updated 12/8/2006 12:05:30 PM ET 2006-12-08T17:05:30

Guests: Jim Moran, Richard Wolffe, Victor Kamber, Karen Hanretty

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome to the show.  I‘m Tucker Carlson. 

Lots to get to today, including the lessons George W. Bush could learn from Richard M. Nixon.  And yet another amazing development in the case of that poisoned Russian spy.

But first off, our top story of the day, fallout from the Iraq Study Group‘s report which came out yesterday.  President Bush and his last remaining Iraq ally Tony Blair of Great Britain stood shoulder to shoulder today at the White House.  Clearly, though, the report‘s grim assessment of the situation in Iraq was a bitter pill for both of them.  Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  You said that the increase in the attacks is unsettling.  That will convince many people that you‘re still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq and question your sincerity about changing course.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s bad in Iraq. 

Does that help?

QUESTION:  Why did it take others to say it before you have been willing to acknowledge it to the world?

BUSH:  In all due respect, I have been saying it a lot.  I understand how tough it is.  And I have been telling the American people how tough it is, and they know how tough it is.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  The analysis of the situation is not really in dispute.  The question is how do we find the right way forward?  And what we‘ve got at the moment is something that is at one level very simple to describe, but at another level, very profound and difficult to deal with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Here now with the latest on the administration‘s response, the Iraq Study Group‘s report, NBC News‘ Jeannie Ohm.  She is at the White House in Washington --  Jeannie.

JEANNIE OHM, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi there, Tucker.  Well, the president has said he and the prime minister have now had a chance to read the 96-page report.  Prime Minister Blair calling it a strong way forward.  The president calling it an important report.

But as he indicated yesterday, he said neither he nor Congress will accept every recommendation but it will be an important part of the deliberations as they wait for three more reports before deciding on the way forward in Iraq.  The president today during that news conference noted several times the need for a new strategy.

Now that was much different in tone from his news conference before the elections when he said absolutely we are winning, and also talked primarily of the need to adjust military tactics on the ground.

Well, at one point, the president was asked is he capable of admitting failure and changing course?  The president‘s response, stay tuned for his speech and judge for yourself.  And the president is expected to make a decision about a new strategy before the end of the year --  Tucker.

CARLSON:  Jeannie, I think I asked you this yesterday, but is the White House explaining in any detail which parts of this report, which of the recommendations is disagrees with and does not plan to implement?

OHM:  Well, two things came up, and these were primarily the two major recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton group, and that is engaging with Syria and Iran, the president again saying that they shouldn‘t bother showing up at the table if they are not going to support progress of the young democracy in Iraq and also laying out the condition that the only way the U.S. will talk directly with Iran is if that country suspends its enrichment program.

Now, the Baker-Hamilton group had said they want these talks without any preconditions, but at the same time even Secretary Baker had noted that he doesn‘t believe that Iran would be receptive to these kind of talks about the future of Iraq.

And regarding the notion of a major troop withdrawal, the president seized on the report where it says that the goal is to have combat troops out by 2008 as long as conditions on the ground are right.  Well, the president said that is something he has been saying as well, but he‘s also waiting to hear what the commanders have to say before making any decision along those lines.

CARLSON:  Jeannie, have you heard anybody mention the word democracy?  Anybody talk about how Iraq could wind up being a model for the rest of the Arab and Islamic world?

OHM:  You‘re right.  That was the original line we had heard from this administration as the goal that Iraq could be an example for the Middle East, but in recent months and weeks, that definition had changed.  Even the Baker group said they were going with the current definition of the U.S. goal in Iraq which is a government that can sustain, defend, and govern itself.

It‘s interesting, Prime Minister Blair today did use democracy, saying that should be an important goal in Iraq, and the president also said it‘s important to have victory in Iraq, but that is something notably that the commission did not use in its report.

CARLSON:  Jeannie Ohm at the White House.  Thanks a lot, Jeannie.

So has President Bush painted himself into a corner on Iraq?  Here is what my next guest says.  Quote, “The Iraq Study Group has confirmed what some of us predicted four years ago.  The Bush administration has badly mishandled this war of choice and that its ‘stay the course‘ policy is contributing to sectarian violence and instability in the Middle East. 

Redeployment of our troops out of Iraq is our most viable option.  The loss of 3,000 brave American lives and $400 billion spent fighting this un-winnable war is unconscionable.  The time has come to turn Iraq‘s future over to the Iraqis themselves.”

Joining me now from Washington, Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia. 

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  Sure, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You and other Democrats have been calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.  That‘s not what this plan calls for, and yet you say you support the plan.  How does that work?

MORAN:  Well, I do think that this is a positive step forward.  I notice that the more partisan you are, the more likely you are to reject this report.

I mean, I tend to be partisan, and so I was troubled by the fact that it all hinges on conditions on the ground.  I think that we should have a plan and carry it forward and let the Iraqis react to that plan.

But, you know, maybe they hit the right note.  If the people on the far left or the far right are the ones that won‘t be willing to embrace it, maybe those in the moderate category will be able to use this report to move us forward and that the president might be willing to embrace some of it, certainly the diplomatic portions of it.

