updated 8/9/2006 11:33:52 AM ET 2006-08-09T15:33:52

Guests: Lanny Davis, Eli Pariser, Cathy Conover, Ingrid Newkirk

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show, coming to you today from Washington. 

In a moment, there‘s a nationwide search for 11 Egyptian college students missing and unaccounted for somewhere in the U.S.  The FBI is investigating.  We‘ll bring you the very latest on that. 

Plus, why animal lovers ought to boycott China.  Incredible cruelty you might not be aware of. 

But first, today‘s top story, the battle for Connecticut. 

Politically, it may be the perfect storm. 

Joe Lieberman came within a few hundred votes of becoming vice president six years ago.  Now he‘s fighting to keep his job in the U.S.  Senate.  And it‘s all because of his support for the war in Iraq.  If Connecticut‘s primary is any indication, and it may be, the war is the only issue that moves American voters this season, and it looks like Joe Lieberman is on the wrong side. 

Joining me from New Haven, Connecticut, with the very latest on that race, my colleague, the host of “HARDBALL,” Chris Matthews. 

Chris, welcome.  What‘s the latest from there? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  Hi, Tucker.

Well, there was a bit of a firestorm this afternoon, Tucker.  I guess you could call it a state-of-the art conflict in campaigning. 

The Lieberman campaign‘s Web site and its e-mail capability shut down.  It crashed, as we say in the office world, and is unusable.  They put out a statement that they wanted the opponent, Ned Lamont, to condemn anyone and get anyone who did this to cease and desist. 

They charged sabotage.  They did not know who did it, but they‘re convinced that someone did it to help Lamont and to hurt them. 

The Lamont campaign came back and said of course they condemn it, but I also met with Mr. Lamont himself just a few minutes ago, the candidate, and here‘s what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We were caught by surprise when late this afternoon, the Lieberman campaign Web site shut down.  There‘s sort of test patterns basically there now. 

They‘re unable to send e-mail, they‘re unable to conduct their “get out the vote” campaign.  They blame is on unseen forces that they believe or say they believe you could control by condemning that effort to jeopardize—or rather to sabotage their machinery, their election machinery. 

What do you say to whoever did sabotage their machinery? 

NED LAMONT, CONNECTICUT SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Look, we don‘t know anything about it.  If anybody is out there actually sabotaging something, we tell them to stop doing that.  But for him to jump to conclusion that it has something to do with this campaign is just false.  He‘s had a lot of false charges all along in this campaign, and here‘s another one. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it a false charge for him to say that you could control whoever did it? 

LAMONT:  Absolutely.  There are thousands of bloggers out there.  I guess he is implying that maybe one of these bloggers has something to do with that. 

These are independent agents out there.  But we have no idea why his site crashed, and if there‘s somebody responsible for it, stop it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So there you have it, Tucker.  And I guess you could read into that that the Lieberman campaign is very worried about the results tonight, and, of course, you could make your own judgments about the coolness of the challenger you just heard from. 

CARLSON:  Well, I mean, Chris, what—what is the feeling about the results tonight?  I mean, of course, we will know very soon.  But you‘ve talked to the Lieberman people.  How are they, terrified or just concerned? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I would say they‘re sweating it, and I would say that there‘s a very sense of almost circling the wagons of doom to come.  You could read that into their—their manner today, their demeanor. 

We did spend a little time with them as the senator voted.  I met his son.  He‘s a very nice fellow.  And Hadassah, his wife, seems concerned. 

His people seem under pressure.  I guess you could read that into the

read into that that they‘re facing disaster.  But, you know, that‘s a jump and just sort of anecdotal information. 

CARLSON:  Well, what‘s...

MATTHEWS:  But you have to say when you look at Lamont right there, a very cool customer, didn‘t you think? 

CARLSON:  Oh, yes, absolutely. 

What‘s plan B for Lieberman?  I mean, there‘s been talk from the beginning that he might run as an Independent, were he to lose this primary, and that he might in fact win the seat as an Independent.  What is he saying about his plans if he loses? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s on record as saying he‘ll run as an Independent, Tucker, and I guess you have to assume he‘s going to do that.  He‘s—throughout his career, he‘s played it safe.

He hedged back in 2000, staying on the ballot to run for Senate reelection while he ran as the Democratic candidate for vice president.  Saying earlier, a couple weeks ago, that he would run as an Independent Democrat, as he put it, if he loses the Democratic primary. 

He‘s not a risk taker.  I assume if this election is anywhere within the ballpark, like he loses—if he loses by 10 points or so, he‘ll still be in the race.  If he gets blown away by 15 or so, maybe he would change his calculation.  But he has a couple opportunities. 

He could stay in the game, contend this race, see how it goes for a couple of months.  Sometime in late October, pull the ripcord and get out of the race and save his dignity.  But he has a number of options along the way. 

Knowing Joe Lieberman, he‘s not going to give them up by pulling out of the race tonight or tomorrow. 

