updated 11/17/2006 11:16:38 AM ET 2006-11-17T16:16:38

Guests: Charles Range; Ray LaHood, Michael Feldman, A.B. Stoddard, Roger Stone

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND:  I am  proud to have been selected by my colleagues as the majority leader. 

ANNOUNCER:  A political family feud. 

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  I didn‘t have enough votes. 

ANNOUNCER:  One week after winning control of Congress, Democrats face another divisive showdown. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think what we need to do now is quit talking about leadership races and start talking about important issues. 

ANNOUNCER:  How will the speaker-elect resolve her first test of power? 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), INCOMING SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Let the healing begin. 

ANNOUNCER:  And can this House divided stand up to Republicans as they prepare to do battle again in 2008? 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), INCOMING MINORITY LEADER:  We will be a robust minority, a vigorous minority, and hopefully a minority that is only in that condition for a couple of years. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Now, from Los Angeles, Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show. 

What a difference a few days make.  Just nine days after the resounding midterm victories, the Democratic Party is in complete disarray today.  The party handed incoming speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi her first defeat, electing Steny Hoyer majority leader over Pelosi‘s first choice, Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania.  And it wasn‘t even close.  The vote was 149 to just 86. 

Here‘s the Democratic damage control from earlier today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURTHA:  I know you‘d like to know why I didn‘t win.  I didn‘t have enough votes.  And so I‘ll go back to my small subcommittee that I have on Appropriations. 

PELOSI:  I was proud to support him for majority leader because I thought that would be the best way to bring an end to the war in Iraq.  I know that he will continue to take the lead on that issue for our caucus, for this Congress, for our country. 

So I want to salute Mr. Murtha for his leadership. 

(APPLAUSE)

PELOSI:  Thank you. 

HOYER:  I agree with Nancy Pelosi.  Jack Murtha has been a courageous and outspoken leader for that cause.  We have had differences, Jack Murtha and I, but Jack Murtha will continue to be one of the most significant leaders in the Congress of the United States as chairman of the Defense Appropriations Committee. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  So, again, it wasn‘t even close, 149-86 votes.  Steny Hoyer now the majority leader, incoming majority leader of the House of Representatives, in a stinging personal rebut to the new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who had backed Jack Murtha. 

So how could the Democrats‘ victory celebration turn into a frenzy of back stabbing and so soon?  And will the incoming speaker and House Democrats be able to put their differences aside and get along with one another? 

Joining me now from Washington to answer that and other questions, Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York.  He‘s the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. 

Mr. Rangel, thanks for joining us.

Who is in control of your party over there? 

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK:  I‘m telling you, I was frightened as heck that this was going to be a big obstacle to unity, but, Tucker, you would have to be there to see how these two professionals handled Steny Hoyer‘s victory.  He could not have been more cordial, friendly and dedicated to the success of Nancy Pelosi as the first woman speaker.  Murtha was terrific. 

I wish it never happened in the first place, but since it had to happen, I could not believe that we could get off in a more united fashion.  The Democratic Caucus was just enthusiastic with support of all of the candidates and solidarity that came out of the caucus meeting.  It was terrific. 

CARLSON:  It—I mean, it was a great photo-op, I agree.  You wonder, though, what it means about Nancy Pelosi, the incoming speaker‘s power base, if, as her first act really as the woman who is going to lead Democrats in the House is to endorse Jack Murtha and she‘s ignored by her own caucus, what does that say?  Do people really support her if they‘re ignoring her right off the bat? 

RANGEL:  No.  I don‘t really think the efforts ought to be on Pelosi as to why she did it because some of the reasons even I don‘t understand, with the exception that a leader, a speaker should have some influence on who they select.  But when it comes to the credits that have been accrued to Steny Hoyer, and the opportunity that he had to glow over his fantastic victory, you would have had to have seen what he said. 

This was not showboating, it was not for the cameras.  You would have to be there to see how the Murtha supporters and the Steny supporters were hugging each other, because they didn‘t want that either. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

RANGEL:  And so believe me, I wish we didn‘t have it, but if we had to have something, that was one of the most beautiful unifying things I‘ve seen politically in the last 40 years. 

CARLSON:  Hoyer‘s worked for this for a long time.  I think that probably had a lot to do with the fact he won.  On the other hand, it‘s hard not to read a kind of ideological shift into this. 

Mrs. Pelosi had said point blank she was supporting Jack Murtha because he‘s her friend, but also because of his position on Iraq.  Hoyer has a much more conservative position on Iraq. 

Do you think that the Democratic Caucus is beginning to realize that pulling out immediately from Iraq is a bad idea? 

RANGEL:  No.  First of all, we have no clue of who the Democratic Caucus is.  We got exciting new members that have come from all over the United States, many Democrats who won in solid Republican districts.  And so their attitudes on the war and on spending and a variety of other things, we have to come together on the issues. 

But you have to understand, Nancy is from San Francisco.  I‘m from New York.  Murtha is from Pennsylvania.  Steny is from Maryland.  Our leadership is our ability to bring all of these regions and all of these thoughts together and come up with a solid proposal. 

Nancy has kept the Democratic Caucus together stronger than we ever have been in 40 years.  And so it‘s not the personality of the so-called leader.  It‘s their ability to bring all of these personalities together with a solid Democratic position. 

