updated 12/14/2006 10:58:17 AM ET 2006-12-14T15:58:17

Guests: Bill Press, Charlie Black, Steve McMahon, Ira Mehlman, Patrick Gavin

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  President Bush wraps up another day of his listening tour, this time meeting with Pentagon and Defense Department officials.  He came out swinging after laying down his version of the law with this proclamation about Iraq...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m not going to be rushed into making a difficult decision, a necessary decision to say to our troops we‘re going to give you the tools necessary to succeed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Joining me now, Republican strategist Charlie Black; Democratic strategist Steve McMahon; and Bill Press, author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion.”

Welcome to you all. 

Bill, let‘s start with you.  Isn‘t this what Democrats have been calling for, for the past three years, a moment of reconsideration?  The president, whatever you think about him, whatever you think about this horrible war in Iraq, does seem to be taking stock of how it‘s going, thinking it through maybe for the first time in a long time. 

It‘s good, isn‘t it? 

BILL PRESS, AUTHOR, “HOW THE REPUBLICANS STOLE RELIGION”:  I think what Democrats have been calling for is leadership.  And we‘re not seeing any today. 

I think it‘s absurd the idea that the commander in chief has run around town and talked to everybody.  I mean, the last I heard, he was bringing in the lawn crew from the White House to ask them what they thought. 

I mean, Tucker, can you imagine FDR in the middle of World War II stopping and saying, I don‘t know what the hell to do.  I have got to talk to everybody I can find to figure out what direction to go in. 

CARLSON:  Wait a second.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Far be it for me to defend the White House for its Iraq policy. 

PRESS:  No, it‘s absurd.

CARLSON:  However, Steve, isn‘t it true that the criticism from day one—and I mean six years ago when the President was elected—has been this is a go-it-alone president who listens to the counsel of no one but himself, and he basically is blind to other opportunities.  He‘s not curious. 

Now he is being curious.  You have to give him credit for that. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, Tucker, it‘s not clear that he is being curious.  I mean, he has the Baker commission issue its report, and basically they say, you know, we‘re not really that interested. 

He is running around town, as Bill points out, I think because that‘s what it takes for him to find somebody that will actually agree with his point of view.  I mean, he has mismanaged this thing from the beginning and there is no evidence that he wants to change course. 

There is a lot of evidence the country wants to change course.  But so far, you know, the president hasn‘t done anything except—except seek counsel. 

CARLSON:  Well, I‘m not sure there is evidence he wants to change course.  Nobody wants to change course.  You‘re over 30, you don‘t want to change course. 

There is a lot of evidence he has to change course.  He fired the secretary of defense.  I mean, I think he is actually shifting his position. 

What do you think, Charlie? 

CHARLIE BLACK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, he has actually said that he is not happy with the status quo, that we‘re not making enough progress fast enough, and he is going to change policies.  Now there is no simple answer, simple solution. 

It may take a number of policy decisions taken together to change the course.  And that‘s what you will hear him say in January.  But of course he must take this seriously and consult with everybody who might have an idea. 

CARLSON:  Why wait until January, Bill?

PRESS:  We‘re talking January to make up his mind.  So he was supposed to do it before Christmas. 

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  And now he obviously doesn‘t have a clue what to do, so he says we‘re going to wait until January. 

Here‘s what I think.  I think he is building support for putting more troops into Iraq.  And he won‘t do it until January because he is afraid to face parents and families in this country and say, Merry Christmas, I‘m sending 40,000 more of your kids to Iraq.  That‘s what‘s going on.

CARLSON:  That‘s an interesting point.  I‘ve heard that four times today. 

I heard it at lunch right up on Capitol Hill this afternoon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is DNC talking points, obviously. 

PRESS:  Come on. 

CARLSON:  But is there any indication?  I‘ve been looking...

MCMAHON:  John McCain‘s talking points. 

PRESS:  Exactly.

BLACK:  John McCain hasn‘t criticized the president for delaying his announcement by a couple of weeks.  A couple of weeks does not make any difference.  You‘re going to see a new policy. 

It won‘t be a magic answer, but it will be something new and different.  And hopefully the American people and Democrats and Republicans will give him a chance, give him a grace period to try to succeed. 

CARLSON:  If he comes out, Steve, in January and says—and explains—that has been his problem, in my view, part of it all along, is he is a terrible explainer, he‘s arrogant. 

MCMAHON:  He is a decider, though, isn‘t he? 

CARLSON:  OK, right.  But he‘s not good—he never sold the war.  People never understood why we went.  They didn‘t.

They didn‘t on some internal level understand what it was all about.  It was too theoretical for the average person.

If he comes out in January and says having thought this through and talked to a bipartisan collection of people, I have come to the conclusion that we need on a short-term basis more troops, can he sell that? 

MCMAHON:  I think he‘ll have a tough time.  I think the American people has already made a judgment about this war.  They have made a judgment based on “The Washington Post” poll that we are not winning the war.  And I think what the American public is ready for is a withdrawal of some kind or a planned withdrawal of some kind. 

They don‘t want to send more troops.  They want to start bringing troops home.  And that‘s what they want to hear.

And until they hear it, frankly, I think that it‘s not just the president

jeopardizing his own political legacy, but he is actually threatening

Republicans who are going to have to run on a ticket with—with—with -

well, not a ticket with the president, but on a ticket presumably defending the president‘s policies. 

CARLSON:  Well, this is—this is world historic stuff.  I mean this is a big deal.

MCMAHON:  The Republican nominee in 2008 is going to have a tough choice to make. 

CARLSON:  At the very, very least. 

But I wonder, though—Bill, you saw the polls yesterday that said that people, they are very dissatisfied with the war, they are very dissatisfied with the president‘s handling of it.  They want the troops home, but they also are terrified, correctly, of defeat. 

PRESS:  That‘s right.

CARLSON:  Sixty-odd percent are terrified we‘re going to lose there. 