CARLSON:  And Chris, quickly, “The New York Times” page one story today indicated that Lieberman is—appears to be changing his tune on the war in Iraq, running a two-minute ad suggesting that he doesn‘t agree with the war, at least the way the war has been executed.  Has he become a last moment anti-war candidate?  Is that your impression? 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I will now go into my analysis mode.  I don‘t understand the political position that you‘re for this war all the way—in fact, you‘re a champion of this war in Iraq, you believe we should have gone in, you think that was the great decision of this president, you‘re totally for the forward-leaning aggressive policy in the Middle East, 100 percent hawk, and then you say you‘ve got problems with the way it was managed. 

Well, that‘s not really a political position, except you‘re a hawk.  And so I think it may be like Hillary, who said she voted for the war but she doesn‘t like the way it was run.

I think most voters are falling into one of two camps, the 55 percent or so who say they think it was a big blunder to go in there—in fact, we were led in there under false pretenses—and the minority who still support the war.  I think it‘s only politicians that look for this parking lot of ambition where they like to put their car and say, it‘s safe here, I‘ll look like I‘m a little antiwar—of course I‘m a hawk.

And I think that—I think the voters tonight, my hunch is, will begin to clarify and divide the flock between those who are hawks and those who are doves.  And we‘ll know more around midnight. 

We‘re going to be on the air—of course MSNBC will be on throughout the evening.  We‘ll be on at 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time this morning, when we think we will have complete results.  And I guess as a political person, I would like to see clarity at the end of the night...

CARLSON:  Yes, me, too.

MATTHEWS:  ... so that when we get up tomorrow, we know which way the wind is blowing on this war. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  And I don‘t see how that‘s bad for the country. 

Chris, I‘m glad you‘re there covering this.  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey, thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  And a reminder.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews will be back talking about this, the ins and outs of the important primary race, live from Connecticut next.  Plus, as Chris just said, tune in after the polls close tonight at 1:00 a.m. Eastern for live updates on what happens and what it means. 

So, is Joe Lieberman about to be fired by Connecticut voters and does he deserve it?  My next guest doesn‘t think so.  He‘s the author of “Scandal: How ‘Gotcha‘ Politics is Destroying America.”

Lanny Davis is also a former special counsel to President Clinton.  He‘s also a Lieberman friend and supporter.  He joins us from Hartford, Connecticut. 

Lanny, welcome. 

LANNY DAVIS, FMR. SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON:  Well, thanks, Tucker, but your opening was absolutely inaccurate.  He‘s not being fired by Connecticut voters.  He‘s going to win the primary tonight.  But if he doesn‘t, it‘s Democratic party primary voters who will make a judgment.  Connecticut voters will get their chance to make their judgment... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, no, actually it is—nice try.  Nice try, Lanny. 

Very, very...

DAVIS:  Well, you said fired by Connecticut voters.  That‘s inaccurate.

CARLSON:  It was heroic, but as you know—as you know, these primary voters are residents of Connecticut. 

DAVIS:  Yes, but you just said...

CARLSON:  I have been a resident of Connecticut...

DAVIS:  ... by Connecticut voters. 

CARLSON:  Fired by—fired by Connecticut voters.  I mean, they are voters who are firing him from the Democratic nomination. 

But look, here‘s the point.  This is a man who has been for the president‘s war in Iraq, in any case, for three and a half years, since it began, since the invasion started in the spring of 2003, and he‘s been a steadfast supporter of it ever since. 

Why is it unfair for antiwar voters to vote against him on that basis? 

DAVIS:  It‘s not.  I happen to be an antiwar liberal Democrat, and I‘m for Joe Lieberman because of a 30-year progressive record.  He votes with Democrats 90 percent of the time.  Every major liberal Democratic Party organization has endorsed him because of his record, and he will run.  If he loses tonight—and I think he will win, by the way—he‘ll run as a Democrat, and he‘s currently ahead, which Chris forgot to mention, 24 percent in a three-way race.  And I believe that he will ultimately win by a major margin, running as an Independent Democrat in November. 

CARLSON:  OK.  I mean, what—but Lanny, what may or may not happen politically is a separate question from what ought to happen and what‘s fair. 

Now you wrote an op-ed this morning which is, you know, well written and tightly argued, but in the end, I found incomprehensible.  You basically caused people who oppose his nomination as the Democratic nominee for Senate, you accused them of McCarthyism.  Somehow for being out of bounds, playing foul ball for some reason for attacking the guy because they don‘t like his position on the war. 

Again, what‘s wrong with if you‘re an antiwar candidate opposing Joe Lieberman? 

DAVIS:  You know, Tucker, you did not read my column.  You wouldn‘t have found it incomprehensible.  You certainly wouldn‘t have said what you just said, which is completely inaccurate to what I wrote. 

I, in fact, said specifically it‘s legitimate to oppose Joe Lieberman on the war.  You didn‘t read that sentence. 

I took out extreme hatred comments that represents the extreme wing of the liberal movement, where I said we liberals have to denounce them as similar to McCarthyism and similar to Ann Coulter on the right.  You did not read my column...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, no, no.  But wait.  Lanny—Lanny, you‘ve got a bunch of anonymous quotes from whack jobs on the left, so there are crazy people on the left.  That‘s news from nowhere.  I mean, you know, I get letters from them every day. 

