updated 12/22/2006 9:58:15 AM ET 2006-12-22T14:58:15

Guests: Rosa Brooks, Bill Press, Joshua Green, Joe Watkins, Shane Schmidt, Chuck Sheppard, Patrick Gavin

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Welcome to the Thursday edition of the show. 

If you thought all politicians spoke in rehearsed, preapproved, PC sound bites, you haven‘t heard what the Congressman from Virginia just said about Muslims.  We‘ll tell you.

If you think Donald Trump and Rosie O‘Donnell are creepy, stay tuned for affirmation on that.

But first, if you think President Bush should ought to pull our troops out of Iraq, and many people do, consider the results of a recent CIA study.  Senior U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that a perceived American failure in Iraq would constitute a practical victory for al Qaeda.  If we leave in defeat, they will remain victorious, and worse, move their jihad somewhere else.  That‘s part of a pattern that goes back more than 20 years to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the U.S. departures from Lebanon and Somalia.

Al Qaeda isn‘t entirely stupid, they can sense weakness and vulnerability as well as anyone, and so by the way can ordinary Americans which is why as much as people hate the war as I do, they hate the idea of losing the war even more.  Make no mistake, a hasty withdrawal from Iraq is not strategic deployment no matter what they tell you, it‘s a loss and a humiliating and ultimately dangerous one.

Bush has been wrong about almost everything in Iraq, but he is right about one thing, we can‘t lead until we win. 

Joining us now to nod in obsequious agreement to these sentiments is Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks.  Author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion,” Bill Press.  And Joshua Green, senior editor of The Atlantic magazine.  I see you all nodding in obsequious agreement.

I know you agree. 

And Rosa, you first and foremost.  I mean, look, you don‘t have to be in agreement with the war, you can loath it, as I do, to see clearly that a withdrawal is defeat? 

ROSA BROOKS, LOS ANGELES TIMES COLUMNIST:  Compared to what I think that‘s the question.  Absolutely, a withdrawal is going to be perceived as a defeat.  But if we stay and what is currently happening continues to happen and gets even worse, that could end up way down the road being even more catastrophic in terms of the degree in which it fuels global terrorism, in terms of which hurts the U.S.. 

CARLSON:  Right.  But the question is, what scenario is likely to get us to even worse?  Is it staying or leaving?

BROOKS:  At this point I think, it‘s stage.  And I think the CIA war gaming is interesting.  But first of all, remember, it is war gaming.  It‘s a bunch of Americans sitting around pretending to be al Qaeda leaders.

Not necessarily predictive of anything much, except what Americans think al Qaeda will do.  Which it turns out is part of our biggest problem, right?  We don‘t actually have any idea what they do.  We only know what we think they‘re going to do.  And a lot of the time, we ended up being wrong before.

CARLSON:  We have.  But this—I mean, Bill, I‘m sensing a bipartisan agreement on this.  Well, first of all, only the federal government would take 75 people and millions of dollars to reach a conclusion that everyone knows intuitively, which is if the people maintaining what little order remains in Iraq exit, other people are going to come in to fill the vacuum and there is going to be a an even bloodier civil war. 

BILL PRESS, AUTHOR, “HOW REPUBLICANS STOLE RELIGION”:  Oh, yes, I am going to believe the CIA. 

CARLSON:  They were against the war, like you!

PRESS:  Wait a minute.  They were so right on with their intelligence about Iraq.  Those weapons of mass destruction, they‘re all over the place, Tucker.  Get real.

You can‘t believe these guys.  Like Rosa said, they are playing war games.  And we are supposed to base our policy on that?  That‘s crazy. 

CARLSON:  Doesn‘t it comport with what you know instinctively, which is Iran is not going to benefit if we pull out, of course they are?

PRESS:  Tucker, you‘re smarter than this.  You‘re buying Bush‘s propaganda, which is this is a war in Iraq against al Qaeda.  We are not fighting al Qaeda in Iraq.  The violence in Iraq is Shiite versus Sunni with Americans caught in the crossfire.  We get out, they‘ll be shooting each other.  You know what I say, let them kill each other but let‘s get the hell out of there. 

CARLSON:  Boy, the compassion of the left rears its ugly head.

PRESS:  Compassion is for the American troops.  Get them out.

CARLSON:  Well, I sort of agree with you on that.  But then I never pretending to be compassionate.

Joshua, where are you on this?

JOSHUA GREEN, THE ATLANTIC:  Well, I don‘t see what a war game like this is in the first place.  It reaches a conclusion that everyone realizes.  The people who want to pull out of Iraq, aren‘t advocating that we do so because they think it‘s going to be a great idea and bring world peace, it‘s because it‘s the least bad of a lot of bad options.  So having the CIA run a war game to remind us that things are not going well and it‘ll be bad if we pull out, that doesn‘t really move the debate forward at all, it just sort of reaffirms what everybody already knows. 

CARLSON:  Let me just say, I honestly don‘t think—and I don‘t think I‘m giving the CIA too much credit, that this war game was run as a  propaganda exercise in order to demonstrate that Bush‘s policy is correct.  I think the CIA has been very independent, annoyingly so in a lot of cases in the run-up to this war.  I think—I don‘t think they are doing Bush‘s..

BROOKS:  I don‘t disagree with you about that, Tucker.  But in a way, the whole thing is sadly symbolic of all of our intelligence problems which is what do we do to think what al Qaeda might do?  We ask each other and ourselves.  We don‘t have the intelligence...

(CROSSTALK)

BROOKS:  In the long run, if we‘re interested in addressing global terrorism in the longer run, you know, it‘s not going to be about Iraq in the longer run, anyway, it‘s going to be our getting good intelligence and it‘s going to be about depriving the terrorist groups of the community.... 

CARLSON:  You just made the greatest possible argument for staying in Iraq, because until we went to Iraq our intelligence came from two places:

Saudi Arabia and Israel.  Now...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Serious.  We are among—all the terrible things that are happening in Iraq, and I regret this war as deeply as anybody, we are getting, for the very first time, human intelligence from the center of the infection.  We are.  We never have before.