Can the president leverage that fear into a case for more troops?  Why couldn‘t he?

PRESS:  No, no, no.  This is Lyndon Baines Bush, Tucker.  You cannot sell this policy.

There is no way in my judgment that President Bush, at this point—I think it‘s too late for that.  No way that he can go before the American people and say, I‘ve got the answer.  After three and a half years, we‘re going to send in 40,000 more troops and that‘s going to cure it. 

No one will believe it.  I don‘t think anyone will support it. 

Let me tell you something.  Dennis Kucinich is not looking so crazy anymore. 

CARLSON:  Really? 

PRESS:  We all made fun of him four years ago. 

CARLSON:  What, the veganism or the war position?

PRESS:  Well, the vegan thing is crazy, but in terms of bringing the troops home tomorrow, I think that‘s a serious option. 

CARLSON:  Yes, but the president—but hold on.  Bush gets out there—and again, I am on record for more than three years as a profound skeptic, an angry skeptic of this war. 

PRESS:  Yes.

CARLSON:  However, when Bush gets up and says, you think it‘s bad now, it could be a lot worse, this is really a dangerous situation we‘re in, let‘s not screw it up, I‘m won over by that.  I think that‘s real.

PRESS:  Here‘s the problem...

BLACK:  The American people want to win.  There is very little support for the idea of just pulling the troops out a la Dennis Kucinich and coming home. 

They want to win.  If the president puts a plausible plan forward, even if it involves more troops for a limited period of time, they‘re going to give him a chance.  I don‘t know how long, but they will give him some grace period to try to succeed. 

CARLSON:  Let‘s say we pulled out, Steve.  Let‘s say, you know, we left at the beginning of 2008, no more American troops.  There would be a bloodbath.  Everybody concurs.  Dennis Kucinich agrees with that, I think.

Can Democrats really sit by—can the Democratic candidate in 2008 sit by as tens of thousands of Shiites and Sunnis murder one another in Iraq and say this humanitarian crisis on the scale of Rwanda is taking place but we‘re not going to intervene?  Can they really do that? 

MCMAHON:  Well, I think it‘s obviously a tough situation for everybody, but the American public has made a judgment about this war. 

And I‘ll tell you what—Bill raised a very interesting point.  The president is in a position now where even if he made a case and even if there were a case to be made that 40,000 more troops are necessary, and that might help us achieve victory in Iraq, whatever victory is these days, the American people are not likely to believe him because he squandered all the credibility. 

They have either misled or they have—or they have been misinformed or they have misjudged situation after situation.  And right now the American public no longer believes this administration when they say, if we do this, this will be the outcome.  And frankly, they are just—they have made a judgment, and they made it pretty clear on Election Day what they want to see next. 

PRESS:  Tucker, I think you asked the wrong question, if I may say so.  I think the question is, can Republicans go into 2008 -- and remember, 2008 is already here...

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  ... and thanks to us, we‘re already talking about it.  Early 2007, we‘re into the 2008 election.  Can Republicans go into 2008 still supporting this president and this war...

CARLSON:  No, that‘s a good point.

PRESS:  ... and more troops and basically staying the course with more troops? 

CARLSON:  I think it‘s going to be a tough sell.  And I—we‘ll bring this up in just...

PRESS:  No is the answer. 

CARLSON:  ... a minute.  But I want to go now to some developing news late this afternoon about Tim Johnson.  He is, of course, the Democratic senator from South Dakota.  He apparently has taken ill. 

NBC News‘ Chip Reid joins us with the latest on his condition—Chip. 

CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Tucker. 

Well, we are told that a little after noon today, Tim Johnson was in his Senate office in the Hart Senate Office Building here in Washington.  He was apparently not feeling well. 

They called the Capitol‘s attending physician who came over, and who then called an ambulance.  And he was taken to George Washington University, where he is under observation. 

Now, we have been told by two sources that he was exhibiting signs of a stroke.  Now, we have no idea how serious that is, and we are still working on the details and trying to figure out exactly what happened here.  But—and I don‘t want to be too morbid about this, because obviously his health is number one here, but any time you have a Democratic senator from a Republican state who goes ill, which may well be the case here, that presents the possibility that that Republican governor, if that seat became vacant, could appoint a new senator to that seat. 

And with the Senate at 51-49, that would make it 50-50.  And with Dick Cheney providing the tie-breaking vote, Republicans would be back in control of the Senate. 

We have no reason to believe that that is the case. We are simply laying out the horrible succession of events that would happen if something like this—if something like that happened. 

We have no reason to believe that he is that ill.  But again, we have been told by two people on Capitol Hill in a position to know that he appears to have suffered a stroke, an apparent stroke, as they put it.  And we are trying to get the details on that and figure out exactly what is going on. 

CARLSON:  Sad and remarkable story. 

Chip, thanks a lot. 

REID:  You bet. 

CARLSON:  Charlie, this—I mean, on so many levels, Senator Johnson a popular guy around town, certainly one of those Democrats that I think a lot of Republicans like. 

What‘s your take on this?

BLACK:  Well, we don‘t know anything except for the fact that he‘s apparently ill.  We should pray for his health and not speculate about the political consequences. 

CARLSON:  But there would be—I mean, it‘s hard not to speculate.  I mean, one hates to do it when he‘s still in the hospital.  On the other hand, this is exactly the kind of scenario that arises when you have a Senate that‘s as closely divided as this one is.  And we saw that...

BLACK:  And you could have a Democrat switch parties and become a Republican, like Jim Jeffords did in reverse, too.

CARLSON:  Right.

BLACK:  But it‘s idle speculation.  I think we should just pull for Tim Johnson to get well.

CARLSON:  Amen.  I agree with that.

Do you think in a situation like this on either side that a governor of a state would feel compelled, Bill, if the senator took ill to appoint a member of that senator‘s party, even if it was not the same party as the governor? 