That‘s—but, I mean, that‘s such an obvious observation it doesn‘t mean anything.  The implication of this piece is that it‘s somehow unfair or wrong to hold the guy accountable for his views.  The Democratic Party is fanatically anti-Bush, fanatically antiwar in Iraq.  It‘s a dovish party, and Joe Lieberman doesn‘t fit in. 

DAVIS:  Tucker, I‘m not going to argue when I say one thing and you say I meant the opposite. 

CARLSON:  OK.

DAVIS:  I specifically said it‘s legitimate for any Democrat who‘s against the war to vote against Joe Lieberman.  It is not legitimate to distort his record and to engage in character assassination, which extremists on the blogs have done insistently, and certainly I experienced as I wrote in the column.  But I do think the distortion of his record has been a very major issue, and I think he will win tonight because the facts about his overall record, even though I disagree with him on the war, he‘s been a great Democrat. 

I think the facts are catching up with Mr. Lamont.  That‘s why we‘re going to win tonight. 

CARLSON:  But don‘t you think that Lieberman himself—and actually, I like Joe Lieberman a lot.  I‘ve interviewed Lieberman many times, and I think he‘s one of the most decent people in the U.S. Senate, and an awfully nice guy.  I personally have a lot of affection for him. 

I‘m not attacking him personally, but it is, I think, deceptive for Lieberman to claim in the final days of this campaign, when it gets tough, that he‘s somehow a great critic of Bush‘s war in Iraq.  That‘s a crock. 

He is—he is the cheerleader on the Democratic side for this war and has always been.  And now he‘s pretending he‘s not?  That‘s dishonest. 

DAVIS:  Again, Tucker, I‘m surprised at your spin or your inaccuracy. 

Let‘s talk facts. 

Joe Lieberman said in 2003 that this war has been mishandled, that we let our soldiers be ill-equipped, there was no plan.  He said he would replace Rumsfeld if he were president.  He has publicly opposed Bush for the ineptitude of the handling of this war. 

He did support the war for the reason of overthrowing Saddam Hussein.  He still does.  But it is not a change of position.  Chris Matthews is dead wrong that he‘s saying anything different now than he said over the last three years publicly. 

CARLSON:  Well, I guess the Democratic primary voters in Connecticut will weigh in, in a moment.  Lanny, I‘ll be interested to compare your predictions to what happens.  Good luck. 

DAVIS:  Thanks, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  We‘re not the only people closely watching this primary in Connecticut.  It is must-see TV for Hillary Clinton as well.  Could a Lieberman loss destroy her unofficial presidential campaign?  And will moveon.org try to bring her down as well?

And talk show hosts gone completely wild.  It looks like somebody is taking “Beat the Press” a little too literally.  See the whole shocking chain of events when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Well, if Joe Lieberman loses the Connecticut Democratic primary to Ned Lamont tonight, moveon.org may be taking some of the credit.  The organization issued a statement today that reads in part, “Whatever happens this evening, the Connecticut primary has put politicians on notice: if they‘re covering for the Bush administration‘s disastrous decisions, they‘re going to be in trouble.”

But one politician who voted for the Bush administration‘s war in Iraq is Hillary Clinton.  Will Move On go after her? 

That‘s the question for my next guest. 

Eli Pariser is the executive director of moveon.org.  He joins us from New York. 

Eli, thanks for coming on.

ELI PARISER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MOVEON.ORG:  Hi, Tucker.

CARLSON:  First, let me just ask you about the news of the day, and that is the problems with Joe Lieberman‘s Web site.  It‘s not exactly clear why the site crashed, but it has, and the implication is that, frankly, you all did it.  People associated with moveon.org might be involved, is that true?

PARISER:  It‘s not true.  In fact, I was just—I was typing an e-mail to our tech guy asking if we could help out.  I don‘t know what‘s going on with Joe Lieberman‘s Web site, but I think all this focus on the hacking or whatever is happening is, you know, is distracting from the bigger—the bigger issue of what‘s happening here, which is that the Internet has helped a bunch of people who are locked out by insiders in Washington have a voice in this primary. 

That‘s what‘s going on today, and that‘s a good thing for a democracy. 

And if it‘s a little messy, like Donald Rumsfeld says, you know, so be it. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s not—I mean, I guess you could—you know, you could say that about any interest group.  I mean, you could say that about the tobacco lobby or the NRA, just a bunch of interested citizens who have a common interest and have gotten together to see their will reflected in American politics.  I mean, why is moveon.org different from the NRA? 

PARISER:  Well, the reason that we‘re different, first off, you know, we have three million members across the country, 50,000 in Connecticut.  And the issues that our members care about right now, the Iraq war, our scandalous energy policy, our health care system is—that‘s a disaster, these are the issues that a majority of voters care about.  And it‘s only people like Joe Lieberman who are so stuck inside the Washington bubble that they don‘t see that, that they don‘t understand the pain that people out there in America are feeling, that think that they can get away without addressing the most important issues of our time. 

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second.  I mean, look, I‘ll state totally up front, I think the war is the most important issue this year, probably going into 2008, and it‘s totally legitimate for people to be judged on their positions on the war...

