updated 11/20/2006 11:07:15 AM ET 2006-11-20T16:07:15

Guests: Dennis Kucinich, Timothy Noah, Jim Moran, Chuck Todd, Karen Hanretty, Victor Kamber

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Return to Vietnam.  The president‘s visit to Asia stirs up memories of old conflicts and new questions about America‘s ongoing conflict.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  One lesson is, is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while.

ANNOUNCER:  But how much longer are Democrats back home willing to wait?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO:  It‘s wrong.  It‘s wrong for the debts to keep piling up.

ANNOUNCER:  Meanwhile, the new congressional rulers face tough questions about the speaker-elect‘s ability to lead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The public is going to see right away discord in the Democratic branch when there doesn‘t need to be.

ANNOUNCER:  Can Republicans capitalize from the Democrats‘ embarrassing stumble?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  There‘s now way to recover our majority without recovering our principles first.

ANNOUNCER:  Now, from Washington, Tucker Carlson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show. 

News from around the world today, including Vietnam, where President Bush is attending the Asia-Pacific economic summit.  It‘s his first visit to the country that handed America a humiliating defeat more than three decades ago, and it may or may not have been a good idea given the White House‘s long time aversions to comparisons between Vietnam and the current war in Iraq.  But like it or not, those comparisons were inevitable and they were made.

Here‘s what the president said today about the ongoing war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I would make it beyond just Iraq.  I think the great struggle we‘re going to have is between radicals and extremists versus people who want to live in peace.  And that Iraq is a part of the struggle and it‘s just going to take a long period of time to—for the ideology that is hopeful, and that is an ideology of freedom to overcome an ideology of hate. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  But it will take more than time.  It will also take billions of dollars.  The price tag for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to go higher than the Vietnam War if the White House gets the $127 billion it‘s requesting for the coming year, a request that won‘t be approved if my next guest has anything to say about it.

Dennis Kucinich, who ran for the Democratic nomination for president on an antiwar platform two years ago, wants to cut off funding completely for the war.  He says it‘s the only way to get American troops out of Iraq.

Congressman Kucinich of Ohio joins us today from Capitol Hill. 

Congressman, thanks for coming on.

KUCINICH:  Thanks very much, Tucker.  Good to be with you.

CARLSON:  So you have more than 100,000 American troops in Iraq.  If you de-fund them, give me the short version of what exactly happens.  They go home immediately? 

KUCINICH:  Well, the money is in the pipeline.  You reprogram it, you bring the troops home.  What happens is that we have to remember we started this war as a time of our choosing.  We can end it at a time of our choosing.  The end of the war in Iraq is inevitable.  So let‘s bring our troops home safely, let‘s move the money we have in the pipeline to bring them home. 

We‘re not going to leave them abandoned there.

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second.  I mean, it‘s not entirely of our choosing because we‘re not, as we‘re learning every day, in control of events on the ground in Iraq, we‘re not in control of the civil war, for instance, taking place.  If we pull out, it virtually everyone, aside from you, is saying it‘s going to be even worse, a bloodbath, a humanitarian disaster. 

Do you want to be responsible for that? 

KUCINICH:  There is a civil war going on right now. 

CARLSON:  Right.

KUCINICH:  The casualties that have occurred have occurred because the

U.S. presence is fueling this insurgency and fueling the civil war.  Now,

we have to have—three years ago I said, U.N. in, U.S. out.  We have to

have simultaneously security peacekeepers moving in as we pull our troops,

but pull our troops we must.  It‘s inevitable that this war will be brought

our involvement in this war will be brought to an end, and the time is now. 

CARLSON:  Well, see, I don‘t get that, Congressman, with all due respect.  Your idea is that without the presence of Americans somehow the Shias and the Sunni and the Kurds are going to get along all of a sudden, or... 

KUCINICH:  No, no.  I am not saying that.  I am not saying that.

CARLSON:  ... that the presence of Belgian and Bolivian troops are somehow going to be less offensive than the presence of American troops?

KUCINICH:  Actually—actually, yes.  Actually, yes.  The presence of U.S. troops, we‘re there as occupiers.  And the presence of our troops has served to help foment a civil war.

It‘s made the situation even more dangerous.  We need to bring our troops home. 

First of all, we need to do that because the American people have demanded a new direction.  That direction has to be out.

We cannot stay there.  There are people who want us to stay there.  There are people who would want us to stay there five years, 10 years.  We can‘t do that.  We can‘t afford to stay there. 

You know, beyond all the policy issues, we cannot afford to stay there.  They‘re asking—their going to ask for another $127 billion on top of the $350 billion we‘ve already spent.  Joseph Stieglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, said this war could cost $2 trillion to $3 trillion.

What about our the domestic agenda?  Are we going to let everything go into this—into Iraq? 

CARLSON:  I totally agree.  And I think everybody agrees with you in the broadest sense.  Nobody wants troops in Iraq. 

KUCINICH:  That‘s right.

CARLSON:  I think people just want to do the responsible thing.

You are quoted in that long exchange you had with Amy Goodman, the left-wing host, as saying about the United States, “We should not pursue oil as a matter of national security, using the military to grab oil.”

Do you think that‘s why we went to Iraq, so we could grab Iraqi oil?  And if so, why aren‘t we grabbing Iraqi oil? 