PRESS:  No.  But like Charlie Black, I think the important thing now is to think about Tim Johnson. 

Let me just say one other thing.  He is at GWU.  I can tell you from my own experience, he is getting the best medical care in the world at George Washington University Hospital.  He is a young man. 

Tucker, there are a lot of people around this town who are back to work and living full careers now having suffered a stroke.  There are more serious strokes and there are less serious strokes.  Let‘s hope this one, if it is a stroke, is less serious and he is soon back on the job. 

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.  And all of us know someone who has recovered from a stroke. 

PRESS:  Yes.

CARLSON:  Have you worked with senator Johnson, Steve? 

MCMAHON:  I have not.  I have not.  But, you know, everybody who has shares the view that he is one of those guys who is pretty popular around town.  And, I mean, obviously, I think we all agree that his health is paramount. 

And hopefully he will get better soon.  Whatever it is. 

CARLSON:  Amen.  Godspeed to Senator Johnson. 

MCMAHON:  Hopefully it was just that Senate bean soup and nothing more serious than that. 

CARLSON:  It‘s pretty nasty.

Still to come, if you‘re an illegal alien and you‘re watching the show and you live in Illinois, you will want to stick around, because life is about to get a lot better for you, thanks to your governor.  We‘ll tell you why when we come right back. 

Plus, the Democratic frontrunners evoke a very tough question: Which is more difficult to become, a female president or a black president? 

We‘ve got view on that.  We‘ll share them.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  In contrast to the new harder-line immigration policies in Massachusetts and yesterday‘s federal raids on illegals in meat-packing plants in the state of Illinois, Illinois today announced measures to provide more health care, bilingual schools, more English language training and job skill training for immigrants, legal and illegal.  Governor Rod Blagojevich intends for these unprecedented measures to better integrate immigrants into Illinois‘ economy, whatever that means. 

Here to tell us what it means, Ira Mehlman, from the Federation for Immigration Reform. 

Ira, thanks for coming on. 

IRA MEHLMAN, FEDERATION FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  So, his point, Blagojevich‘s point, is the economy of the state of Illinois is driven by immigrants and the state benefits by integrating them into the state. 

MEHLMAN:  I‘m not sure that‘s a correct assumption to begin with.  What you have are immigrants that are doing jobs that used to be done by American workers and legal immigrants at higher wages, and now you have employers that have become hooked on these low-wage workers. 

And in our minds we all confuse need and want.  So you have industries that want these employees, but it‘s not the same as need.  And it also results in a subsidized labor force. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

MEHLMAN:  When you have low-wage workers, they are not being paid for by the employers.  They are being paid for by the taxpayers. 

The employer gets to pay what he or she wants.  Everybody else then has to provide the education to health care, the other services. 

So really, we‘re simply passing the costs from the employer to the taxpayers in Illinois.  And I think Governor Blagojevich is way off base on this. 

CARLSON:  So, if you were an employer whose industry depended upon cheap labor, you would want to donate as much as you could to politicians who are pro-illegal immigration. 

MEHLMAN:  Right.  You know, businesses—and it‘s one of the reasons the Bush administration has been behind opening the borders—business sees this as a huge labor subsidy.  It cuts their labor costs.  And like any other industry that has a subsidy, they‘re going to fight to keep it. 

And really, we have to be honest with ourselves.  There are certain costs to having people in our society, there are costs to having things done in our society.  And we can either pay for it honestly or we can pay for it through all sorts of different ways and wind up paying a lot more. 

CARLSON:  There is a principle here, a pretty basic—everyone I think can understand that why should a government, state, local, federal, pay people who are by definition breaking the law?  They are not citizens.  Their very presence is illegal, and yet they are getting essentially welfare benefits. 

Why is that?

MEHLMAN:  Exactly.  Well, you know, first of all, Governor Blagojevich, whatever he thinks of our immigration law, he put his hand on the bible and took an oath to uphold the law.  And it applies to all laws.  Not just the laws in Illinois, but he also has an obligation to uphold the federal laws.  And just because the federal government isn‘t holding up its end of the bargain doesn‘t mean that he should simply open up the coffers of the state of Illinois and say, come take whatever you want out of it. 

CARLSON:  What do—what do voters think about this?  I mean, do we know - - tell me about referenda that have passed in states around the country.  Are people in favor of this? 

MEHLMAN:  Well, just last month, there were referenda on the ballots in Arizona and in Colorado.  And overwhelmingly, when people had the chance to voice their opinion, they voted for restrictions on benefits to people who were in the country illegally. 

It was overwhelming.  Even in the face of a massive sweep by the Democratic Party, people voted for enforcement of immigration laws. 

CARLSON:  Is the Democratic position really so different from the Republican position? 

MEHLMAN:  You know, it‘s—time will tell.  You have a lot of the new Democrats who came, I think, with a different attitude than the established Democratic leadership. 

CARLSON:  Right.

MEHLMAN:  I think if you look at Pelosi, you look at Conyers, what they want are essentially open borders and amnesty. 

CARLSON:  They want new voters.  Of course.

MEHLMAN:  Right, they want new voters.

But I think you have the traditional labor Democrats.  And I think a lot of the new people hearken back to that tradition in the Democratic Party who say no, we have to preserve the right of people in this country to earn a decent living.  Otherwise, we‘re simply going to create a two-class society, destroy our middle class.  And that‘s what the Democratic Party has always stood for.

CARLSON:  You‘re creating a third (ph) class.  And wouldn‘t it be amazing if the Democratic Party five years from now became the party of tightening up border security?  That would be a - - that would be a brilliant stroke on their part. 

Ira Mehlman, thanks a lot. 

MEHLMAN:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  I appreciate it.

Coming up, the feds go Eliot Ness on a meat-packing company.  A huge raid on illegal immigrants involving 1,000 federal agents.  Of course apologists for illegal aliens are mad about it.

We‘ve got details in just a moment. 