PARISER:  Right.

CARLSON:  ... including Joe Lieberman.  And if he loses, that‘s completely fair, in my view, and wouldn‘t bother me one bit. 

PARISER:  Yes.

CARLSON:  However, isn‘t—Joe Lieberman is not, generally speaking, up until maybe this week, has been pretty direct about his support for the war.  He‘s been principled in his support for the war.  You may disagree, and I personally do, but don‘t you sort of admire him for not being a warm and for telling voters where he stands? 

PARISER:  Yes, he‘s told voters where he stands, it‘s just that it‘s totally not where they stand.  And part of what being a politician is, is listening to your voters. 

Voters want change.  They want a different course.  They see what‘s going on in Iraq and they say this is a disaster.  And no one is standing up to President Bush, you know, in their state to demand a change of course. 

They are well within their rights to say if Joe Lieberman isn‘t going to do something different so that people stop coming home in body bags and we stop spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a war that no one understands why we got into in the first place...

CARLSON:  But I agree with that. 

PARISER:  ... they‘re well within their rights to do so. 

CARLSON:  Well, amen.  They sure are.  And you‘re within your rights to help them do so by organizing them.  And I just wish and I hope that you will be consistent in your aims and apply those same standards to, say, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is much more appealing, more telegenic than Joe Lieberman, more popular than Joe Lieberman, but has essentially an identical position on the war in Iraq. 

Are you going to target her for defeat? 

PARISER:  Well, the question—you know, the thing that this race is saying is people want bold leadership, they want people who are going to stand up on the war and on the other issues that we face.  And yes, I think that‘s going to be a big question for Hillary Clinton and all of the candidates as we move in to 2008. 

CARLSON:  But Hillary—but wait.  Wait. 

PARISER:  And on Hillary, the difference...

CARLSON:  But that‘s not fair to say all candidates.

PARISER:  ... the difference between Hillary Clinton—the difference between Hillary Clinton right now and Joe Lieberman is that Hillary Clinton actually is listening.  If you watch what she is doing, she understands that her voters are upset with what‘s going on the war.

She called for Donald Rumsfeld to resign.  She signed on to a letter urging the beginning of an exit of troops from Iraq.  These are steps toward where her base is, and Joe Lieberman thumbed his nose at the entire Democratic base in Connecticut.

CARLSON:  Because he actually believes something and she‘s just craftier.  And you know that to be true. 

Look, here‘s the bottom line.  We went to the war in Iraq not randomly, but based on a set of ideas, an ideology, a world view that its supporters share. 

PARISER:  That‘s right.

CARLSON:  Some supporters like Joe Lieberman, others, you know, in the Bush administration, but they all look at the world the same way.  Hillary Clinton is one of those people.  She has not renounced that world view, and until she does, shouldn‘t you be targeting her for defeat?  And why aren‘t you?  I don‘t get it. 

PARISER:  Well, we are targeting her on Iraq.  There‘s—you know, she gets—and her office can tell you this—gets tens of thousands of e-mails and phone calls from us every—every month on Iraq.  You know, that‘s part of our standard advocacy practice. 

As far as 2008 is concerned, you know, that‘s just a long way for our members.  And like we do with Joe Lieberman, at some point we‘re going to go to our members and say, “Who do you want to back?”

I can tell you this.  As long as, as you say, any Democrat that promotes the basic policy of empire-building that the Bush administration has and that has the same shortsighted views about our foreign policy that the Bush administration has, is not going to go very far with our members.  But I don‘t want to speak—you know, I don‘t want to speak for them before we ask them what they think. 

CARLSON:  I just hope—I just hope—you know, I believe you, but I hope that you and your organization remain as principled when 2008 rolls around. 

PARISER:  Oh, yes.  Watch us. 

CARLSON:  She‘s—if she‘s not—I truly do.  I really hope that for you.  And I appreciate your coming on. 

PARISER:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Eli Pariser, we thank you, from moveon.org.

We‘ve got the latest on the 11 Egyptian college students missing and unaccounted for since last month.  What happened to them and how did the government lose track of them in the first place? 

Also, the Dixie Chicks chickening out.  Word is the band is fleeing to, that‘s right, Canada.  We‘ll tell you why when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Time now for “Beat the Press.”

First up, Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes of the FOX News Channel. 

During a debate over global warming, Hannity bristled when Colmes tried to compare Al Gore to Pat Robertson. 

Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, “HANNITY & COLMES”:  If you look at the history of temperatures, there‘s a natural ebb and flow to all of this. 

ALAN COLMES, “HANNITY & COLMES”:  Yes.

HANNITY:  And I think Al Gore is unhinged. 

COLMES:  What does that have to do with what we‘re talking about? 

You...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY:  Al Gore...

COLMES:  ... used this as an excuse to take a shot at Al Gore. 

HANNITY:  Absolutely.

COLMES:  And now it turns out...

HANNITY:  Unhinged. 

COLMES:  It just turns out that Pat Robertson is going to be in the next Al Gore film based on what we just saw. 

