updated 12/11/2006 12:19:08 PM ET 2006-12-11T17:19:08

Guests: Richard Berman, Peter Fenn, Frank Donatelli, Brad Blakeman, Jonathan Alter, Charlie Cook, Al Sharpton

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

We have got a lot to get to today, including the terror plot that targeted at a shopping mall right in the middle of the holiday season, and why the food police could soon be coming for you. 

But, first, our top story of the day: the rising star in the Democratic Party.  But it‘s not who you think.  According to the polls, Hillary Clinton is still the one to beat for the Democratic nomination.  Even Barack Obama, who is getting closer to campaigning openly, as he visits New Hampshire this weekend, doesn‘t even come close to the junior senator from New York. 

A recent WNBC/Marist poll shows Senator Clinton at 33 percent.  That‘s double digits ahead of her nearest challenger, John Edwards.  He‘s at 14 percent.  Senator Obama, for all the hype, was at a mere 12 percent. 

But the great unanswered question of the Clinton campaign remains, will Bill Clinton, her husband, the former president, help or hurt Hillary? 

Here to tell us, Jonathan Alter, a senior editor at “Newsweek.”

Jon, thanks a lot for coming on.

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hey.  How are you, Tucker?

CARLSON:  So, what‘s the—I actually don‘t know the answer to this? 

I can see both sides.  What is your view?  Does he help or hurt?

ALTER:  You know, it‘s sort of both.  I don‘t mean to hedge on this.

But, obviously, she would not be where she is without him.  He is such an overpowering force and such a popular force within the Democratic Party, that she is banking on a lot of his popularity to leak on, leak away from him, and work for her benefit. 

The problem is that he also overshadows her.  You remember the Coretta Scott King funeral and the contrast there between the two of them?  He‘s just a much better speaker than she is.  So, going forward, he‘s going to be a positive, but a complicating factor in her campaign.

CARLSON:  I believe it.

Here‘s a detail from this morning‘s “Washington Post,” which I think says a lot about a lot.  Here it is—quote—“During a routine vote yesterday in the Congress, Obama and Hillary Clinton brushed past each other on the Senate floor.  Obama winked and touched Clinton on her elbow.  Without pausing, she kept walking.”

Now, this suggests a couple of things: one, that Hillary Clinton does have—I will just say it—an icy side that‘s not so appealing; and, two, that there‘s some bitterness about Barack Obama, who has come out of nowhere to become this celebrity. 

ALTER:  Well, I do think bitterness might be a little strong, but there is some real concern within the Clinton camp. 

As you mentioned, she is doing a lot better in the polls.  A lot more

Democrats say that she‘s electable than did just a few months ago.  But

they realize that he‘s the real deal.  You know, he‘s not somebody who is a

you know, a lightweight who somehow is going to fade away or blow away with the wind.  He is going to be a very serious candidates, if he runs.

And the latest understanding I have, Tucker, is that it‘s quite likely that he is going to get into this race after the 1st of the year.  So, you know, they are worried.  They are dissing him a little bit behind the scenes by saying, well, it wasn‘t too long ago that he was talking about licensing—license plates in the Illinois State Senate, you know, and that kind of thing.

And there will be some head-slapping at the line of scrimmage that you‘re going to see.  But they‘re girding up.  They‘re girding for battle.  And the idea that she somehow is a prohibitive favorite for this nomination is very much yesterday‘s news. 

CARLSON:  I mean, it wasn‘t so long ago that Hillary Clinton didn‘t have a paying job.  I mean, if you‘re going to make that argument, it‘s—

I mean, not sure Hillary is the one to make it.

What is—and this has all happened so quickly, Barack Obama and his book, and the idea that he actually could be president.  It‘s all pretty new.  Is there an evolving strategy that the Hillary Clinton camp has to deal with him? 

ALTER:  Well, I think the—you know, the big part of it, in terms of running him down, would be to focus on his lack of experience. 

They can‘t very well go after this land deal in Chicago that has gotten some attention, because he got into business with kind of a shady character, given Whitewater.

(LAUGHTER)

ALTER:  and I don‘t think they are going to touch that one.

CARLSON:  No, I don‘t think so.

ALTER:  And—you know, and that‘s not much of a—that much of a big deal anyway. 

But I do—I think, in some ways, Tucker, this is going to be a remarkably positive campaign, at first.  Eventually, they are going to get to what they call differentiation in politics.  But, at the beginning, there‘s a price to be paid if either one of them goes after the other. 

So, you are going to seem running a pretty high-toned campaign, with their competing visions, going forward.  I think they do respect each other.  There is not any personal enmity here.  But there is some, you know, obvious political competition going forward. 

Obama wouldn‘t be running if he didn‘t think that he could beat her.  And she‘s—you know, her position at this point—and she‘s 99 percent certain...

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ALTER:  .. to be in this race—is that, you know, hey, this is supposed to be mine.  Who does he think he is? 

CARLSON:  If you could quickly sum up.  You have followed Hillary Clinton for a long time.  You know her.  Where would you place her on the political spectrum these days?  She has a reputation as this die-hard liberal.  But Barack Obama is clearly going to be running to her left, if he runs.  Where does she...

ALTER:  I don‘t know about that, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You don‘t?

ALTER:  No, no. 

CARLSON:  Well, so, OK, tell us, quickly, where does she fit in? 

ALTER:  No.

CARLSON:  What is her—what is her ideology these days?