PRESS:  Tucker, you are—here is the problem, you are buying the premise which is that the war in Iraq has anything to do with the war on terror.  Listen, I‘m a hard liner for the war on terror.  Go after these damn terrorists wherever they are in the world.  They weren‘t in Iraq then.  They‘re not in Iraq now.  It‘s not part of the war on terror.  It‘s a civil war. 

There may be some guys that came in, but that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  They‘re in Afghanistan.  They‘re all over—they‘re in Malaysian, they‘re in Spain, they‘re in London, they‘re in this country.  They‘re not in Iraq.  It‘s not part of the war on terror.

CARLSON:  ...Howard Dean conceit.  Look, I‘m not making the argument that we went into Iraq wisely or that in so doing, we helped the war on terror.  I don‘t think either one of those is true.  It was a big mistake.  However, there‘s no debate that there are al Qaeda cells in Iraq.  Moreover, if we leave, how would it not be Afghanistan circa 1999?  It would be.

PRESS:  Listen to the generals.  The generals have said and charged on the ground in Iraq that the violence is violence between sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite and we are caught in the middle. 

BROOKS:  Tucker, your credibility is very low because you have ducks on your tie, for one thing...

CARLSON:  First of all, they are ducks and ducklings.  And I think that increases my credibility, incidentally.

BROOKS:  But secondly, you‘re still not answering the question, compared to what?  I agree, if we pull out—if we pull out of Iraq, whether we do it tomorrow, all at once or whether we do it slowly in dribs and drabs and call it something fancy to make ourselves feel better.  I agree, in the short run, there‘s going to be more violence.  I think that‘s a really safe bet. 

But the question is in the long run, what is going to be better.  You know, it‘s not—the question isn‘t, is it going to be bad if we pull out.  The question is, is it going to be worse if we stay? 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  That is the adult question to ask.  I mean, I think your reasoning is sound.  I‘m just not sure I agree with your conclusion. 

But here‘s what—since you conceded, you were honest enough to admit that if we pull out, it‘s going to be a bloodbath.  Josh, my question to you is, can American liberals who‘s foreign policy has always been animated by this idea, we owe a debt to the rest of the world.  We ought to prevent genocide, for instance, when we see it.  This is what—right, this is why liberals are so terrible about Rwanda.  Can that same group, this group sit back and watch Shiites and Sunnis eat each other—and Kurds or that matter?  Can they watch a bloodbath unfold in Iraq.  No, they can‘t. 

GREEN:  Well, I don‘t think it would be comfortable for anybody to watch a blood path unfold in Iraq.  But at the same time, you know, this didn‘t—you know, this didn‘t start as a liberal humanitarian mission.  We‘ve seen things fall apart over the last three years.  You know, all the reports you get from the Pentagon show that things are getting worse, not better.  So, you know, as I said, leaving might be the least of a lot of bad options.

I don‘t think there‘s going liberal humanitarians that are going to be standing in the way... 

CARLSON:  It shouldn‘t have started as nation building and do-gooderism and utopianism, but that‘s what it‘s become.  Yesterday at his press conference, President Bush said, we owe a debt to moms and dads, millions throughout the Middle East who desire a better life. 

Since when do we owe that...

BROOKS:  You know, I‘m actually completely with you that one ought not to stand by and do nothing when innocent people are being slaughtered if there is any way to stop it. But one of the most fundamental things. 

CARLSON:  Are you Darfur—getting involved in Darfur?

BROOKS:  I actually am.

CARLSON:  Oh!

BROOKS:  But one of the most fundamental things that we have to recognize in this situation is that, you know, not every problem has an American solution.  And this is a particular—our involvement is fueling the bloodshed. 

CARLSON:  So, wait a second.

BROOKS:  There are things that we can do.

CARLSON:  We‘ve got 30 seconds left.  This is so intriguing.  Since you are the one person honest enough to admit you are for the ridiculous notion we would intervene militarily in Darfur.

BROOKS:  But they are baby ducks.

CARLSON:  But you are against remaining in Iraq to prevent the bloodshed there.  How exactly does that work?

BROOKS:  Precisely because we are increasing it.

There might be other people who could intervene.  There‘s a lot we could do in terms of humanitarian systems, in terms of allowing Iraqis who want to leave resettle, which we are not doing right now, in terms of bringing in a genuinely multilateral group to try and work on the problem that we have created.  I don‘t think we can do it anymore.  Not because we shouldn‘t, but because we can‘t.  Because we are screwing it up. 

PRESS:  Give me five seconds, Tucker.

I don‘t buy the whole premise that there‘s going to be a bloodbath.  We get out of there, the Iraqis are going to realize, oh my god, the Americans are going, we have got to get serious about running our own country.  They are going to divide up into three different countries and life is going to go on. 

CARLSON:  It reminds me...

PRESS:  They‘re better off and we‘re better off.

CARLSON:  It reminds me of the very famous Sydney Schanberg headline from the New York Times, 1975, the Khmer Rouge march on Phnom Penh—

Headline, “For Some a Better Life.”

PRESS:  For American troops, it‘s better life back here than it is over there. 

CARLSON:  Well, that is true. 

Coming up, Virginia congressman Virgil Goode, ran against a man who‘s last name was Weed by the way,  Goode-Weed.  Had a good bone to pick with incoming Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison, namely that Ellison is a Muslim and Goode doesn‘t like it.

Plus, a president of a powerful country with an aggressive foreign policy, but eroding support at home, sound familiar?  Iran‘s leading lunatic has got bigger problems then you may have known.  Stick around, we‘ll tell you what they are.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney may be getting ready for a run for the presidency, but he‘s got lots of people asking the question—who‘s the real Mitt Romney?

He‘s leaped from moderate in the ‘90s to conservative today—why? 

And will that help him or hurt him should he decide to run for president.  Here with this take is Republican consultant Reverend Joe Watkins of Christ Evangelical/Lutheran Church of Philadelphia. 