The president needs to realize that it‘s time to be willing to sit down at the table and negotiate with our enemies.  You know, if we only negotiate with our friends, we isolate ourselves.  And the fact is Iran was very helpful to us in the Afghan War, and they have a stake here.

They don‘t want Saudi Arabia getting involved with the Iraqi Shia.  Supporting the Sunnis.  But Saudi Arabia might well step in and support the Sunnis if we pulled out.  If Iran was willing to stay out of it and to help stabilize it, then there are some things we could offer Iran.

And that‘s what we need to do and that‘s what they are saying, look at the larger perspective and try to resolve some of these regional issues.

CARLSON:  OK, but just one point at a time, though.  Back to an immediate withdrawal.  That has been the position of many in the leadership of the Democratic Party, at least up until you all actually took power last month.  Are you now conceding that that was irresponsible?  Everyone else from the uniformed military command to many in your party who aren‘t in office believed that would be a disaster.  Have you come around to that view?

MORAN:  First of all, Tucker, immediate does have to be defined.  Because logistically, you can‘t just turn around and leave and leave all your weapons and your materiel there in Iraq.  It would at least take six months to withdraw in any kind of responsible fashion.

The basic disconnect and I think the better definition of the view that many of us have held is that it‘s up to the American people to decide when we leave Iraq.  President Bush had it wrong when he told Maliki that we will be there as long as the Iraqi people want us there.  No, we will be there as long as the American people support our being there, and I think.

CARLSON:  Wait a minute, so you.

MORAN:  ... the American people send us a very strong message on November 7, it‘s time to get out of Iraq.  We are not making any progress.  In fact, it‘s a recruiting tool and a rallying cry for terrorists around the world.  It‘s making us less safe.

CARLSON:  The message that the American people sent, of course, in November, is totally up for debate.  Clearly hey don‘t like the war in Iraq.  I don‘t think it‘s as clear as they‘re saying get out now but do you really think our foreign policy ought to be a matter of referendum?  What do the American people think about retaking Fallujah?  Should we put each of these questions up to the American people?  Why do we have a Pentagon in the first place if that‘s the idea?

MORAN:  Tucker, it‘s up to the Congress, as you know, to authorize military action overseas.  And we never authorized what we are doing now.  All we authorized was to stop Saddam Hussein‘s threat of weapons of mass destruction to the United States and to implement any UN Security Council resolutions that applied to Iraq.  That‘s been done.  That country is beheaded.

And now it‘s up to the Iraqi people to decide who is going to head their country.  There is no authorization to go beyond the steps that we have already accomplished, and we found out that Iraq wasn‘t any threat to the United States, and that‘s when we should have pulled out.  And the longer we stay, I think the worse the situation gets.

When two thirds of the Shia want us out and almost 90 percent of the Sunnis want us out, I think there is a mandate in Iraq as well as the United States that this isn‘t working.  We need to change the course.

CARLSON:  My point is who cares what the people in Iraq?

MORAN:  I care what the people in America think.

CARLSON:  Was the war a good idea?  Nobody thinks it was a god idea. 

The question is could it be worse t than it is now?  And the answer is, yes, it could be.  This report seems to suggest that we leave and somehow Iran and Syria come in and clean up our mess.  Are you endorsing that?  That doesn‘t strike me as realistic.

MORAN:  That is not going to happen.  You are a student of history, Tucker.  You know when the British left, the Iraqis got the foreigners out of there after they dispensed with the people who had collaborated with the British.  And they dispensed with them in a brutal fashion.  And then they got the foreigners out of there, and then they took back their country.  That may be the only way to do this.

You know, Iraq is an accident of history in the first place.  Richard Bell and Winston Churchill got together, they carved up this artificial boundary of a country in 1922.  This has never been going to work without a brutal dictator.  Saddam Hussein was that brutal dictator.  He‘s gone.

I‘m not sure you will ever be able to put Iraq back together again, but I know we ought not be losing the lives of thousands of American soldiers trying to do something that may not be possible in the first place.

CARLSON:  The only thing that would be worse than losing 3,000 American lives in Iraq would be the destruction of American prestige and perceived power abroad, and that will happen if this is seen as a defeat.

MORAN:  Tucker, that is what is happening today.

CARLSON:  I‘m not arguing for the war but it could be worse - OK.  How do we prevent that?  How do we prevent the United States from being seen internationally as weak?  Because that‘s the worst thing of all.

MORAN:  By showing that we have the courage to admit our mistakes.  That we are not so insecure that we will go on for years in a wrong-headed policy just to save face, as we did in Vietnam.

We have the strength and the courage to know when we are wrong and to cut short our losses and to try to work with the other countries, both friends and enemies to bring about some stability in the Middle East.  That‘s something we should be doing.  That‘s something this report recommended.  We ought to try to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.  We ought to try to sit down with Iran and Syria as best we can ...

CARLSON:  But wait a second.  Can I stop you right this?  Iran and Syria.  Some of what I agree with.  But the president‘s point is not simply that Iran is to evil to meet with, and they are an enemy so we shouldn‘t talk with them.  That‘s not exactly what he is saying.  He is saying we want to stop building nuclear weapons.  And meeting with them is rewarding them. 