ALTER:  I would call it, you know, moderate, left—just left of center, and working hard to be right down that median strip.  That‘s where she wants to position herself.

And she has spent the last six years trying to shred that liberal label.  She hasn‘t succeeded very well among conservatives, who still depict her as a liberal.  But liberals and Democrats see her as more of a centrist. 

And, on the war, clearly, you know, she was in favor of this war, has not repudiated her position.  Obama is to her left, so to speak, on that.  But, really, he‘s just kind of in a better position on that, because he was against the Iraq war from the get-go in 2002.

He‘s not going to run as a liberal either, though.  He is trying to get beyond the old labels and move to a new place.  He talks a lot about working across the aisle.  He got together with Senator Tom Coburn, very conservative...

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ALTER:  ... on the one piece of legislation that he‘s—he‘s had enacted.

CARLSON:  Hmm.

ALTER:  So, he‘s going to really try to not run an ideological campaign.  And that‘s a very important part of his message. 

So, you‘re not going to see either of those candidates running to the left.

CARLSON:  Right. 

ALTER:  Edwards, I think, is going to go left. 

CARLSON:  Definitely, as a populist. 

I like the old labels.  I think they‘re still useful.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  No one else agrees.

Jonathan Alter, thank you very much.

ALTER:  Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Well, you would think the news on Iraq couldn‘t get worse, but, this week, it has, officially, with a bipartisan report that describes the situation in that country as awful and deteriorating. 

That reality appears to be reflected in President Bush‘s plummeting poll numbers.  The latest AP/Ipsos poll puts his approval rating in Iraq at a meager 27 percent.  Did we say meager?  I‘m sorry.  Awful 27 percent.

Will the president change course?

Here now to tell us, Brad Blakeman.  He‘s former deputy assistant to President Bush.

Brad, thanks for coming on.

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  So, we are hearing reports now that, some time later this month, before Christmas, the president will publicly explain his new position on Iraq.  What do you think that is likely to be?

BLAKEMAN:  Look, he has got a lot of homework to do between now and his pre-Christmas speech to the nation.

But we have a lot of new players joining the field.  We have a new Congress coming up in January.  We have a new defense secretary being sworn in next week.  We have a new secretary general of the U.N.  And, hopefully, soon, we will have a new U.N. ambassador to the United States—from the United States.

So, we have got a lot of new players.  The president has to get briefed up by the Pentagon on what their plan is, on what the State Department‘s plan is, what Congress‘ plan is.

The Democrats now have a vested interest in this war, more than ever before, because now...

CARLSON:  Yes. 

BLAKEMAN:  ... they assume a leadership role.

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

BLAKEMAN:  So, the president is not going to make his decisions in a vacuum.

And, quite frankly, what Jim Baker said is, this is not a salad.

No, this is a menu of options by laypeople that now have to be joined with the opinions of the professionals and those who are elected.  And the president will change course in Iraq, together, and in a bipartisan manner. 

CARLSON:  Does it strike as remarkable that the very people who brought us this war, the—the intellectuals, who believed that a burgeoning democracy in Iraq would transform the Middle East and make the world safe for us, people who told us things like that, without any real knowledge of the region, are now attacking this report as cynical and stupid and shallow, without ever pausing to apologize for getting us into this debacle? 

BLAKEMAN:  Look, there are—there‘s a—look, as the commission said—this is a bipartisan group—let‘s not look back.  Let‘s look forward.  It is not going to do anybody any good, and the situation in Iraq, to cast blame.  Let...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Really?  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait a second.  Wait a second. 

BLAKEMAN:  Let the historians...

CARLSON:  Whatever happened to...

(CROSSTALK)

BLAKEMAN:  Let the historians do that.

CARLSON:  Hold on.  Hold on.  Hold on.  What about accountability, Brad?  Wait a second.

BLAKEMAN:  There is accountability. 

CARLSON:  What about the very conservative idea that we can‘t learn from our mistakes until we acknowledge them...

BLAKEMAN:  We should.

CARLSON:  ... and understand why we made them, and who made them...

BLAKEMAN:  And I think...

CARLSON:  ... cast blame, point fingers, and then move forward?

BLAKEMAN:  We are learning from the mistakes. 

We...

(LAUGHTER)

BLAKEMAN:  If we didn‘t learn by the November elections, then, we will never learn. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

BLAKEMAN:  We understand what went wrong.

And now it‘s the president‘s obligation, and Congress‘ obligations, and our agencies‘ obligations, to make it right.  And—but the mission has not changed.  Iraq must defend itself, must sustain itself, and must govern itself.  And, if we can do that in a bipartisan manager—manner—and we can achieve that, that‘s the victory that we seek for Iraq. 

So, the mission has not changed.  It‘s the operation of the mission that must change. 

CARLSON:  The Iraq Study Group report that came out this week doesn‘t mention, so far as I know—I didn‘t see, anyway—any mention of democracy, and the idea that that was one of our key goals, was to establish this beachhead of democracy in Iraq.

Do you think—because I think most people recognize the people of Iraq don‘t understand democracy, and wouldn‘t want it, if they did.  Does the president, do you think, at this point, give up on that notion?  Or is he going to tell us more about why democracy is a good idea in the Middle East in his speech?

BLAKEMAN:  Not at all.

I mean, look, the Iraqi people understand democracy.  It may not be in the form as we understand it.  But 12 million people went to the polls. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

BLAKEMAN:  They have had three elections.

CARLSON:  Right. 

