updated 11/30/2006 11:26:55 AM ET 2006-11-30T16:26:55

Guests: Robin Wright, Ken Timmerman, Christopher Hitchens, Al Wynn, Mary Ann Akers

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  My clock.  Welcome to the show.  I‘m Tucker Carlson.  Our top story today, Iraq.  President Bush arrived in Jordan earlier today for a planned meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a meeting that was abruptly put off after a classified White House memo surfaced that cast doubt on the prime minister‘s leadership.

That memo which was written by national security advisor Stephen Hadley said in part quote, “Maliki‘s intentions seem good when he talks with Americans and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change but the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggest he is either ignorant of what‘s going on, misrepresenting his intentions or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions intro action.”

Clearly some Bush administration insiders are less than 100 percent confident in Iraq‘s government, but are this week‘s planned talks doomed?  NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell is traveling with president bush now.  Now she joins us from Amman, Jordan—Kelly.

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Tucker.  And the president has already called it a night.  He had his meeting and dinner with the king of Jordan, King Abdullah, but what did not happen was the much-anticipated meeting with the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki.  That was on the schedule.  It was expected that the two leaders would get together.  In fact, also with their host, the king of Jordan, that it would be a three-way conversation.  That didn‘t happen.

There was no photo opportunity, no dinner, no nothing.  Now, White House advisors say it will go forward tomorrow, and they give a couple of reasons.  They say that because the prime minister had arrived earlier than President Bush, that the prime minister was able to meet personally with the king.  Those two leaders had time to talk.

And advisors say they felt there was no need to have the meeting tonight.  They say it was not a snub.  They claim that there was no disrespect shown, and that the three leaders involved see no problem with that.

Although reporters have asked many questions about this, we have all wanted to try to get to the bottom of who canceled first and why did this happen, and White House advisors are not providing any answers to that effect.  They just say the leaders don‘t feel they needed to meet tonight, and it will all go forward tomorrow—Tucker.

CARLSON:  There are reports in this country—I‘m not sure if they are speculative—that the Iraqi prime minister is the one who canceled dinner and he did in response to the “New York Times” piece that came out this morning suggesting the White House has no confidence in him.  Are the Iraqis saying anything about it?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, to be honest, I am not in touch with the Iraqis here, but I‘m talking to the White House senior advisors.  They dispute that.  They are not saying that the prime minister canceled the meeting.  They claim that the memo you described was not a factor.

Also, we learned today that the prime—I‘m sorry.  The ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, was going to try to reach out to Prime Minister Maliki to smooth over any concerns he might have had after that memo was publicized.  But from the White House, the view is that wasn‘t an issue.  We‘re trying to get to the bottom of that. 

And when we have pressed White House officials, they are simply not giving us an answer as to why the meeting was canceled beyond what I just mentioned, this notion that the leaders didn‘t need to talk tonight because there will be plenty of time for what they call a robust conversation tomorrow.

CARLSON:  I know, Kelly, that you have already confirmed that that memo, the one we were just talking about that ran in today‘s paper, is genuine.  Obviously a reflection of how the White House feels about Maliki and his authority in Iraq.  Given that, what exactly are he and President Bush going to talk about tomorrow and what does the White House think is going to come out of it?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, what we have been hearing is that the substance of that memo which runs five pages and it lays out a number of steps that the White House feels Maliki should take.  It also lays out some steps that the U.S. could do to try to help boost his capability, that could be sort of a road map for the conversation.

None of the contents of that memo are really a surprise to Maliki, according to officials, but the conversations have been going back and forth.  It deals with things like a need to shake up his cabinet, to replace any people, for example, in the Ministry of the Interior that might be compromised to deal with some of the police units that have been suspect.  Some of those have been accused of taking part in some of the militia attacks.

Those kinds of serious issues about sectarian violence will really be the focus of the conversation.  And then what can the U.S. do to try to support Maliki‘s government?  White House officials have gone to great lengths today to say that the president remains confident in Maliki.  They believe he has good intentions.  But can they help support his intentions to turn into concrete action?  And that‘s the question. 

And so that memo which was written by the president‘s national security advisor after he had some one on one time with Maliki seems to raise doubts, but the White House refutes that and says it‘s simply asking probing questions.  So it‘s all in how you look at it.

The memo seems to raise some questions about the confidence that the White House has in Maliki, but at the same time publicly White House officials are saying that the president does believe that Maliki can get the job done if he gets enough help, and so that help will be part of the conversation tomorrow.

CARLSON:  Kelly O‘Donnell in Amman, Jordan.  Thanks a lot, Kelly. 

Even before today‘s embarrassing postponement of dinner, there were questions about President Bush‘s trip to the Middle East.  But now is it helping or hurting the White House?  Here to answer that among other questions, Robin Wright.  She is a diplomatic correspondent for the “Washington Post.” 

Robin, thanks for coming on.

ROBIN WRIGHT, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Nice to be with you.

