updated 12/28/2006 7:41:40 PM ET 2006-12-29T00:41:40

Guests: Jim Vandehei, Frank Donatelli, Jack Jacobs, Patrick Gavin

PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST:  Welcome to Thursday‘s edition of the show. 

Gerald Ford‘s posthumous disapproval of the war in Iraq will be on the table today. 

But we begin with Senator John Edwards entry into the 2008 presidential race, first leaked last week, then again Wednesday on his own Web site, and formally declared this morning in New Orleans by the candidate himself. 

NBC‘s Chip Reid filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  It‘s no surprise that John Edwards chose New Orleans to announce he‘s a candidate for president.  The plight of the poor has long been one of his signature issues, and the raw poverty revealed by Katrina is something he doesn‘t want America to forget.

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The people of Louisiana and the people of New Orleans and the people of Mississippi are us.  They‘re part of our America family.  And we have a responsibility to them.

REID:  Two years ago, Edwards ran as a critic of economic inequality, what he called the two Americas.  This time, he‘s touting what he calls bold ideas to tackle the problem, including universal health care.  He is making his announcement in the slow news week between Christmas and New Years in the hope of stealing some attention from the two current stars of the Democratic field, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  It‘s an exciting time...

REID (on camera):  He will be making quick stops in many of the key states in the nominating process.  First stop, the all-important state of Iowa. 

(voice over):  If he can win there, he says, he will get all the attention and money he needs to compete. 

Critics say Edwards is too liberal, and with just one term in the

Senate, too inexperienced.  They also say his vote in favor of the Iraq war

he now calls it a mistake—will hurt him with Democratic activists. 

But Edwards, always the optimist, believes his call for government to get more involved in solving the nation‘s problems...

EDWARDS:  We don‘t have a wheelbarrow, do we?

REID:  ... is a message Americans are ready to hear. 

Chip Reid, NBC News, New Orleans. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCHANAN:  For analysis and insight, I am joined today by Jim Vandehei, executive editor of politico.com, a new Web site, and former Reagan political director Frank Donatelli. 

Thanks for coming over, fellows.

JIM VANDEHEI, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, POLITICO.COM:  Good to be here, Pat.

FRANK DONATELLI, FMR. REAGAN POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Thanks, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Appreciate it.

Let‘s start with John Edwards.  Let me start with you. 

Let me ask you, what is his—what is his strategy in this sense that he seems to be down there in the poor district that was really hammered in New Orleans.  He seems to be going, if you will, almost for the African-American vote, the poor vote, and liberals concerned about poverty. 

Doesn‘t Obama really threaten that strategy? 

VANDEHEI:  Oh, he could.  I mean, I think what you have here is John Edwards trying to, A, take advantage of a slow period, typically, in the new cycle.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  Obviously he couldn‘t anticipate the death of a former president.  And trying to distinguish himself as someone who has a narrative (ph) starting from his young days as growing up as the son of a mill worker.  Then looking at the last campaign where he talked about two Americans, and now trying to continue it in New Orleans, where he‘s talking about poverty. 

He‘s trying to run as a populist.  Now, does that cut in to Obama?  I don‘t think Obama has enough definition with most voters at this point. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, with African-Americans he would certainly scoop them all up, would he not? 

VANDEHEI:  Certainly would obviously have a big leg up there. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  But this almost sounds like great society, 1964.  I mean, we‘ve got poverty programs all over the books.  It doesn‘t seem like the kind of cutting issue that can go really national.  The way, for example, I think that the trade issue and the jobs issue, nationally, and, you know, the decline of the middle class, and the dearth of manufacturing, that‘s red hot.  And he had that, it seemed to me, in 2004, a better issue.

VANDEHEI:  He certainly did have that issue.  And I guess the other thing that makes it a little bit curious is you have to look at the backdrop of this presidential election.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  Like, clearly, national security is going to be front and center.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  And clearly, “Where are you on Iraq and overall Middle East policy?”  And now you have him talking about domestic issues.  I think that‘s a much tougher sell in this environment.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  I think anybody who is running on the Democratic side or the Republican side has to prove their national security bona fides.  And if you can‘t sort of meet that threshold—and remember, that was always the knock on Edwards in ‘04.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  Like, does he have that gravitas when it comes to national security?