BLAKEMAN:  They understand, for the first time in a long time, they have had a choice. 

The question is, right now, how do they get their act together and end the sectarian violence?  And let me just suggest to you, there are some players, their neighbors, Iran and Syria, who do not have a vested interest in a peaceful Iraq.  And they have been spurring a lot of this insurgency...

CARLSON:  Right. 

BLAKEMAN:  ... just like they have done in Lebanon.

Look at—now the prime minister of Lebanon claims that Hezbollah seeks to overthrow their government.  That‘s no secret.  He has allowed it to happen. 

(CROSSTALK)

BLAKEMAN:  And we should not allow it to happen.  And the international community should not allow it to happen to Iraq.

CARLSON:  But, I mean, very quickly, Tom Friedman has a column today.  And you can judge how much credibility Tom Friedman has on this war, but he makes a good point.

He says, once we leave, and once we set a date for leaving, then, the big players in the region, Iran and Syria, among them, will have a vested interest in a non-chaotic Iraq.  They are going to have to assume some responsibility here. 

BLAKEMAN:  No.

CARLSON:  That‘s not a stupid idea.

BLAKEMAN:  No.  I think that‘s wrong.  I think they have a vested interest in a chaotic Middle East as a whole. 

Look what they have done in Lebanon.  They‘re licking their chops, hoping to carve up Iraq.  There‘s no secret to that.  And we shouldn‘t allow it to happen.  We must not allow to happen, because it emboldens them to do other acts of violence in the Middle East. 

So, what we have to do now is hang together internationally and domestically.  That is the—that‘s really the key that has come out of this bipartisan report is, it must now be bipartisan.  The election is over.  Let‘s work together for the betterment of not only Iraq, but our policies as Americans.  And, if we do that, we have a greater chance of success. 

CARLSON:  It‘s everyone‘s responsibility now.  Good news for some, I would think.

BLAKEMAN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Brad Blakeman, thank you.

BLAKEMAN:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Still to come: Washington‘s last man standing.  With many of the president‘s last remaining allies running away, who is with him? 

And does Barack Obama actually have a chance for the Democratic nomination?  Hmm.  We have got the answer.  We will give it you.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come:  The food police take over New York City. 

Could they be coming for you next?

That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

Here now with more on the week‘s big story, the generation‘s big story, the Bush administration‘s difficulties in Iraq, joining us, Frank Donatelli, Republican strategist and former Reagan White House political director, as well as Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. 

Welcome to you both.

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Thanks, Tucker.

FRANK DONATELLI, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Hi, Tucker.

CARLSON:  So, Frank, if you are George W. Bush, and you have been handed, last month, this electoral defeat, partly on the basis of Iraq, and, earlier this week, this terrible, from your point of view, report written by your father‘s best friend, that says that your foreign policy is not working, what do you do? 

DONATELLI:  Well, the first thing you do is, I think you have to acknowledge that what has been happening is not working.

And I would hope that you would look for this opportunity, including the report, and the fact that we have a new secretary of defense now, Mr.  Gates, who was a member of the commission, to look in another direction. 

It seems to me, what the report offers the administration is, number one, a confirmation that failure is not on option in Iraq.  They agree with the administration on that.  And they believe that a precipitous withdrawal would be disastrous. 

I think, though, the report goes on to say, Tucker, number two, that we can best help the Iraqis by training them to defend themselves, as opposed to the United States doing the brunt of the fighting.  That‘s Vietnamization.  I think that...

CARLSON:  Right...

DONATELLI:  ... that‘s where we‘re headed right now.

CARLSON:  ... though I don‘t think any...

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  I don‘t think anybody is going to call it that.  But I think you‘re right.  I think you‘re right. 

DONATELLI:  No, but that‘s what it is.

CARLSON:  Peter, I don‘t know if you heard Brad Blakeman, a former administration official, a moment ago, saying, you know, we‘re in this together.  This a bipartisan effort now.  The nation has come together behind finding a new strategy in Iraq. 

You know, he—as a practical matter, he‘s right.  This is good news, really, for the Bush people, it seems to me.  They have bottomed out in the polls.  You can‘t go any lower than they are now.  And now Democrats have a vested interest, and they are tied to our policy.  This is good news for Republicans. 

FENN:  Well, I wish there was a policy to be tied to, Tucker.

I think the problem here is that this president has not yet decided on what that policy is.  And some people truly believe that he is so tied to the win-at-all-costs strategy, to—quote—“victory” militarily on the ground, that‘s a problem. 

And I think, if anything, Frank is right on this, though.  This report was, in a sense, cold water in the face of the president of the United States.  He has got to change strategy, if he is going to achieve any kind of normalcy in that country. 

CARLSON:  No—there‘s no question.  But I guess the point is, that‘s out in the open now.  He has come out of the closet, as a...

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  ... you know, leader of a failed foreign policy.  No, it‘s true, though.  He has.  And we all acknowledge that.  The intervention has taken place.

FENN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  And now Democrats, by definition, have a role in going forward.  And I—won‘t that, A, make Democrats more responsible than they have been, and, B, make them more culpable for the results? 

FENN:  OK.

Listen, I think, the more unity you can have on foreign policy right now, the better.  There‘s no question about that.  But the question is whether the president of the United States is going to move in that direction.

And, you know, at this point, there are enough Republicans—John Warner, the now ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, you know, Chuck Hagel, a future presidential candidate on the Republican side, very strong critic of this administration—there are a lot of people who are willing and able to try and find another way there.