Well, in just a few hours, this picture will be a very different one as another White House Christmas party takes over D.C.  We‘ll check in with someone who is never left of the guest list. 

We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Back with me, Republican strategist Charlie Black; Democratic strategist Steve McMahon; and Bill Press, author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion,” a terrific yet deeply misguided book. 

Welcome to you all.

(LAUGHTER)

Bill, I thought Ira Mehlman made a really good point, which is immigration ought to be one of those subjects that motivates Democrats.  I mean, illegal immigrants, lower wages for Americans.  They screw the working class, the group the Democratic Party has pledged to protect and watch over. 

Why are Democrats so insistent upon letting in illegal aliens? 

PRESS:  What are we talking about, Tucker?  Are we talking about Illinois, or are we talking about Massachusetts...

CARLSON:  I‘m talking about the United States of  America.

PRESS:  ... are we talking about the meat-packing raid? 

CARLSON:  We are talking about—yes, specifically, we‘re talking about what Governor Blagojevich is doing in Illinois, but on a more macro level, why is it that the Democratic Party is institutionally in favor, in effect, of illegal immigration?  I don‘t get it. 

PRESS:  No, no, no.  First of all, you totally misrepresent the position of the Democratic Party. 

The official Democratic Party response this year on immigration was to support Republican president George W. Bush on comprehensive immigration reform...

CARLSON:  Right.  Well, you‘re saying the same thing.  I mean, he...

PRESS:  No, no, no.  But included border—toughening up the border.  More agents at the border, and it also included some kind of a recognition that you need some of these workers here, particularly seasonally to help American employers.  And lastly, you have got to do something about the 12, 15 million who are here. 

CARLSON:  OK.  I shouldn‘t have introduced politics into it.  Let me just ask a very simple question. 

Why don‘t more people recognize that illegal immigration hurts the working poor? 

PRESS:  I think they do, but what are you going to do about it? 

CARLSON:  Stop it.  You stop it.  You stop it tomorrow. 

PRESS:  Fine.  Fine. 

CARLSON:  Build a wall.  I mean...

PRESS:  You build a tougher border.

CARLSON:  ... zero tolerance. 

PRESS:  But that ignores the fact there are 12 million to 15 million here. 

Like Ronald Reagan, Republican president, recognized in his term...

CARLSON:  Yes.

PRESS:  ... and said you have got to have some ladder to citizenship for them.  It worked for Ronald Reagan. 

George Bush was right on these issues.  Democrats were willing to support him.  It‘s his Republican right-wingers in the Senate that killed that legislation. 

CARLSON:  Amen.  They were doing the lord‘s work. 

BLACK:  Actually, the House was...

PRESS:  Or the House.

BLACK:  The Senate passed it. 

But listen, I actually think there is still a good chance to get comprehensive immigration reform through the Congress.  And the president is going to work with people in both parties to try to do it.  Whatever our policy is going to be, it should be legal. 

CARLSON:  It should be—but I wonder, though—just again, as an ideological matter, how does it help, you know, the person making $15,000 a year, the person famously so hurt by the destruction of the manufacturing base, the movement offshore of the manufacturing base in the United States, how does it help that person to have people from Honduras coming here willing to work for $4 an hour and send $3 of it back to—back to Honduras? 

MCMAHON:  Well, it may not help that person...

CARLSON:  May not?

MCMAHON:  ... but Bill‘s right.  There is a fact that there are 12 million to 15 million illegal immigrants in this country right now.  Many of them are American citizens because they have had children. 

So the question now is, what do you do with those 12 to 15 million people?  It‘s not realistic to think that you‘re going to go arrest them all, round them up, and take them out of the country.  And even if you could, you couldn‘t take their minor children who are American citizens. 

So, are we going to break up the family or are we going to recognize the reality of the situation, which is perhaps not the reality that we would all like?  But give the people who are in this country a path to citizenship. 

CARLSON:  That‘s very cynical.

MCMAHON:  You know, everybody in this town talks about bipartisanship.  And this is an instance where the Democrats were willing to support the president on a comprehensive reform bill that frankly hit the sweet spot in terms of trying to address all these challenges at the same time. 

The people who were allowed to stay in this country had to pay back taxes, they had to pay a penalty, they had to keep a job.  They couldn‘t—they couldn‘t get arrested or they would be thrown out.  They had to learn English. 

I mean, all the things that the conservatives want and expect from Mexican...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  You all are on one position, one side of this, and I‘m on the other.  So I‘m not going to try to win you over. 

MCMAHON:  But you‘re from California. 

CARLSON:  I am from California. 

Let me just suggest one very quick thing and get each of your takes on this very quickly. 

A lot of people don‘t agree with you.  A lot of people are just, you know, throw them out, they are changing our country for the worse.  OK.  That—a lot of people feel that way, the polls show it. 

Which is the party that‘s going to harness that energy and that anger first, the Republicans or the Democrats—Charlie. 

BLACK:  This is truly going to be a bipartisan effort to have immigration reform, and I think it‘s probably going to happen.  As to whether either party can benefit long-run immigrant bashing, no, I don‘t think either will. 

CARLSON:  Do you see any Democrats in the next five years standing up and saying... 

MCMAHON:  Tom Tancredo, and only Tom Tancredo, who is frankly making a fool of himself.  And he‘s going to make a fool of himself in the Republican presidential primaries.  And it‘s going to be great fun to watch as a Democrat. 

CARLSON:  Fifty years from now will people look at Tom Tancredo and say, they mocked him then, he was a wise man?

PRESS:  Right.  I don‘t disagree with these guys. 

I want to say something else, Tucker.  I think this big storm troopers‘ raid on these meat-packing plants was absolutely ridiculous.  I mean, what were these guys doing?  They stole some IDs so they could work for a living and support their families. 

CARLSON:  Yes, identity theft is not such a big deal.  I agree with that. 