CARLSON:  Who is in charge of Iraq?

WRIGHT:  Well, the prime minister of Iraq technically has political power, but one of the things that‘s increasingly obvious is that Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite militia leader, has growing support on the ground.  And “The Washington Post” ran a story yesterday based on the U.S.  intelligence report showing that Muqtada al-Sadr could win if elections were held tomorrow.  Most of the south and probably most of Baghdad.  And that‘s a very important political signal.

CARLSON:  The revelation of this memo in today‘s paper can‘t hurt—can‘t help, rather, the Iraqi government.  Do you think the people in Iraq know about it yet and when they find out do you think it will further destabilize the government?

WRIGHT:  Well, I went to Iraq last month with the secretary of state.  And it was clear then that she had some pretty tough words for them.  She said these are problems that we should not be resolving, the Iraqi government should be resolving them. 

And I was told during private conversations that there was some really strong urging by Condoleezza Rice to the Iraqi leadership, too, on the issues of reconciliation and dealing with the militias to play a more active and ambitious role.  So this message has been relayed to the Iraqi government for the last two months.

CARLSON:  You‘ve got a piece that touches on that this morning in “The Washington Post” that talks about the increasing frustration a lot of people that study this question are feeling that toward the Iraqis that they are not standing up on their own the way they could be.  Do you think that‘s fair?  Are they passive participants in all this?

WRIGHT:  I don‘t think they are passive at all.  I think this is a very fragile government.  That the United States has very high expectations of what they are capable of.  We went in and dismantled their army.  And we found it very difficult to rebuild a new one that is capable, that has experienced leadership.  That‘s a tough thing to do. 

But it is clear that within Washington, among troops on the ground in Iraq, that at many levels there is a growing focus on what the Iraqis have not been able to do.  And this I think is the real point of tension that we will see play out tomorrow in the meeting between Bush and Maliki.

CARLSON:  What have they been able to do?  There is so much propaganda.  What are the real successes?  What have the Iraqis stood up and done for themselves that‘s admirable?

WRIGHT:  They voted.

CARLSON:  Right.

WRIGHT:  They got out and voted three times.  They wrote a constitution.  They have held together as a nation despite the strong Kurdish desire for independence.

They have—you know, you‘re basically creating a state from scratch.  And that‘s not an easy thing to do where there is no democratic tradition in a region where there is no democratic influence.  It‘s much harder than it was in Eastern Europe or Latin America or even in Africa, because there is a very different way of thinking.  There is a different cultural heritage.  And so, you know, we—and sometimes it‘s a clash of expectations that‘s playing out now.

CARLSON:  The plan or the notion floating around pushed by Senator Biden most notably of splitting Iraq into three autonomous or semi autonomous regions, does that have support in Iraq?  And if so, from whom?

WRIGHT:  Look, I think the Shiites and the Kurds particularly are looking for a federal arrangement which gives them a great deal of autonomy over their own provinces.  The problem is they are the two regions that also have oil.  And the Sunnis rightly fear they may not get a fair share of the resources of their country.

And that‘s the issue I think that exacerbates all of this.  I think that most Iraqis still think of themselves as Iraqis.  They may be first Shiite, Kurd, Turkman, the various ethnic groups in the country, but there is still, I think, a strong Iraqi identity.  And it may collapse over the next year but it hasn‘t collapsed yet.

CARLSON:  All right.  Robin Wright of “The Washington Post.”  Thank you very much.

WRIGHT:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Still to come, you have got mail from the president of Iran.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has some harsh words for the White House in open letter to the American people, which among other things is very long and unspeakably weird.  We‘ll show you excerpts.

And the field of Republican presidential hopefuls is narrowing.  Will the conservative wing of the party be shut out?  That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  You may not have received your copy yet, but the president of Iran sent an open letter to the people of America, you and me.  In it, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urges Americans to reject U.S. foreign policy, saying in part, quote, “Now that Iraq has a constitution and an independent assembly and a government, would it not be more beneficial to bring the U.S. officers and soldiers home to spend the astronomical U.S.  military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people.  As you know very well, many victims of Katrina continue to suffer and countless Americans continue to live in poverty and homelessness.”

What a pompous jerk.  So what is this all about?  What has America‘s new pen pal got up his sleeve?  My next guest is prepared for those questions.  He is author of “Countdown to Crisis, the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran.”  Ken Timmerman is also the executive director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. 

Ken Timmerman, thanks for joining us.

KEN TIMMERMAN, FOUNDATION FOR DEMOCRACY IN IRAN:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  So what is the point of this?  In the first part of it, Ahmadinejad sucks up to the American people.  We‘re all freedom loving.  You‘re decent, you‘re wise.  This does seem like a P.R. appeal to the masses in this country.  Could it really be that?

TIMMERMAN:  Well, I have got an analysis of this up at newsmax.com.  And I think part of this was clearly written by his P.R. people up in New York.  And that‘s not the part we ought to be concerned about or listening with.