So we‘re going to say we‘re not going to talk with you, we‘re not going to reward you with this meeting until you knock off the nuclear program.  If we meet with them, what do you propose doing to get them to stop building nuclear weapons?

MORAN:  There has to be some quid pro quo.  Dick Cheney again had it wrong when he said we don‘t negotiate, we dominate.  Well, all that does is to—is to get people to put their backs up and to say well, we‘re not going to be dominated.

If we sat down at the table and we offered some trade, loosened some of the ability for Iran to deal with other countries on a level playing field, if we gave them some economic incentive not to put their efforts into nuclear weaponry but rather to develop their economy in a peaceful fashion and to have the kind of nuclear oversight regime that we have in other countries, that would suit our purposes.

We‘re not opposed to them having nuclear power.  We‘re opposed to them using that nuclear power for nuclear weaponry, and we could possibly stop that.  But we‘re not going to be able to do anything if we‘re not willing to sit down and talk with them.

CARLSON:  You‘ve got to wonder what a country awash in oil needs with nuclear power, but oh well.

Congressman Moran, thank you very much.  I appreciate you coming on.

MORAN:  Thanks.

CARLSON:  Still to come, does Iraq equal Vietnam?  Some say so.  The eerie similarities between George W. Bush and Richard M. Nixon.  What can the 43rd president learn from the 37th?

And yet another blast from the past.  Could Al Gore be poised to make a presidential comeback?  You‘re not dreaming, it‘s reality.  Wake up and smell the Gore.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD M. NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  To all of you who are listening, the American people, your steadfastness in supporting our insistence on peace with honor has made peace with honor possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  The way things are looking in Iraq right now, peace with honor seems like an impossible dream.  You‘ve heard many people in the last couple of weeks draw connections between this president and Richard M.  Nixon, but is there really something to that?  And could President Bush learn something from the experience of that disgraced president?  Here to talk about that, “Newsweek‘s” senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe.

Richard, thanks for coming on.

RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK”:  My pleasure, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Obviously, it‘s an insult to compare Bush to Nixon but are there actual similarities?

WOLFFE:  Well, this is a comparison the White House absolutely loathes.

CARLSON:  Of course.

WOLFFE:  I was in Vietnam with him just a couple of weeks ago.  And you could barely get a White House official to talk about the war other than to say look at the lake where John McCain got fished out of.

In some ways, Vietnam is absolutely simpler in a way.  You knew who the enemy was and when there were peace talks America could negotiate something.  But in Iraq, the violence isn‘t exclusively directed toward American forces so it‘s a much harder situation.

On the other hand, Nixon does provide a certain model of at least being a strong Republican, a strong national security president taking the routes to talks with something, someone unpalatable.

And what we‘re seeing from the White House, of course, is the rejection of the notion that talks can really achieve much, especially as you just noted with Iran and Syria.  So the president isn‘t in a place of even the concept of peace with honor.  If you listen to him today with Prime Minister Blair, it was more like win at all costs than peace with honor.

CARLSON:  Right.  And of course, Nixon didn‘t start the war in Vietnam and in fact was elected the first time at the very height and the war declined with every passing year that he was in office.

I wonder, though, stylistically—Dana Milbank has this piece in “The Washington Post” about how they are similar in the way they govern, in the way they see the press, the implication is in their paranoia.  Do you think that‘s fair?

WOLFFE:  I don‘t know that the president is paranoid—or even that he is that hostile to the press.  I mean there is a lot of—look at the body language in the press conference.  He actually kind of enjoys this stuff.  He hates leaks and he hates the punditry.  There are certain people he has a special loathing for.

CARLSON:  Who does he hate most, would you say?

WOLFFE:  Oh, I don‘t want to get into that.

CARLSON:  Oh, go ahead.  No one is listening.

WOLFFE:  Yes, right.  The group, the pack dynamic I think he doesn‘t like so much.  But he enjoys the banter with the press.  Look, even someone like NBC‘s very own David Gregory, who they love to beat up, they think very affectionately of and will talk to him all the time. 

There is a certain amount of Kabuki Theater that goes on here.  Do the Republicans in general dating back to Nixon take a hostile view of the media?  Do they like the media TV packaging that Nixon really excelled in thanks to people like Roger Ailes?  Yes, they have learned all of those lessons, but then they have also learned those lessons through Reagan.

CARLSON:  Now looking back 30-odd years or more than 30 years after Nixon‘s resignation, there is this counterintuitive take on Nixon where he is remembered for opening up China, Nixon famously going to China, doing the counterintuitive thing, the Republican goes to China.  And that has helped define his legacy in a positive way.

WOLFFE:  Right.  Absolutely.

CARLSON:  What can Bush do?  What can Bush learn from that?  What sort of dramatic statement could Bush make that‘s out of character that would impress historians 50 years from now?

WOLFFE:  Well, obviously, we have to confine ourselves here to the foreign policy side of things.

There is one big decision, I would say, which is more than anything a breach in the second term of the Bush presidency compared to the first.  It isn‘t actually about Iraq.  It‘s about Iran.  The idea that this president would entrust his diplomacy to three European allies to open up the offer of a dialogue with Iran, a grand bargain.