PRESS:  Somebody stole my identity last year.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Yes, identity theft.  I mean, whatever.  You and I totally agree.

PRESS:  Somebody stole my identity last year and was using it to buy stuff at different stores, and they did absolutely nothing. 

CARLSON:  Days off for the...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  These guys are using it to get a job and we go after them?  Come on.

CARLSON:  Coming up, no disco lights, no thumping base, no vodka-spouting ice sculptures yet.  Give it a few hours, though, and the White House will be home to the party in Washington tonight. 

Not going?  Don‘t worry.  We‘re going to talk to someone who is going.

Plus, in the run for president, what‘s the bigger challenge, being a woman

or being a black man/

We‘ll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  It wouldn‘t be Christmas without a party at the White House, and it wouldn‘t be a White House Christmas party without MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough swigging the eggnog like mad and singing jingle bells.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I‘m out of control there. 

CARLSON:  We caught Joe on his way out the door.  Joe, I shouldn‘t even call it a Christmas party, because in fact the White House is billing it as a holiday party.  Our viewers who voted for Bush ought to know that.  What‘s it like?  You‘re going. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A lot of media types there.  That‘s the most fascinating part of it.  The president, whether this president and first lady or Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, are always very gracious and delightful and shake hands and are very polite.  I‘m not sure yet whether I am going to have the nerve to go around and shake his hand tonight or not, because we have been pretty tough on him, as have you. 

And it‘s one thing if you go after Democratic presidents.  It‘s another thing if you go after presidents of your own party.  But it‘s a fascinating event.  I always love, actually, checking out fellow reporters and journalists and broadcast news types, to see who is the most arrogant, who‘s the most haughty, who‘s the most pretentious, who really thinks they are as important as their press statements say they are. 

CARLSON:  But what‘s interesting to me is these people who spend their lives criticizing the president for a living, most of them fairly, but nonetheless it is criticism.  It‘s an antagonistic relationship by definition.  They stand in line, they que up like children, to get their pictures taken with the object of their derision, the president.  How does that work? 

SCARBOROUGH:  That is fascinating and I think sometimes—you know, I always love that line from Richard Nixon, where he was asked by Teddy White one time, what‘s it like when you‘re campaigning all year and somebody reaches out to shake your hand and you just want to, and Nixon finishes the line, kick him in the shin?  Nixon very blunt at that point in his career.  It‘s got to be the same thing with the president of the United States.  I mean, obviously, it helps that he doesn‘t read newspapers.  It helps that he probably doesn‘t watch cable news. 

Bill Clinton, of course, saw too much, read too much, was consumed by it sometimes.  But that‘s such a—the thing I also love about these parties, though, is that you really do get a good read on what type of politicians, how great these people are as politicians.  And I was always struck by Bill Clinton‘s warmth and kindness, but Hillary Clinton is the one that always surprised me.  When you shook her hand, she comes across in a way that‘s much more warm, much more reassuring in person than sometimes she does on TV.  But yes, it‘s kind of strange.  Maybe you can play miss manners for me.  Is it polite for me to go up and ask to have my picture taken with the president tonight, despite the fact that I have been tough on him this past year? 

CARLSON:  I think he may growl at you.  I, in fact, will be standing next to you in line.  We‘ll see if you have the stones to do that.  Quickly, you have been to a lot of these.  You have been around Washington a long time.  Who is the drunkest reporter you have ever seen at a White House Christmas party? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tucker, that would have been you last year. 

CARLSON:  I wasn‘t invited last year, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait.  Maybe it was me then, because I thought I saw you.  Maybe that was Margaret Carlton.  I don‘t know.  You get really foggy after the fourth glass of eggnog, very ugly. 

CARLSON:  You‘re a great man, Joe Scarborough. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, you know what Tucker, more importantly, you‘re a great American. 

CARLSON:  Thank you, Joe.  See you tonight. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Duke Cunningham used to say that.  See you later. 

CARLSON:  He meant it.  Well Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, she is a woman.  He is African-American.  Forty three presidents, 42 white Protestant men, one Catholic.  So what makes Clinton and Obama think they can win?  Which is more of a challenge in national politics, race or gender?  According to the “New York Times‘” Maureen Dowd, “the answer will depend, of course, on how manly the woman, how white the black.” 

Here again with their thoughts, Charlie Black, Steve McMahon, Bill Press.  It‘s actually an interesting question.  I‘m not sure if too much or too little is being made of this.  A straightforward question, who has to overcome the higher hurdle? 

BLACK:  Well, I‘m not sure.  I do think that the American people pull for underdogs, and the first woman to seriously run for president, the first African-American seriously to run for president will be viewed as underdogs.  I think it might help them in the beginning, but their gender or their race is not nearly as important as the way people view their qualities of leadership, where they stand on the issues, and their experience.  Do the American people think they can handle national security in a time of war. 

CARLSON:  What do you think, Steve? 

MCMAHON:  Well, I think it‘s unfortunate that we‘re having this conversation, because it assumes that there is a hurdle for either one of them because of their race or their gender.  That‘s unfortunate. 

CARLSON:  Well, they are also at the advantage. 

MCMAHON:  There may be.  I think in the primaries, to be the only woman or to be the only African-American in a sea of white men is probably an advantage. 

CARLSON:  It‘s a huge advantage, of course. 

MCMAHON:  In the general election, however, Harold Ford will tell you that it probably didn‘t benefit him very much that he was African-American.  He was incredibly well-spoken, like Barack Obama.  He ran a perfect campaign.  And he came up a little bit short after the Republican party played the race card on him. 

BLACK:  His views were too liberal. 

MCMAHON:  Pardon? 