And the Democrats should join that.  But I am telling you, Tucker, I think the problem ain‘t with the Democrats.  The problem is with this president and his advisers.  Will they change course, really?

CARLSON:  Well, what do you think, Frank? 

DONATELLI:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Can—can the president—well, clearly, it‘s the president‘s war.  He‘s the president.  But I mean going forward.

Frank, do you think the president can get up, credibly, and say, you know, Democrats are part of this now; let‘s listen to what they have to say, and sort of pull them into the process?  Will he do that?  Should he do that?

DONATELLI:  I think he should do it, to the extent that he says, failure is not an option, that Republicans and Democrats have a stake in a stable Iraq. 

I think, moving forward, Tucker, in addition to using American troops to train Iraqis, so that they can take over the burden of the fighting, I think, probably, we will acknowledge that democracy, we hope, will be the outcome in Iraq.  But, in order for us to say that our venture was successful there, it need not be a full-blown democracy, but at least it needs to be a non-terrorist, non-WMD-seeking...

CARLSON:  Right. 

DONATELLI:  ... stable government. 

I think, if that happens, you could still say that our effort there was worth it. 

CARLSON:  See, those are good conservative goals.  Had those been our goals from the outset, we would probably be in better shape—just my view. 

Frank Donatelli, thanks very much.

DONATELLI:  Thank you. 

Peter Fenn, thank you.

FENN:  Thanks. 

CARLSON:  Coming up: food fight in New York City.  Will the menu police take away your fast food?  They might, actually.

We will tell you more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Ladies and gentlemen, it is official.  Trans fats are now banned in New York City.  The city‘s health department says trans fats, often found in foods like french fries and doughnuts, and just about anything else that tastes good, are just as dangerous as lead paint in asbestos, which don‘t taste good.  And that is why they‘re banned.

But, as the Center For Consumer Freedom points out in this ad, lots of things are bad for you.  Almost everything is bad for you.  Could the food police be gunning for pizza and hot dogs next? 

Here now to consider that, a true defender of freedom, Rick Berman. 

He‘s executive director of the Center For Consumer Freedom. 

Rick, thanks for coming on.

RICHARD BERMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CONSUMER FREEDOM:  Good

to see you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Now, how bad—now, I mean, I know you‘re against this ban. 

But let‘s both step back just two steps.

Trans fats, I get the impression they are not good for you.  How bad are they? 

BERMAN:  Most people know trans fat by the name margarine, which is the ridiculous part of all this. 

I mean, it‘s—it‘s outrageous that someone is saying that margarine is same thing as ingesting lead.  Some legislator in Kentucky, in Louisville, was saying that trans fat was the same thing as rat poison.  I mean, this hyperbole and this hype is ridiculous. 

And if that is going to be the—that is going to be the issue here, that you can make anything a demonic product, then, we are going to go after sugar.  We‘re going after salt.  We‘re going after caffeine.  We‘re going after alcohol.

All of these things can be made into horrible products, because, if you eat enormous amounts of this stuff, yes, it‘s probably not good for you.  But eating french fries or eating doughnuts, no one is thinking that this is a safety issue.  It could be a health issue, if you overdo it.

CARLSON:  Right. 

BERMAN:  But that is not the issue here.

CARLSON:  Well, of course it‘s not.

I mean, the issue is a religious one.  The people who want to ban this are on—you know, they‘re on a religious mission.  They‘re on a mission from God.  They‘re Carrie Nation.  You know, they have this puritanical message they want to impose on the rest of us, by force.

What does this mean, though?  Trans fat is banned.  You can‘t buy it anymore in New York City?  And what is the practical effect of that? 

BERMAN:  No.  I mean, you can still buy it.  I mean, the restriction is not on the consumer.  The restriction is obviously going to be on the manufacturer, going to be on the retailer, going to be on the food processor, et cetera.

I suppose we may have trans fat speakeasies.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN:  But I‘m not real sure where any of this stuff goes, because it‘s a case of first impression.

But these activists bootstrap themselves up from one issue into another one that then—then, they will be saying, well, you know, we did ban trans fats.  So, now we have to ban...

CARLSON:  Right. 

BERMAN:  ... caffeinated drinks.  We have to ban—everybody has to have diet soda, instead of regular soda, et cetera.

There‘s just no end to this thing. 

CARLSON:  Well, what exactly would the implications be?  Let‘s say this was taken seriously and it was enforced.  You could not buy trans fats in New York City.  What kinds of foods would you no longer be able to get in their current forms?

BERMAN:  You will still be able to buy the same foods, because what is going to happen—in fact, the American Heart Association warned against this—is that people will go back to saturated fats. 

So, we will go back, basically, from margarine to butter.  And saturated fats were considered to be the real bad thing in the ‘90s.  And it was the called-food police, this—this Center For Science in the Public Interest, which doesn‘t have much science or the public interest in mind—the Center For Science in the Public Interest said, you know, saturated fats are terrible.  What we need to do is go to trans fats.

Now these very same people turned around and said, wait a second, 10, 15 years later.  Trans fats are bad.  And, so, we got to get rid of them.

But it‘s OK, according to New York City, to go back to saturated fats, which the American Heart Association fears—fears is going to be the result of all this. 

CARLSON:  Are trans fats everywhere?  The average person...

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN:  They‘re naturally occurring. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN:  Trans fats are naturally occurring.