He says we should abandon our support for Israel, we should support the poor, suffering Palestinian people and on and on.  I think you have to look instead at the language that he uses.  Twelve times in this letter, Ahmadinejad talks about justice and he talks about America‘s support for injustice.  In fact, at one point he says the Bush administration is supporting darkness, deceit, lies, and distortion.  These are Islamic terms.  He is essentially summoning us to take and adopt Islam or die.

CARLSON:  It‘s very much reminiscent of the dispatches you get once in a while from Osama bin Laden, in that this does appear to be an effort to win over public support, though.  Do the Iranians really believe there are lots of Americans waiting to hear the message of Iran and Shiite Islam and convert?

TIMMERMAN:  No, Tucker.  This is not an attempt to convince or to persuade.  It is a warning.  It is simply—it is a summons.  It is a warning.  You have been forewarned is what he is saying.  If you do not accept Islam, we then have a hunting license, so to speak, to murder Americans.  That‘s really what this is all about.  This is justifying the murder of Americans for Iran by Islamic terms.

CARLSON:  It also seems like Iran is trying to convince the United States, he makes an appeal to newly elected American lawmakers in this letter, to get out of Iraq.  Iran, of course, has obvious motives for wanting the U.S. to get out of Iraq.  It wants to control Iraq, at least the southern portions of it.

TIMMERMAN:  Right.  There are a lot of silly things in this letter and that‘s certainly one of them.  He appeals to the Democrats in Congress.  Again, the same kind of thing.  Adopt my agenda.  Get out of Iraq.  Dump your support for Israel.  Allow the Muslims to destroy Israel.  Or else he says to the Democrats, or else you‘re going to lose power.

Much more important, Tucker, is to look at that Koranic injunction at the very end of the letter.  And what he actually says, again, it‘s interesting.  We should look at the text.  There is a part he talks about repentance.  If America repents, everything will be OK.  What he doesn‘t tell you—and this comes from a Sura called al Kassas (ph), the narration.  What he doesn‘t tell you is what happens if you don‘t repent.  And if you don‘t repent—and this is what he is warning us about—you will be destroyed.

That‘s what his message is.

CARLSON:  You‘re SOL at that point.  See, every time I read a dispatch from Ahmadinejad or anyone in the Iranian government, it‘s always at least in part an attack on Jewish people.  It‘s almost that they can‘t control themselves.  In here he says, “They,” Jewish people, “have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors.”  The Jewish media conspiracy.  Can he not control himself?  Why would you put that in a letter?

Who is he trying to—who is talking to?

TIMMERMAN:  This is straight out of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”  This is the anti-Semitic play book.  Ahmadinejad believes in it.  And he finds support for this in the Koran as well.  And he will choose—pick and choose Koranic verses to support this view.

There are many, many radical Islamic clerics who talk about Jews as the sons of monkeys and pigs.  Ahmadinejad himself has said that the Holocaust never took place.  He is calling on us essentially to allow Muslims to wipe Israel of the map.  He calls on America to pull its support, to withdraw its support for Israel.

This is the silly side of the letter.  I think silly and obviously condemnable.  But this man is not the Hugo Chavez of the Persian Gulf.  He‘s about to have his finger on the nuclear trigger.

CARLSON:  Yes.  I don‘t think he‘s going to get very far with this letter.  Kind of counterproductive in my view.

Ken Timmerman, thank you very much.

TIMMERMAN:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Coming up, the White House is running out of options in the Middle East, but is it already too late to avert disaster?  And can‘t we all just get along?  Why incoming Senator Jim Webb of Virginia reportedly said he is tempted to beat up the president.  The story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  How bad are things in the Middle East?  “Vanity Fair‘s” Christopher Hitchens puts it this way, quote, “It‘s becoming more dangerous to be a friend of the United States than an enemy.”

Is it too late to salvage something decent out of the increasingly chaotic situation in Iraq and the surrounding countries?  For the answer to that question, we are joined now by Christopher Hitchens from Washington. 

Christopher, thanks for coming on.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, “VANITY FAIR”:  Yes.  Thanks for having me.

CARLSON:  How bad is it when the American installed prime minister of Iraq snubs the American president as al-Maliki apparently did in Amman today.

HITCHENS:  Let‘s not call him American installed.  That‘s not quite fair.  I mean, he ...

CARLSON:  You‘re right.  That‘s right.

HITCHENS:  He is part of the first electoral process that Iraq has ever had.  Although it‘s degenerated into a way of registering your sectarian views, not unknown in other countries, by the way, but much more tragically in Iraq.  He is not a puppet and this is unfortunately a way perhaps of proving it.

CARLSON:  I guess my point is I wish he were more of a puppet.  Isn‘t it a shame he is not considering all of these Americans have died to secure the environment for democracy?