It‘s already out there on the table.  For him to take it one step further and actually move those talks on is not a huge step politically.  It‘s certainly not a huge step diplomatically.  The question is would it be successful, and the White House view is that it‘s not.

But Bush talking to Iran.  Direct talks or at least Condi Rice talking to Iranian officials.  I think that would be a very dramatic move and something that people would at least say look, he has gone the extra mile, let‘s see where it goes.

CARLSON:  And he said he is open to that.  He told David Ignatius of “The Washington Post” he didn‘t have any kind of principled opposition to talking to Iraq - to Iran, rather, but he wanted to get movement on the question of the nuclear program.  Do you think we‘ll see administration envoys talking to the Iranian government soon?

WOLFFE:  Well, not any time soon.  They do have the sort of practical logistical dialogue about Afghanistan, they could extend that to Iraq.  But they do have this block of the nuclear program.

Compared to Syria, however, Syria is in a sort of tougher hole here for what the president thinks, but Iran, look, it‘s not going to happen any time soon.  Could it happen within the last two years of his presidency?  Yes, it‘s possible.

CARLSON:  Why Syria?  In contrast to Iran which I think most people believe was behind the 1983 barracks bombing in Beirut, killed hundreds of Americans.  Why are the Syrians more off-limits than the Iranians?

WOLFFE:  I think the president considers that he achieved a lot in terms of the Lebanese democracy, of kicking the Syrians out, and he doesn‘t like the assassinations.  It‘s almost - it‘s not quite personal, but I think he is dismayed by the duplicity of the Syrians.

Whereas Iran, it‘s more of an opaque situation.  There are positive elements in the regime.  There are negative ones.  I think he maybe feels warmer to the Iranian people and their democratic aspirations.

So it‘s just a more complex, more challenging situation.  You know, it‘s shades of black here I think.

CARLSON:  Whenever American leaders start feeling empathy for foreign peoples, it always makes me nervous a little bit.  Richard Wolffe, thank you for that insightful explanation.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

CARLSON:  Coming up, a blistering attack on candidate-to-be Hillary Clinton, but it‘s not coming from the right.  It‘s coming from the left.  And it‘s interesting.

And a key figure in the case of the poisoned Russian spy reportedly falls into a coma directly after being questioned.  Hmm.  Could this case get any weirder?  We‘ve got the latest on it.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  It is truly a story that is stranger than fiction.  We say that a lot, but in this case, no exaggeration.  It would make a great spy novel.  Here with the latest on the case of the poisoned Russian spy, NBC News‘ Michelle Kosinski. 

She is in London—Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Tucker.  Well, Alexander Litvinenko was laid to rest today in a lead-lined coffin because his body is still contaminated with polonium.  This case took a couple more turns.

First of all, there is a press report coming out of Russia, saying that one of those men that Litvinenko met with in a hotel bar on the day he thought he was poisoned is now contaminated, possibly in a coma, in a Russian hospital from radiation poisoning.

And one of the attorneys close to this case is denying that he‘s that sick, but earlier today, Russian prosecutors were saying they are seeing this not only as a murder investigation of Alexander Litvinenko, but also now as an attempted murder of this other man, Dmitry Kotvun.

Also today, at that same bar where the men met, now seven workers there here in London have tested positive for radiation themselves, although health officials say it‘s such a low level that their health is not in immediate danger.

Russians say, too, they are going to start their own investigation now that may bring them here to London while Scotland Yard is continuing to work this case on Russian soil—Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks a lot, Michelle.  Michelle Kosinski in London.

Still to come, President Bush faces his critical beings alongside his one remaining international Iraq ally, Tony Blair of England.  But could he end up the last man standing?

And John McCain reaches out to President Bush‘s inner circle as he forms his campaign team.  Smart strategy?  We‘ll tell you.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I believe that this is a recipe that will lead to, sooner or later, our defeat in Iraq. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  You recognize him.  That was John McCain, member of the Armed Services Committee in the senate.  He said that this morning.  Former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton presented their 96-page Iraq study to that group today.  They took questions on their determination that the Iraq situation is, quote, grave and deteriorating. 

Joining me now from Capitol Hill with more is NBC‘s Mike Viqueira—

Mike.

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi Tucker.  Well, McCain and a couple of other Republicans got in the way of what was supposed to be a hearing the was going to look through the 79 recommendations that the Iraq Study Group made.  McCain had a couple of objections to two of the main recommendations. 

One, he does not think that the United States has any business talking to Iraq (sic) and Syria, countries that he says want to eradicate this country from the face of the earth.  He thinks the idea of a regional summit is not the best idea he has ever heard. 

And McCain and others had problems with the notion of putting U.S.  advisors with Iraqi troops.  They say that these troops on the Iraq side have questionable allegiances and that they would be put in danger by having to work alongside them. 

Now Baker and Hamilton, for their part, defended their report.  They said, first of all, on the Iraqi troop question, they say that they have made provisions to make sure U.S. personnel would be protected under that scenario. 