KUCINICH:  Tucker, oil certainly was part of the equation.  I mean, the president of the United States himself has recently made comments with respect to the importance of oil in that region.  I mean, no one disputes that.  So...

CARLSON:  What do you mean?  How much oil are we taking out of Iraq right now, Congressman? 

KUCINICH:  Well, you know, listen, the fact that the insurgency...

CARLSON:  Not one droop, right?  Let‘s be clear.  We‘re not taking any oil, right?

KUCINICH:  Hold on now.

CARLSON:  OK.

KUCINICH:  If you follow the track of the insurgency...

CARLSON:  Right?

KUCINICH:  ... and juxtapose that with the pipelines, and you‘ll see a great similarity.  I mean, it‘s not hard to figure out why. 

CARLSON:  I‘m actually confused...

KUCINICH:  Oil is one of the reasons we are in Iraq.

CARLSON:  OK.  But if it‘s one of the reason‘s we‘re in Iraq, why are we not taking any oil out of Iraq?  That‘s the part I don‘t—that‘s the missing piece in the puzzle.

KUCINICH:  Because the insurgency has made it very difficult for oil to operate in the country.  And by the way, that‘s not our oil.  That oil belongs to the Iraqi people.  Part of a settlement.  And part of what gets us out of there involves a plan where the oil assets of Iraq are put firmly in control of the Iraqi people. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Here‘s the reason I‘m asking you that question.  It seems to me that there are—you know, there are many ways to critique this war, there are many ways to be against this war.  And it is, however, the tendency of the left to read in the worst, most sinister motives into the U.S.‘s actions. 

You know, always the United States, you know, is acting for some horrible, really sinister reason, you know, to grab oil, to control the region, to, you know, spread American hegemony.  I mean, the American foreign policy never gets any benefit of doubt from the left, and I wonder why.

KUCINICH:  Well, you know what, Tucker?  I think we have to have a certain amount of compassion for our president who went—took this country to war, you know, based on information that was not true—now we know that Iraq didn‘t have anything to do with 9/11, had no weapons of mass destruction.  I mean, we have to repair a wrong that was done to the people of that country. 

We cannot stay there.  It‘s inevitable we‘re going to get out.

Now, you know, I put together a bipartisan coalition—you should know this...

CARLSON:  Right?

KUCINICH:  ... with Congressman Paul of Texas, with Congressman Walter Jones.  And frankly, you know, they are not left-wingers.  You know, an American eagle needs two wings to fly, a left and a right wing.  And we have to be able to bring people together, Democrats and Republicans alike, to be able to get out of Iraq.  And I think we‘re moving in that direction.

CARLSON:  You were quoted as saying recently, “War is not inevitable, peace is inevitable.” 

Again, you  must be the only person who thinks that.  It seems to me that American weakness, the perception that the U.S. isn‘t willing to stand up and fight, invites aggression from other countries.  Peace is not inevitable.  War is kind of the natural state.  We bring peace.

KUCINICH:  Well, you know, the idea of war being our natural state really doesn‘t allow for any kind of human evolution.  I mean, the fact of the matter is that we have the capacity for diplomacy.  This administration hasn‘t shown a talent for that.

CARLSON:  Right.

KUCINICH:  Maybe it has it.  Maybe that‘s why they‘re bringing in Mr.  Baker.  But the fact of the matter is, these wars end through people getting along. 

The president is in Vietnam today.  That war ended.  And we have to recognize that we have a capacity to put wars away, that we need to move to a point where war is not inevitable because we pursue the science of human relations.  That‘s what FDR talked about, even though we were in a war at the time that he said it.

We have to realize our capacity to make peace.  That‘s what diplomacy is all about.

CARLSON:  OK.  Well, give me one quick, specific answer.  You‘ve said that our troops shouldn‘t be keeping the peace in Iraq, other people‘s troops, other people‘s soldiers ought to be...

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH:  We need to bring our troops home.  They‘re at risk.

CARLSON:  Right.  To be replaced, as you said just a minute ago, by other people‘s troops, other people‘s kids ought to take up this burden.

KUCINICH:  No.

CARLSON:  How are you going to convince other people to send their kids to Iraq?  I don‘t get that.

KUCINICH:  Because the world—because the United States changes its position in the world.  Instead of a nation over nations, we become a nation among nations.  We work with the world community, and it all involves a broader plan for peace, where we get other nations involved for a commitment for peacekeeping so that we can leave, because our troop‘s presence there has fueled a civil war, and we have to recognize that‘s exactly what happened.

It‘s time to bring our troops home.

CARLSON:  All right.  Boy, I‘m all for getting other people to do it.  I just don‘t know how—I don‘t know how you‘re going to bribe them into it.  But if you can think of a way I‘ll support you.

KUCINICH:  Well, you know what?  That‘s great.  I‘m glad to hear it. 

You heard it here on Tucker Carlson.  He‘s right with me.

CARLSON:  Dennis Kucinich.

Thanks a lot, Congressman.

KUCINICH:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Still to come, they‘re all smiles in public, but the honeymoon apparently clearly over.  So are some Democrats thinking about, in fact, dumping Nancy Pelosi?  We‘ll talk next to one man who says possibly they ought to.

And John McCain inches closer to an official run for the White House.  Can he save the Republican Party?  We‘ll speak to someone who says, yes, he can, single-handedly.