CARLSON:  You know, three years ago—a little over three years ago, General Shinseki said famously we need more troops in Iraq and he got fired for saying that.  And Democrats took up his cause, and they said, you‘ve got to listen to the generals.  They know what they‘re doing.

Yesterday, you had General Abizaid come up to the Hill and say point blank to America, if we pull our troops out, if we redeploy—the phrase now favored by Democrats—our troops from Iraq, this will be a victory for al Qaeda.  Why aren‘t Democrats listening now to this general and his point of view on the war? 

They‘re ignoring him.  Why? 

RANGEL:  Please understand, Tucker, that Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate don‘t conduct war.  The president of the United States of America does that, and he does it through his secretary of defense and his military advisor.  He has really fouled up this war, and it‘s not for Democrats to say what we should do. 

The American people have spoken.  And I don‘t know what this commission is going to report back, but no president can be successful in any war without the support of the American people. 

So whether there‘s more troops, less troops, how much time you‘ve got to give them, the president of the United States and his invasion of Iraq has been a failure for the Iraqis and for the United States of America. 

CARLSON:  One of the things I like about Jack Murtha, in addition to the fact he‘s a good guy and he‘s conservative on the social issues, he‘s certainly a blunt speaker, as you are.  He described the ethics overhaul that Nancy Pelosi is pushing as “total crap.”  After he said, that, he got 86 Democrats in the House to vote for him.  That‘s—implication, of course, is that 86 Democrats out of your caucus thinks ethics overall is “total crap.” 

What do you think of that? 

RANGEL:  Well, I don‘t know that he actually said it, but there‘s no question in my mind that if anyone read all of the things that was in the ethics report—and a lot of it was for the press—anybody could find one thing in it that they could say was crap.  Even in my biography or yours, someone would say that‘s a lot of crap. 

CARLSON:  Well, gee—I mean...

RANGEL:  Come on. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I agree with Murtha.  I think...

RANGEL:  Listen.  The ethics thing is this thick.

CARLSON:  But wait.  You ran on that.  That‘s what Democrats ran on just, like, last week.  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

RANGEL:  People run on the bible.  And I bet your life if you go through it scripture by scripture, you‘ll find something in there that would be hard to believe.  Ask Adam, ask Eve. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  So it‘s OK not to mean it?  I mean, it‘s OK to say, you know, on Election Day, this is what I‘m running on and then the day after say, come on? 

RANGEL:  It‘s really OK for me to get (ph) up anything to gin up your program.  But that election is over and we‘re moving forward. 

CARLSON:  Do you think that ethics reform will be at the center of the Democratic agenda over the next two years? 

RANGEL:  I hope so.  But I hope it‘s not the Democratic agenda.  I hope it‘s the Democratic and Republican agenda. 

You know, people are fed up not with Democrats and Republicans, but the Congress.  We together have to show that we‘re not going to have a higher standard for other people than we have for ourselves. 

I‘m convinced after the last election that not only Republicans got a message, but Democrats did too.  And so I think together we‘re going to set the code much higher, and none of us want to join the Republican reunion in a federal prison. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

What do you think of the exit polling—and I know you all take a very close look at that—that showed that more people were voting on ethics and scandals than were voting on Iraq?  A, do you believe that that‘s true, and, B, what do you think it means? 

RANGEL:  It depends on what district that you‘re in.  In my particular district, the war, the cut back in social services, what happened in Katrina, the real loss of confidence in the president of the United States and the inability to do anything about it, my district was really looking for those people who supported that.

I don‘t think it was one issue at all.  Any time you find out that 30 percent of the American people—or to put it another way, 70 percent of the American people have no confidence in the president, and he‘s the leader of the Republican Party, anyone following him is dangerous to their political health.

CARLSON:  Yes, I agree with that.

Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York, the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

I appreciate it.  Thanks.

RANGEL:  Good to be back with you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Still to come, a bitter battle for the House leadership leaves Nancy Pelosi bruised.  Are Democrats shooting themselves in the foot already?  And does the Republican Party have reason to be giddy?  They say so.

Also ahead, a top Democratic strategist compares Howard Dean to Donald Rumsfeld, and not in a good way.

That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOYER:  Nancy and I have worked together for four years, closely and effectively.  And we have created the most unified caucus in the last half century. 

Nancy and I, I think, have been a good team.  In my opinion, it was not that somebody was rejected today.  It was that a team that had been successful was asked to continue to do that job on behalf of the American people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s one way of looking at today‘s vote by House Democrats.  We‘re all winners. 

My next guest sees it another way.  He says of the Democrats, “I can‘t believe they are self-destructing before they even get started.  Everyone on our side is giddy.”

Joining me now from Washington, Republican Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois.

Congressman, thanks for coming on. 

REP. RAY LAHOOD ®, ILLINOIS:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Republicans—I mean, just got it handed to them last week, but all of a sudden are feeling optimistic because of this?  Is that true? 

LAHOOD:  Well, I think we just got it handed back to us.  I think Pelosi is in the self-destruct mode and has been in that mode all week.  And she‘s not off to a very great start for somebody who is talking about, you know, bringing her whole caucus together.  It looks like she‘s parted ways with many of them. 

CARLSON:  Well, what does—I mean, stand back a little bit, since you actually work there and know everyone involved.  What does this mean?  I‘m having trouble getting my hands around this. 