HITCHENS:  I‘d rather put it like this.  The president of Iraq who I know slightly, Jalal Talabani, a heroic Kurdish resistance fighter who has had his own army fighting against Saddam, doing our fighting for a large part of the time is not a puppet either.  But he and many of his people really believe that the United States did a great thing.  In emancipating Iraq from Saddam Hussein and are willing to fight for it themselves.

My problem is this.  Do they know we feel the same way about them?  I make this point also about Lebanon.  The people who believe that American troops are the problem will have a hard time explaining to me how it is that in Lebanon this is an attempt to cease-fire up sectarian hatred and warfare as well with no American soldiers there to try and bring people into confessional hostility.

And we sometimes read the Lebanese government as American backed as well.  What I want to know is where is this backing?  If we can‘t stick up for Lebanon which is practically an extension of Europe into the event, where it has a free press, relatively modern politics institutions and so on, been through a hell of a lot but come through.  Now a playground for death squads from Syria and Iran unpunished.

If we can‘t say we can defend and help its government for this kind of thing, well, then we are looking at everyone in the region deciding Ahmadinejad will be here and Assad will be here and al Qaeda will be here long after the Americans have sailed away, so let‘s make our adjustments now.  Why wouldn‘t they?

CARLSON:  That‘s a solid point.  Though could you say, the Lebanese government was pounded and destabilized by Israel this past summer with the full blessing of the United States government.  You couldn‘t really say we‘re supporting the Lebanese government, could you?

HITCHENS:  We didn‘t defend it from that either.  I should have added that, of course.  I was talking about the most recent campaign of assassination of Lebanese political leaders.  But yes, I mean, the failure of the United States to—well, let‘s put it this way—worse in a way, outsourcing everything to the Israelis in the area doesn‘t make us look like a proud superpower either.  I‘m putting this minimally, OK.

Then among the Palestinians, why don‘t we just finish up.  You remember King Abdullah‘s remark over the weekend that there will be three civil wars in the region by this time next year if we‘re not careful.

The other one is the Palestinians.  Again, there are no American forces in Gaza, but the sectarian gangsters and militias and religious nut cases are still having it all their own way there.  If they start to think about it and they also get support from Syria and Iran.

If you look at it like this, we have to decide whether we‘re going to blame ourselves or the incredible ruthlessness, pitylessness, unscrupulousness of our enemies, and whether we can bear to look in the face an enemy that ruthless.

CARLSON:  I would be happy, I think, and I think it would be fair to blame our enemies.  I wonder, though, is it worth going through the paces, the kind of masquerade of creating a democracy in Iraq when maybe everybody would be better off with a benign strong man.  Why not just back one of those?

HITCHENS:  Either a benign strong man if such could be found.  It‘s not as if we have got one and we have decided not to deploy him, right.  We had one in our pocket we could produce but we just think that wouldn‘t quite be fair.  Not exactly.

That‘s what we very nearly have in Afghanistan.  We did have the charming Mr. Karzai who is not exactly a strong man but a credible person.  Obviously very much dependent, at least for his accession to power on coalition support.  Again, the nihilists are at work in Afghanistan, too. 

The Taliban have reinfiltrated with help from Pakistan just as before.  And we keep talking to the Pakistanis as if we were James Baker and had always been and they were Syria and Iran and were more or less dictating terms and curling their lips at us.  This is the worst of both worlds, in other words, Tucker.

The United States gets the reputation around the world of being a ruthless empire, which is willing to use deadly force at all times.  Hates all Muslims.  Doesn‘t care about anything but its own interests and objectives.  And the reality is that it‘s shame faced and halfhearted and indecisive.

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.

HITCHENS:  It‘s a really terrible situation to be in.

CARLSON:  We‘re not ruthless enough but everyone thinks we are. 

Depressing.  More with Christopher Hitchens in just a minute.

Still to come, the latest on the president of Iran‘s open letter to Americans.  Is this someone we ought to be negotiating with?  And who is he talking to anyway?

And the Nancy Pelosi-Alcee Hastings dustup.  Will anything going right for the incoming speaker of the House?  Someone you could almost start to feel sorry for.

More on that in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  A moment ago we told you about the long, strange letter from Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  It was addressed to you, the concerned American citizen.  What does it mean?  Joining us now with answers “Vanity Fair‘s” Christopher Hitchens from Washington. 

Christopher, who was this letter written to? 

HITCHENS:  Well, I think you‘re right.  It‘s supposed to be an offer to us all.  It‘s actually based on, I think, as most of Mr. Ahmadinejad‘s statements are, a letter written by Ayatollah Khomeini to Mikhail Gorbachev during the years of the decline of the Soviet Union, where the Ayatollah decided to pen a letter to the USSR, saying have no fear, help is on the way, Islam is the solution.  We will replace you as the great alternative to the failure of western liberal democracy.  This is just a recycling of that.  It is an implied threat, of course, as the world is in the original on this one. 