HANNITY:  Well, I‘ll tell you this, Pat is a good man, but he‘s dead wrong on this one. 

COLMES:  All right.  Is he unhinged? 

HANNITY:  No.  He‘s sane.

COLMES:  All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I see Hannity‘s point.  I see his desire to defend evangelicals, a group that takes a lot of crap unfairly from the mainstream media.  And I think it‘s fair to say that Al Gore is a religious zealot, because he is.

On the other hand, just because Al Gore is a bad guy, just because evangelicals are unfairly attacked by the left, does not mean Pat Robertson isn‘t crazy.  He is. 

This is a man who blamed the United States for 9/11.  Two days after 9/11, he said, “The almighty has lifted his protection from this country.” 

When you blame the U.S. for the attacks on the World Trade Center, you, my friend, are a nut cake.  In other words, you can be for civil rights and not be for Jesse Jackson, you can be for evangelicals and not be for Pat Robertson, just to make that totally clear.  The guy is a nut. 

Well, and who doesn‘t love a good fight?  Especially when it involves flying furniture.  We love that here on television, and there was plenty of that to go around on “Bleepin‘ Truth.”  That‘s a debate show on a local cable access channel in Florida. 

The insults were traded, the threats were made.  And then—well, just watch for yourself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you fat? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Hi, America. 

Tell me what I lied about—and you can get up and show that you‘re fat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You won‘t talk about the issues.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Guys, guys, guys, guys. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The issue is not lying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There you are, Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do it.  Do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sorry, Tony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now keep your hands off of me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, guys.  Please.

Joe, please.

Folks, I‘m sorry you had to see that.  It‘s not right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  And there you have it, a glimpse not simply of the past, but of the future.  Let‘s see that again.  Of the future. 

You want to know where American TV is going?  Cable television news, there you are right there, the chair. 

Now, let‘s be honest, though.  You can turn up your nose and sniff all you like, but that is good television. 

Well, how would you like to help us “Beat the Press”?  Give us a call and tell us what you see.  And the number here, 1-877-BTP-5876.  That‘s 877-287-5876.  Operators standing by to take your hot tips.

Still to come, the latest from Lebanon, where deadly battles continue in the air and on the ground.  We‘ll have a report from the scene.  It is getting bad there. 

Also ahead, why China‘s government is slaughtering tens of thousands of dogs like these.  It‘s disgusting, and you can do something about it. 

We‘ll tell you when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, 11 Egyptian exchange students arrive in New York and then vanish into thin air.  Should we be worried that the FBI has no idea where they are?  Maybe, maybe not.

Plus the Chinese government orders tens of thousands of dogs and puppies beaten to death with sticks.  What could possibly justify that?  What can do you about it?

We‘ll get to all those stories in just a moment, but first here‘s a look at your headlines.

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”  Stocks closing lower as the Fed‘s decision to leave interest rates unchanged.  That moved the markets down on the day.  The Dow closing the day almost 46 points, the S&P 500 dropping more than 4, the NASDAQ off by almost 12 points.

Consumers he getting a breather as the Federal Reserve decided to hit the pause button on interest rate hikes for the first time in more than two years, the rate remaining unchanged at 5 ¼ percent.  The Fed saying that the slowing economy should be enough to keep inflation in check.

And oil prices sliding 67 cents to $76.31 a barrel in New York trading.  That after the nation‘s energy chief said there‘s enough inventory to ride out the shut down of a major Alaskan oil field.

And Google hooking up with myspace.com, the search giant winning a four way race to provide search technology to myspace in a deal worth $900 million.  Newscorp owns myspace.com.  Google‘s shares closing up almost one percent in trading today.  Now back to Tucker.

CARLSON:  Now to a story that caught our attention with its ever so faint echoes of September 11.  Eleven Egyptian exchange students bound for a program at Montana State University flat out vanished after landing in New York late last month.  The FBI, homeland security and state and local police are working together now to solve the mystery of their disappearance.  NBC‘s Pete Williams joins us now with the rest of the story.  Pete, what‘s the latest on this?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well Tucker this requires a little bit of simple mathematics to do here.  Some subtraction.  It starts with the number 20, that‘s the number of students in Egypt at a university in Alexandria, Egypt, who were approved by the university to enter into an exchange program with Montana State University in Bozeman.  Now we start subtracting.  Three of those students were denied a visa.  That leaves 17.  They arrived on a flight from Cairo into the U.S., and landed at JFK in New York on July 29.  But of those 17, we subtract six, because that‘s the number that actually made it to Bozeman and that leaves 11 that the FBI is trying to look for.  Now the FBI tells us they‘ve looked at the backgrounds of these students, they‘ve talked to their parents, they‘re not considered to be any kind of criminal threat, they‘re not considered to be a terrorist threat, but fair is fair, they had student visas to go to Montana State in Bozeman, they didn‘t show up, the State department has cancelled their visas, and the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, wants to find them.

CARLSON:  Here‘s, Pete, what confuses me.  There are people—there are thousands, literally, probably tens or hundreds of thousands of people in this country who have overstayed student visas, who are not being looked for by the FBI.  The FBI says as you just said, there‘s he no threat associated with these guys, but why is the FBI involved if there‘s no threat associated with them?