I mean, Murtha is more liberal in some ways than Steny Hoyer, but he‘s also more conservative in other ways on the social issues, for instance.  Is this a left-right split?  What is going on?

LAHOOD:  What it is, about relationships.  And Steny has built up relationships during the time that he was whip, during the time of the campaign.  People are very grateful to him for the campaign he waged with them in the trenches.  And frankly, Jack didn‘t do that.  And they‘re grateful to him for the resources that he provided. 

He‘s been at this now for many, many years.  And it paid very big dividends for him today.  That‘s really what it‘s all about, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So he succeeded at the internal politics.  That makes sense.  I wonder, though, for those of us who don‘t work in Congress, how important is the endorsement of Nancy Pelosi or any incoming speaker?  Is that usually decisive? 

LAHOOD:  It didn‘t make any difference today. 

CARLSON:  I know. 

LAHOOD:  And it shows—it shows pretty ineffective speaker-elect.  And I also think it shows that there is a huge split now within the Democratic Caucus. 

They can say what they want, but Hoyer and Pelosi are at odds with one another.  And Steny will never forget what she did to him during this election. 

CARLSON:  Well, I know that they‘ve been at odds since—I mean, they ran for leadership post a number of years ago.  She obviously won.  They probably don‘t like each other because of that. 

But is there an ideological split between them?  I mean, is she that much further to the left than he on Iraq? 

LAHOOD:  Look, a lot of the Democratic Caucus members would love to have Steny as speaker because he represents their values, their ideas, their philosophy.  I guarantee—and there‘s 40 or 50 Democrats that are not even on the same wave length as their own speaker because she‘s far too liberal for them, and they would much rather have somebody more like Steny and the way that he thinks about things. 

CARLSON:  I completely believe that.  On the other hand, she was one of the architects of this midterm election strategy in which you saw a lot of genuinely—or some genuinely conservative Democrats.  Heath Shuler, I mean, that guy is more conservative than most Republicans in the House. 

LAHOOD:  Well, look, Tucker, the one that deserves the credit for this is Rahm Emanuel.  He recruited good candidates, he funded them, and he gave them good ideas to run on.

Rahm is the one that is the architect.  He‘s the one that put this together and sold it to the people and sold it to the candidates.  He deserves the lion‘s share of the credit. 

I don‘t think she had much to do with this.  As a matter of fact, you didn‘t see her out there campaigning much. 

CARLSON:  No.

LAHOOD:  You saw Steny out there and you saw Rahm out there.  I don‘t

I think Pelosi was missing in action in a lot of these districts. 

CARLSON:  And Rahm Emanuel got the number four spot in his party.  I agree with you, that seems—that doesn‘t seem like much of a reward. 

What about on your side, the Republican side, the race for minority leader pitting Boehner against Pence?  Pence seems the more conservative candidate, to me, anyway.  Who‘s going to win? 

LAHOOD:  I think the lineup for tomorrow will be Boehner as leader;

Roy Blunt as whip, Adam Putnam as conference chair.  And then, you know, it sort of falls off from there.  But, you know, I think those will be our three top leaders. 

And Adam brings a new fresh face and somebody who I think our party can really rely on to be a good spokesperson.  But John Boehner is going to win overwhelmingly tomorrow because of the job that he‘s done as majority leader in a very, very tough spot.  And Roy Blunt has done a good job, and members really respect him, and I believe Roy will win handily tomorrow also. 

CARLSON:  Putnam, great guy.  He‘s about 19 years old.  I like him. 

So...

LAHOOD:  He looks about as young as you do, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  He‘s actually a lot younger than I am.  But Pence, there‘s no role for Pence in the Republican leadership?

LAHOOD:  Well, look, Mike Pence has played a role, you know, as the conservative spokesman for the conservative wing of our party.  But tomorrow will be John Boehner‘s day.  And I think people will reward Roy for the work that he‘s done as whip and keeping us together on some very tough issues.  And Adam brings a fresh new face.

I believe that will be the lineup for us tomorrow.

CARLSON:  Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois.

Thanks a lot, Congressman.

LAHOOD:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Coming up, Howard Dean is blasted as incompetent by a member of his own party. 

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi fails her first big test as speaker. 

Could the Democrats be their own worst enemies?

And John McCain and Rudy Giuliani begin the battle for the Republican presidential nomination.  We‘ll have much more on that match-up in just a moment.

And be certain to stick around for “HARDBALL” tonight.  It comes up next.  Chris Matthews will talk with incoming House majority leader Steny Hoyer.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  Steny came out a big winner today.  It was a stunning victory for him. 

We‘ve had our debates.  We‘ve had our disagreements in that room.  And now that is over. 

As I said to my colleagues, let the—as we say in church, let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with us.  Let the healing begin. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Amen, says the reverend Pelosi.  Well, you can‘t win them all.  In a matter of mere days, incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi is proving just that. 

House Democrats formally chose her to be the next speaker today, but they rejected her choice for majority leader.  Steny Hoyer beat out her endorsement, Jack Murtha, by over 70 votes. 

The Democratic Party seems to be fracturing before it is even taking control of Congress.  What is going on? 

Joining us with answers, Democratic strategist and co-founder of hotsoup.com, Michael Feldman. 

Mike, thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL FELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Thanks for having me. 