But they stuck with three major themes.  They want to change the mission, they want an increase in diplomacy and they want performance milestones.  Of course, this group has called for removal of American combat forces by March of 2008.  There is no question that Democrats are looking at this report and saying that the ball is in the president‘s court.  They say that yes, we have the power of the purse here.  We will conduct oversight. 

They are talking about something like a Truman Commission, we have just learned, to look into waste, fraud and abuse in military spending, starting with some nine billion that is unaccounted for, that was supposed to go to reconstruction, Tucker.  But they are not looking to pass any major legislation at this point.  Of course, they come into power on January 4th.  They will start a number of oversight hearings at that point. 

The president will send his appropriations request.  He‘s expected to ask for anywhere between 80 to 160 billion to carry on combat operations in Iraq.  And Democrats are expected to try to impose conditions before they give away that kind of money.  Tucker? 

CARLSON: Mike, I‘m getting the impression that Democrats agree with the report.  I haven‘t heard many substantial Democratic objections to this report.  Is that your impression? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well,  I mean, the one thing that Democrats are all on board saying—this is a Democratic message—and that is that the report is calling for change.  If the election didn‘t convince people, if the Gates‘ testimony, which was startling to many Democrats and others in the things that Gates was willing to say yesterday, and this testimony in this Iraq Study Group report did not convince people—that they think that it did convince people and it‘s certainly changed the tone of the debate in Washington now, where the onus is on the president, where the Democrats are trying to portray a situation where everyone is talking about the need for change, and it‘s up to the president, who seems to be reluctant to go in that direction. 

It‘s up to the president to heed these calls and make a policy decision.  They say, after all, he is commander in chief.  There is a limited amount that they can do, say Democrats. 

CARLSON:  Mike Viqueira on Capital Hill.  Thanks a lot, Mike. 

VIQUEIRA:  Certainly.

CARLSON:  Well as we continue to show you every day on this program, it is never too soon to talk about the not so far off 2008 presidential election.  Today will prove no different.  The latest, Arizona Senator John McCain is putting together his dream team of consultants to help get elected president, should he run in 2008.  He has been plucking from a pool of George W. Bush campaign consultants, which is interesting. 

Meanwhile, John Kerry‘s former running mate, John Edwards of North Carolina, may be looking strong in some early polling, and he is, particularly in Iowa, but he has yet to collect a single dollar in fund raising.  What‘s he waiting for?  Here to tell us Republican strategist Karen Hanretty and Democratic strategist Vick Kamber.  Welcome to you both. 

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Hi, Tucker. 

Vick Kamber, what is he—what is John Edwards, who is doing very well in Iowa—he‘s leading in Iowa in the polls, for whatever that‘s worth.  Why isn‘t he raising money? 

KAMBER:  Well, right now, because he is not an incumbent officer, federal officeholder, there is nothing he can do with that money, except spend it.  Right now he can‘t use it for the campaign, so he is waiting until January, when any money then raised can be used. 

My assumption is he will do very well when we hit the threshold, the 25 to 35 million that everyone is talking about as a minimum needed, maybe 40 million.  I‘m not sure.  But he will do very well.  He has got a pool of people.  He raised 30 million the last go-around when he ran.  I think he will do very well. 

CARLSON:  Who is he.  I mean, he is a very, in my view, a very talented guy.  He‘s a great speaker.  And he‘s just a talented politician.  You like being around John Edwards when you‘re around him, I can say, and I don‘t agree with him.  I don‘t understand what his message is going to be this time.  To the extent you know, who is he going to be?  Is he going to be the left-wing populist?  Is he going to be the new Democrat?  Who is John Edwards going to be?

KAMBER:  I think he‘s going to be a populist.  I don‘t know left wing.  He‘s going to be—I think he‘s going to speak to, in terms of worker issues, in terms of domestic policy, and in terms of foreign policy, I think he will be probably where the vast majority of Democrats are, which is against the policy of the president in Iraq.  Whether he calls for specific troop withdrawals, dates, I‘m not sure of his position on that.  But I think his positions primarily is going to be a worker‘s position, defending workers in this country. 

CARLSON:  Because, I believe his father worked in a factory.  I heard that several thousand times. 

KAMBER:  He did. 

CARLSON:  A mill, a mill.  Karen, John McCain has been, as we said in the intro here, has been picking up veterans of George W. Bush‘s two campaigns.  He has hired, most notably Mark McKinnon, Bush‘s ad maker from 2000, a very talented guy, and someone who is very close to President Bush.  Is this smart? 

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Oh, sure.  I mean, these are

really talented people.  Mark McKinnon is fabulous and you have got Terry

Nelson, who is great.  You know, President Bush really has an

extraordinarily talented pool of people around him, but I don‘t know that -

you know, all of the chatter about who McCain is hiring is as newsworthy as I think a lot of people would like to make it out to be right now, this early in the campaign. 

CARLSON:  Well here‘s why—I agree with you, of course, that staff changes on the McCain campaign are not very interesting unless that‘s what you do for a living, and very few people do.  But here is why it might be significant, as far as I‘m concerned.  McCain and Bush had the same, almost identical foreign policy. 