All that when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), INCOMING SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  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, 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:  It sounds pretty appealing, but not everyone is ready to forgive and forget.  My next guest says, “Let Pelosi remain speaker for now.  But let her know that, before the new Congress even begins, she has placed herself on probation.  If she chooses Hastings to chair House Intelligence, that‘s two strikes.  One more strike, even a minor misstep, and House Democrats will demonstrate that they, unlike Speaker-elect Pelosi and President Bush, know how to correct their mistakes.”

Joining me now, Timothy Noah.  He‘s a senior writer for slate.com.  He‘s also the editor of “The Woman at the Washington Zoo,” a really excellent collection of writings by Marjorie Williams, his late wife, a writer for “Vanity Fair”. 

Tim Noah, thanks a lot for joining us. 

TIMOTHY NOAH, SR. WRITER, SLATE.COM:  Thanks for having me.

CARLSON:  To start at the end, can Democrats actually do anything about the fact that Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaker?  Could they dump her? 

NOAH:  Absolutely they could dump her.  They could do it informally, they could do it formally through a meeting of the caucus.  You know, I don‘t think they‘re going to do it tomorrow, but she set a very bad pattern with this first decision to support Murtha even in the face of pretty strong evidence that he was not going to be an acceptable choice and he was not going to be a successful choice. 

CARLSON:  So is your complaint that she is blind to his, you know, ethical lapses, or that she is politically inept?  Is she sympathetic to corruption or just not very good at internal politics?

NOAH:  I think both.  I think part of wielding power, an important part of wielding power, is understanding when it‘s time to back down.  And that‘s been a major criticism I‘ve had of President Bush all along.  And I think Pelosi was mimicking his leadership style.  She was refusing to back down when she was clearly wrong.

CARLSON:  So the idea was that in order to be a strong leader you have to, you know, bull forward even if it‘s unpopular? 

(CROSSTALK)

NOAH:  Yes.  It‘s a very—it‘s a childish notion of leadership.  I mean, the sophisticated understanding of leadership is that sometimes you  make mistakes and you have to step back gracefully.

Bill Clinton was a master at it.

CARLSON:  He certainly was.  He was a master of, in fact, appropriating the other guy‘s side, right?  So he‘d—you know, he‘d be caught doing something, or, you know, make a political miscalculation, and then he would turn and all of a sudden make the other guy‘s position his own.  He was brilliant at it.

Why exactly is Nancy Pelosi speaker?  I mean, if she‘s—if she‘s this inept—and it looks like she may be—why was she elected? 

NOAH:  That is a great question to which I don‘t have an answer.  She beat Hoyer way back when in a race for whip and got an inside track then. 

She has never over the years gotten especially great reviews from political observers.  There‘s been a wrap against her for quite a long time that she didn‘t seem like she was necessarily the best representative for Democrats. 

But I have to say, I assumed a kind of base level confidence...

CARLSON:  Sure.

NOAH:  ... that seems not to be there both in how she behaved towards Murtha, and also this looming question of who is going to run the House Intelligence Committee. 

CARLSON:  That‘s—it‘s always the same with government.  You always think they know more than they do.  They must know something we don‘t, there must be WMD in Iraq.  But it turns out they really don‘t know any more than we know.

What is this about Alcee Hastings?  You have Jane Harman, who really is, I believe, respected by people on both sides as a competent, smart person, basically being bounced out of a position she should have as head of Intelligence.  For Alcee Hastings, a former federal job who lost his job after being impeached, why in the world would Nancy Pelosi be pushing for Alcee Hastings? 

NOAH:  It‘s very mysterious.  I mean, starting with what the basis is of her feud with Jane Harman.  I haven‘t really seen a very concrete explanation of that.  It just seems as though she doesn‘t like here. 

“The Washington Post” said that she thinks she has been too easy on President Bush.  Well, is that a reason to deny a somebody a chairmanship, a committee chairmanship? 

The—and it‘s a very clumsy move to push Harman aside, because the next in line is Alcee Hastings, who has a terrible record, ethical record.  Quite a lot like Murtha‘s actually.

He was—he was a federal judge in Florida, and he was impeached and convicted in the Senate on charges that he had conspired to accept a bribe.  He was cleared of the criminal charge but found guilty by the Senate.  The evidence, though circumstantial, was pretty overwhelming, and the other guy went to jail. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

You have in your peace in Slate today a line I thought was interesting.  You said, “Hastings, who is African-American and therefore has the backing of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus”—and you were pointing to that as one of the reasons, perhaps, that he‘s going to get this position, because he has that backing. 

Is it that simple?  He‘s black so he gets the support of the Black Caucus?  Is that true?

NOAH:  Well, yes.  I think he automatically gets the pro forma support of the Black Caucus.  The question that I don‘t know the answer to is, does the Black Caucus understand that after they make a pro forma fuss of his being passed over, if he‘s passed over, will they—will they really be angry or will they understand that this was one they were going to lose? 

CARLSON:  Right.  Yes.  Well, if Nancy Pelosi is at all good at politics, she‘ll be talking to them right now.  Probably is talking to them right now.

Tim Noah, thanks a lot.

NOAH:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Coming up, now that she‘s lost the battle over Jack Murtha, is Nancy Pelosi still able to govern House Democrats, an unruly group at any time? 