CARLSON:  Not only is there this now famous contention over who‘s going to be majority leader, but Stan Greenberg and James Carville, two of the premier members of the Democratic Party‘s brain trust, came out yesterday and attacked Howard Dean saying that the Democratic party left, you know, 10 seats on the table, could have won 10 more seats than it already had, and that he ought to be canned. 

What is going on? 

FELDMAN:  You‘re seeing the majesty of the Democratic Party at work here, Tucker.  It‘s one of our great strengths and also one of our challenges. 

I think, look, Democrats are not as—let‘s say we are not as disciplined. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

FELDMAN:  We don‘t run our party like a corporation. 

CARLSON:  No, you don‘t. 

FELDMAN:  We never have.  But I think that has some strengths.  I think when the Democratic Party steps up, when members of the party step up, they express their disagreements, that tends to allow the party to work through them and will make us stronger in the long run. 

Look, you know, I didn‘t hear what was said yesterday.  And I‘m not sure I agree with it.  I think there is a lot of energy being wasted right now.  But I think in general Democrats have to air their differences, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.  They were given a job to do by the American people, and I think it‘s about time we got started doing it. 

CARLSON:  It does seem—I mean, I‘ve never defended Howard Dean, and I probably will never do so again.  I don‘t think he‘s very smart.  However, he just did win a big election, and he won it pretty decisively.

So, I mean, it‘s kind of hard to see why he should be fire.  That‘s my one and only defense of him.

But I want to know, what are the divisions in the Democratic Party?  Are they ideological?  Are they personal?  I don‘t understand exactly who the factions are. 

FELDMAN:  Oh, I‘m not sure I understand all the factions either.  Look, you have a—you have a diverse party, you have a party that frankly has been out of power for a while. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

FELDMAN:  So there‘s a lot of pent up energy to try to get something done now.  And you have various members of the party and various positions within the leadership asserting themselves and trying to advance their agenda. 

And I think it takes a while for things to work out.  And I think especially a party that‘s used to being in the minority that now has a chance to actually get something done, at the very least provide some oversight and accountability in government.  And I think it takes a little while to work out the kinks.  But I think they will, and I think this is going to actually serve the party well in the long term. 

CARLSON:  It strikes me—and you may be right—it strikes me as a leadership problem when a party has a leader, Clinton—Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan.  You know, the party assumes the positions of its leader, always.  And without a presidential candidate, of course, your party doesn‘t—no party has a leader without a president or a candidate. 

Is Hillary Clinton, though, as the presumed nominee, the frontrunner anyway, right now, to what degree is she controlling the ideological direction of the Democratic Party? 

FELDMAN:  I don‘t think any one Democratic leader, any one member of Congress, any one potential presidential aspirant is really controlling the Democratic Party or necessarily speaks on behalf of the Democratic Party.  I think what you see right now the natural process that goes on when a party that‘s been out of power comes back into power, especially two years in advance of a presidential contest.  So there is a lot of positioning going on, but I think that‘s happening in the Republican Party as well. 

I think you‘ll see members to the left and members to the right inside the Republican Party also drawing contrast, drawing distinctions to help define themselves in advance of what will be I think a very interesting contest. 

CARLSON:  Well, the beauty of being out of power is you‘ve got time to think through what you believe and figure out how to get power back.  And the Republicans used their time in the wilderness, the 40 years they had, to do that, and to set up think tanks and to think about what it means to be conservative.

Democrats, it seems to me, didn‘t use the last 12 years to do that, though.  I mean, there is—I don‘t really understand what the governing ideology is of the Democratic Party right now. 

FELDMAN:  Well, I think you have—you have a party that‘s completely organized right now around change and offering an alternative. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

FELDMAN:  I think you saw that in the election.  And now I think you have Democrats returning to their roots. 

They are talking about the minimum wage.  They‘re talking about healthcare.  They‘re talking about protecting the environment.  They‘re talking about the issues that have always been bread and butter to them, and, frankly, to the mainstream of the American people. 

I mea, these are issues that people want results on. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  I disagree—they may be mainstream issues.  They are not the traditional Democratic issues, though.  I mean, gun control, abortion, even gay rights, I mean, these are central to the Democratic Party‘s, you know, interest group base.  And they have not been at the forefront of the conversation. 

FELDMAN:  Well, I‘ll disagree with you on this one.  I think those have been central to the Republican strategy on creating wedge issues that will tear apart the Democratic Party. 

I think—I think over the years those issues that you mentioned have been wedge issues that have been used to divide the electorate.  I think what you see right now is Democrats talking about, let‘s roll up our sleeves and let‘s get something done. 

And if you go around the country, people aren‘t asking, let‘s have more gay marriage amendments, let‘s have more talk about some of these social issues.  Let‘s get something done, let‘s help get a proper minimum wage for working people around the country, let‘s get them healthcare, let‘s protect their environment, let‘s make sure their kids have good schools to go to. 

That‘s what people are talking about.

CARLSON:  I still don‘t know what that means, but I guess we‘ll find out. 

FELDMAN:  We will. 

CARLSON:  Mike Feldman, thanks. 

FELDMAN:  All right.

CARLSON:  I appreciate it.

FELDMAN:  Thanks, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Still to come, Trent Lott‘s comeback.  Is it a good thing for the Republican Party or is he the Howard Dean of the GOP?  Opinions vary. 