If anything, McCain is more the neo-con than Bush is.  This is a pretty bad time to have that foreign policy, it seems to me.  Everybody, virtually, thinks the war in Iraq is a disaster.  McCain was an early champion, consistent champion of that war.  Does that hurt McCain running for president? 

HANRETTY:  I don‘t—actually, I think it‘s too soon to say whether or not it hurts him.  I think it does help him though with the conservative base right now.  But McCain really isn‘t alone.  Look, you have the new Democratic chair of the Intelligence Committee came out with this shocking statement just this week, saying 20,000 to 30,000 more troops. 

And, you know, if Democrats and Republicans and then the Iraq Study Group, everyone is out there saying well, the election meant change, well McCain is offering a situation in which there would actually be change in Iraq.  It‘s not troop withdrawal, but it certainly is change and it --  You know, what‘s interesting is that he is the only one framing up this debate.  I wish President Bush would do more of this, and he‘s not. 

In a moral context, that we have a moral duty to the men and women who are fighting and dying to either help them achieve this goal as quickly as possible, or, if that is not the resolve of this administration and of this Congress, to then get these people basically the hell out of there. 

CARLSON:  But I don‘t  think—I mean, if I hit my hammer with a thumb—that‘s my thumb with a hammer, it would all change.  It doesn‘t mean it‘s good.  I want to ask you, Vick, about a column that I am sure you have seen because -- 

KAMBER:  Could I just throw one thing before you say.  I know where you are going.  On the McCain hiring the political operatives, let me go the other way.  Where else do they have to go?  If they want to be the geniuses that they are and the talent pool that they are, he‘s the leader.  They want to be with a winner. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  Spoken like a consultant. 

HANRETTY:  Well campaign staff go where the campaign is.  I mean, you‘re absolutely right. 

CARLSON:  No, and that‘s a measure, I think, what you‘re saying, of McCain‘s status as the front runner.  And he has to be considered that.  

HANRETTY:  And they go to the a campaign that can pay well.  Let‘s don‘t forget that.

CARLSON:  These are all things that people outside of Washington may not know are at the very top of concerns for your average consultant.  Will the check bounce?  Vick, I want to ask you about the Arianna Huffington column today, which I know you‘re a fan.  But in it, she really bashes Hillary Clinton. 

KAMBER:  I‘m a fan of Hillary Clinton. 

CARLSON:  I wonder what you think of Arianna Huffington‘s column.  It‘s from the left—but she makes—let me just, for our viewers who haven‘t read the column—and I hope not many of them have, because that would be a bad sign if they were reading Arianna Huffington. 

HANRETTY:  It‘s the “L.A. Times.”  No one is reading it. 

CARLSON:  OK, but here‘s the point.  She says, Hillary‘s problem is she doesn‘t stand for anything.  The rest of us are engaged in this intense national conversation about Iraq.  Everyone is taking a side.  Mrs. Clinton has essentially been absent from that debate.  Why is that? 

KAMBER:  Well, first of all, besides being the holiday season, it‘s the silly season.  And people like Arianna, who are looking to get headlines for themselves, as much as anything, bash Hillary Clinton and you‘ll get some attention, as you have given her today. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that, but it‘s a good—look, I am not trying to give Arianna Huffington undeserved attention.  But it‘s an interesting point she raises. 

KAMBER:  What‘s interesting?  I think Hillary Clinton has a position.  She has staked out a position.  It‘s not on the left of the Democratic party.  It‘s not—she voted for this war and she has now moved to a point where she is saying, like this commission has said, we need a change in policy.  She has called for some kind of different deployment. 

I mean, she has a definite position.  She has been, if anything, one of the strongest people, in terms of the Armed Services Committee, in asking questions and probing people.  She had called for the removal of Rumsfeld before he was removed from office.  I just think it‘s.

CARLSON:  My kids called for the removal of Rumsfeld.  Everybody in America called for his removal. 

(CROSS TALK)

KAMBER:  Tucker, it‘s bashing Hillary because she is the front runner. 

CARLSON:  OK, but I want to ask you one quick question.  Carol, I will get to you in one second.  Vick, sum up for me, if you would, and see how pithy you can make it, because that‘s always a measure.  Right, because you can do it crisply that mean it really exists.  What is Hillaryism?  What‘s her guiding philosophy, because I honestly don‘t know. 

KAMBER:  I‘m not sure what you‘re asking.  What do you mean? 

CARLSON:  Is she a liberal Democrat?  Is she a conservative?  Is she a new Democrat?  Is she pro-business.  What‘s the point of a Hillary presidency other than to continue this appalling legacy? 

KAMBER:  There is a big difference with asking the question you ask and then what‘s the point of her presidency?  The point of her presidency would be—and I‘m not her supporter at this point—but the point of her presidency, I think she would make a great president.  She is a strong leader, she is bright, she is articulate, she cares about people, all of those right words. 

In terms of labels you‘re trying to put, liberal, conservative—she is not conservative.  She is not a bomb-throwing lefty, in spite of what Republicans would like.  I don‘t know what a new Democrat versus an old Democrat is.  It depends on—give me the issue and I will tell you where she stands. 

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t know.  Karen, what do you think?