And is Barack Obama about to pass Hillary Clinton as the Democratic frontrunner in 2008?  We‘ve got insight on that.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  I know you‘d like to know what I didn‘t win.  I didn‘t have enough votes.  And so I will go back to my small subcommittee that I have, Appropriations. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  A humbling moment for Jack Murtha, but not as embarrassing as it was for Nancy Pelosi.  How did all this happen?

Joining us now, a man who knows, Congressman Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia.

Congressman, thanks a lot for joining us.

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  It‘s my pleasure to be with you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You were quoted as saying of the many people who apparently

told Mr. Murtha they were going to vote for him but then didn‘t, you said

the problem here is that some of these people you can‘t trust, some of the

some of the—the people in the Democratic Party.  That, you know, these are people whose word you can‘t believe in. 

MORAN:  Well, I don‘t know.  There may have been a dozen or so who told Ms. Pelosi and/or Mr. Murtha that they were going to vote for him and apparently didn‘t.  But it was a secret ballot.  I don‘t know whether that was the case or not.

But I do know, though, that it‘s time to move on.  We have finished our internal business.  It‘s now time to do the public‘s business. 

CARLSON:  You said to the “LA Times,” “There are a number of members who simply can‘t be trusted.”  Something I‘ve felt for many years about your party.  I wonder—I mean, are you uncomfortable serving with people who would lie to Jack Murtha‘s face like that? 

MORAN:  You know, I don‘t know what—what happened.  I do know that Steny Hoyer is well-prepared to be majority leader.  He going to be a superb majority leader.

He got the majority of the Democratic caucus.  And we have got a good team in place, and now it‘s time to move forward.

That stuff, you know, it was internal, it‘s done with.  And Jack Murtha is going to have a great deal to say on the course of the Iraq war as chair of the Defense Appropriations Committee.  And Nancy has the unanimous support of the entire Democratic Caucus.  So, you know, we‘re together.

Tucker, this was really batting practice to get us ready when we step up to the plate against the Republicans. 

CARLSON:  I bet you hope that‘s true, but does she—just to back up one sentence—does she really have the support of the caucus?  I mean, they didn‘t follow her lead when she—when she asked them to vote for Jack Murtha.  Did she not campaign hard enough for Murtha, or did they just not have no respect for her? 

MORAN:  Oh, Tucker, you know better than that.  She has the respect, admiration and full support of the entire Democratic caucus.  That was a unanimous vote.  And if the vote were taken today or tomorrow or any time, she would continue to get the unanimous support of the Democratic Caucus.  And the American people are going to learn why that is the case as events unfold and they see her as the leader that we see her. 

CARLSON:  Is she going to push aside Jane Harman in favor of Alcee Hastings on the Intelligence Committee?  And why would she do that? 

MORAN:  You know, that‘s her decision.  She‘s going to have to make that decision.

The—there is a lot to be said for the tradition of seniority.  Alcee Hastings has earned a good deal of appreciation for all the work that he has done on the Rules Committee particularly, and on the Intelligence Committee.  And Jane Harman has a lot of respect among the members as well. 

That‘s the kind of thing that you look to the speaker to decide.  It‘s her decision to make.  I‘m sure she‘s going to make the right decision.  But I don‘t know what that decision will be as yet. 

CARLSON:  Do you think the fact that Mr. Hastings was impeached as a federal judge and convicted, lost his job, I mean, should—it‘s kind of a big deal.  It doesn‘t happen very often.  Do you think that disqualifies him for running the Intelligence Committee? 

MORAN:  You know, that happened as I was coming into the Congress, so I really didn‘t know Judge Hastings.  And, you know, what I had read was pretty negative.  But boy, what I have seen in terms of his performance in the Congress has been all positive. 

He has earned the respect of his colleagues.  And, you know, it just seems like a very different person than I read about before I got to know him.  And that oftentimes happens with people.

Until you get to know them and you see hem perform directly instead of, you know, through the prism of the media, you don‘t really know who they are.  Judge Hastings is a very capable and I found to be a very good person. 

CARLSON:  He—I have to—I must concede one thing, he is awfully likeable guy.  He is not a caricature.

MORAN:  Yes.

CARLSON:  I agree with that.

What do you think—so Murtha is going to be running Appropriations, of course.  I don‘t know if you heard what your colleague Dennis Kucinich said.  He said if you‘re against the war, why not de-fund it? 

Why wouldn‘t Murtha push to de-fund the war?  That‘s a pretty quick way to stop it.  Do you think he will?

MORAN:  Well, Jack is a committed advocate for our troops.  He is not going to withdraw money that would in any way make them vulnerable to attack. 

He may redirect some of that money, though, so that it‘s not going towards an expanded presence or, let alone, a permanent presence in Iraq, but rather to complete the mission and to use them in a more efficient and effective fashion.  There‘s a disagreement towards the mission, there‘s no disagreement with regard to the fact that they need resources.

And a lot of the resources, in terms of supply, equipment, weaponry and so on have been depleted.  Our military is very much stretched right now. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

MORAN:  And so there may be need to fund it.  But boy, they‘re going to ask for about $160 billion.  That‘s an awful lot of money. 

CARLSON:  It is an awful lot of money.  Well, we agree on that.

Jim Moran of Virginia.

Thanks a lot, Congressman. 

MORAN:  You bet, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Still to come, Rumsfeld‘s replacement visits the Hill.  Will Bob Gates face tough questions as his confirmation hearings begin?