BUCHANAN:  All right.  You‘ve touched on a word I want to take up with Frank, and that‘s gravitas. 

I mean, this fellow is obviously capable trial lawyer, wins every case, $50 million here, there.  But he seems to be a smiling, friendly, almost puppy-type figure—excuse me.  And not to have the kind of gravitas that you would associate with a McCain or a Giuliani or someone like that. 

DONATELLI:  Well, I think that‘s the two biggest knocks on the Edwards candidacy.  You just put your finger on it.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  Number one is gravitas.  You go back and look at the debates he had with Dick Cheney...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... and a lot of people, including Democrats, said it was like the professor talking to the students. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  So he‘s going to have to address that.

The other is that his issues do seem to bring back the great society, and there‘s a reason that the federal government got out of the poverty program, Pat.  They‘re not very good at it.

So he‘s going to have to overcome that.  But I want to come back earlier to your statement about how the poor intermix—interacts with the trade issue.

I think it was Bobby Kennedy...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... somebody that you remember, talked about a black and blue coalition that he wanted to put together.  And it was a coalition of black voters and blue collar voters that were union members and so forth. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  I think if you want to see what Edwards is trying to do, go back and look at some of Bobby Kennedy‘s speeches and some of the policies that he emphasized to try to put together two groups that really...

BUCHANAN:  Right, two...

DONATELLI:  ... didn‘t get along very well for many years.

BUCHANAN:  They didn‘t—you know, FDR did it.  FDR did it.  And Johnson did it to a degree.  But Goldwater, frankly, and Wallace started pulling those blue collar guys away.

And it seems to me if you are talking real poverty, like you‘re talking down in New Orleans, you‘re not talking manufacturing jobs and things like that.  It‘s almost a—it‘s almost a different issue. 

DONATELLI:  Right.  Well, I think it‘s interesting that he did choose New Orleans...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... as opposed to, say, Flint, Michigan, a city that really has been hurt by international trade.  But he has plenty of time in this campaign. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.

DONATELLI:  He is trying to appeal—I think Edwards‘ big opportunity is what Howard Dean called the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, the true believers of the Democratic Party that think Hillary Clinton has sold out and don‘t know enough about Barack Obama. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  But let me ask you about Iraq? 

Is this going to play, this idea, “If only I had known, I would have never voted for the war”?  Here‘s a guy—he, Kerry and, to a degree, Hillary, are admitting they blundered in the biggest vote in their senatorial career, and because they didn‘t stop the war, the United States may have a strategic debacle.  And we‘ve got 3,000 guys dead in Iraq.

How do you defend that when—you know, when a Tim Russert goes after him on something like that? 

VANDEHEI:  Obviously it‘s a huge obstacle for both.  He, and almost every other candidate, whether you‘re talking about Kerry or Hillary Clinton.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  The way that he started to deal with it was a couple of years ago.  He penned that, you know, fairly famous, at least in political circles, op-ed, where he said, “I completely regret my vote.  I should have never made that vote.”

It‘s sort of a common refrain now.  The question is, like you say, is that enough? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  No.  Only if you‘re wrong on the biggest vote of your life. 

Why should he be president?

VANDEHEI:  Especially because of questions that are coming up now.  I mean, I covered that debate.  I was on the Hill at the time.

These aren‘t new questions.  The idea of, like, there aren‘t weapons...

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

VANDEHEI:  ... containment.  Or, you know, these were issues that were front and center.

Remember back then, it was sort of a no-brainer politically.  You have to support the war if you want to run for president.  And that‘s where everyone was coming from.  I think he has to explain that, and I think he knows he has to explain that.  And as this moves on he‘ll get pressed on that question.

BUCHANAN:  Do you think that‘s inhibiting in the primary or in the general election? 

DONATELLI:  I think much more the general election. 

BUCHANAN:  No?

DONATELLI:  Because the Democratic base hates the Iraq war so much.  I think Mr. Edwards will say two things.