WILLIAMS:  Well I think that‘s what happened here is the federal authorities are involved, and immigration can do what it can, but they wanted to get the FBI involved and then my understanding is that an FBI official out there in the Rocky Mountains, either in Montana or in the district office in Salt Lake, decided to share this with all law enforcement officials, to ask them to help in finding them.  I understand what you‘re asking, it does seem odd for them to say there‘s no concern but on the other hand we‘re asking 16,000 law enforcement agencies to help us find them.

CARLSON:  Right.  Exactly.

WILLIAMS:  But the fact is, to get this out there, you do use the system that goes to everybody, that system is full of all sorts of messages, they‘re looking for all kinds of people that don‘t come to our attention, but this is sort of a standard way that missing people are looked for.  They are young people, it is an exchange program.  I think a couple of things that enter into this though is that this exchange program was only about a month long.  It was sort of a language-culture-history program and if it were like a two or three year program that they flat failed to show up for, that would be I think in the opinion of some, more serious.

I think the view that I‘m getting here is that they, as the Bozeman newspaper says, some officials think they‘re more interested in the Big Apple than the Big Sky and they were dazzled by the bright lights and decided not to go to Bozeman and open the books.  That‘s the working theory at this point but they won‘t really know until they find them hand ask them what they‘ve been up to.

CARLSON:  Let‘s hope the working theory is right.  Pete Williams, thanks a lot.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, sir.

CARLSON:  For more on this story, we‘re joined now by Cathy Conover, she is a spokeswoman from the university.  She joins us now from Bozeman, Montana, with more details.  Cathy Conover, welcome.  When did you first realize that these students were not at your university and what did you do when you figured that out?

CATHY CONOVER, MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY:  Well, we were expecting to have 17 students arrive on the 29th of July, in fact, only one student arrived in Bozeman and then on the 30th, one more student arrived, and the 31st, we had the four other students.  So right now we have six students of the 17 that are on our campus, and have already begun this program.  This cultural exchange program.

CARLSON:  Right.  I‘m just wondering how this became a federal case, if 11 students from Santa Monica or Belgium didn‘t show up at school, you wouldn‘t call the FBI, but you did in this case.  Why?

CONOVER:  We do have requirements to report students that are here on a student visa.  Actually it‘s a 30-day notice period, a requirement period.  So we have 30 days to notify CIVUS (ph) that one or more students has not arrived as planned or expected.

In this case the program itself is only about a month long, 32 days, so because of the short nature of the program, on the 31st of July, we went ahead and notified Homeland Security in Helena, our capital and also at JFK airport.  At the same time we also notified the university in Cairo that these students had not arrived.

CARLSON:  Did you get the sense from talking to the feds that they were worried about where these students might be?

CONOVER:  I didn‘t talk to the federal agents.  We did have an agent come from Helena from Homeland Security.  He interviewed the six students that are here but we do not know the nature of that discussion which each of those students.

CARLSON:  How have you tried to contact these students and have you succeeded at all in finding anyone?

CONOVER:  We haven‘t succeeded in reaching them.  What we did was on August 2nd, on the 31st initially contacting Homeland Security, on the second we sent e-mails to these 11 students to try to reach them, give them notice that they had 24 hours to appear, and if they didn‘t, then we would be reporting them into CIVUS, this federal database.  We didn‘t hear anything back from the 11 students, so then on the third of August, we went ahead and reported those students as no shows.

CARLSON:  Mansour University, the university in Egypt from which they came, you‘ve notified them at that university.  What‘s their response been?

CONOVER:  What they are doing is they‘ve been involved in trying to reach the families of those students, to let them know.  I don‘t know whether they‘ve reached all of those families or not, but they were taking care of that responsibility.

CARLSON:  Where do you think these kids are?

CONOVER:  We can‘t speculate on that.  We just don‘t have the information.  There is a number of possible scenarios, and people are talking about all types of possibilities, but we really can‘t speculate on that because we don‘t have any information to tell us one direction or another.

CARLSON:  I think a lot of people were surprised to learn there would be 17 Egyptian students at Montana State.  Is this common, do you have a lot of Middle Eastern students at Montana State?

CONOVER:  Well, we do have a variety of programs. We have international students who come here from around the world for regular academic studies, and then we also have these exchange programs, and this was one of the exchange programs, so they come just for one month, they have special classes, they were taking English as a second language classes, our six students still are, they‘ll be going to lectures on U.S.  history, and Montana history, history of the West, U.S. culture and then they‘ll be taking field trips throughout Montana area, they are going next weekend to Yellowstone National Park, so it‘s a combination of educational and cultural opportunities for these students.  And yes, this is common.  We have arrangements like this with other universities.

CARLSON:  Huh.  Apparently the 11 students are missing out.  I hope this ends well.  Cathy Conover, thanks for joining us.