And John McCain says he knows what‘s wrong with the Republican Party. 

Is a return to Reagan-era values the way to win the White House in 2008?

That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, who is the front runner for the GOP presidential nomination?  Some say John McCain but could his hawkish stance on Iraq hurt him two years from now.   Also ahead, one Democrat who just might be able to beat McCain.  We‘ll tell you who it is in just a moment.  Right now here‘s a look at your headlines. 

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  A record day for the Dow gaining 36 points for a first ever 12,342 high.  The S&P 500 closed the day up more than a point.  The NASDAQ down a little more than 3.  New housing construction fell more than 14.5 percent in October, that‘s the lowest level in six years and the biggest drop in 19 months. 

A big debut for shares of the New York Mercantile Exchange, beginning it‘s day as a publicly traded company, the NYMEX ended the day with shares at $133, that‘s up $74 on the day, well above the $59 initial public offering price. 

And it‘s been a wild launch day for Sony‘s PlayStation 3 in the United States, including a fight in Fresno, a stampede in Wisconsin and a shooting in Connecticut.  Sony‘s initial U.S. release just 400,000 units.  Hot item to get hold of.  That‘s it from CNBC first in business worldwide, now back to MSNBC and Tucker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, ® MINORITY LEADER-ELECT:  It‘s an honor to be chosen by your colleagues to be their leader.  I pledge to them to do everything I could to bring our team together and to work hard so that we can earn our way back into the majority.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was Ohio Republican Congressman John Boehner after being elected House Minority leader earlier today.  Boehner was House Majority Leader until last week‘s midterm elections.  Also on the Hill today President Bush‘s pick for defense secretary Bob Gates met with senators for the first time since being tapped for the position.  For more on all this we check in now with NBC‘s Mike Viqueira who is live on Capitol Hill—Mike.

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi Tucker.  Well John Boehner certainly a familiar face.  He was majority leader for the last year after he took over from Tom DeLay when he retired in the wake of scandal.  Boehner now will make the transition from majority leader to minority leader and the man that you saw next to him just a few moments ago was Roy Blunt, he‘s going to continue on as number two as the minority whip. 

Of course everybody trying to get used to life in the minority if you‘re a Republican.  Our political unit has counted 127 Republicans here who will serve in the 110th Congress who have never known life, never tasted the oppression to be in the House minority.  The two were challenged, Boehner and Blunt were, by two conservatives. 

Boehner and Blunt of course known as conservatives but Mike Pence is a Republican from Muncie, Indiana, he is the leader of the Conservative Caucus.  He saw the writing on the wall when a third party candidate or a third candidate dropped out earlier in the week that Boehner was going to win.  John Shadegg is a man who challenged Roy Blunt, he‘s also known as a conservative. 

He was the former head of that conservative caucus.  Both of these men lost decisively despite support from outside the Hill, conservative media, think tanks and interest groups had supported Pence and Shadegg.  But they did lose by wide margins. 

Now meanwhile, over on the Senate side, the president‘s nominee for secretary of defense, Bob Gates is making his way through the usual ritual of courtesy calls that nominees do frequently make when the president nominates them, whether they‘re Supreme Court justices or cabinet secretary nominees.  Today, Gates met with Bill Frist, the outgoing majority leader, Mitch McConnell, the incoming Republican leader as minority leader, John Warner of course and John McCain of the armed services committee and Harry Reid, the Democratic leader. 

Gates is not expected to see a lot of opposition to his nomination.  As a matter of fact, Harry Reid said the other day that they want to hurry up and get on with this, this confirmation process, because the sooner that Bob Gates is confirmed, and we do expect those hearings to begin the first week in December, the sooner that Donald Rumsfeld can leave the Department of Defense.  Of course, Rumsfeld does not have a lot of fans in either the House or Senate Democratic Caucuses Tucker.  

CARLSON:  Mike that made it sound like they could nominate Pol Pot as long as it‘s not Donald Rumsfeld.  So if these hearings begin in the beginning of September, how long do you think it will take for Gates to become the secretary?

VIQUEIRA:  Well probably a few days and maybe a week after that.  It will have to go to the full Senate floor.  The Senate‘s not going to be in for more than two weeks, probably coming in the week of December 4th.  Those hearings to begin December 5th

Let‘s say the confirmation is completed that week and then it will go to the full Senate floor before they leave for the Christmas holidays.  Then we come back January 3rd, it‘s going to be a Democratic ball game when the new Congress is sworn in Tucker? 

CARLSON:  It certainly will be.  Mike Viqueira on the Hill.  Thanks a lot Mike.  Well it‘s been a terrible couple of weeks for the GOP, what should the party do now?  Here‘s John McCain‘s diagnosis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Hypocrisy my friends is the most obvious of political sins and the people will punish it.  We were elected to reduce the size of government and enlarge the sphere of free and private enterprise.  We increase the size of government in the false hope that we could bribe the public into keeping us in office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

CARLSON:  Amen!  For more now on John McCain‘s future, we turn to Chuck Todd, he is among many other things, the editor in chief of the “Hotline,” something that everybody who‘s interested in politics reads every day, he joins us from Washington.  Chuck welcome.  This piece that you‘ve just written how John McCain can save the Republican Party.   How exactly can John McCain save the party? 