CARLSON:  I said, that‘s a crock of merd.  It‘s a French term meaning it‘s untrue.  I guess my argument would be, in fact, --

MCMAHON:  It‘s absolutely true, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  It‘s one of those subjective questions we will be debating until the end of time.  But for purposes of this race, my theory is there are racists in this country.  There are people who won‘t vote for Barack Obama because he is black, obviously.  I suspect there are more people in this country who will be more inclined to vote for him, though, because he is black.  Because voting for him is a way of saying I‘m progressive, America has moved beyond this, it‘s a new generation, I‘m part of it, I‘m more virtuous than my neighbor.  But, whatever, I actually think it‘s a net benefit. 

PRESS:  Well, I think you‘re on to something, Tucker.  First of all, I think that the next president of the United States is either going to be the first woman president of the United States or the first black president of the United States.  I disagree with Tom Delay that they are going to get together on a ticket.  I don‘t think either one of them would accept the other as the other half of the ticket.  But if we—assuming that both run good campaigns, I believe that it‘s—and I hate to say this.  I think it‘s a greater obstacle to a woman today than it is to a black to be elected president. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I agree with you.  Here‘s why, because we all recognize there are intrinsic, deep important differences between the sexes.  Men and woman are different.  They don‘t just look different.  They are different.  They think differently, they have different responses instinctively, et cetera.  We don‘t recognize such differences between the races.  We say that we look different but we‘re fundamentally the same.  So you really can say there is a female point of view to something, where it is much harder to say there is a black or a white or an Asian point of view to something. 

PRESS:  Look at the business world.  Fortunately, there are more women in the House, more women in the Senate this year, than ever before.  But in the corporate structure, there is still that feeling that women are not capable of doing the job.  It‘s wrong, but it exists. 

BLACK:  But there have been some very successful female C.E.O.‘s these days.  Again—

PRESS:  One hand. 

BLACK:  Nobody is going to think that Hillary Clinton is not qualified enough, in terms of experience, to be president.  Her views, are they too liberal for the country?  What kind of leadership would she show on handling national security, the war on terror?  Those kinds of things are going to decide it.  Again, it‘s going to balance out, if anything, being a woman or being black might actually help. 

CARLSON:  There are people who are going to vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman.  How embarrassing is that?  What kind of moron would you have to be to say, I am the same sex as that candidate, I am going to vote for that candidate.  That is not an admirable reason to vote for someone.  That‘s a really embarrassing reason to vote for someone.  You‘re not using your mind.  You‘re being a robot. 

BLACK:  You‘re going to disenfranchise a lot of people if you make them vote.

CARLSON:  I‘m not trying to legislate it.  I just think it‘s humiliating that someone would do that. 

MCMAHON:  I don‘t think there are a lot of people who would say, I will vote for a woman just because she is a woman, if the woman happened to be unqualified.  Katherine Harris can disprove that theory right now. 

PRESS:  Yes, but she was crazy. 

MCMAHON:  But women didn‘t vote for her.  Women didn‘t vote for her.  There aren‘t a lot of people that are going to vote for candidates like Katherine Harris, who I will grant you was crazy. 

BLACK:  How many times can you say Katherine Harris and Richard Nixon before the show is over, by the way. 

PRESS:  I believe political reality—you‘ve run more campaigns than I have, both of you.  But I think there are a lot of women who will vote for Hillary because she is a woman.  You hear about them all the time.  There are a lot of African-Americans who will vote for Barack Obama just because he is an African-American.  That‘s not enough to win. 

CARLSON:  I just think it‘s wrong.  I think it‘s wrong.  I don‘t see Jim Moran running for Congress.  Wow, he‘s a white guy.  He looks like me.  I think I will cast a lever like a drooling idiot. 

PRESS:  I‘m not saying it‘s right or wrong.  I think it‘s wrong, but it‘s reality. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  What if they get together? 

MCMAHON:  There are far fewer people like that than you would imagine. 

CARLSON:  I hope there.  No look, I love America and I love Americans.  I don‘t suspect there are that many people outside the hardcore ranks of the Democratic party, who actually believe that.  But what if they got together?  Why wouldn‘t that happen?  If Hillary wins, why wouldn‘t she pick Barack Obama? 

BLACK:  Then they have a real problem with the level of experience in national security that they are presenting to the American people.  Neither one of them has any. 

CARLSON:  You don‘t think the country is reckless enough to vote for that ticket? 

BLACK:  I think it would hurt to have two people inexperienced in national security on the ticket. 

PRESS:  Tucker, we need somebody with a lot of people experience in national security, like another Dick Cheney or another Donald Rumsfeld. 

Yes, that has really gotten us far.  Let me tell you something, here is my

judgment why it won‘t happen.  Hillary will never play second fiddle to

Barack Obama.  I think it‘s just out of the question.  And Hillary -

CARLSON:  Why wouldn‘t—wait, hold on, look, she has had a paying job for six years.  I‘m no offense, I think she‘s impressive and all that, but let‘s put this in a little bit of context here.  So, Barbara Boxer, who has served our country for a lot longer than Hillary Clinton.  She would do it.  Why is Hillary Clinton too good to be vice president? 

PRESS:  My own feelings, and I have not discussed this with anybody.  This is my opinion.  She would see that as a step down from being first lady.  She wouldn‘t do it.  Now Barack Obama—She won‘t have Barack Obama, in my judgment, as the second person on the ticket, because the same reason George Bush wouldn‘t pick John McCain.  He is a rock star.  She doesn‘t want to be over shown. 

CARLSON:  I think that‘s a totally—would you want Barack Obama as your vice president? 

MCMAHON:  Yes, absolutely, and I would actually run as vice president on his ticket. 

CARLSON:  See, you‘re a very secure, masculine man.  You have nothing to hide.  Still to come, what‘s been with the Barney cookie?  I don‘t even know what that script says.  Why don‘t people want to eat the tasty treat at the White House Christmas parties?  We‘ll tell you. 

Plus you‘re looking at the Christmas card of a member of the United States Congress.  Which one, you ask.  Here‘s a hint.  She did not campaign on family values, but you knew that.  We‘ll tell you who she is when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  What‘s the first thing you think of when you think politicians and Washington, D.C.?  Gossip?  me, too.  Wait no more, here with the latest scoop from our nation‘s distinguished capital, Patrick Gavin of the “D.C. Examiner.”  Patrick, what you got?