Joe welcome.

REV. JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT:  Thanks, Tucker.  Great to be with you. 

CARLSON:  Thank you.  So, here you have Mitt Romney in 1994 running against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts for senate, writing a now famous letter saying, not only am I pro-gay rights, I‘m more gay rights than Ted Kennedy.  I don‘t know—I‘m having gay sex, I don‘t know what could mean.  I mean how could you be more pro-gay rights than Ted Kennedy.  But he claimed to be.  Now he‘s running as a social conservative.  I have trouble believing him. 

WATKINS:  Well, I think you have to judge Mitt Romney based not on what he said, maybe more than a decade ago as a candidate for the U.S.  Senate against Ted Kennedy, but really on what he has done as governor of Massachusetts in the last four years.  He has had a very, very strong and consistent record in the last four years as a champion of the institution of marriage.  He‘s certainly speaking out against abortion and likewise championing strong fiscal policy.  So he‘s been very consistent as governor of Massachusetts.  I think people are going to look at him from the standpoint of what he actually did as an elected official.

CARLSON:  Well speaking out against abortion, my understanding was, he was always this pro-choice Republican, like so many, like Rudy Giuliani and like so many north-eastern Republicans he was pro-choice on abortion.  I mean that‘s what he‘s always said.  When did that change? 

WATKINS:  You have to look at the fact that candidates do evolve.  they do change, sometimes their positions change.  Even Ronald Reagan, the man whose name he has evoked numerous times, is somebody who went from being a liberal Democrat to being a conservative Republican.  And then elected governor of course of California twice before being elected president of the United States. 

CARLSON:  That‘s a good point—I was once sympathetic to the

Republican Party.  Now I‘m a complete crazed libertarian.  So I sort of

understand what you mean.  I was driven out by the lunacy and falseness of

WATKINS:  We‘ll get you back. 

CARLSON:  I get that—well, I mean as soon as they start living up to what they claim to believe then, I‘m on your team.  But, it seems to me a pretty familiar pattern here.  I watched Steve Forbes do it—twice.  You know, going from one position over to the social conservative side in an effort to woo socially conservative primary voters and it didn‘t work.  How is this going to work? 

WATKINS:  I think that for a lot of leaders nationally, they are just getting to know Mitt Romney for the first time.  I think they will judge him again, based on his record as an elected official.  Of course, you know, people are going to bring up the fact that back in the mid-90‘s, some of the views that he held may not be consistent with what he‘s saying now.

But certainly, as governor of Massachusetts, as an elected official, who had to support or defend for or against legislation, he has proven where he stands on the issues that conservatives care about, social conservatives care about. 

CARLSON:  How has he proved it though?  I mean, it‘s such a convenient

I mean, perhaps he had some epiphany.  I‘m not sure what that would have been or when that might have taken place.  But how is he going to prove that his change of heart is genuine and he‘s not simply doing it for political reasons.

WATKINS:  Well, I think that comes in his private discussions with leaders around the country, with national conservative leaders and with evangelical leaders around the country.  So far, everything that I‘ve heard has been very, positive. 

I haven‘t heard a lot of skepticism.  People have raised the issue that of course he happens to be a Mormon.  And that would be a first certainly for the United States, for the Republican Party to have a Mormon candidate as their Republican nominee.  But so far, even the evangelicals are saying they‘re not looking for a theocrat-in-chief, they are looking for a commander-in-chief.  So, so far he‘s doing very, very well.

CARLSON:  Boy, last time I checked, evangelicals were deeply suspicious of Mormonism as a religion.  Contemptuous of it in fact.  Attack it—spent a lot of time writing books about how evil it is.  Is he really in a position to win a lot of evangelical votes?  That‘s hard to believe. 

WATKINS:  Well, right now, he is saying the right things on the issues that evangelicals and conservatives care about.  Certainly when you talk about the social and family value issues, Mitt Romney coming out the right way on all those issues. 

And so, as long as he continues to stand on the right side of those issues with that segment of the voting populace, he is probably going to get their ear. 

CARLSON:  All right.  The Reverend Joe Watkins of Philadelphia. 

Thanks a lot Joe. 

WATKINS:  Thanks so much Tucker.

CARLSON:  Coming up Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode has a message for Muslims—keep out.  You may be offended, in fact, you almost certainly are offended, but wait, let‘s talk about it.  We‘re all reasonable here.

Plus, the rate and level of violence in Iraq gets worse and worse.

And coming up—you‘ll meet two men who say they witnessed the worst kind of random shootings of Iraqis by an American defense contractor.  A shocking story, stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  He supported legalized abortion.  He vowed to fight discrimination against gays.  But that was over ten years ago.  Now Mitt Romney, Massachusetts‘s Republican governor, is singing a very different tune, a much more conservative tune.  That would be, he says his views have just changed.  How‘s that going to sit with voters, if in fact he runs for president, as he appears likely to do?

Back with us to answer those questions: “L.A. Times” columnist Rosa Brooks, author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion” Bill Press, and Joshua Green, senior editor at the “Atlantic.”

Josh Green, can he sell this, Mitt Romney, the idea that he‘s a conservative?

GREEN:  I mean, he has so far, partly because, you know, the competition isn‘t all that fierce in the Republican primary right now. 

CARLSON:  Especially for the conservative seat.  I mean...

GREEN:  Yes.  Yes.  I mean, there really isn‘t one.  That‘s why you see people like, you know, Gilmore in Virginia and Duncan Hunter, you know, deluding themselves that they have a chance...

CARLSON:  Like Huckabee. 

GREEN:  Huckabee‘s got a little bit better shot, I think. 

But convincing themselves that there is a slot open for them in the Republican primary and so they should jump in and try to pursue it. 

CARLSON:  Are you hurt, though, that he seems to have left the one true faith and become a right-winger?

PRESS:  I think it would be fun to watch the Republicans nominate a transvestite for president. 