CARLSON:  But, if I‘m walking through New York, if I‘m eating my way through New York City, where might I encounter trans fats?

BERMAN:  In almost anything.

CARLSON:  Hmm.

BERMAN:  I mean, trans fats are naturally occurring in—in meats.

But the point is that they want to get these shortenings, basically, out of the cooking process.  Basically, you can still have them.  You can have them in cakes and cookies.  They just have to be in very small—very small amounts.

And what is going to happen is that certain foods that are going to have to switch to certain other oils or certain other fats probably won‘t taste as good, until they can come up with some sort of replacements that actually do fit the consumer palate.

But, at the end of the day, whether they are not in there or not in there, the point is, it‘s not a health issue, in the sense of eating lead...

CARLSON:  Right. 

BERMAN:  ... or eating rat poison. 

CARLSON:  No, it‘s a moral issue.  Again, they want to control you.

Quickly, and finally, you care about this.  But that‘s your job, is to care about stuff like this.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Do ordinary people care?  Do they see this as an assault on freedom?  Do you have poll numbers on this?  Do people see this an expansion of the state?  Because that‘s what it is.

BERMAN:  You know, I think that people just throw up their hands, for the most part, because everybody is too busy to worry about this kind of stuff.  And they just think it‘s, you know, just one more invasion of privacy.  It‘s one more attempt by the government to shut down people‘s choices, although I will tell you something occurred to me coming over to the studio.

You know, the government, which rails against all this stuff, supplies food stamps to lots of people.

CARLSON:  Of course.

BERMAN:  And you—and you can buy cakes and cookies and ice creams with food stamps.  So, I‘m going to suggest that you go on a jihad of your own, and why don‘t you see if you can get these left-wing groups to petition the government to restrict the use of food stamps for all the foods that they say are so terrible?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN:  And let‘s—let‘s see what happens with that sort of...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, how about they just leave my food alone?  That would be great.

Rick Berman, who, even as you sleep, is fighting for your freedom—thank you, Rick.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  I appreciate it.

BERMAN:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Still to come:  It may be time for all the other Democrats to surrender.  Hillary Clinton is beginning to look unbeatable.  But what would she do if she actually won?  What would a Hillary administration look like?

And what could be the most violent mainstream movie ever made could be Mel Gibson‘s comeback film—that story when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:    He began to focus on obtaining weapons, begin to prepare himself through a purification process.  He began to prepare videos in the event he did not survive the attack.  He fixed on a date of December 22nd, on a Friday, which he picked because it was the Friday before Christmas and thought that would be the highest concentration of shoppers that he could kill and injure. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was an FBI agent describing the behave of 22-year-old Derrick Shareef.  He‘s the Illinois man arrested on charges of planning to attack a shopping small with hand grenades during the holidays.  Shareef apparently wanted commit, quote, violent jihad. 

Joining me now with details of how all this unfolded NBC‘s Pete Williams from Washington, Pete. 

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well Tucker, this unfolded well over a month ago when agents somehow, and we don‘t know the answer to that yet, got on to this man Derrick Shareef.  They then introduced into the equation a man who posed as a friend of Shareef‘s but turned out to be a confidential informant of a joint terrorism task force, who had helped out in the past.  And they began to talk about ways that Shareef could channel his desire to commit violent Jihad. 

He first talked about attacking the courthouse.  He talked about stabbing Jews as they walked into Synagogues.  He talked about stabbing black people.  And then it becomes clear that the informant, sort of, pushed Shareef more in the direction of attacking this Cherry Vail (ph) shopping mall, which you‘re seeing now, in Rockford, Illinois, which is where Shareef was from, and using hand grenades. 

Now to be clear, Mr. Shareef did not have any weapons when doing all this talk, except a knife.  But, nonetheless, he did agree to go twice to the mall and, sort of, case it out, look at it.  He did that last Thursday and Friday.  over the weekend, last weekend, he made a video in which he claimed responsibility for the attack he hoped to carry out and then just two days ago he met in another parking lot in Rockford with an undercover agent of the ATF, thinking he was meeting with a supplier, someone he was going to swap stereo speakers, Mr. Shareef‘s stereo speakers, for some hand grenades and guns.  He was given what he thought was the real thing. 

They arrested him and that was that.  Now authorities are saying that it is clear that he had this intent.  He wanted to attack something and they are saying that the confidential informant sort of controlled him and moved him along into a way that they could keep him under constant surveillance.  But they‘re stressing, Tucker, that nobody was ever under any risk here because of the fact that the informant was with him.  They were surveiling him, recording his conversations.  They had this well under control and, in fact, they controlled the date on which he was arrested.

Now, a couple of other things here, Tucker.  One is, the authorities have been very careful to say here today that he acted in this plot alone, that he was not talking with any other terrorist groups.  He was entirely, as one person said today, a lone wolf.  However, having said that, it seems clear that they are still investigating whether Mr. Shareef was in fact talking to other people about potential other attacks, so I think we have not heard the end of this case yet. 

CARLSON:  Pete, what do we know object Derrick Shareef himself?  Is he American born?  Is he religious?  Are there any details about him?

WILLIAMS:  Well not a lot.  He is 22-years-old, as you said.  Yes, he is an American citizen and he is a convert to Islam.  Beyond that, we don‘t know much at all. 

CARLSON:  Pete Williams, thanks a lot Pete. 

WILLIAMS:  OK.