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  Tell me what does she believe? 

HANRETTY:  I think she is a Euro-Dem.  I think she is a European Democrat.  I think she likes the idea of big government, a more socialist, not so much as the ideology, but the idea of the government expanding and helping people more in their daily lives. 

KAMBER:  Which Democrat doesn‘t have that? 

HANRETTY:  And she is not a risk taker.  You know, I read what Arianna wrote and I think if I was going to sum it up, it would be that Hillary Clinton always plays it safe.  She is not a risk taker on policy or politically, and I think that‘s why she is keeping her powder dry right now.  She has nothing to gain by coming out and talking about this Iraq Study Group. 

KAMBER:  But Karen, which Democrat, that‘s running, that‘s a front runner, that‘s in the front, Mr. Kerry, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Barack Obama.

HANRETTY:  Kerry is not a front runner. 

KAMBER:  No, but who is different than what you just described? 

CARLSON:  Nobody, maybe that‘s exactly the point.  Why Hillary, other than the fact she is a woman.  I want to get to something you didn‘t mention. 

KAMBER:  Well that‘s a big reason. 

CARLSON:  If that‘s a rationale, because she is a woman.  I mean, what century is this?

KAMBER:  For me that‘s a big reason. 

CARLSON:  I mean why not Diane Feinstein, who has actually done something with her life.  Why not Barbara Boxer? 

KAMBER:  Why not? 

CARLSON:  I‘ll tell you why, because they are not photogenic, that‘s why.  And I think it‘s appalling.  They should be the nominees.  Oh, I would support them over Hillary, that‘s for sure.  But I want to know about Al Gore.  Quickly, starting with you Vick, do you think Gore is actually going to run? 

KAMBER:  No, I don‘t. 

CARLSON:  Why? 

KAMBER:  I think he really believes his time has come and gone and he is into other things.  I think, if it was handed to him, he would run.  I think he believes he was elected president in 2000.  But I think to go through the paces now, to set up the campaign, I just don‘t think he will do it. 

CARLSON:  He‘s a wise man if he follows your advice.  Karen, what do you think? 

HANRETTY:  I don‘t think he will either, simply because right now, if you look at the list of candidates, like I really do think John Edwards is the dark horse in this race right now, but Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, these are such high-profile people that I just think Al Gore dwarfs in comparison to them right now. 

If he wants to be, you know, a big fish in a big pond, he should go do his global warming thing, make his movies, be on the cover of “Vanity Fair.”  That is going to bring him much more fame and fortune than running for president and losing again. 

CARLSON:  He‘s become a big fish lately.  I appreciate it, both of you.  Thanks, Karen, Vick, thanks very much. 

Well today marks the 65th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the one that drew us into World War II.  We‘ll have a special report from Tom Brokaw when we come right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Sixty-five years ago today, Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor, pulling the U.S. into World War II.  In the six and a half decades since, there have been countless reunions between families and friends separated by that war. 

NBC‘s Tom Brokaw brings us now the story of a different type of reunion between two unlikely dance partners. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over):  For 10-year-old Patsy Campbell, living in Hawaii in 1941 meant spending time at the beach and going to the movies. 

PATSY CAMPBELL, PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR:  I wanted to dance like Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and just loved to dance. 

BROKAW:  On December 6, Patsy got her chance to dance like her idols.  At a Navy band competition, Patsy‘s father asked 17-year-old Jack Evans to dance with his daughter in the jitterbug contest. 

JACK EVANS, U.S. NAVY (RET):  He had said she was good, and she was. 

BROKAW:  So good, that Jack and Patsy walked away with the trophy, then went their separate ways without learning each others names. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The trophy that is won in the jitterbug contest will be a footnote compared to the events that will unfold the next day, the day of infamy, December 7th, 1941. 

BROKAW:  The next morning, Patsy woke up to the sounds of planes approaching Pearl Harbor. 

CAMPBELL:  I was just thrilled to see so many planes up there.  It was my daily habit to go outside and wave at them. 

BROKAW:  Less than a mile away, Jack Evans was climbing into his position as a lookout aboard the USS Tennessee. 

EVANS:  I had a commanding view of everything, one of the best views in the harbor, because I was right in the center of battleship row. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was a miracle he survived. 

BROKAW:  Jack did survive the attack and went on to thrive in the Navy. 

EVANS:  This is the USS Piro (ph), which I commanded. 

BROKAW:  Serving 33 years before retiring as a captain in 1974.  Pat also survived the attack. 

CAMPBELL:  I remember that cute little girl with a big smile as she danced to our music. 

BROKAW:  Pat spent the next six decades wondering about her dancing mystery sailor.  In 1999, she wrote a letter about the jitterbug contest to a couple of veterans‘ news letters.  That letter led to a phone call from Jack Evans. 

EVANS:  I called her out of the blue.  I said I was the sailor who danced with you and silence and then a shriek. 

CAMPBELL:  I had an answer to the question of all of those years.  It took me 58 and a half years, good lord. 

I would like you to meet my dancing sailor. 