CARLSON:  I think that‘s imminent.  But I‘m no expert.

PRESS:  He‘s sort of a political transvestite.  I don‘t think he can sell this at all.  I mean, you know, if we‘re talking about global warming, maybe.  But he‘s talking about the two most fundamental issues to the religious right: abortion and gay rights. 

And you‘re right, Tucker, on abortion, he said, this is our position.  We are pro-choice and we will not waver.  And then he said he‘s stronger than Ted Kennedy on gay rights.  That‘s hard to just dismiss and say “I changed my mind.” 

CARLSON:  I actually don‘t think the gay rights thing is such a big deal.  I think the importance of the gay question in American politics is routinely overstated.  I actually don‘t think most evangelicals are as anti-gay as they‘re painted as being.

Abortion‘s a big deal.  They‘re against abortion.  There‘s no doubt about it. 

BROOKS:  And on—I actually think that on both of these issues, he‘s taking the wrong gamble.  I mean, he‘s—this might be the right gamble to win the primary, but I think that, given that we‘ve got, you know, a third of the country locked into a hard-line conservative Republican position, another third locked into Democratic Party.  Whoever wins in the general elections‘ going to have to have some crossover appeal.

These are actually issues which do not have crossover appeal, even to the right.

CARLSON:  Do you know  who‘s crossover appeal has actually declined a little bit?  Virgil Goode.

BROOKS:  Virgil Goode.

CARLSON:  Virgil Goode, the congressman from Virginia—I want to put up on the screen something that MR. Goode said.  He makes some Goode points...

BROOKS:  Remember that you are talking my congressman.

CARLSON:  That is, of course, Rosa Brooks‘ former congressman.

He‘s talking about the election of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress.  He says this in a letter constituents, quote:

“If American citizens don‘t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran”—for swearing in—“I fear that in the century we will have many more Muslims in the U.S. if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the U.S. and to prevent our resources from being swamped.”

OK.  Now, there are a couple of problems with this letter.  One is, he appears to be attacking another member of Congress for being a Muslim, which is odious and really not defensible.  For another, he refers to himself in the third person, a la Fidel Castro, which is troubling.

However, he does make a couple of points that are worth talking about.  One, we are going to have a lot of Muslim immigration to this country from Iraq. 

BROOKS:  And we desperately need it. 

CARLSON:  I think that will change this country.  Now, you can argue that it‘s going to change it for the better.  You can argue it‘s going to change it for the worse.  But most people want to pretend it‘s not going to change the country at all.  And they‘re liars.

So let‘s be honest.  Goode is telling the truth in some ways. 

BROOKS:  He‘s telling the truth—we‘ve got to hope so because remember when we were talking about—just a few minutes ago, we were talking about Iraq, we were talking about al Qaeda, we were talking about the rise of Islamic extremist terrorism throughout the world, we were talking about the fact that we know zip-O nothing about it because our linguistic skills, our cultural skills are wholly inadequate. 

The only thing that is going to save this country, if we want to prevail in the longer term against Islamic extremism, is to have plenty of Americans who know about Islam, who care about America and who are willing to go out there and help us understand the rest of the world and help us figure out how to stop terrorism.  That‘s...

CARLSON:  ... the Netherlands and the U.K. and Sweden.  I mean, Muslim immigration‘s really helped Western Europe quite a bit, hasn‘t it though?

Oh, wait, no.

Actually, it‘s in the process of destroying it.

PRESS:  Look, let me tell you, Tucker, I can‘t believe what morons get elected to the United States Congress.  There is nothing that this man says that‘s worth talking about at all.  It is totally repugnant. 

Number one, Keith Ellison was elected by the people of Minnesota.  He is an American, born and raised her...

CARLSON:  I agree.  I agree completely.

PRESS:  Number two, he‘s is not an immigrant, OK?

CARLSON:  I agree.

PRESS:  And if you look at who is coming across the border—I don‘t know what the Goode position is on immigration, last time I looked at the border, they were not Muslims coming across the border.  They‘re Mexicans, all right? 

He‘s totally off the planet on this.  And I have to say, thirdly, if you read my book, “How the Republicans Stole Religion,”  the Bible is not our sacred text.  He ought to be his hand on the Constitution. 

But if it‘s putting his hand on any book, the Bible or the Koran or the Torah or the Tablets of Joseph Smith, doesn‘t matter.  It‘s whatever their religion is.

CARLSON:  I agree with much of what saw said.  I think it‘s appalling to attack Keith Ellison, who seems like a decent person.  He‘s a Muslim who cares.

Second, he should be able to be sworn in on the Koran if he wants to be.  But can‘t we be honest?  We are about to see a huge influx of Muslim immigration.  It‘s had a profound effect on Europe.  Anybody who knows anything about it can tell you that that is true.

And it‘s going to happen here.  And shouldn‘t we charge of that, Josh Green?

GREEN:  Yes, I think we should.  I think the problem that you have with somebody like this, you know, he talks about the Virgil Goode position on immigration.  The Virgil Goode position on immigration should come with, you know, overalls and a shotgun because this isn‘t the kind of, you know, welcoming stance that you want to give to Muslims...

CARLSON:  I like overalls and shotguns.

GREEN:  Then I guess he‘s got a constituent here.

But the best advertisement for the U.S. in the Middle East are going to be Muslims living in the United States and doing to happily.  You know, all the surges into Baghdad and so on and so forth aren‘t really going to change things.  Long-term, it‘s a battle of ideas.  And when you have people like Virgil Goode, who are out in the back woods, you know, spouting this kind of nonsense, they‘re not helping anybody, least of all the country they think they‘re standing up for.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  OK.  Here‘s a very question.  Let‘s ask you—you‘re a very smart guy, Bill.

How can we, since we‘re getting all these Muslims are going to move here.  And Europe is a disaster on this subject.  It really is a huge problem.  If you spend time in Europe, you know.  How do we keep that from happening here?  That‘s a really important question.