CARLSON:  I‘m just struck that in everything you see come from the government of Iran there is anti-Semitism, which has got to be among the most off-putting things in the western world.  Most Americans, western Europeans see anti-Semitism and they no they don‘t—whatever it is, they don‘t want anymore of it.  Why exactly—Can they not control themselves, is that why they include these attacks on the Jews?  Or is this part of a strategy?

HITCHENS:  No, I think it‘s as necessary to them as, I have to say, it once was to a lot of people in the west, especially the more extreme Christians.  The fact of the matter is that both the holy books of the Christian and the Muslim religions record the first encounter they had was with the Jews who didn‘t—who weren‘t, rather, very impressed with either the prophet Jesus or the prophet Muhammad.  And that‘s not going to be forgiven.  It‘s a religious problem.  It‘s a problem of believing in any of this theological nonsense in the first place. 

I noticed that your previous guest, Mr. Timmerman, who I very much admire, said it reminded him of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  Actually, it isn‘t that much like that, but the Protocols are available now freely on, for example, the Hamas Web site and in many other parts of the Muslim world. 

You could, if you like, consider that to be encouraging.  In that, if they had a long, long anti-Jewish tradition of their own, they wouldn‘t have to be stealing it from Russian Orthodox Christians and German Fascists.  But I suspect that that‘s a pretty empty consolation. 

CARLSON:  So you think anti-Semitism is intrinsic to their theology? 

I mean there‘s no separating it out from their politics?

HITCHENS:  Oh, no, there is absolutely no point in it without someone to hate and without someone that also would explain the ruin and failure that they have brought on their own societies.  The reason why we had to intervene in Iraq and the reason why we were right to do so, not to go over all the arguments again, was among other things this, a failed state, as Iraq was becoming, as well as a rogue one, isn‘t going to blame its own failure on itself, any more than Afghanistan would have done or Iran does. 

When they try to run society out of holy books and with preachments and sermons and rants, everything grinds to a halt, as you can see.  But do they blame that on themselves?  No, they say it‘s a Jewish crusader, Zionist conspiracy that means the lights don‘t on and the children can‘t read and everyone‘s teeth are falling out.  And so they have to project the violence out, which is to explain it like that.  That‘s why we can‘t be indifferent about failed states anymore, if we ever could. 

CARLSON:  No, it‘s pathetic. 

HITCHENS:  The easiest and cheapest way of doing that, and the one that is most easily picked up by the half educated or the completely ignorant, is the idea of a secret Jewish world conspiracy.  Of course, it‘s an old tried and tested means of demagogy. 

CARLSON:  So if—Iran wants us to get out of Iraq because Iran wants to control Iraq, we are on the way out of Iraq, for good or ill.  I think we‘re leaving, we‘re running away.  Should we attempt to neutralize Iran before we go, because our exit will make them more powerful inevitably, don‘t you think? 

HITCHENS:  Well, there are those, including some among the dreaded neo-cons, who say that Iran was the problem in the first place.  Of course, if the United States was the hapless puppet of Israel that the reactionaries say that it is, it would have gone for Iran first because that‘s the one the Israelis have always worried about. 

Here is the situation.  It‘s not us this time.  It‘s the European Union, the U.N., and the International Atomic Energy Authority that have caught Iran cheating on weapons of mass destruction, lying about every agreement they have ever signed, cheating on all the inspections.  All of that, it‘s a clear-cut case. 

So we can do one of two things.  We can either say—actually, three

We can either say fine, that was clever.  You managed to plagiarize nuclear weapons from other people‘s designs and from pirating illegal materials, and good luck to you.  Or we can say we won‘t have it and we‘ll rally the international community to stop it.  It doesn‘t look very likely now, does it? 

CARLSON:  No, it doesn‘t at all. 

HITCHENS:  No, or third is we can make an across the board approach to Iran, saying look, we have lots of things to discus and it‘s time we discussed them all.  But we have to insist that for them to come to the table they drop the covert nuclear program.  But I have one suggestion I‘d like to make if you permit. 

CARLSON:  Yes, if you could give it to me in 15 seconds. 

HITCHENS:  Yes, I can.  Iran has an earthquake coming like Christmas, like a heart attack, a huge one.  It‘s been predicted by every knowledgeable seismologist.  It‘s coming.  They are doing nothing about it.  They are wasting all their money on, among other things, burying uranium facilities, which will be great when an earthquake hits.  We know a lot about seismology.  We can talk to the Iranian people, back to them, over Ahmadinejad‘s head. 

We don‘t have to do it by replying to him.  We can say look, we can help you in this.  We can help with you everything else, including peaceful nuclear power.  But you have to know that your leaders are lying to you and leading you into war and confrontation.  And that we‘re willing to be patient on this and fraternal, but we‘re not willing to be black mailed. 

CARLSON:  No, I think what you say is you either stop your nuclear program or we will bring down an earthquake upon you using god‘s wrath.  Then when it hits, they will know. 

