage females are listening; it‘s the boys we have the problem with.

And we talk about how long this takes.  Look at teenagers and alcohol and driving.  It took 20 years to get kids to get a designated driver, but I think what‘s happened is the schools have...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second.  Wait a second, Dr. Butterworth.  Wait, wait.  Hold on.  You said so many things that I have to respond to.  I‘ve got to slow you down.

BUTTERWORTH:  OK.

CARLSON:  First of all, we‘re in the dark ages.  We‘re in the dark ages:  28 percent of boys using condoms, according to girls, who would know, a.  B, you say the girls are convinced but not the boys.  You have to convince the boys really more than the girls, let‘s be honest, without being too specific, as you know. 

So in fact, you‘re trying to dress this up.  It‘s a colossal failure, and it has been more than 20 years.  I remember very well learning this stuff in school.  Twenty years of kids rolling condoms onto bananas and all the ludicrousness like that, as if you don‘t know how to use one.  People don‘t want to use them, and these classes aren‘t convincing them to use them.  So why don‘t we try something else? 

BUTTERWORTH:  What though?  That‘s the problem.  We can‘t depend on the parents.  Most parents aren‘t going to have a discussion of sex.  And if they are, they‘re going to say something like, “Don‘t do it.”  The other thing is, where are the kids going to get the information from, each other?  That‘s the blind leading the blind. 

What I think we need to do—and you‘re right.  A lot of the sex-ed classes are so watered down by the school boards that they‘re meaningless and kids sit back and laugh.  What worked with kids and alcohol?  You showed those cars that were all smashed up, and you brought them in the school yard.  Maybe it‘s time to show adolescent males what STDs look like.  And maybe it‘s time to show them what an AIDS clinic looks like.  I think we have to get tougher.

CARLSON:  Oh, but wait, Doctor, I thought fear—wait a minute.  Hold on.  I thought fear didn‘t work?  That was part of the whole Puritanical thing that was so bad, when in fact you know and I know, because we‘re both men, that fear is the only thing that works.  It‘s the only thing that motivates teenage boys to do anything.  In fact, it‘s the only thing that motivates a lot of people to do anything:  fear, fear you‘re going to get fired, fear you‘re going to get sick.  I mean, of course. 

BUTTERWORTH:  Yes, I agree.  Fear is a great motivator.  And the thing is—and I think another motivator is that the girls are listening, but the girls are letting the boys have sex without condoms.  I think we go to get the girls tougher. 

The guys may be a lost cause, like 30 percent or 40 percent, but the girls have to get tough and say, “Listen, I don‘t want to get pregnant and I don‘t want to get STDs, and you‘re going to do it or else we‘re not going to do it.”

CARLSON:  Wait, but I want to go back to something you said a minute ago, and that‘s that we can‘t leave this to parents.  You said we can‘t leave this to parents.  Well, I don‘t know.  Why are we leaving this to professional sex educators, if only 28 percent of boys are using condoms?

If this were a Pentagon program, the procurement officer would be court-martialed, right, because that is too low a percentage.  It‘s a total failure. 

Here‘s my suggestion.  Parents do a better job.  These sex educators clearly have some other motive.  I mean, clearly they enjoy talking to kids about sex, but if it‘s not effective, what makes you think parents couldn‘t do a better job? 

BUTTERWORTH:  Well, I‘ll tell you, the parents I talk to are just pretty much preaching to their kids.  They don‘t take a condom out.  They don‘t show them how to buy them.  They don‘t show them how to use it with a banana.  They pretty much say, “Don‘t do it.”  So in a sense, in that atmosphere, I don‘t think kids are learning. 

CARLSON:  Doctor, wait, but they‘re not—you don‘t understand.  Let‘s just go back to the numbers.  You‘re a psychologist, right?  You have all sorts of advanced degrees. 

BUTTERWORTH:  Yes...

CARLSON:  You‘re smart enough to understand that, if something is not working, you have to try a new approach.  Your approach is failing empirically;.  We know that.  It‘s not an opinion; it‘s a fact.  So you‘re telling me, “Well, the old way didn‘t work.  Our way does work.”  But your way doesn‘t work. 

BUTTERWORTH:  Well, you‘re flawed in one area, and that is that you‘re saying 28 percent, which is a third are using them.  What was it 10 years ago?  Do you have a study that said they were using 28 percent?  No.  Probably 10 years ago, it was 5 percent. 

CARLSON:  So that‘s a victory?  Well, you sound like Brad Blakeman defending the war in Iraq, 28 percent, that‘s a victory.  No, it‘s actually a colossal failure.  And I‘ll tell you why...

BUTTERWORTH:  I‘m never going to win on this one. 

CARLSON:  No, but I‘ll tell you exactly why.  It‘s not a question of learning how to use it.  It‘s just a piece of latex.  It‘s not so complicated.  It‘s a question of convincing kids they ought to, and that is the one thing you all can‘t do. 

BUTTERWORTH:  And I grant it with males.  A lot of males aren‘t going to do it, so I think we have to put more emphasis on females.  And females are usually smarter, they‘re more mature, and they need to make the decision not just for themselves but for the male.  Maybe that‘s where the hope lies. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Maybe a lot of these creepy sex educators should take their bananas and throw them away...

BUTTERWORTH:  Well...

CARLSON:  ... take their condoms and go require—and get into real estate or something useful, you know what I mean?  Maybe they should apologize, too, to a couple generations of school kids for wasting their time, don‘t you think?

BUTTERWORTH:  Well, you know, if this isn‘t worthwhile, put me in the segment where I drink like Mel Gibson and I start spouting things off.

CARLSON:  Good, Dr. Butterworth, we‘re out of time.  I appreciate it. 

Thank you very much.

BUTTERWORTH:  Bye.

CARLSON:  That‘s our show tonight from Bethel, Maine.  Thank you for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL.”

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