PRESS:  All right.  I just want to point out that‘s not the question Virgil Goode is asking.  So don‘t give him credit.  I give you credit for asking that question.

And I think what we do is we—is education.  These people come here.  They come her for the American way of life.  And the more opportunities we give them, the better.  We don‘t have to be worried that out of 535 members of Congress, there‘s now going to be for the first time in our history, one Muslim.  I would say we have a long way to go. 

CARLSON:  And I‘m not worried about that.

BROOKS:  You‘re absolutely right.  The large Muslim immigration in Europe has been a problem for the European countries.  I think we‘re really lucky, precisely because we have always had an assimilationist ethos.  We have done a much, much better job historically.  And we...

CARLSON:  Do we still have that ethos?

BROOKS:  You know, I think it‘s weakened in some ways.  But I think it‘s still much, much, much stronger than in Europe.  You know, and I think what we need to do is build it...

(CROSSTALK)

BROOKS:  No, I think you‘re right about that.  I think that we need to focus on turning people into Americans...

(CROSSTALK)

BROOKS:  ... and I think that we will.  And I think that‘s...

CARLSON:  I‘m all getting all exercised.  But our sponsors are clamoring to put the car ads on TV.  So we‘re going to take a quick break.

Coming up, if you thought Bill Clinton was a stealthy character, you haven‘t met the head of his national security team.  Sammy Berger, busted for stealing for stealing classified documents.  Amazing new details next.

Plus, what‘s better than some self-important TV personalities hating each other publicly?  The answer: not much.  Rosie O‘Donnell versus Donald Trump.  It got zesty today.

More in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Welcome back, we want to show you an interview I did a couple of days ago with two American security contractors, who are just back from Iraq.  Their names are Shane Schmidt and Chuck Sheppard.  They work for a company called Triple Canopy, essentially as body guards, providing security for clients in Iraq, which, as you know, is a very dangerous country.  Well this July, they say they witnessed their shift leader, essentially their boss fire twice at unarmed—apparently unarmed Iraqis on a road in Baghdad.  They were shortly after that fired from their company Triple Canopy.  Triple Canopy says they were fired because they didn‘t report the incident quickly enough.  They say they were fired as whistle-blowers.  You be the judge.  Here‘s the interview we did. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHANE SCHMIDT, FMR. MARINE CORPS SNIPER:  We were pulling up to a checkpoint, getting ready to go into the inside a secure area, and I was covering the six o‘clock position, making sure that nobody was rolling up on us.  I had locked down the rear.  I was told by my boss to button up, which means close the doors.  Upon doing so, he stepped from the vehicle and fired a few round into a white truck that was about 75 meters to our rear. 

CARLSON:  Did he say anything when he fired into the vehicle? 

SCHMIDT:  No, not initially. 

CARLSON:  Had you seen the vehicle before he fired into it? 

SCHMIDT:  Yes, I did.  It was stopped. 

CARLSON:  Did you perceive a threat? 

SCHMIDT:  I didn‘t, no. 

CARLSON:  Did you see this Chuck? 

CHUCK SHEPPARD, FRM. ARMY RANGER:  Yes, actually I was driving our follow vehicle.  And it was not a perceived threat.  And what he did was kind of out of control.  He got back into the vehicle and told us that didn‘t happen. 

CARLSON:  What were his exact words? 

SHEPPARD:  Hey guys, that didn‘t happen, you understand. 

CARLSON:  Did you say anything to him about it in the course of the day?  

SCHMIDT:  No.  We were dumbfounded, talking amongst ourselves about what happened. 

CARLSON:  Did you feel a threat from him? 

SHEPPARD:  Absolutely, not quite at this point, but later in the day. 

There was another incident.  And after the second incident, we absolutely felt threatened by him.  We didn‘t know if he had actually lost control, if he was psychotic or what was going on. 

CARLSON:  So when you say you felt threatened, did you think, if he‘s going to shoot strangers for no reason, he might shoot you? 

SHEPPARD:  Absolutely. 

CARLSON:  Tell me about the second incident that you referred to. 

SHEPPARD:  Later that afternoon, on a return trip form Baghdad International Airport, we were driving from the airport to the international zone, and while on movement, on route Irish, he makes the comment that I‘ve never shot anybody with my pistol before, and proceeds to crack his door open, lean out with his Glock, and shoot at a taxi cab driver. 

CARLSON:  Did he hit it?

SCHMIDT:  If I was a betting man, yes.   

CARLSON:  What did you say? 

SHEPPARD:  At that point it was a lot of four-letter words and what are you doing.  This was completely unwarranted.  This was innocent civilians.  You know, you kill an innocent civilians, you‘re going to make three or four more insurgents over there, and they‘re gunning for us at it is.   

CARLSON:  Did he explain his behavior?  Did he say anything?

SCHMIDT:  This didn‘t happen.  It didn‘t happen.

CARLSON:  Did he say it in a menacing way? 

SCHMIDT:  Yes, you could say that. 

CARLSON:  What was your interaction with him when you got back to your base?

SCHMIDT:  We went our separate ways. 

CARLSON:  When did you report it, and to whom, and what did you say?  

SCHMIDT:  The individual in question was leaving the following morning.  We discussed our courses of action, and thought that it would be in our best interest to have him exit the country and then report everything the way it needed to be reported. 

CARLSON:  Why? 

SCHMIDT:  Obviously, if he was willing to shoot at two innocent people, there‘d be no difference for us. 

CARLSON:  So what happened when you reported it? 

SHEPPARD:  The Triple Canopy, our detail leader decided to start an investigation, internal.  We had to submit numerous reports and go over, you know, grids and locations and stuff.  And that was the end of what we saw from it, and then the next day, we were suspended, told we were getting shipped out of country for our own sake, and when we got back to the states, we were promptly terminated. 

CARLSON:  What were the grounds of your termination?  Why did they fire you?  What was their explanation?

SCHMIDT:  Not following protocol? 

CARLSON:  In what way? 