HITCHENS:  Well, of course, if an earthquake came to Iran now, it would be blamed on the—on people not praying.  That‘s what they have done in the past.  You think you‘re kidding.  That‘s what they will say.  They will say it‘s the wrath of god.  But we know about seismology.  We know better.  We shouldn‘t be ashamed to say so.  And we could help them. 

CARLSON:  Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair, thanks a lot, Christopher. 

HITCHENS:  Thanks for having me. 

CARLSON:  Well, just under two years to go before our next presidential election, the field is shrinking before it even has a chance to grow.  Senate majority leader Bill Frist announced today he will not run for president two years from now.  It makes him one less person other Republican hopefuls, like Rudy Giuliani and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback have to worry about. 

Joining me now with more on that and President Bush‘s awkward exchange with the Virginia Senator elect Democrat Jim Webb, Roll Call‘s Mary Ann Akers. 

Mary, welcome. 

MARY ANN AKERS, ROLL CALL:  Hey, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  What is this—Did anybody seriously expect Bill Frist to run? 

AKERS:  I think some people did expect—I mean he clearly gave every indication that he was going to run, so I think it was somewhat of a surprise, but look, frankly, there‘s no way he could have been a viable candidate after his party losing the Senate under his stewardship. 

So it would have been very difficult for him to get in, in 2008.  And if you notice his speech today, he left some room open, saying he is taking a sabbatical from political life right now, I think is the way he put it, or for now.  That leaves some room for him to get back in, in maybe 2012. 

CARLSON:  So where are all the conservatives?  Typically there are a lot of conservatives who run for president on the Republican side, at least as far as I recall.  I don‘t see too many now.

AKERS:  Well Sam Brownback, obviously, is one of the leading conservatives who is one of the potential contenders in 2008. 

CARLSON:  Right, central contenders is a little strong, wouldn‘t you say? 

AKERS:  Well, a contender, right, how do you define contender, but candidate, we‘ll say. 

CARLSON:  Sure, yes, I mean, he is—Gary Bauer ran, too.  And nothing against Senator Brownback or Mr. Bauer, both great guys, who I agree with by and large on most things, but they are not going to win.  So where is the serious conservative—the serious contender, who is taking up the mantle of Reagan, etc, I mean, the guy you have always had in every primary going back 25 years.  He‘s not here.  

AKERS:  Well, no, he is really not.  If you look at what McCain has done, I think fairly successfully, is try and reach out to the conservative wing of the party.  He seems to be doing that quite well and he seems to have a lot of support now.  Maybe they are not in love with him, they haven‘t been. 

But I think he is going to have a lot better shot than say Rudy Giuliani, who, of course, is pro-abortion rights and gun control and all these other things that conservatives are never going to accept, ever.  So I think that John McCain is much more well positioned on that front. 

CARLSON:  So Jim Webb, senator-elect from Virginia, Democrat, shows up at the White House, has a very testy exchange with the president.  And then according to one friend considers beating up the president.  Who would win that fight, do you think? 

AKERS:  Well, I think it was quite a smack down.  I mean, if you saw the exchange or at least saw the transcript of the exchange, both men really had their back up.  It was something else.  You have to respect Jim Webb.  You have to respect Mr. Webb for not getting in that reception line to get his picture taken with President Bush after criticizing him so harshly on the campaign trail.  It would have been—it really would have been a little phony on his part.  Of course, every other freshman—

CARLSON:  Wait.  I like Jim Webb, and I, you know, respect him.  I think he‘s smart.  He is more conservative than Bush in a lot of ways, but why did he go in the first place if he is so opposed to Bush? 

AKERS:  Well, that‘s a good question.  But of course you want to make face time with the president.  You want to be seen at these things.  It‘s important to do that.  But at least he didn‘t take that further step and get in line to have his picture made.  And then when the president finally caught up with him at the party and asked how‘s your boy, Mr. Webb said I want them to come home.  Well, the president said, well that wasn‘t my question, how‘s your boy.  Mr. Webb apparently said well, that‘s between me and my boy, pretty tough. 

CARLSON:  Yes, pretty tough.  Do you think—now that he has conceded

admitted in public that he wants to beat up Bush, do you think the Secret Service is going to call him? 

AKERS:  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think he‘s going to be much of a threat at the White House. 

CARLSON:  That would be great theater.  Thank you so much Mary Ann Akers of “Roll Call.”  I appreciate it. 

AKERS:  You‘re welcome.

CARLSON:  Well Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida loses his bid to chair the House Intelligence Committee, but responds with one of the best statements, certainly the most memorable statements in recent history.  What does his snub mean for Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the haters in Congress?  We‘ll tell you. 

Plus if you really want to hurt Kim Jong-il, take away his iPod, his Cognac, his Harley Davidsons.  We‘ll tell you about President Bush‘s new luxury sanction plan against North Korea.  That‘s all when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

CARLSON:  Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not turning to impeach federal judge and seven-term Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida to head the House Intelligence Committee.  For almost two weeks, Pelosi pleaded with her fellow House members to ignore Hastings‘ checkered past of bribery allegations, but yesterday she surprised everyone with her decision to pass over Hastings, to which Hastings said, “I am obviously disappointed with this decision.  I will be seeking better and bigger opportunities in a Democratic Congress.  Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet.”