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “HOTLINE”:  Well it‘s sort of written, a little tongue and cheek and that is this, it‘s—if you look at the big picture of ‘06 and what the Republican Party‘s problems were, they were with independents and a growing problem out west. 

They‘ve lost the libertarian Republican and in some ways with the clip that you just played of John McCain, he was speaking to that western Libertarian, the original Goldwater Reagan conservative.  And so on one hand, in the middle, the way John McCain appeals to the middle, he‘s going to be somebody that could help the party in ‘08. 

That said, if conservatives can‘t stand him so much, they end up being pragmatic and nominating a guy like Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, well that means that no matter what, the party is going to have a center right nominee, not a very conservative nominee.  So in some way no matter what happens with John McCain, he‘s going to save the Republican Party from going off the conservative cliff.  

CARLSON:  You take this up in your piece, I traveled with John McCain for a full year and I notice this a lot but I never understood it, the right hates, hates John McCain.  John McCain as you point out, he is not so liberal, he‘s more conservative in a lot of ways than the people you just mentioned, Romney and Giuliani.  He‘s against abortion, he‘s against gun control.  Yeah, he‘s certainly hawkish, I mean my God.  Why is he so unpopular with the right?

TODD:  Well it‘s interesting, I sort of left that as an open question.  Tucker I‘ve gotten probably 2 to 300 emails in the last 24 hours, ever since MSNBC posted the column.  They are from conservative explaining why they hate John McCain.  It goes from—it has to do with campaign finance reform, they bring up the gang of 14, they bring up the fact that he wasn‘t supportive of Bush‘s tax cuts. 

It all sort of comes to a summation that they just at a gut level don‘t trust him.  They think the problem is he‘s going to be like his idol, Teddy Roosevelt, who wasn‘t exactly a team player for the Republican Party.  I guess.

CARLSON:  He was only the greatest president in American history though.  You know what I mean.  Here‘s what I don‘t get.  I mean just to get specific about it.  So they‘re mad at him about campaign finance reform, they ought to be mad.  It‘s a travesty, it‘s I think unconstitutional. 

But the president signed it.  Bush signed that legislation.  It‘s law because the president is for it.  They‘re mad at him because of his stand on immigration.  He‘s no more liberal than Bush is.  The short question to my long wind up is this, he is no more liberal than Bush.  Bush though is beloved by the right.  Why is that?

TODD:  Look I don‘t quite get it.  It goes back to the 2000 campaign, look, I‘ve always thought it‘s simply this, “The New York Times” likes John McCain, therefore if the “New York Times” likes a Republican then conservatives don‘t trust that Republican.  Sometimes that may sound a little simplistic, but I think at the end of the day, to me it‘s the explanation that‘s most understandable, that they think, he tries too hard to accommodate, he won‘t stand by a principle or he won‘t do this. 

It‘s blind rage sometimes.  I think if they actually looked at the record, they‘d sit there and say gee, John McCain is more conservative than Mitt Romney has ever thought of being and he‘s certainly more conservative on social issues than Rudy Giuliani will ever be.  

CARLSON:  That‘s for certain and I would say he‘s in some ways as conservative as Bush.  Where is McCain now in the process?  He‘s begun this exploratory committee, is he raising money? I know there are a bunch of different conflicting polls about where he stands now.  How is he seen by the money people on the Republican side, is he seen as the strongest candidate, the most promising? 

TODD:  Well he seems to be the one that‘s the most organized as far as the financial and the donor community is concerned.  I think it will be interesting to see—I‘ve had some pioneers and rangers that people that Bush called, people that raised hundred thousand and two hundred t thousand dollar chunks for the president. 

Say, don‘t be surprised if there are sort of, if McCain sort of tops out at $100 million, doesn‘t quite get to President Bush numbers right away.  That there are going to be some donors that are holding out, seeing if Romney can be a chief alternative or even if Rudy Giuliani will run.  One other thing that I think that McCain, why McCain doesn‘t connect with conservatives. 

He speaks pessimistically, he usually is telling his crowds what‘s wrong where a Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani does this, they speak in these optimistic tones, you know borderline Tony Robinson or Zig Ziegler.  But I‘ve always thought that they make Republicans feel good after they leave a room where John McCain is telling them, you know is delivering the medicine.  He‘s being his straight talk self, but it sometimes comes across too negatively and I wonder if that‘s why these rank and file Republicans just don‘t like listening to him. 

CARLSON:  That is a really insightful point.  McCain always had this line, he always used to close his speeches during the primary in ‘99 and 2000, he‘d say, you know, it‘s always darkest just before it goes completely black.  And on that note, Chuck Todd, thank you.

TODD:  You got it.

CARLSON:  Coming up, could it be the Democrat‘s dream team.  What are the chances of a Clinton Obama ticket in 2008?  That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  McCain, Giuliani, Clinton, Obama, are the shining stars of their party, but a lot can happen between now and 2008.  Could a dark horse throw these races into turmoil.  We‘ll be back in 60 seconds with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  John McCain in ‘08, is he the right man for the job? With the presidential election now less than two years away, certain names are generating some limited excitement among people who follow this stuff.  And McCain is first among them but what about Rudy Giuliani, about outgoing Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. 

New York Governor George Pataki, there are many others.  Who‘s going to get this job?  Joining me now with some early handicapping, Republican Strategist Karen Hanretty joins me from Sacramento.  Karen welcome.