PATRICK GAVIN, “D.C. EXAMINER”:  Thanks for having me.  Well, a couple of interesting things from today‘s Christmas party.  The first thing is that he is going totally low class on the food.  He is going to have chicken fried steak. 

CARLSON:  This is Bush? 

GAVIN:  Yes.  Chicken fried steak with onion gravy, so, proving that he is just a regular guy, I guess.  The other funny thing is that they did a media preview for this event about a couple of weeks ago for reporters.  They showed all the food and they tasted all the food and everything. 

CARLSON:  Wait, they did a preview of the Christmas party? 

GAVIN:  Yes, showed all the decorations, showed the food they will be serving for the 30,000 visitors that are going to be coming through the White House this holiday season, and they showed off the Barney cookie.  And the icing for the Barney cookie is so dark that every reporter who had one walked away with just a mouth that looked like it had just—you had swallowed five pens.  So it will be fun tonight walking around D.C. and if you see somebody who has got a black mouth, you can tell that‘s a reporter.  So, it‘s a good way to mark your enemies, actually. 

CARLSON:  It‘s sort of like dipping your thumb in ink in a third world election.  Did you have one? 

GAVIN:  I did not have one. 

CARLSON:  Cookies at the White House are famously good.  I personally plan to have one. 

GAVIN:  Yes.  The funny though, I was watching Scarborough on here and he was saying, you know, for him, he wants to see who‘s going the most cocky, the most arrogant.  I think for Bush, the interesting thing is who is going to be the most drunk.  Because what happens is Bush and Laura, usually sit in the basement and they just let all these guys go by.  And the lines are so long that waiters will actually bring booze to people in line.  Yes, you know this.  So, I think, for Bush it‘s actually a real hoot.  For some of these people, by the time they actually get to Bush, they have had a few.  They are a little tipsy.  So I think for Bush, that‘s going to be the most funny thing, is actually who has had the most to drink once they get to him. 

CARLSON:  I have been there myself, I will concede.  Nobody celebrates Christmas in Washington, I mean nobody, like Loretta Sanchez, Democrat from California.  What has she come out with this year?

GAVIN:  Well, her annual Christmas cards have become something of a legend in this town, which is nice, but it also shows you how boring we are.  I mean, her cards are good.  Don‘t get me wrong.  But, you know, last year‘s was her and her cat Gretzy just sitting by the fire.  This year it‘s her and her cat Gretzy with a surfing theme to it. 

CARLSON:  I think we have it right up there. 

GAVIN:  Yes, and that‘s a perfectly nice card, but this town goes crazy.  There is articles about when is her card going to come out, what is going to say, when is the photo shoot? 

CARLSON:  But what‘s it mean?  OK, so here—let me just read this.  Pet the cat, this card says.  And she‘s defining it, the act of surfing down the line of a breaking wave while dragging one‘s hand across the face of the wave.  There‘s another one.  There you go.  What is she stroking the cat for?  What does that mean? 

GAVIN:  Well, she and her sister Linda, who is also a Democratic Congresswoman, both are very hip, popular, funny, witty Congresswomen.  I think this is part of her, you know, I‘m a Congresswoman with attitude, I‘m a Congresswoman with sex appeal.  And so, you know, pet the cat is obviously a surfing move. 

CARLSON:  I‘m a Congresswoman with an interesting social life. 

GAVIN:  Yes, and they are both very funny.  Her sister Linda is a phenomenal stand up comedian.  She wins the D.C. Improv contest almost every year, comes in very high.  So, you know, it is a little silly, but it adds a nice bit of comic relief in this town. 

CARLSON:  Once you have appeared in leather pants, stroking your kitty in a Christmas card—

GAVIN:  You can go no higher. 

CARLSON:  Can you legislate at that point?  Can you get on the House floor and say, here are my views about Social Security reform?  Is that possible? 

GAVIN:  It‘s interesting.  I mean, Linda, whenever she does this stand up bit, I mean, it‘s quite lewd.  She talks about her sex life.  She talks about her hard time finding a guy, about how good Republicans are in bed.  This stuff always finds its way to C-Span.  To this day I‘m surprised that her political enemies don‘t take and run with this.  Because obviously it‘s lighthearted, it‘s meant to be a joke.  But, in this town, where words mean something, you know, I mean, it‘s a pretty risky little act she does. 

CARLSON:  Well, the three of us here all have California ties.  Bill, I mean, what is going on in California? 

PRESS:  There just having a good time.  Let the girls have a good time.  Let me tell you something, I think about Linda—Linda went in the funniest celebrity in Washington.  She used a line, something like, she reminded herself of the Nationals, Washington Nationals, that she had had like 30 outings and she hadn‘t scored once. 

CARLSON:  Very good. 

PRESS:  That‘s her kind of sense of humor.  It‘s funny.

GAVIN:  Even with all of her Republican men, she still can‘t find their weapon of mass destruction. 

CARLSON:  So basically you have a Democratic member of Congress complaining in public she can‘t get laid?  I mean, come on. 

(CROSS TALK)

PRESS:  Both of these women are from Orange County.  What‘s also funny is the other big surfer from Orange County is Dana Rohrabacher (ph).  So I just wonder whether Loretta and Dana, you know, hit the beach together. 

CARLSON:  Dana Rohrabacher, newly married, father, I think, of triplets.  Dana Rohrbacher with the greatest campaign ever on a bumper sticker, fighting for freedom and having fun, underlined with a surfboard.  A great American, a far out guy.  Would you like to see more members—Can you imagine other members of Congress sitting by the fire in their leather pants, stroking the kitty, so to speak? 