The intense Israeli bombing of Tyre in Lebanon has completely isolated that city tonight, leaving residents, UN aid workers, and many Western reporters are stranded in Lebanon.  Israeli military dropped leaflets over Tyre today, warning people to stay off the streets ahead of stepped up operations in the suspected Hezbollah stronghold.  Meanwhile, farther north residents of Beirut are digging out from some of the deadliest bombings so far.  That‘s where we find NBC‘s Martin Savidge.  What is the latest from Beirut?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Tucker.

We just had another explosion about 15 minutes ago, it seems to be, in the same area where previous explosions have come, that being the southern suburbs, which is known as an area that sympathizes greatly, in fact, encourages Hezbollah.  Right now we can‘t tell exactly in the darkness what was struck and we have not hoard if there are any injuries, but that‘s not surprising.  It‘s just too soon after the blast.

Three hours earlier tonight, there was another sharp blast that was heard in the city, but there were no reports of any injuries or significant damage, because it‘s fallen in an area so badly damaged, they really had a hard time telling what was new, so it shows what you the bombardment has been like.

But of course it was 24 hours ago that there were about five Israeli bombs reportedly that fell on an eight story building, it collapsed.  The death toll so far now is up to 30 and they fear there may still be more bodies found in the rubble as they continue to search tonight.  Meanwhile as you report down there in Tyre, the situation is getting very dire, not only for the journalists who have to work it but the civilians who are trapped and that is because this curfew that‘s been put into effect by the Israelis and the curfew is this, that no one, no one can go ort and drive, it‘s a no-drive zone if that region and it means if you go out and get in the vehicle, the Israelis assume you‘re part of Hezbollah and they will strike at you.

Anybody who moves goes on foot and that greatly restricts the aid going in and out.  Meanwhile, more Hezbollah rockets, dozens of them, hit northern Israel today.  No reports of any casualties.  The fierce fighting continues in the south, but there was a glimmer of hope over reports that Israel finds it interesting that Lebanon is offering 15,000 troops to go south to help if there is a ceasefire agreement that is reached.  But we should say that‘s a small glimmer of hope hat this point, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Marty, give us a sense of how far the people of Beirut are responding to this, are they he from what you can tell holding Hezbollah responsible for this conflict and the escalation of it or Israel?

SAVIDGE:  Well, it depends who you talk to.  If you‘re a supporter of Hezbollah and there are many here obviously as you know, the Shia population and a great many people get their livelihood and infrastructure support from Hezbollah, so they‘re obviously rooting and cheering for Hezbollah and say keep going.  The rest of the nation, a great many of them are Christian, do not think as highly of Hezbollah, and they are—well, stunned as the Lebanese prime minister put it, by four weeks of war that is absolutely crumbled their economy.

They were doing so well, they were on the road to recovery and now everything has been shattered literally overnight and they have to spend billions of dollars rebuilding once peace is declared.  So you have a mixture of moods here and of course the biggest of all is this power vacuum that may be created by the Israeli incursion were to go too far, you have a destabilized government and once again perhaps a nation slipping into civil war.

CARLSON:  That‘s just depressing as hell.

Martin Savidge from Beirut.  Thanks, be safe.

Well, it was one of the most despicable stories we have seen in a long time.  The Chinese government is killing its citizens‘ dogs, its pet dogs.  Supposedly to stop the spread of rabies, but is there more to that story? 

We‘re going to find out in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  You‘re not going to find a more dog friendly show than this one and that‘s why we were so repelled, so generally discuss the dope in the “Wall Street Journal” this morning and read that the Chinese government is killing domestic dogs by the tens of thousands.  Supposedly in an effort to slow the spread of rabies.

We‘re talking about government officials going to people‘s homes and killing their dogs and puppies with sticks.  They‘re not of course aloud to speak out in China, but here in the U.S., PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is calling for a boycott of Chinese products and good for them.

Ingrid Newkirk is the president and co-founder of PETA.  She joins me now from Virginia Beach.  Ingrid, welcome.  What are you doing about this?  PETE is known for its over the top and in my view pretty offensive tactics a lot of the time, I‘ve argued with you many times about them and you‘ve offended me many times, but you can‘t go too far in stopping this nonsense, what are you going to do?

INGRID NEWKIRK, PETA PRESIDENT:  Thanks, Tucker.  The thing is, though, you have a tricky cultural situation where the Chinese are all about saving face, but it‘s come to a point, they‘ve done it so many times before.  If you go to our Web site, you can see not only the dogs being beaten, but you can see all the other things that they do.  It‘s like a culture of cruelty, so we want to have a meting, we‘ve written to the government, we‘ve offered to work with them to institute humane methods of animal control if that‘s what they want.

This is just foolish, it doesn‘t help with rabies control in the least bit.  There are more sane ways to control rabies, but it‘s not just limited to that.  It‘s their fur and leather exports.  They‘re the biggest ones who send those products to this country and yet if you see the manner in which the animals die, you are just astounded that any living human being could treat animals as if they were just .

CARLSON:  They‘re savages, that‘s the problem, their ideology is also the problem.  Left wing Marxist ideology, at least as practiced in China is anti dog.  It has been for many, many years.  For decades.  Dogs are considered bourgeois.  And so they are killed, and this has been going on a long time.  How do you combat that?