SCHMIDT:  Didn‘t report it in a timely manner. 

CARLSON:  Did they deny that they took place?

SCHMIDT:  No, they didn‘t deny that it took place. 

CARLSON:  What happened to your shift leader? 

SHEPPARD:  As far as we know, he was terminated also, but that‘s the only information we‘ve been given. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Back again with us “Los Angeles Times” columnist Rosa Brooks, author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion,” Bill Press and Joshua Green, senior editor at the “Atlantic,” welcome all.  In the interest of full disclosure that I know Shane Schmidt quite well.  I traveled with him in Iraq several years ago, the former Marine sniper.  And so I do have some personal connection to this.  I don‘t see, though, what motive these guys would have to lie.  They are—and I should also say, they are suing Triple Canopy, their former employer.  They believe they were wrongfully terminated.  But it‘s a pretty specific story.  Key parts of it are not being denied by Triple Canopy.  

Here‘s the interesting thing, as far as I‘m concerned, Triple Canopy reported this event.  The allegation is this shift leader has shot two people randomly, or shot into their vehicles anyway, with high powered weapons.  This was reported to the Department of Defense.  Triple Canopy says they reported it back in July, and essentially have heard nothing from the Department of Defense since.  It seems to me there ought to be some follow up if you have an allegation this serious.  Josh Green, does this surprise you? 

GREEN:  It does on one level.  It doesn‘t on another.  I mean, the country is in chaos.  We hear these kinds of stories of innocent being people targeted, of just terrible things happening.  I mean, in a country that‘s in as bad a shape as Iraq is, it‘s tragic, but things like this are going to happen from time to time.  The Department of Defense ought to have followed up.

CARLSON:  Let me just say, I think security contractors are necessary for a bunch of different reasons, and most of them—and I know a lot of people who are involved in that business—do a great job.  They are men of integrity.  They are former special forces guys.  I mean, they are really good people and they do a great job.  But if you have an allegation like this, you have to chase it down, for all of our sake, don‘t you think? 

PRESS:  You would think it would be a top priority, Tucker, for sure.  I must say, I don‘t know either man.  But watching that interview, I thought they were very credibility.  And the scariest thing that I heard was the man say—I think it was your friend—who said that if you shoot an innocent civilian, you have three or four more insurgents.  You are creating three or four more insurgents like that, which you are, which is why the Pentagon ought to make it a top priority. 

BROOKS:  It doesn‘t surprise me at all, Tucker.  I think the overwhelming majority of Americans in Iraq are doing their darndest to be good soldiers, be good citizens, be good contractors, but I also think that part of the story of the Iraq war, from the very beginning, unfortunately, has been that from the top on down, crucial people, who could have created a climate that made it absolutely clear that those sorts of things were unacceptable, didn‘t do what they should have.  And all along the way we haven‘t seen prompt accountability.  You know, Abu Ghraib, all the various incidents that we‘ve had, the story on all of them has been that the Defense Department has reacted too little, too late, going after the small fry, not looking up the chain to see what is really going on, and I think they‘ve created a climate in which this is, unfortunately, no longer surprising at all. 

CARLSON:  To some extent, I think you‘re right.  Some of it is inevitable.  It‘s war.  It‘s an incredibly violent place, but it‘s not America and the U.S. government in Iraq does not behave as the U.S.  government in America does.  Everybody gets a gun, for one thing.  You show up, they give you a weapons permit, you know, and they hand you an automatic weapon.  I mean, it‘s definitely a different world. 

Josh, you live in Washington, so maybe you can explain to me why it is that the head of Bill Clinton‘s national security team, Sandy Berger, gets busted stealing classified documents, hiding them, we learned today—finally details come out—underneath some kind of construction trailer, trying to retrieve them later, I mean, committing very serious crimes.  He‘s not in jail.  How does that work? 

GREEN:  You know, it‘s good question.  I don‘t know.  I mean, it‘s tragically embarrassing for Berger.  I mean, you know, you‘d have a hard time being more embarrassed if you got caught with, you know, a ham down your pants at Safeway, trying to run out the door.  And, you know, you can only presume he was intending to leak these documents.  You know, sometimes that‘s the way Washington works.  It‘s nothing that we should permit, but, you know, it‘s a good question.  I think he is forbidden from seeing classified documents for three years.  It will put crimp in his career, but that seems to be it. 

CARLSON:  So, it‘s on page A26 of the “New York Times.”  Here‘s the background narrative, the Bush administration is competent, the Clinton administration had this incredibly wise national security team, right.  This guy was the head of the national security team, essentially, and he is like a buffoon, at best, a criminal, at worst.  Doesn‘t this, sort of, change the myth of the Clinton years a little bit? 

PRESS:  First of all Tucker, I‘m not here to defend Sandy Berger, and I‘m not even going to try to, OK.  I mean, I think it‘s really sad.  I know Sandy.  I don‘t know him that well.  I think he was outstanding national security adviser.  He didn‘t do this when he was in the White House.  Why he would do something so wrong, so dumb, I could never explain it.  I doubt that he could.  I doubt his family could. 

As far as the sentence goes, I would have to say, I would think there‘d be some jail time involved for stealing classified documents, but he did go to court, and the judge said, as I understand it, a 50,000 dollar fine, 100 hours of community service and he can‘t see classified documents for three years.  Maybe that‘s Washington speak for, you know, a slap on the wrist, but that is all he got. 

CARLSON:  He is a more high toned O.J., as far as I‘m concerned.  I mean, he did get away with it.  

PRESS: As usual, I wouldn‘t go quite as far as that. 

CARLSON:  That may be tinged—that may be sprinkled with hyperbole. 

OK, I‘ll concede that. 

Ahmadinejad, there were elections—Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who‘s name I can finally pronounce, after a lot of practice, the lunatic in charge of Iran.  There were elections in Iran recently.  His party got creamed.  He is very unpopular.  There does seem to be some sort of popular movement against him.  I don‘t know if it will be successful, but it indicates that Iran is not Iraq in this way? 