MCMAHON:  No, but I do think it would be nice if Congress had more people who were regular people and had a sense of humor.  Because the partisanship and the intensity up there is pretty extreme most of the time, especially now.  Hopefully with the new Congress, with Democrats in control, you know, it would be a lot more fun. 

CARLSON:  A lot more fun?  This is a group that made up the concept of sexual harassment.  You look great today.  Boom, I‘m charging you with a crime.  Do you know what I mean?  It‘s not a group I associate with fun.  You want a sex scandal, the Republican party, baby, that‘s where you go. 

PRESS:  I have to say something about the White House Christmas party.  I have only been invited once under the Bush years, which turned out to be a mistake, and the president saw me, and he crossed me off the list.  I haven‘t been back since.  But, you don‘t have to search.  I know who is the most arrogant reporter at the White House Christmas party. 

CARLSON:  Who? 

PRESS:  Bill O‘Reilly, without doubt.  I did that little test that Joe Scarborough did.  He was so full of himself, and that was just obnoxious. 

CARLSON:  I think I remember.  Do you have any contestants for that position? 

GAVIN:  Contestants for most arrogant reporter.  Well, I just get myself in trouble here. 

CARLSON:  You‘re off the record.  Don‘t worry. 

GAVIN:  Every time you see O‘Reilly out, he is the most miserable guy in the room.  He hides himself in a corner.  You take a photo, he is just grumpy.  I don‘t know the guy personally.  Maybe he is potentially a nice person. 

PRESS:  No, he‘s not. 

GAVIN:  But he seems like he hates going out more than anything in the entire world. 

CARLSON:  That‘s the thing about the show, you learn more about how the world really is, I think, and I‘m not bragging here, on this show, than really any other show on television. 

GAVIN:  And don‘t you think it‘s the best show on cable? 

CARLSON:  I couldn‘t agree more. 

PRESS:  But the lamb chops.  If they are not serving the White House lamb chops, then it‘s not a party worth going to. 

MCMAHON:  That‘s why you haven‘t been back right. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  Thank you all.  Coming up, people who try to outrun the law almost never get away with it, almost never.  An amazing tale though, and the accompanying video of criminal evasion is next.  We‘re not celebrating it, merely showing it.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  For all the talk of immigration and presidential politics there was still other news today, believe it or not.  Our intrepid Willie Geist has some of the highlights for us now, Willie.   

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello Tucker.  I want to ask you something, who brings their cat to the beach?  I mean, I know you wanted to have a suggestive card, Ms. Loretta Sanchez, but I don‘t know that I‘ve ever seen a cat at a beach.  Have you?

CARLSON:  I think the cat in this card is purely a metaphor, Willie.

GEIST:  Oh, I‘m sorry.  I took it a little more literally than I probably should have.  Also, I was worried Bill Press were going to say that you were the most annoying person at the White House press party. 

CARLSON:  I have been. 

GEIST:  I believe it.  Tucker, we have some real news for you, the results of a three-year British investigation into the 1997 death of Princess Diana will be released tomorrow.  Investigators have reportedly concluded the car accident that killed Diana, her boyfriend Dodi al Fayed, and their driver was an accident and not a conspiracy.  On the “Today Show” this morning, Dodi‘s father Mohammed al Fayed called the report, quote, completely outrageous.  He maintains that British agents murdered his son and Diana to keep the princes from marrying a Muslim. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMED AL FAYED, DODI AL FAYED‘s FATHER:  Dodi bought her the engagement ring.  Diana talked to me personally just in the evening, the Sunday evening before—three hours before their murder, told me she is pregnant.  They are going to announce their engagement on Monday in London.  They prepared a small party in her house.  Everything they know about it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Now Tucker, I‘m not a big conspiracy guy.  It‘s the same problem I have with O.J.  There‘s just too many people involved.  What do you think about this? 

CARLSON:  I think Mohammed al Fayed may be the most unpleasant person I can really imagine, actually.  I mean, whipping the rest of—You know what, I mean, people believe that, not that the “Today Show” is the preferred program in the Islamic world, but people believe that. 

GEIST:  No, it‘s right.  If you want to dispel the idea of a conspiracy, maybe don‘t have the head of the London Police Department do the investigation, just my two cents on that. 

CARLSON:  Good point. 

GEIST:  Other news, Tucker, it‘s always said around the holidays that it‘s better to give than to receive.  That rule doesn‘t apply, however, when you‘re receiving a 100 million dollar year-end bonus.  Reports say some top performers at the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs could earn 100 million dollar bonuses after the company‘s record breaking year.  Another group of bankers, traders and managers there will reportedly receive 25 million dollar bonuses.  The average pay for a Goldman Sachs employee this year, from CEO to secretary, 622,000 bucks.  Tucker, I hate to complain, but we weren‘t even allowed to go back for seconds at the MSNBC holiday party.  That‘s all I‘m going to say about that.

CARLSON:  The pizza was very cold.  It‘s stories like this that make you think the revolution is coming.  I‘m serious.  It‘s just—It‘s too greedy.  It‘s bad.

GEIST:  Tucker, I have to show you one piece of video really quickly, some shocking dash cam footage from a police chase in Cincinnati Monday night.  A 22-year-old man stole a car, led the cops on a pursuit that ended dramatically on the Brent Spent (ph) Bridge.  The man got out of his car, you‘re about to see it here, while it was still moving and jumped at least 100 feet into the water below.  Police have still not found him.  Tucker, it‘s a very sad story, because I think we know how this all ended.  But, a remarkable piece of video, nonetheless. 

CARLSON:  You don‘t think there‘s any chance he made it? 

GEIST:  No, he did not make it.  They haven‘t found his body yet, but there‘s probably no chance. 

CARLSON:  I feel a stage sympathy for him.  Willie Geist, thanks Willie.

GEIST:  All right Tucker, see you.  

CARLSON:  That‘s it for us today.  “HARDBALL‘s” next.  We‘ll see you tomorrow, same time.  Have a great night.

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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