NEWKIRK:  It‘s true.  When the communists came in, it was considered bourgeois to have a dog, elitist, but that has changed recently and if fact, what we are seeing is that we can join hands with lots of people in China who have a little money now, who have been able to see the rest of the world, and who are getting fond of animals, there are more Chinese acquiring dogs and when you see he kids having puppies just ripped out of their arms by men with sticks who are electrocuting them, bludgeoning them and so on, and then go to the Chinese Web site and the translations are people in China are very upset, they can‘t demand their government stop, but they can certainly raise Cain.

We need to get together with those people, internal pressure, external pressure, but we need people in the U.S. to sign the petition on peta.org, so we can present it to the Chinese government.

CARLSON:  Well what about the 2008 Olympics, that‘s got to be a key pressure point for the Chinese government, they want those Olympics to go off without a hitch.

NEWKIRK:  Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely.  And I think that is why we have leverage, that‘s why we need to show them that enough people are standing up to say stop this, because people won‘t only be judging the gymnastics, they‘ll be judging how animals are treated.  And the rest of the civilized world has come to grips with the fact—they may not embraced the fact that chickens have rights, they probably should, because they feel too that they have embraced the idea that dogs are not drums or dirt, they‘re feeling sentient animals.

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.  Ingrid Nerwkirk.  For all the many times I‘ve debated you and disagreed with you in this case, I really wish you godspeed.  You‘re doing the right thing.

NEWKIRK:  Thank you very much, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Ingrid.

Who could possibly be offended by a Will Farrell movie about a NASCAR driver called Ricky Bobby.  Come on, this is America.  Somebody is always offended.  We‘ll be right back with details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  We packed a lot of news into the last hour, but even on this show, you can‘t get to everything and that‘s what Willie Geist is for.  He is here with a final roundup of what happened today.  Willie.

GEIST:  Hello Tucker.  You‘re turning the show over to me, that‘s a dangerous thing.  We‘re going to actually prorate your salary because you‘re only working five out of the six segments.  But here it goes.

We‘re going to start with Will Farrell.  On the surface, his new movie, “Talladega Nights,” a nice little spoof of NASCAR, but behind that comedic facade, lurks a sinister anti-Christian agenda.  At least that‘s what one movie reviewer is saying.  Ted Baer of movieguide.org says “Talladega Nights” is a quote, “racist, bigoted work that ridicules the Bible Belt, southern white men, Christianity, Jesus Christ, the family, and American masculinity.”  Bear goes on to say the movie contains, quote, “strong homosexual content.”

Now Tucker I have not seen this movie, but I generally don‘t associate Will Farrell with strong homosexual content.  I will say though you‘re not a huge movie star until a religious group protests your movie.  Just ask Mel Gibson.  I predict “Talladega Nights” will be Will Farrell‘s “The Passion of the Christ,” watch his star rise.

You think?

CARLSON:  I thought that was a good description of say the “New York Times,” but it‘s hard to believe that Will Farrell he packs all of that into a movie.  You can look too deeply into film.

GEIST:  Yeah, I highly doubt it.  And by the way, the movie is sanctioned by NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in the movie.  So I have a feeling he wasn‘t trying too hard to offend those people.

Speaking of offending people, the Dixie Chicks, they are doing what a lot of Americans do when they can‘t hack it in the United States, they‘re heading to Canada.  The country music group has been very critical of President Bush, cancelled 14 tour dates, reportedly due to slow ticket sales.  They‘ll keep the same number of shows on their tour by adding concerts in, you guessed it, Canada.  Now Tucker, when will Canada stop harboring our traitors.  If it‘s not draft dodgers in Vietnam, it‘s unpatriotic country music acts, they‘re mocking everything we stand for north of the border, our so-called neighbors to the north.

CARLSON:  Yeah but it is a kind of fair trade.  I mean, they send us Martin Short and John Candy and Dan Ackroyd.

GEIST:  Yeah, we‘ll take their exports, they can have the Dixie chicks.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  We‘ll take your comedians, we‘ll send you our bad country music acts.

GEIST:  That‘s exactly right.

Tucker, now one more offensive man to talk about, it‘s not clear why anyone would want their cell phone to ring with the sound of Mel Gibson‘s infamous drunken tirade, but one wireless company is betting somebody will.  Oasis Mobile has introduced a Mel in Malibu ring tone that plays a reenactment of Gibson‘s meltdown during that drunk driving stop in California.

The message has been scrubbed of Mel‘s anti-Semitism but the rest of the drunken arrogance is all right there for your listening pleasure.

Tucker, I have to say, Mel Gibson‘s ring tone, all fun and games, until that little you‘re if a business meeting and the voice in your pocket starts blaming the Jews for all the violence in the world.  You want to keep it on vibrate if you have the Mel in Malibu ring tone during business meetings.  Just a tip.

CARLSON:  The question is what American needs more drunken arrogance if his life.  Is this something we have not enough of?

GEIST:  No, we have got plenty of it right here at home.

CARLSON:  Willie Geist.

GEIST:  All right, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Willie.  That‘s our show for tonight.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews from Connecticut, site of the heated Lieberman-Lamont race.

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

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