CARLSON:  Barack, who?  That‘s what some people are saying when asked about possible candidates in 2008 race for president.  More people are not only more familiar with New York Senator Hillary Clinton, they might even vote for her too.  You would never know that from watching some shows.  In recent polling, Clinton has a considerable lead over Illinois Senator Barack Obama.  He is the guy, of course, getting all the attention.  How does that happen. 

Here to tell us, a man who actually knows, Charlie Cook.  He‘s editor of the Cook Political Report.  Charlie, welcome.

CHARLIE COOK, COOK POLITICAL REPORT:  How you doing Tucker?

CARLSON:  I‘m great.  I‘m surprised though, considering all the attention all of us have larded on Barack Obama, that he is trailing Hillary, at least, in this poll. 

COOK:  Well, I think, if you look at the numbers, I mean, what it shows is that for a guy that, you know, not long ago, two years ago was in the Illinois state Senate and nobody had heard of, outside of presumably his state Senate district, to get up to, you know, 20 percent, 21 percent, in the polls, that‘s pretty good, for someone with fairly low, you know, name recognition. 

You know, he is certainly the hottest property in the Democratic party, rising star.  But, you know, he‘s got a long way to go, a lot of ground to cover, before, you know, 70, 80, 90, 100 percent of Democrats know who he is.  So, you know, if I were him, I would be very pleased with where I am.  I‘m not sure whether he runs or not.  I think it‘s a very, very close call whether he does this or not, but he would certainly change the whole face of the race if he runs. 

CARLSON:  Where is his name recognition right now? 

COOK:  Actually, I haven‘t tested that.  I haven‘t tested, you know, favorable, unfavorable, and you add it together.  I would guess it‘s still under 50 percent.  I mean, I‘m just sort of guessing, so he has got a long way to go.  The thing is, you know, the average person out there hadn‘t really focused.  I mean you say Obama, they probably think he‘s Irish, but, you know, so they haven‘t focused on it.  But, you know, he‘s clearly a hot property that‘s out there. 

But, you know, for him, you know, it‘s a tough call.  You know, he‘s got two young daughters.  He‘s only, you know, two years ago was in the state Senate, all that.  But at the same time, everywhere he goes he‘s got people clamoring, you ought to run, you ought to run, you ought to run. 

And can you stay hot for four, or six, or eight years, ten years.  Do you have to strike while the iron is hot, on the one hand, or, on the other hand, do you wait until you are in the Senate for a while, more established, you know, sort of have thicker credentials, and do it then?  It‘s going to be a tough decision for the guy. 

CARLSON:  It‘s just amazing to me that more Americans know who Lindsay Lohan is.  That shows you what a small world we live in.  This is a—

COOK:  Lindsay who?

CARLSON:  There you go.  You‘re one of the eight people who doesn‘t know, and god bless you for that Charlie Cook. 

COOK:  I‘m sure all three of my kids do know. 

CARLSON:  I‘m sure they do.  This poll was filled with interesting numbers.  I want to read a couple others.  John Kerry of Massachusetts, four percent of Democrats and Democratic leaning voters, if I‘m reading this correctly, favored John Kerry.  The guy just ran.  He‘s got to be considered, by rights, the leader of the party.  He was the last nominee.  Four percent is terrible. 

COOK:  The thing is, his numbers were little bit better, but they have really taken a nose dive, and I‘m not sure Democrats really needed another reason not to nominate him, but, you know, a couple of weeks out before the election with his ill fated joke.  I think he gave them one more reason.  I have been through 39 states in the last two years, and I haven‘t met a soul that wasn‘t on his payroll that wanted to see him run again. 

And I have got to think that sooner or later he‘s got a friend that‘s good enough, that says John, look, you know, maybe you should have been president, but this isn‘t going to happen.  And make something—do your career in the Senate, work within the Senate.  You‘ve got a lot you can do there, but don‘t run for president again. 

CARLSON:  Running for president really is, as someone once said, like having sex.  You do it once and, you know, you can‘t stop thinking about it.  You want to do it again. 

COOK:  I‘ll leave that to you Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Speaking of, Wes Clarke, General Wesley Clarke ran last time, not very well, but he did run and he‘s an impressive guy by some measures.  He‘s at two percent. 

COOK:  Yes, I mean, again, a lot of people don‘t—you know, they don‘t focus on this stuff.  They don‘t watch it so closely.  And that‘s one of the problems with these races that, you know, I think you can make the argument that the Democratic nomination fight was basically over after Iowa.  I mean, it didn‘t even last to New Hampshire.  And so, you know, the circus only went to one town.  They didn‘t go anywhere else.  And, you know, that‘s one of the problems.  It used to be where you go through a long campaign and you learn a lot. 

You learn the trip, you know, and all that.  And you still do, but you still don‘t have that much exposure because the thing is so abbreviated.  But a tremendously capable guy.  The key thing, I think, is, for whether Obama runs or not is, if Obama doesn‘t run, the race is basically Hillary Clinton—you know, two NCAA basketball brackets.  There‘s the Hillary Clinton bracket, and there‘s another bracket for everybody else, competing to be the alternative. 

But if Obama runs, throw that out.  Basically, you have got Hillary Clinton over here.  You‘ve got Barack Obama over there, and how do these other guys get any room?  So I think, you know, the Evan Bayhs and Bidens and Dodds and all those guys, they‘ve got a lot riding on whether Obama runs, because having two sons in the system, there‘s no room for anybody else. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right, and it‘s sad, if you‘re Joe Biden and you have been there since you where, you know, 29 years—since 1972 and you‘re a serious guy, it‘s got to be upsetting to watch these people come out of nowhere and eclipse you.  Very quickly, Al Gore, you‘ve been to 39 states.  you said—are people clamoring, at the base level of the Democratic party, for Gore to run again?