And President Bush warns North Korea it could be a grave threat toward the United States.  What are we doing about that grave threat? 

That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, the Democrats are in disarray today but things aren‘t that great on the Republican side either.  Can the GOP get its act together in time for the presidential election of 2008? And President Bush‘s tough talk on North Korea is it just talk? All that in just a moment.  Right now, here‘s a look at your headlines.  

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC ANCHOR:  I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC market wrap.  The Dow gaining yet another record high, up 54 points for a record close of 12,305.  The S&P 500 up 3 points, the NASDAQ up 6.

A steep drop in oil fueling the Dow, U.S. crude down more than 4 percent to $56.26 a barrel in New York trading.  The Dow also helped by the falling Consumer Price Index which fell a half percent for the second straight month.  The news could mean another hold on interest rates when the Fed meets in December.

And Clear Channel, the nation‘s biggest radio chain, has agreed to a more than $18 billion buyout offer from a private investment group.   And gamers are ling up from coast to coast for Sony‘s new PlayStation 3 which goes on sale tonight at midnight.  That‘s it from CNBC first in business worldwide.   Now back to Tucker.

CARLSON:  President Bush left Singapore en route to Vietnam, the next stop on his trip through Asia.  In the aftermath of last week‘s Democratic takeover of the House and Senate, the president wants to reassure our Asian allies that this country remains strong in confronting a North Korean nuclear threat, fighting terrorism as well as liberalizing trade.  Joining me now with more on what the president is trying to accomplish NBC‘s Kevin Corke who is at the White House.  Kevin? 

KEVIN CORKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker good day to you.  You‘re right, the president wants to hammer home the fact the U.S. is interested in Asia for a number of reasons, but most notably it‘s interested in developing those economic ties.  Of course he‘s en route to Vietnam as you pointed out and the president saying today that, look, he recognizes this is a region that has had a long and well documented history of colonialism. 

He said, look, the U.S. is not interested in paternalism instead in partnership.  And that certainly makes sense as the U.S. continues to try to develop those ties with those growing economies in that part of the world, most notably China and of course we‘ll also talk about Vietnam throughout the week. 

Unfortunately for him, he does go to Vietnam somewhat wounded politically, having seen his party have its hat handed to it during the midterm elections.  And the president also goes there without that trade deal.  He really wanted to have that in his hip pocket as he made his way to Hanoi, of course trying to rebuild those relationships. 

It‘s been some 30 years of strained relations between the two countries.  He‘s just the second president even to go there since the war, the conflict ended between the U.S. and Vietnam and yet he will not take that trade deal in hand this time, but he is still confident that eventually that will get passed.  We can all hope if that‘s certainly what the U.S. wants to do to try and build that economic relation.  But you‘re going to hear more talk about that, Tucker, as we look forward to this particular summit. 

Also the big story will continue to be North Korea.  And you said something that I thought was pretty important in your tease, you said, you keep talking about North Korea, is it more bark than bite? I mean, the president has said before, I take you back to 2003, July I believe of the 23rd of that month.  He said we will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea.  Well, we saw back in October they tested what they said, what Pyongyang said was a nuclear device and yet what‘s changed?  Again, more talk. 

We sort of can name that tune in two notes.  And yet the president has to put forth this face.  He has to continue to say this because he wants to exert pressure, not just from the U.S. but also from the partners in the region. So it should be a very interesting and hopefully fruitful Asian pacific summit that the president will be taking part in.  

CARLSON:  We‘re very busy tolerating a nuclear North Korea it looks like. 

CORKE:  It does seem like that. 

CARLSON:  Kevin Corke at the White House.  Thanks a lot Kevin.

CORKE:  You bet.

CARLSON:  Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s first order of business was to get her fellow Democrats to elect John Murtha as majority leader.  She failed, of course.  Democrats chose Steny Hoyer of Maryland instead.  What does it mean for Pelosi when her own party won‘t listen to her?  Joining me now from Washington to answer that question, A.B.  Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper.  A.B. welcome.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, “THE HILL”:  Hi Tucker.  

CARLSON:  This raises so many questions.  One of the questions it—I don‘t think has been explored at much length today is about Mrs. Pelosi‘s relationship with Hillary Clinton, who‘d have to be at this point the presumptive nominee in ‘08.  We don‘t know what‘s going to happen but she‘s certainly the most powerful individual in the Democratic Party right now.  Do they get along?

STODDARD:  You know, I really don‘t—I don‘t know, it‘s sort of a great mystery.  It‘s sort of mum.  There‘s—Hillary Clinton‘s very excited about the first woman speaker and everyone is very positive.  But if you‘re Nancy Pelosi and you‘ve become the first woman—you know she‘s going to be the speaker.  She sort of beat Hillary to the first.  It‘s going to be I think a really hard—no matter what the relationship, going to be very hard for Nancy Pelosi to have the big foot of Hillary Clinton on her shoulder for the next two years.  

CARLSON:  I know Democrats are all excited this is the first woman speaker.  Is there any indication of what exactly that means, apart from being kind of this Oprah like talking point?  I mean is a woman as speaker, is that different than a man as speaker? Is she going to do things from a womanly point of view?  Has she issued a press release on how her femininity is going to affect her governance?  Like what does that mean?