BROOKS:  It‘s amazing, the parallels between Iran and the United States are just getting stronger and stronger.  Has anybody noticed this?  I mean, frankly, you know, we have two leaders, president George W. Bush and Ahmadinejad in Iran, both of whom are, frankly, extremist in my view, religious extremists, who think that they are getting instructions from somewhere. 

CARLSON:  Are you being serious? 

BROOKS:  No, I am being totally serious.  I‘m being totally serious and I think that that‘s one of the biggest problems in this country in the last few years, is that, unfortunately, our foreign policy has, to a very significant extent, not been guided by rationality, but been guided by somebody who, you know, thinks he knows the way.  That‘s what he‘s doing in Iran.  That‘s what we‘re seeing here.  Both of them have really, you know, gotten a little bit of drubbing from the voters, saying, how about a little bit of a more reality-based foreign policy.   

CARLSON:  I understand, sort of, the clever cocktail party parallels, however—

BROOKS:  I don‘t think it‘s clever.  I think it‘s real.

CARLSON:  So, the implication of what you‘re saying is you aren‘t that much more troubled by the idea that Ahmadinejad would have nuclear weapons, than you are troubled by the fact that Bush does.

BROOKS:  No, not at all.  I do prefer to live in a world in which the Iranians do not get nuclear weapons.  I agree, no question about it.  However, I do think that the parallels are worth not just dismissing out of hand, because I think on both sides what we are seeing, actually, is ordinary people, both in the United States and Iran, saying let‘s back away from the brinks that we‘ve been getting to.  Let‘ try to be a little bit more hard nosed, a little bit more pragmatic about the world we live in and the fact that we have to get along with each other, and we should all be saying, hurrah, you know, because the midterm elections -- 

CARLSON:  Here‘s the headline, as far as I can tell, but I don‘t think most people are aware of it, there is dissent in Iran? 

PRESS:  No, you‘re right.  I just have to say, for Rosa, both of them are end times people, which scares the hell out of me. 

CARLSON:  This is insane. 

PRESS:  Both of them are, but your point is correct.  I think it‘s a good warning and good lesson to us that there are seeds of dissent and democracy inside of Iran.  We should not be treating Iran the same way we are treating Iraq, and this idea of some military action against Iran ought to be off the table forever.  This is great news that, inside his own country, as repressive as he is, he just got kicked in the butt, you know. 

CARLSON:  You guys are very smart, Joshua Green, Bill Press, Rosa Brooks, thank you both, all, both, the three of you.  You‘re very smart.  I‘m not.  Thank you all very much. 

Coming up, there‘s a great divide in this country, people with real Christmas trees, people with fake Christmas tress.  Find out which kind of person your congressman or Senator may be, next.  If that‘s not enough, two people who‘s Christmas cards I have not yet received.  They are really mad at one another, and acting stupid for our amusement.  So stay tuned, and be amused.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  We‘re going to have all the gossip you need, definitely all the gossip you need, maybe not all the gossip you want, in just a moment.  But first, we‘ve got some breaking news.  Miss Nevada, Katie Rees, has been suspended.  She has been stripped of her crown because she stripped.  It turns out naked, or semi-naked, pictures of Ms. Rees have been available on the Internet for some time, including pictures of her tongue kissing other women, another contestant engaging in recreational female bisexuality.  Katie Rees no longer has the crown of Miss Nevada.  We‘re prevented, for some legal reason—I don‘t full understand—from showing you many more pictures of Katie Rees, but you can go right to Google.  Her last name is spelled Rees, Katie Rees. 

Time now for some real news you can use, and for that we are joined again by Patrick Gavin of the “Washington Examiner.”  Patrick, how are you doing?

PATRICK GAVIN, “WASHINGTON EXAMINER”:  I‘m doing well, how are you?

CARLSON:  What you got?

GAVIN:  Well, I know that most people, when they want serious dialogue, they turn to your show, but—

CARLSON:  Needless to say.

GAVIN—the second place they go for serious dialogue is the U.S.  Senate.  And we decided to take a look at, this holiday season, who‘s got Christmas trees, who‘s got real trees, who‘s got fake trees, who‘s got something else.  What we found is that in the U.S. Senate a very, very small amount of offices actually have Christmas trees. 

CARLSON:  Seriously?

GAVIN:  Absolutely.  And a lot of them are fake, but we discovered that—in researching who has Christmas trees and who doesn‘t, that you learn a lot about these politicians.  Let me give you a couple of examples, Senator Jim DeMint has a fake Palmetto tree.  You have Senator Tom Carper, from Delaware, who has a fake tree, but one that‘s actually made of real wood, go figure.  And then, of course, you have, you know, very politically correct people.  We called up one office and said, you know, do you have a real or fake tree, and this was Senator Chuck Grassi‘s office, who said, no, excuse me, we have an artificial Christmas tree.  So they didn‘t want to be fake.  But the best response came Senator Ted Kennedy‘s office.  We called them up and said, do you have a real or fake Christmas tree, and the receptionist, kind of sharply shot back, saying, I don‘t understand your question.  What makes you think we have got a Christmas tree in here.  I don‘t know, it could be that it‘s holiday season.

CARLSON:  No, because celebrating Christmas in the world of Ted Kennedy is prima facie racist, bigoted, xenophobic, disgusting, ought to be illegal -- 

GAVIN:  They were shocked that we would even ask them. 

CARLSON:  That is amazing.  Who had a real, actual, Christmas tree? 

Did anybody? 

GAVIN:  We had about 30 senators say that they have trees.  We didn‘t

hear back from everybody.  You have to keep in mind, a lot of them are

switching offices, a lot of them didn‘t get elected, a lot of them are

packing to go home.  But still, it was interesting to see that a very small

We only could get 30 people to actually commit that they had a Christmas tree, and even out of that 30, some of them weren‘t real.  You know, some them had Poinsettias.  I think Trent Lott has two wreaths.  But, otherwise, don‘t expect to find Christmas trees on the U.S. Capital. 