Are you struck by the fact that there is no institutional conservative yet in this race, George Allen probably not going to run for president now that he‘s out of a job.  Is this striking to you that this is a more liberal field than we saw in 2000? 

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Yes, I‘m very struck by what‘s happening.  I think that today was a very good day for John McCain when the Republican House leadership reelected Boehner and Blunt.  There is an absolute vacuum for conservatives right now as far as leadership is concerned.  It‘s not President Bush, it‘s not the House leadership or the Senate leadership. 

I think that this gives John McCain the opportunity to go in there and do what he did yesterday speaking to these conservative groups and using some very interesting language to appeal to conservatives.  If you look at his language and his rhetoric yesterday, he‘s talking about being morally obliged to speak the truth.  He‘s talking about hypocrisy being a political sin. 

And essentially he can go out there and I don‘t know how successful he‘ll be but he can go out there and talk about the need to redeem the GOP and he could quite possibly be—set himself up to be a conservative.  We know Mel Martinez is head of the RNC is not going to do that, he‘ll just be an apologist for the Bush administration.  So, in this vacuum, unless Mitt Romney really steps up and goes after the George Allen voters, I think McCain is making a hard run for them.  

CARLSON:  So McCain is the right-ward candidate.  

HANRETTY:  He could be.  

CARLSON:  It‘s an odd place for him to be.  I mean I‘ve always thought that McCain was more conservative than he got credit for being.  But he is as I was just talking to Chuck Todd about this a second ago, he is despised by Republican activists. Do you think he actually has a shot at winning them over? 

HANRETTY:  He could win them over and I kind of disagree with Chuck Todd and why the conservatives despise him.  I think part of the reason is that in the past, certainly in 2000 when he ran in the primary against George Bush, he was rather condescending toward evangelicals and to the Christian right.  I think it‘s more personality over policy or ideology as to why they don‘t like him. 

But if he can go out there, talk to these conservative groups, start using the rhetoric, the analogies that they understand, look he‘s talking about kicking lobbyists off the floor.  I wouldn‘t be surprised if he‘s out there talking to a church in the next year saying kick the money changers out of the temple.  

CARLSON:  And he should be.  I mean, you know, disliking him because he attacks evangelical leaders, that‘s just not a valid reason to oppose the guy.  Evangelical leaders, and I say this as someone who‘s very sympathetic to evangelicals, a lot of them are completely bankrupt morally. 

HANRETTY:  I agree.  

CARLSON:  I mean they don‘t deserve to lead evangelicals, they‘re a bunch of Ted Haggards.  Good for him for pointing that out.  It doesn‘t make him liberal. 

HANRETTY:  Well, no, it doesn‘t make him liberal but I am telling you that I think he has really rubbed conservatives, he‘s just rubbed them the wrong way.  He just—but that‘s something that—look, what we learned is voters are willing to forgive and I think that the conservative voters are willing to forgive McCain if he‘ll simply go out there and talk their language. 

He doesn‘t have to sound like a born again Christian which George Bush puts himself out there as.  I don‘t know where McCain stands in his personal faith.  I don‘t think he has to go out there real far out on a limb in that area and be something he isn‘t.  But he can talk their language, they understand, and I really think he has an opportunity right now if he‘ll seize the moment to get these George Allen traditional conservative values voters. 

The other thing is, I think that the conservative base is very concerned about national security and is Mitt Romney strong enough on national security.  I think they might see him as weak unless he really puts himself out on that issue.  And Giuliani is not going to get through a Republican primary.  

CARLSON:  I tend to kind of agree with you.  I wonder if McCain—his strength all along has been, at least since 1999, the fact that he draws Democrats and independents, he used them to win by 19 points in the New Hampshire primary in 2000 famously. 

His support for the war it‘s the defining issue of the time and it‘s kind of the defining issue of John McCain‘s career over the past three years.  I mean he is the Huber hawk on Iraq.  He‘s not going to win Democrats and independents with that position? 

HANRETTY:  I am not so sure about this and I disagree with a lot of the conventional wisdom that the election tells us that people want to pull out of Iraq.  What they‘re not happy with is the way the war is being conducted.  They don‘t want the status quo.  John McCain is—and that means—what we don‘t know is what do they want?

It could be one of two things.  It could be—and the voters may not know.  It could be an immediate escalation in troops to get control over Iraq which is really what McCain is offering or it could be pull out in four to six months. 

I think that McCain is going out there and offering an alternative to President Bush and General Abizaid and say, no you are not going to stay the course.  Here‘s what we need to do, put the troops in, let‘s make an attempt to actually win this thing as opposed to walking away with our tail between our leg.  And I think given the opportunity, if in fact—

CARLSON:  I don‘t think that‘s a bad point at all.  I mean people want something different and he can‘t pull back from that position by the way I think without destroying himself.

HANRETTY:  Right.

CARLSON:  Karen Hanretty, thanks a lot for joining us.  I appreciate it.

HANRETTY:  Thanks Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Coming up, Hillary Clinton may be the front runner as of today, but is Barack Obama the Democrats‘ best bet for actually winning the White House.  We‘ll tell you in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  It‘s not just Republicans who are starting to plan for 2008, the Democrats are drafting their blueprints as well.  On the short list so far, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Evan Bayh, as well DNC Chairman Howard Dean.  Oh, say your prayers.  Well can any of them beat John McCain.  Here with his take on that, Democratic strategist Vic Kamber.  Vic thanks for joining us.  How seriously do you take the Barack Obama presidential campaign?