COOK:  Well no, but there certainly is more of an interest in a Gore

candidacy than a Kerry, by a factor of five or six.  I think Al Gore would

love to be the Democratic nominee.  And I think if it were handed to him on

a silver platter, he‘d take it.  But he is not going to fight for it.  He‘s

not going to go through the ordeal.  I don‘t expect to see him in this

race.  The key is Obama.  Does Obama go or not.  And that is what changes -

that‘s what alters the whole shape of the race. 

CARLSON:  And potentially American history.  Charlie Cook, thanks a lot.

COOK:  Take care Tucker.

CARLSON:  Coming up, as Barack Obama contemplates a run for the White House, we ask are the question, is America ready for a black president.  The Reverend Al Sharpton thinks maybe so.  He stops by to state his case, next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

CARLSON:  With all the talk surrounding Barack Obama and a possible bid for the White House in 2008, one question that comes to mind is America ready for a black president.  It hasn‘t happened in more than 200 years, of course.  Could 2008 be the year?  It got us thinking.  We decided to give our old friend Al Sharpton, the reverend, the former presidential candidate, a call.  He joins us on the phone.  Rev?

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST:  How are you Tucker? 

CARLSON:  I‘m great.  Now, you ran for president and that implies you believe America is ready for a black president.  But you have had a lot of time to think about it.  Do you think it is? 

SHARPTON:  I do.  I think that America is ready for a leader, regardless of their race or sex, that can deal with the multiplicity of problems.  I mean, if we have a definitive candidate to deal with foreign relations, foreign affairs, that can bring us to a stable peace in Iraq and in disengagement, that can deal with domestic issues like health care and education, which is a real problem, crime and policing.  I think that candidates can really get the support of the American public. 

Just look at the midterm elections.  When you see a Devall Patrick, who won for governor of Massachusetts, coming from a civil rights background, coming form what many perceive as a liberal background.  He didn‘t apologize for it and won in a majority white state.  It shows there is a maturing of the American voter.  Are there still racist voters out there, yes, but I don‘t think there‘s enough of them to stop somebody based on their race, or, for that matter, their sex. 

CARLSON:  I, in fact, agree with you.  And think that, sure, there are racists out here that won‘t vote for a candidate because he‘s black, but I think that there are more people in America who like idea of voting for a black candidate, because it makes them feel tolerant.  It makes them feel like they are part of a new generation that has gotten beyond America‘s ugly past on that subject, and, in fact, being black helps Barack Obama.  

SHARPTON:  Well, I think it may or may not be Obama, but I think that

it‘s going to be based on the agenda.  I think the challenge for an Obama

or Patrick, or whoever, is what the agenda is.  Because Once You get by the

novelty of skin color, you have to have something to say.  And one of the

things that I think that is encouraging to me is a lot what we are seeing -

When we see the positions on the war, these are things that many of us, that were considered to the left, have said for the last three years. 

It‘s now a centrist position.  When I read the Iraqi Study Group‘s report, that stuff Jesse Jackson was saying eight months ago when went to the Middle East.  So many times we are finding that hose of us that were considered to progressive to be accepted are now the ones who‘s message is the centrist message, and they just happen to come from some of us who are black. 

CARLSON:  What is Obama doing?  I mean, he must be making overtures to people in your line of work, people considered part of the civil rights community.  I‘ve always had some question as to what exactly that is, but we generally know what it is.  Is he talking to you, to others?  

SHARPTON:  I think he has reached out to several.  He and I have talked on the phone.  We‘re going to talk.  Ms. Clinton is reaching out to people.  Governor Vilsack—all of them are reaching out.  A lot of us have not decided if we‘re not in it.  I think you that you are going to see it get more serious after new years and we‘ll see what everybody—what we all decide to do.

And let‘s not forget now, in 2004 when I ran, Wesley Clark was going to come in and clean everybody out.  It didn‘t happen.  Let‘s not forget that Howard Dean was already picking curtains for the White House.  It didn‘t happen.  So I don‘t get caught up in what you guys project.  I think message is always more important than messenger.

CARLSON:  Yes, though in both the cases you just mentioned, Wes Clark and Howard Dean, it turns out they couldn‘t stand up to scrutiny.  They just weren‘t very good at running presidential campaigns, and they both, kind of, collapsed to varying degrees under the scrutiny of the national media.  They couldn‘t hack it.  Do you think Obama can? 

SHARPTON:  I don‘t know.  I mean, I know that there‘s a difference between the flirtation and the date.  Sometimes people you flirt with end up being the worst dates, sometimes people that you didn‘t want to date end up being your wife. 

CARLSON:  That‘s an excellent point.  Do you think—I mean Hillary Clinton was—and I know you know a lot about this since you are a political power broker in the state of New York, that she represents.  She was counting on black voters as really one of the pillars of her support for an 2008 race.  If Obama gets in, can he expect the majority of the black vote do you think in the primaries? 

SHARPTON:  Yes, a lot of that will depend on the message.  I think that you can not—there are blacks that could run that can‘t necessarily depend on the majority of the black voters.  For example, you have blacks that are in public life that are antithetical to black interests, or silent.  For example, if Clarence Thomas were to run I don‘t know many blacks that would vote for him, or others that have been silent.  So I think it would be interesting. 