BROKAW:  As veterans gathered in Hawaii for the 65th anniversary this week, Jack and Pat danced their way back into the spotlight.  And for a few moments, they turned back the clock, and reminded fellow Pearl Harbor survivors of a time before December 7th, 1941. 

CAMPBELL:  It was one of those things that has a happy ending. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Tom Brokaw from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 

Lindsay Lohan has already added Paris Hilton and Britney Spears to a new list of friends.  Is wild and crazy Al Gore her latest party pal?  Sound unlikely?  Think again.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We have a special celebrity guest with me in the studio right now.  If we could get the camera to pull back a little bit it will reveal—oh, wait. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  If you consider me a celebrity that‘s very low standards. 

CARLSON:  It‘s Willie Geist.

GEIST:  Very low standards.  I have upsetting breaking news right now. 

Rosie O‘Donnell of “The View” reportedly—this is only a report right now

may leave that show, because she has been offered a full time roll on the show “Nip/Tuck,” the plastic surgery show.

CARLSON:  Well I‘m going to have to go back to print, because I am going to have nothing to talk about in television if she leaves “The View.”

GEIST:  You‘re out of a job.  We‘re going to miss her around here though, if she actually leaves.  Because we watched “The View,” so our viewers don‘t have to. 

CARLSON:  She was talk show in a can.  You just open that woman up and

GEIST:  Hopefully she won‘t do it.  She‘ll think better of it.

CARLSON:  I hope so. 

GEIST:  Other news Tucker, Britney Spears has been spending a lot of time lately hanging out with Paris Hilton and not wearing underwear, as you may have noted.  Some people view that as a problem, we do not.  Britney took a moment to explain herself on her Web site. 

She writes, “It‘s been so long since I‘ve been out on the town with friends.  Every move I make at this point has been magnified more than I expected, and I probably took my new found freedom a little too far.  Anyway, thank God for Victoria‘s Secret‘s new underwear line.”  Thank god is right, actually I don‘t thank god for that new underwear. 

CARLSON:  Here is my question Willie, does she have anything to apologize for? 

GEIST:  No, absolutely not. 

CARLSON:  Let‘s put up the pictures we‘re referring to now, if we could. 

GEIST:  I was so tempted to.  They are online if you need them.  By the way, the child services thing, where they were going to come to her house, because she is out partying.  She has a staff of 30 people.  I‘m sure the babies are OK.  It‘s not like she is leaving them at a church on the steps. 

CARLSON:  Right, and you have to ask the broader question, which is, is it better for those children to be raised by the staff or by Britney Spears. 

GEIST:  Excellent question. 

CARLSON:  Yes it is. 

GEIST:  Her parents Britney and Paris, that might not be the best parenting method.  Well, another part of the triad, the new tribe, Lindsay Lohan beginning to sense that her life is spinning out of control, that, of course, makes her the last person to do so.  She is convinced the man who can help her turns things around is, you guessed it, Al Gore. 

The “New York Post” reports that Lindsay sent an e-mail to her representatives, saying she wants to hold a press conference, to show off her smarts and her world view, that should be interesting.  She writes, “Al Gore will help me.  He came up to me last night and said he would be very happy to have a conversation with me. 

Well, Tucker, it turns out he wouldn‘t be that happy.  I‘ve got a statement from Gore‘s P.R. rep that says, quote, I can confirm for you that Mr. Gore has only met Ms. Lohan once, very briefly at the “G.Q.” Men of the Year dinner last week.  There were hundreds of other guests.  So, she might want to look elsewhere.  She actually, in that same e-mail, she mentioned getting in touch with Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.  So she is shooting very high and she wants to tell people that, quote, how our society should be educated for the better of our country. 

CARLSON:  Is this now—do we get any indication from the text message she sent last week for reporters across the country that Lindsay Lohan is the kind of—is going to raise the standard for education in our country? 

GEIST:  Yes, she is a big thinker.  That‘s what she is.  She‘s a big

dreamer, a beautiful dreamer.  She is—this thing is just chock full of -

anyway, it is bad.  I can‘t even read it anymore.  It‘s too bad. 

Finally, if you like Saddam Hussein‘s work in Gulf wars one and two, and I know you did, you‘ll love him on stage in the new play “Saddam at the Gallows.” 

Just in time for the holidays, the play chronicles Saddam‘s time in high security prison, before he is led away to be executed.  The show is traveling through the state of West Bengal, in India, and is playing to packed houses there, Tucker.  And let me just say.

CARLSON:  You‘ll laugh, you‘ll cry. 

GEIST:  Yes, you‘ll laugh, you‘ll cry.  You could do the old Christmas cliche and drag the kids to a Christmas carol again, or freshen it up with “Saddam at the Gallows.”  Why not take your kids to see an evil dictator be hanged.  I think it is a lot of fun. 

CARLSON:  That‘s what happens when there is a paucity of entertainment choices.  That‘s what happens when you don‘t have HBO on Demand, before—

GEIST:  Bollywood isn‘t enough. 

CARLSON:  Willie Geist. 

GEIST:  All right Tucker.

CARLSON:  Merry Christmas early.  That‘s our show.  Thank you for watching.  Up next “HARDBALL” with Mike Barnicle, what a great guy.  See you back here tomorrow.

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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