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I think he‘s not sure.  I think

he‘d like to keep the fire alive.  I think—today, I think it‘s there.  I

think within a month when the book tour is over and the book‘s no longer

number one on the best seller list, he‘ll look at it realistically and make

a judgment 

CARLSON:  Why wouldn‘t he run?  I mean another term in the Senate, finishing out this term in the Senate, it‘s not going to make him a more appealing candidate.  What‘s the argument against him running?

KAMBER:  Well I think the reality of what it takes to run.  Today, I mean, for you and I to intellectually have a conversation about running, that‘s one thing.  To actually run, to set up a national organization to raise $50, $60, $70 million dollars, to put a staff together, to go live in Iowa and New Hampshire, et cetera where you haven‘t been, and do that all in the next 12 months and still serve as a United States Senator, I think there‘s a reality here that I don‘t think has set in. 

CARLSON:  They always blow off their jobs as senator.  I mean they all know.

KAMBER:  Let‘s put that aside.  Blow off the job even.  But I‘m saying, the reality of raising the kind of money that has to be raised.

CARLSON:  No, it‘s a big deal.  I agree, but think of it this way, here‘s my theory.  Ok, so Hillary Clinton could definitely win the nomination obviously.  I think she could probably win the presidency.

KAMBER:  So do I.

CARLSON:  But if you think about how you‘re going to feel voting for Hillary Clinton, but you know there is a small group that will feel good voting for her.  Most people, even most Democrats I don‘t think are going to feel great about themselves voting for her, slight contrast. 

KAMBER:  Tucker, you don‘t win if people don‘t feel good.  If you believe she can win, you‘re going to have a lot of people feeling very good.

CARLSON:  Well it‘s a race between—no, it‘s one versus the other.  Democrat will support her over the Republican.  But here‘s my point, I think a lot of people, even independents, will feel, whether they should or not is a separate question, but I think they will feel good voting for Barack Obama, I just think he‘s an intrinsically more appealing candidate.  

KAMBER:  I don‘t disagree, hopefully we‘ll have that chance in 2016, 2020.  I mean I just think right now there are five, six, seven, we‘re blessed with a number of very, very gifted talented candidates who are way ahead in terms of out there campaigning, setting up organizations, raising money. 

I think it would be very tough, while Barack Obama will become an instant media favorite, and has already, and will be high in the polls, just because of the way he‘s being played.  I‘m just not sure how realistic it is to put the organization together.  Now if he puts all his efforts in Iowa, raises just enough to campaign in Iowa, and happens to come out first, overnight he‘ll have instant recognition. 

But whether there‘s enough time then to go to Nevada, New Hampshire, the way the states are, the way its compressed with Hillary Clinton sitting there today with $13, $14 million, Evan Bayh with $10 million, John Kerry with $8 million, these are people who have a leg up and the ability to have that 50, 60, $100 million before the first vote‘s cast.  

CARLSON:  Yeah.  But I mean Howard Dean at this time four years ago had about $37 and he wound up being the best financed guy for a time.  You know, I mean doesn‘t money follow momentum?

KAMBER:  Even a year into where you‘re saying Howard Dean he already had sort of an  organization, a structure, a strategy in place.

CARLSON:  That‘s true.

KAMBER:  Again, I think Barack Obama, I‘m not putting him down.  Listen, I‘m an Illinoisan and I‘m so proud to have both him and Durbin in the United States Senate from my state.  I think they‘re both phenomenal.  And I think Barack Obama is a presidential candidate at some point and hopefully president of the country.  I just am not sure, he could put it together yet.  And I‘m not sure in the end if he were the nominee, as likeable as he is, that his experience wouldn‘t hurt in terms of a race, especially against McCain. 

CARLSON:  Well speaking—given how guilty and squeamish most liberals are about race, if this guy actually does enter the field, you know try to get the Democratic nomination.  The other candidates will be afraid to criticize him, don‘t you think?  Can you imagine Hillary Clinton actually criticizing Barack Obama?  I can‘t.

KAMBER:  I mean if what you‘re saying is correct, are those liberals squeamish about attacking a woman. 

CARLSON:  No, no they‘re not.  That‘s different.  I mean that‘s different.  I just don‘t see your average guilty liberal like Hillary Clinton really laying into Barack Obama.  I just can‘t picture it.

KAMBER:  I am hopeful that the Democrats don‘t have to lay into each other.  I think there are differences on issues, differences on approaches to how you govern, I think that‘s what would come out, the difference between Evan Bayh, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama. 

Those would hopefully be the issues, not who has the best hairdo or who wears the best suit or tie or I don‘t like you because I don‘t like you.  I think it‘s going to be on issues and I think yes, they‘ll attack each other on issues if they differ.  

CARLSON:  I‘ll see it when I believe it.  Either way it‘s going to be savage and great and great for America.

KAMBER:  And great for the press. 

CARLSON:  Amen!  Vic Kamber, thank you.

KAMBER:  Thank you Tucker.

CARLSON:  That‘s our show today.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Have a great weekend.  We‘ll be back here on Monday.  Tune in.

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

END   

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