I think the black community, like any other community, will vote their interests and I think that we have matured to  the point where we know that everybody that is our color is not our kind, and we‘ll expect people to address us and deal with us, just like anybody else in the American public.  I don‘t think Jewish elected officials assume the Jewish vote, Catholics the Catholic vote, women the women vote.  Why should African-American candidates assume the African-American vote if they‘re not talking to things that are particularly in our concerns and in our interest? 

CARLSON:  Amen, I hope all of that is true.  I agree with the color blind society you just described and I hope we get it. 

SHARPTON:  Well I don‘t know if it‘s color blind, or color respectful, but again, we‘ve come a long way, even Tucker Carlson called me his old friend.  Look at the progress.

CARLSON:  Now the fact that I‘m admitting now in public is the true milestone.  Rev, thank you.

SHARPTON:  Thank you.  Take care Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks.  Mel Gibson‘s Apocalypto is getting pretty good reviews, but is the American public sick of the violence?  We‘ll discuss that with our senior movie critic Willie Geist.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Joining us now, truly one of my favorite people.  And you will notice that, for once, there is no ironic inflection in my voice.  He is Willie Geist.  He joins us from headquarters, Willie.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC SENIOR MOVIE CRITIC:  Thanks Tucker, the feeling is mutual my friend.  Wesley Snipes is a man you had encouraged to run a couple of months ago when the IRS was looking for him.  I believe the quote from the transcript was, run Wesley, run. 

Well,  he came home this morning to Orlando, turned himself in at about 9:30.  He owes the government about 12 million bucks in back taxes, but we won‘t get hung up on those details.  The U.S. Marshals have released him on 1 million dollars bail, and actually allowed him to go back to Namibia where he was shooting a movie.  So we wish Wesley all the best.  He can probably come up with the 12 million, but the run is over, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  You know, he may be a flawed civil rights hero, and I may have overdrawn it a little, but I still, kind of, like the guy. 

GEIST:  I think you called him a folk hero last time, didn‘t you?  Speaking of, for whatever his flaws may be, Mel Gibson, Tucker, an effective story teller.  Over the summer he got liquored up and told the California highway patrol the one about the Jews being responsible for all the wars in the world.  Do you remember that one?  Today we get his epic film Apocalypto.

It tells the story of the lost Mayan civilization.  The reviews have been pretty favorable, but some critics wonder if American movie goers have tired of Gibson‘s personal behavior enough to stay away from this movie.  And let me answer that one, Tucker.  No. 

Remember the last one, “Passion of the Christ,” he‘s the worst person in the world, it‘s anti-Semitic, here‘s a number for you, 612 million dollars it did, 31st all time.  People, it‘s entertainment.  They don‘t care.  Pat O‘Brien, Kobe Bryant, Hugh Grant, how are those guys doing?  Nobody cares. 

CARLSON:  You. 

GEIST:  Me.  Well, people don‘t know about my private life.  Thank goodness. 

Tucker, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, better known as the axis of evil, have caused quite a stir with their public partying antics lately.  And quite frankly Bet Midler has seen just about enough.  Midler told the entertainment show “Extra,” I‘ve been on the other side of these wild and woolly sluts that we‘re seeing around our lives these days and I‘ve taken the other side.  I‘m wearing all the underwear that those girls are not wearing, at least two bras and several pairs of panties.” 

I have no idea what that means.  Now Tucker, I ran into senior “HARDBALL” political correspondent David Shuster in the makeup room where we on-air types hob-nob.  He said to me—he suggested the Bet Midler may just be a little bit jealous because nobody wants to see her goods.  Do you think there is any truth in that, some wisdom behind David Shuster? 

CARLSON:  I think there is.  I‘m sort of on Bet Midler‘s side generally.  I like Bet Midler, but describing Britney Spears as, quote, woolly, contradicts all available evidence. 

GEIST:  Can I just ask a personal question?  What does that mean to be on Bet Midler‘s side?  Are there things to be on her side about?   

CARLSON:  I don‘t know what --  I‘m not sure exactly what side she‘s on, but, I don‘t know why, I find Bet Midler charming.  I always have.

GEIST:  I‘m generally on Bet Midlers side.  I don‘t know what that means.  Finally Tucker, I want to get you updated on the latest Mexican subway wrestling news.  Passengers using the Mexico City subway system today were treated to full-scale professional wrestling matches in three of the city‘s most busiest (sic) stations.  I‘m not kidding.  Look at this.  Officials in that city wanted to spice up the mundane morning commute with a few body slams and head locks. 

There were 11 live matches, including some involving little people.  You knew that was coming.  This is a very nice touch, Tucker.  But I live in New York.  There are amateur wrestling matches at every station at every hour of every someday.  Frankly, we walk by and don‘t pay attention.  We call it hobo wrestling, Tucker.  It‘s happening all the time, trust me.  That would be a step down for a wrestler.  There‘s the WWE.  Then there‘s like wrestling in high school gyms, and then wrestling in subway stations. 

CARLSON:  And then there‘s wrestling in Mexican subway stations. 

GEIST:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Willie Geist.

GEIST:  All right Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks as always, truly.  That‘s our show.  Thanks for watching.  Up next HARDBALL, with the great Mike Barnicle.  Have a terrific weekend.  We‘ll see you Monday

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 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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