STODDARD:  No, no, I can tell you that us women get into jobs and then

we‘re supposed to act like men.  You know that, that‘s not a secret.  Nancy

Pelosi‘s people like to always say she‘s a church going grandmother of five

I mean mother of five and grandmother of many.  But no, I don‘t think she‘s going to—I think she‘s going to act as decisively and as manly as she has in the past. 

She‘s a cutthroat politician and she‘s found herself on her knees, I guess, today.  But she‘ll bounce back, and I think she‘s going to—I don‘t think she‘ll be a Newt Gingrich, I don‘t think anybody is.  But I don‘t think that the first woman speaker—I don‘t think we‘re going to see a woman in a womanly job here. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I just never understood exactly what that means.  Obviously I love women but I don‘t get the womanly thing.  I‘ve asked this question five times today but I still don‘t think I understand the answer.  Who is this fight a between, the Democrats that you saw, James Carville and Stan Greenberg, two pretty powerful people in the strategist side of the party, attacking Howard Dean and Steny Hoyer, Jack Murtha, is this a debate between conservatives and liberals, is it purely personal?  What is this about? 

STODDARD:  Oh, no, no.  I absolutely think that this—I mean the tent of the Democratic Party has, you know they allowed it to open up and they recruited more moderate and centrist and conservative candidates and they‘re willing—they‘ve decided that they want to win.  I don‘t really think it‘s ideological. 

I think that after being out of power for so long, everybody has their own best ideas about how to cement and consolidate their power, how to do it right and how to get the White House in 08.  And I think it‘s just—you know there‘s just tons of disagreements across the table about how to get there and everyone thinks that this is their moment.  So. 

CARLSON:  Here‘s one issue, an actual policy issue which it does seem to be a legitimate and heartfelt disagreement, Iraq, whether we ought to withdraw immediately and set a timetable for doing so, or whether we ought to in essence stay the course, so nobody will admit that that‘s actually his position.  Which side is winning?

STODDARD:  There is no consensus in the Democratic Party right now for the new change that‘s supposed to be coming in the policy on the Iraq war.  They have some breathing room, as you know, as President Bush does because everyone is awaiting the wholly outcome of the Baker-Hamilton Commission report.  But really, there‘s a lot of internal discussion because they feel that they must come up with a unified position. 

Everyone talks about a phased withdrawal, a phased redeployment.  But of course, the president is not going to put up with any deadlines.  The party is not unified yet.  They have not come around one of the many, many options there are on the table, none of which anybody likes.  So it‘s going to be an interesting couple of weeks that they have left.  

CARLSON:  I don‘t know if you saw Charlie Rangel at the top of the show.  I asked him a variation of this question and he said, look, it‘s the executive branch that makes and executes foreign policy, not the legislative branch.  It‘s not Congress‘ job to figure this out.  Is that really the Democratic position, we don‘t have to take a position? 

STODDARD:  No, actually Charlie Rangel—it‘s very refreshing to hear someone like Charlie Rangel say that because it‘s been exhausting for two weeks to listen to the Democrats speak rhetorically as if they are conducting the war.  The Congress has no power unless they pull that big plug and cut funding, which of course we know they‘re not going to have the nerve to do. 

You can pass all the resolutions that you want but they are not binding.  They just put political pressure on the president.  Of course that‘s their role after the outcome of this election, the party needs to put political pressure and alter the debate that way.  But they can‘t do anything binding in the Congress. 

CARLSON:  Do we know, I mean assuming and this is a huge assumption but I believe it to be true that the ‘08, the scramble for the Democratic nomination two years from now will be between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Do we have a clearer sense of what Barack Obama‘s view on redeployment is? I hate that word. But what does he think of it? 

STODDARD:  No, Barack Obama and I—I respect him for this—is staying very broad and very general these days because he can.  So give him a few more months to talk big picture.  He‘s on sort of an inspiring tour right now.  He‘s not laying down policy details, it‘s not his job.  He‘s not chairman of the armed services committee and he simply doesn‘t have to.  Hillary is trying to be coy, of course about her presidential aspirations.  But the clock is ticking on that she‘ll have to be much more specific before Obama does.  

CARLSON:  I can‘t wait.  Specifics, that‘s the fun part.  A.B.

Stoddard in Washington, thanks A.B. 

STODDARD:  Thanks. 

CARLSON:  Still to come, Senator John McCain is still mulling a run for the White House.  Will he have enough support even to get the GOP nomination?  Will it be 2000 all over again?  That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  As President Bush continues his whirlwind tour of Asia, the Republican who would like to fill his shoes at home, Senator John McCain of Arizona filed paperwork today, it allows him to form a presidential exploratory committee.  That means McCain can now raise money and promote a potential candidacy before he officially enters the race. 

Right now according to a recent Gallup poll, McCain trails former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani by two percentage points among likely Republican primary voters.  So what does that mean?  Who is really ahead? To answer that and more, we welcome Republican Strategist Roger Stone who joins us from Miami. Welcome, Roger.  Is McCain stronger than you thought he‘d be or not as strong? 

ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think he‘s pretty strong.  I think he‘s the frontrunner.   I mean, Rudy Giuliani, who I have enormous respect for, would be a terrific vice-presidential candidate, but at the end of the day how he will wear in the primaries remains to be seen.  John McCain is fundamentally a conservative in a conservative party. 