Joining me now to interpret, Democratic Congressman from Maryland Al Wynn.  Congressman Wynn, thanks for coming on. 

REP. AL WYNN (D), MARYLAND:  My pleasure.  Good to be with you. 

CARLSON:  So Mr. Hastings is saying that Mrs. Pelosi is a hater? 

WYNN:  No, I think what he is saying is there may be some haters behind the scene who really pressured Ms. Pelosi on this issue, and I think he‘s basically saying hey, don‘t worry, I will be OK.  There are other opportunities.  I think he basically approached it in a pretty positive way, all things considered. 

CARLSON:  Yes, so there are a lot of haters in the Democratic caucus, Alcee Hastings is saying.  Who are they, do you think? 

WYNN:  Well, there are haters in the sense, and that‘s a colloquialism, they are haters in the sense that that they opposed Alcee based on some things that happened a long time ago.  They work behind the scenes, and he‘s basically saying, look fellows, I understand what you did, but we‘re going to move forward. 

CARLSON:  Buy some things that happened a long time ago, you mean the fact that he was impeached and removed from the federal bench by the Congress? 

WYNN:  Well that, but you have to keep in mine he was also acquitted in a court of law.  So he‘s pointing that out that look, I was acquitted.  There is a lot of evidence.  He provided the evidence to members of Congress to show how he was acquitted and so I think he made a very strong case.  I‘m a good friend of Alcee‘s.  I‘m sorry that he didn‘t get the position, but we do have to move on. 

CARLSON:  What a disaster, though.  I mean here Democrats have every reason to celebrate, totally legitimate, an electoral victory is the most legitimate kind of victory.  And Democrats had a lot of them earlier this month.  And then within about 24 hours Nancy Pelosi is in a fight with this person, that person, the Jack Murtha debacle, this.  I mean, talk about bad management.  Are you worried about her running the House? 

WYNN:  Not at all.  I mean, I think we can‘t overreact to this situation.  Whenever you‘re reorganizing, moving into the majority, there are going to be bruised feelings.  There are going to be winners and losers.  We understand that.  I think we‘re mature enough to accept the fact that everyone can‘t be a winner, everyone won‘t be the committee chairman or the majority leader and we‘ll move forward. 

We‘ll have some disagreements, we‘ll have some fights, we‘ll have some brawls.  But our main focus is the agenda.  We have 100 hours in which we are going to show the American people that there is a real difference and we‘re going to pass some important legislation, like increasing the minimum wage and addressing the 9/11 Commission recommendations.  So we understand that these things will happen, but it‘s not a disaster, so to speak. 

CARLSON:  Well, it does—I mean, you‘re right, of course, it‘s not a disaster in any historic sense.  A hundred years from now, all this will be forgotten, of course. 

WYNN:  A year from now all this will be forgotten. 

CARLSON:  You‘re absolutely right.  It does give you, though, a window into Nancy Pelosi‘s management style.  And it kind of makes you worry if you‘re a Democrat.  I mean politics is about understanding what you can do and only shooting for the things that are possible.  Here you have two examples where Mrs. Pelosi has put herself right out there and said I want this and then not gotten it, not had the caucus behind her.  Does she know what she is doing?  It doesn‘t sound like she does.

WYNN:  I think she definitely knows what she is doing.  She has made some tough calls.  She has been very loyal to her friends.  She has tried to accomplish some things.  She hasn‘t necessarily won them all.  But I think that without question she will win most of them.  She is showing a seriousness of purpose, a discipline, a loyalty, and a toughness.  That‘s the key thing. 

Running in the majority or managing the majority is not easy.  She is certainly up to the task.  She has shown the correct temperament.  It‘s not going to be always smooth sailing.  There are going to be bumps along the way.  But I think all of us are very confident in Nancy‘s management.  She got us here, and I think we‘ll be very successful under her leadership. 

CARLSON:  You said that the focus of the new Democratic Congress will be on issues, on getting your ideas enacted into law.  One of those issues, of course, was ethics reform, the idea that the Democrats were going to sweep out the corruption of the Republican Congress and bring about a new day. 

Does it strike you as ironic then that Mrs. Pelosi wanted to put Alcee Hastings in such a sensitive position, a guy, you know, maybe he was innocent, maybe he not, but he was impeached and thrown out of his job.  It doesn‘t imply a guy who did nothing wrong, does it? 

WYNN:  Well, the courts of law really determine that.  The courts of law determine that he was innocent, they acquitted him.  So that has to carry a great deal of weight.  I‘m not sure that this really cast any light on the ethics issue that we‘re going to be debating in the future, which really focuses on the relationship between the lobbyist community and members of Congress, and that‘s where we want to devote our attention.  This is pretty much a side bar.  The real issue is we‘re going to clean up the Congress.  We‘re going to show the American people the difference in Democratic ethics. 