CARLSON:  That is so depressing.  You would think that would be the one place you‘d find them?  What else is going on in Washington? 

GAVIN:  Well, we are trying to break the news of when Barack Obama is going to announce his presidency.  We think we have a scoop, and that is it is going to happen on Tuesday, we think.  We went back and we looked at the days of the week that presidential candidates announced, if they‘re going to announce that they‘re going to run for president.  In the 2004 the top three Democrats, Clark, Edwards and Kerry, all announced on a Tuesday.  And so talked to Jack Quinn, from Quinn & Gillespie, and said, you know—he‘s a media consultant.  He looks at these things.  We said, what‘s a good day to announce?  He said pretty much any day but Saturday, and, of course, as far as we could find out, who is the only president to ever announce on a Saturday?  George W. Bush. 

CARLSON:  Amazing, so when you say Barack Obama is going to announce on Tuesday, you mean any Tuesday, any of the 52 Tuesdays.   

GAVIN:  Correct, oh yes, I‘m not saying I know it‘s coming up.   

CARLSON:  That would be good.  And when you get that—

GAVIN:  I would have the scoop of the week. 

CARLSON:  Patrick Gavin of the “Washington Examiner,” which lands on my front lawn every morning, I appreciate it. 

GAVIN:  Thank you very much. 

CARLSON:  The legend of Donald Trump grows.  His war of words with Rosie O‘Donnell escalates to outrageous levels of name calling.  It‘s the celebrity fist fight of the year.  We have got the entire blow by blow, stay with us for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  You called, you e-mailed, you telegraphed, somebody even threw a brick through our window with a note attached to it, begging for Willie Geist.  Well here, ladies and gentlemen, is Willie Geist.  

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  My family can be very persistent, Tucker, can‘t they.  You alluded to it in the last segment, huge breaking news.  Katie Rees, Miss Nevada, from the Miss USA pageant, has been stripped of her title as Miss Nevada because of some revealing photos which we are not going to show you here, but I can tell you, it is your basic cliche, girls gone wild behavior.  She was in a bar in Tampa before she was even elected, or voted, or whatever they do, Miss USA, or Miss Nevada, you know, making out with girls, taking her pants off, stuff like that, but big news, Katie Rees, Miss Nevada, stripped of her title.  And boy, Tucker, this has been a fun group at the Miss USA pageant so far, hasn‘t it? 

CARLSON:  It really is the best.  

GEIST:  Speaking of, it began as a small story about a beauty pageant winner having a couple of drinks and making out with a few gals in New York City.  Now it is World War Three.  Donald Trump, the great granter of second chances, has gone nuclear on Rosie O‘Donnell for these comments she made about him on the “View” yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, “THE VIEW”:  I think it is a little bit of a myth that people think in the olden days nobody had, sort of, the same bodily urges. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Trump heard O‘Donnell‘s comments and decided to go the personal rout with his attack on her.  Here is what he told “Access Hollywood.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, “THE APPRENTICE”:  Rosie is somebody out of control, who really just doesn‘t have it.  And she ought to be careful, because I will send one of my friends to pick up her girlfriend.  And I think it would be very easy.  Rosie said, Trump went bankrupt.  I never went bankrupt.  She will say anything that comes to her unattractive mouth.  To be honest, I look forward to suing Rosie.  I‘m going to sue her, or Rosie is a loser.  Rosie has been a loser for a long time.  Her magazine failed.  She got sued.  She folded up like a tent. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  But wait, there is so much more, like this comment.  In case you didn‘t hear what he said about her being a loser before, he said this to “People Magazine,” quote, Rosie is a loser, a real loser.  I look forward to taking lots of money from my nice, fat little Rosie. 

O‘Donnell responded today to Trump‘s comments about stealing her girlfriend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Look who is here today, Kelly.  I was afraid to leave her at home, in case somebody with a comb over came and stole her from me.  So yes, she‘s here now.

BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”:  Do the hair.  Do it. 

O‘DONNELL:  I am not doing it again.  I mean listen, it is a live show.  You get me while I am in the mood.  And frankly, here is my comment to him. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  A little weak actually.  Now Tucker, we have heard all the words from the Donald.  He basically went out on a media tour, ripping her.  But here is the best.  He said this today to the “New York Daily News,” quote, I‘m worth billions of dollars and I have to listen to this fat slob.  Now here is why that is great.  It is a quote that combines his spectacular arrogance, the billions of dollars, with the basic childish insult of Rosie O‘Donnell.  It‘s brilliant.  It is Trump‘s finest hour, in my opinion. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t really know who‘s side to be on.  I am convinced, though, call me cynical, that this is something they worked out ahead of time.  I mean, this is professional wrestling.

GEIST:  You know, I was going say, this is so over the top, you are waiting for the punch line.  It‘s like the long set up to a joke.  I mean, no one acts this way in public.  Right, they have to be coming out with a movie in a couple weeks together, like a buddy movie or something.  You know what I mean, it‘s way too much. 

CARLSON:  Or the “Apprentice,” exactly, which he is. 

GEIST:  Right, she is going to be the side kick on the “Apprentice.”  There‘s one more quick story about a Christmas miracle, Tucker, being played out in a zoo in England right now.  A mother Komodo Dragon expecting eight babies after laying some fertilized eggs.  Sounds normal enough right, but here‘s the catch.  She has never mated with, or even been around a male dragon.  Tests prove the embryos were created without the help of a male.  Scientists say it happens through a rare phenomenon known as virgin birth, and Tucker, many people expect divine intervention.  What do you think? 

CARLSON:  You know, this is the season for it Willie, but if it happened to certain women in my life, I wouldn‘t buy it. 

GEIST:  I wouldn‘t either.  I would rather talk about Miss USA, frankly. 

CARLSON:  Amen.  Willie Geist from headquarters, thanks a lot Willie.

GEIST:  All right Tucker.

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next “HARDBALL.”   We will see you tomorrow.  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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