And, Tucker, the Republican Party tasted defeat last week, they didn‘t like the taste.  John McCain‘s the only candidate they have on the horizon who is competitive in places like Pennsylvania and New Jersey and Ohio, and therefore he‘s our strongest candidate. 

CARLSON:  Well, you make a good point that he is fundamentally conservative.  He‘s pro life, he‘s anti-gun control.  I mean on the social issues he‘s more conservative than anyone else in the race, more conservative than Mitt Romney.  But conservatives despise him and I don‘t need to tell you this, since you live and operate in that world.  But maybe for our viewers who may not know, he is really hated, I think is a fair term, among conservative activists.  I‘ve never really understood why.  Why?

STONE:  It‘s an interesting question.  It‘s certainly not based on his voting record in the U.S. Senate.  

CARLSON:  Yes, I know. 

STONE:  Or in the U.S. House.  He‘s a solid dependable conservative, perhaps it‘s the history that he ran against George W. Bush and that he was critical of the religious right.  And I do think that those are—is where most of the animosity comes from is among those members of the religious right. 

On the other hand, we need to win a presidential election, and John McCain is not far from the base of the party.  And if you look at the early primary states, in most places he has a commanding lead over the field today in the early primaries, and you can‘t beat somebody with nobody.  

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  I remember in 2000 talking, having many drinks with one of his guys who was running his campaign.  And he said you know if McCain gets elected, we‘re going to invade four countries by the end of the first term.  This is a guy who‘s joking, half joking, but this is a guy who is a neo con‘s neo con.  I mean John McCain is the only national Republican I‘m aware of calling for more troops in Iraq.  This is at a time when people hate the war. 

STONE:  Yes.  This time he would send the correct number of troops to try to win.  Look, I don‘t think that John McCain is going to have problems in the early primaries when voters focus on his record.   The greater danger, frankly is he has enormous appeal to certain independents and Democrats based on his record as a reformer.  Reform is not an ideological.  A lot of moderates, a lot of Democrats like John McCain because he is fundamentally a reformer.

McCain-Feingold, campaign finance reform, and trying to get special interests influence out of politics.  That is both his strength, but it is also perhaps an impediment in the primary phase.  So the trick for McCain is to be conservative enough to be nominated, which I believe he is, but be moderate enough on reform issues to collect the Democrats he needs to win a general election.  

CARLSON:  But support for the Iraq war is a deal killer for a lot of conservative Democrats and independents.  I mean, he won the New Hampshire primary as you know in 2000 by 19 points and he won it by winning over Democrats and independents in that state.  He‘s not going to win those voters over in a general election in 2008 if he‘s still seen as a guy supporting the war in Iraq. 

STONE:  Except for the war in Iraq may have been over for about a year.  First of all, Mr. Fix It, Jim Baker, is about to employ the George Akin strategy on Iraq.  We‘re going to declare victory and leave.  So I don‘t know where we are on our troop levels one year from now.  The American people will not support this war anymore.  I don‘t expect the war will be raging when we elect the next president. 

CARLSON:  That is a very interesting point.  I think everybody is looking, even people who have hated him for decades on the left is looking to Jim Baker right now to come up with an exit with honor, if that‘s not an oxymoron.  What about Rudy Giuliani?  How is he, he‘s famously liberal on the social issues but he seems to be getting a pretty warm reception from evangelicals even, do you think that will hold in the primaries?

STONE:  Look, he is a historic figure.  He is I think a figure of great admiration in the country because of his role and his strong leadership in the tragedy of 9/11.  I think that he has a celebrity status which is very popular on the mashed potato circuit within the Republican Party.  I think there‘s been very little focus on his actual positions on the issues.  In all honesty, in this race John McCain does not want to be the moderate.  He wants to be the conservative.  He needs a candidate to his left.  Rudy is that candidate.  

CARLSON:  Yes.  

STONE:  If not, then he‘s going to have to make a punching bag out of George Pataki, which would be fun but not very interesting.  

CARLSON:  It would be fun though.  

STONE:  In this case, McCain is the conservative in a race with Rudy Giuliani.  Mitt Romney is trying to find a place to get in here some where. 

CARLSON:  I think that‘s a really smart analysis.  What do you think over on the Senate side, Trent Lott elected minority whip, number two on the Republican side in the Senate, being attacked again as a racist for his comments four years ago at Strom Thurmond‘s 100th birthday party.  Is this smart or bad politics for the Republicans?

STONE:  I think it‘s good politics because Trent Lott is a Goldwater conservative, he‘s a Reagan conservative.  He is a parliamentary master.  He‘s a great legislative strategist and we are now in the minority.  We need somebody who can thwart bad legislation but who also is prepared to work things out to try to move the country forward.  He‘s a man who knows when to fight and when to compromise.  

CARLSON:  And he‘s also popular with Democrats, and people who don‘t live in Washington may not know that.  This is fundamentally a Washington guy who gets along with a lot of people.  

STONE:  Well, the point is that Trent Lott‘s word is good.  He‘s a man of principle, he‘s a man of honor.  He‘s apologized for his unfortunate mistakes.  It‘s ancient history and the Democrats trying to make something of it is an absurdity.  He‘s absolutely the best choice to be the leader of this party or to be the number two man in this case for the part.  We need him.  We need him. 