CARLSON:  Boy, I mean, this does seem like the difference in Democratic ethics.  I mean trying to put Alcee Hastings in that position.  I mean, it‘s like, Al Capone was never convicted of organized crime either. 

It doesn‘t mean he wasn‘t a gangster.

WYNN:  Well, they got him for taxes.  But the thing is, in fairness, Alcee was next in line.  Jane Harman was subject to term limits.  Alcee was next in line.  So it wasn‘t as though Nancy said, look, I‘m going to twist everybody‘s arm for Alcee.  She said look, Alcee Hastings was next in line.  The Congressional Black Caucus is supporting him, other people are supporting him.  He has an outstanding record, in terms of working on national security issues.  He would be a fine chairman. 

There was push back from other sectors, people in the media, other members of Congress.  It didn‘t work out.  She made the tough decision.  I think we‘re prepared to move on.  I think Alcee will continue on the committee.  Alcee will also serve in international roles, as he has done before, and will be a major player in terms of national security.  He just will not be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. 

CARLSON:  All right, Al Wynn of Maryland.  You know, you ought to be Speaker of the House.  You‘re a lot smoother than Nancy Pelosi.  That‘s true. 

WYNN:  I‘m not touching that. 

CARLSON:  Yes, well you should be.  Al Wynn, thanks very much. 

Danny Devito samples the holiday punch and then goes on national television.  We‘ll tell you why Barbara Walters wasn‘t laughing about his slappy performance on the View today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  You think you know what happened today, but hold your horses.  We haven‘t heard from Willie Geist.  Here he is.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, we have already covered Ahmadinejad, time for the other nut job.  You know who I‘m talking about, Kim Jong-il.  We may not be able to do anything about North Korea‘s nuclear program, but the Bush administration is taking new steps to dramatically reduce Kim Jong-il‘s capability to listen to downloaded music. 

The U.S. government has proposed sanctions on lists of luxury items favored by the dear leader, including iPods, seen there.  Harley Davidson is also on the banned list, as are many expensive sports cars and even jet skies. 

Kim Jong-il, as we know, loves the liquor.  Hennessy XO Cognac is his drink.  The United States hopes to deprive him of that too.  I don‘t think this is going to effective.  I get the point, annoy him, but I have a feeling he is going to be able to get his hands on an iPod.  And also he is a very, very resourceful man.  Remember, when he wanted a movie made, he kidnapped a director and an actor from South Korea and had them moved to North Korea for eight years to make movies.  Kim Jong-il finds a way, I guess, is my point. 

CARLSON:  He can make his own BSOP Cognac, I have the feeling. 

GEIST:  Tucker we all know about Ron Jeremy the porn star, but what about Ron Jeremy the man?  What makes the hedgehog tick, Tucker.  We‘ll find out when Jeremy offers us a rare look at the private man in his upcoming memoir “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Horny Women, Hollywood Nights and the Rise of the Hedgehog.” 

The book chronicles Jeremy‘s 30 hideous years in the porn business.  It comes out in February, just in time for Valentine‘s Day, 17 bucks.  It‘s a steel.  It‘s already on Amazon.  You can pre-order it.  There‘s so much more, a kid from Flushing, Queens with a dream to be in the pictures and he made it, you know.

CARLSON:  As a former school teacher, not surprisingly. 

GEIST:  He was, special-ed, and now a spokesman for PETA as well.  Finally Tucker, Danny Devito, this is good.  He paid a visit to the gals at the View this morning to promote his new Christmas movie.  Before he got there he spent a long night, and apparently a morning, out on the town with George Clooney.  He staggered through the interview and even broke out his Three Stooges routing to mock President Bush.  Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANNY DEVITO, ACTOR:  I knew it was the last seven lemon (INAUDIBLE) that was going to get me? 

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, THE VIEW:  Have you been to sleep yet? 

(CROSSTALK)

BARBARA WALTERS, THE VIEW:  You‘re waking up, aren‘t you. 

DEVITO  Trying to figure out what to do with our country and women and men in the military. 

It‘s Christmas time, you know, holiday season, I get the idea to put the lights on and I put every available light from the town, from the next town and the next town. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Did he just vomit into his hand and feed it back to himself? 

That‘s what it looked like.

CARLSON:  I think he threw up in his own mouth, Willie. 

GEIST:  He did apologize to Barbara Walters after the show.  He didn‘t admit he was drunk, but he apologized for his performance.  So, I think he. 

CARLSON:  I actually liked his performance. 

(CROSS TALK)

GEIST:  It is not going to stop me from seeing “Deck The Halls” this weekend, trust me. 

CARLSON:  Outstanding, Willie Geist, a man who has never appeared on television sober.  I appreciate it.  That‘s our show.  Thanks for watching.  See you back here tomorrow, same bad time.  See you then.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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