CARLSON:  And quickly, you may have heard Ray LaHood, Congressman Ray LaHood from Illinois say earlier in the show, watching this Nancy Pelosi business, her backing the wrong man for majority leader is great news for Republicans.  Is it great news or is it just kind of one of these amusing three-day-long mini-scandals? 

STONE:  I don‘t think that it has any lasting impact whatsoever.  She had a close relationship with Murtha, she has paid a political debt.  People I think—the professional politicians in Washington respect someone who pays their debts.  I don‘t think she‘s tarnished at all.  I have little doubt that ideologically she‘s probably closer to Steny Hoyer.  He more accurately reflects the liberal nature of their caucus.  So I think it‘s an inside the beltway story.  A week from now no one will be talking about it.  

CARLSON:  It has been fun, though.  The great Roger Stone, thanks Roger. 

STONE:  Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Still ahead, forget about all the political infighting for just a minute, we‘ll take you behind the scenes at the “Dancing with the Stars” finale when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Here we are still in Los Angeles with a man we found napping under the boardwalk in Venice Beach, Willie Geist. 

WILLIE GEIST:  You‘re three for three.

CARLSON:  I am three for three.

GEIST:  Sunset, roaming with an empty bottle of Jack Daniels, outside the Whisky and go-go, it‘s been a rough week I‘ll admit.  But I think I‘m going to make it out alive.  This will be the last time we talk about your dancing ever in your life.

CARLSON:  I‘m so pleased.

GEIST:  But last night, you did it again Tucker.

CARLSON:  Yes I did do it again.

GEIST:  You regal us, there it is.  One more time.

CARLSON:  I was so into it. 

GEIST:  I don‘t know if you were rusty or what it was, but actually that‘s not that bad. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not looking Willie. 

GEIST:  Please look.  No actually you were not that bad last night.  I think you in a 30 second burst is better than a long routine.  And noticeably absent is the chair which so many analysts have called the downfall of your performance. 

CARLSON:  I loved the chair, the chair, I can‘t recommend chair dancing enough.  It‘s a little less active than conventional dancing, but the margin for error is bigger, you know what I mean. 

GEIST:  Exactly right.  And we were sitting behind actually Emmitt‘s family during the entire show and I have to say most people in that building and perhaps even on the staff were routing for Emmitt Smith to win.  I‘m not saying they influenced the election.

CARLSON:  Perhaps even on the staff?

GEIST:  I didn‘t know we were going public with that.

CARLSON:  I would say Emmitt Smith was yes the local favorite and a great guy.  I had dinner with him one night this week and I couldn‘t have been more impressed by what a decent person he is. 

GEIST:  During the commercial breaks, the crowd was literally chanting Emmitt, Emmitt, Emmitt.  I kind of felt a little bad for Mario.  But in the end I think everybody was happy that Emmitt won.

CARLSON:  Mario is a great guy, but Emmitt Smith was going to win from the beginning I thought.  

GEIST:  The highlight for me by the way, the after party.  We were dancing, most people would be a little self-conscious dancing amongst professionals, I was not.  And I think, I‘m not sure I heard clearly but I thought I heard a producer come up to me and go, season four.  We‘ll see if it pans out. 

Anyway Tucker, speaking at the Latino Leaders luncheon in Washington yesterday, Eva Longoria whom we also saw last night.  Showed off her sense of humor while talking politics to the group.  She opened by saying, “Don‘t think of me as today‘s featured speaker, think of me as your guest worker.” 

Pretty good, ah?  The “Desperate Housewives‘” star then bragged that she made TV history by being the first Latina with a white gardener.  She later told the audience, “It‘s so important that we take care of the unemployed and people who have no place to live.  And I‘m not just talking about Kevin Federline.” 

Now she didn‘t write any of that, of course, but I don‘t know, kind of cute.  So she spoke in DC yesterday and then flew out here because we saw her last night.  Missed the show but she was there to support Mario Lopez.  Too little too late actually. 

CARLSON: The point if there were in fact more guest workers like Eva Longoria, this whole immigration debate would be transformed.

GEIST:  That‘s exactly right.  Wouldn‘t hear from Tom Tancredo quite so much, would we.

Tucker, this one is a little bit ugly.  A hearing in an Ohio courtroom turned into an all out brawl yesterday.  Jason Howard was awaiting a pretrial hearing when he was attacked by the family of a woman he‘s accused of killing in a separate case.  Howard is charged with killing his girlfriend and her three young children. 

He was handcuffed when three members of the woman‘s family jumped him in the courtroom.  It took bailiffs several minutes to stop the attack.  That is a really ugly scene.  He claims he had nothing to do with those murders.  But if you‘re on trial for two separate murders, I‘m guessing there‘s something wrong with you fundamentally.  

CARLSON:  The odds are against you, either that or you‘re the unluckiest man in the world. 

GEIST:  I have a feeling he might have been involved.

CARLSON:  I‘m kind of sympathetic to the family I have to say.  And I know I‘ve endorsed vigilantism on the show before, I‘m not going to do it before. 

GEIST:  It‘s justice man.

CARLSON:  Amen.  Willie Geist.

GEIST:  All right Tucker, see you.

CARLSON:  That‘s the show for today from Los Angeles.  Thank you for watching as always.  Up next “HARDBALL” with Chris, he talks to the new House majority leader, incoming Congressman Steny Hoyer.  We‘ll see you back here tomorrow, have a great night.  

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

END   

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