Number one, that he didn‘t have all the information.  And so the administration withheld...

BUCHANAN:  “I didn‘t know.

DONATELLI:  “I didn‘t”—well, the administration withheld things.

BUCHANAN:  It‘s not quite “I was brainwashed,” but it‘s getting there. 

DONATELLI:  Well, you‘re close.

BUCHANAN:  You know?

DONATELLI:  That‘s one thing.

BUCHANAN:  The second thing is that it was the aftermath of the war where he didn‘t really have a voice.  That was the biggest problem.

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEHEI:  I mean, remember, though, if you go back to that debate, all of these questions were raised by a lot of senators.  And people...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Exactly.  A lot of guys got it right.  Al Gore did.  Obama did.  And some others could be in here. 

OK.  Coming up, President Ford would not express an opinion on the Iraq war while he was still alive, but his dim view of President Bush‘s foreign policy has now come to light.

Plus, scheduled to die by hanging, Saddam Hussein sends a strange letter to the Iraqi people.  Will the imminent execution of the reviled dictator mean more trouble for American troops?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GERALD FORD, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t think if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly, I don‘t think I would have ordered the Iraqi war.  I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Gerald Ford would not insert himself into the national debate on the Iraq war while alive, but he spoke candidly with Bob Woodward of “The Washington Post” in 2004 and the former president disapproved of the whole operation. 

Still alongside me to speak of it are Jim Vandehei, executive editor of politico.com—I want to get that right—and former White House political director Frank Donatelli, who may have overlapped with me in one of those administrations. 

Right, Frank?

DONATELLI:  We did for a few months.

BUCHANAN:  Were you coming out when I was going in, or is it the opposite?

DONATELLI:  It was the former.

Well, Jim, let me start with you.  This is an astonishing interview.  Now, let me ask first, do you think it‘s unseemly to run this just as the funeral services are about to be held?  Should Woodward have waited to drop this out?

VANDEHEI:  Oh, I don‘t think so.  I mean, clearly, they had an agreement that immediately after his passing that the interview could run.  And clearly, there‘s a bunch of interest in what his thoughts were and what his life was like.  And this was, you know, obviously a very profound interview and some very interesting comments.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  And not just about President Bush, but Henry Kissinger and a lot that really adds some texture to the history that Gerald Ford had in this country.  So I don‘t—I don‘t think so.  And I also saw another interview—I believe he gave an interview, with, I think, Tom DeFrank of “The New York Daily News.” 

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  And that one ran as well.  So I think there‘s sort of a collective agreement that folks that had interviews were running them today.

BUCHANAN:  Frank, are you surprised?  Gerald Ford sounds like a traditionalist conservative.  In other words, he‘s not a neoconservative at all.  He‘s saying, look, the national interest wasn‘t threatened, I didn‘t like the case they made for the war, I would not have gone to war myself. 

Are you surprised by that? 

DONATELLI:  I guess I‘m not surprised by that.  Gerry Ford was a traditional figure.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  He was the last sort of Eisenhower Republican before the conservative takeover. 

BUCHANAN:  The guys I used to caddy for at Burning Tree when I was a kid.  I remember them well, yes.

DONATELLI:  Well, I caught the balls...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... they hit over the fence...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... so I didn‘t get inside.

But he was the last Eisenhower Republican.  I think he valued order and he valued process.  And if anyone was sort of the realist school of foreign policy...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... it was him.  Remember, he embraced detente totally during the Cold War.

BUCHANAN:  Sure did, Kissinger—right.

DONATELLI:  And he famously would not even have Alexander Solzhenitsyn to the White House because he thought it would offend Brezhnev and upset the international order.

BUCHANAN:  Exactly.  Detente and Solzhenitsyn are two of the reasons Ronald Reagan took off after him.

DONATELLI:  Exactly.

BUCHANAN:  Are you—quickly, are you surprised by the fact that he said Henry resigned about once a week for 52 weeks, threatened to resign?

DONATELLI:  Well, no, I‘m not because, remember, it was Henry Kissinger that Ronald Reagan focused on in 1976. 

BUCHANAN:  Exactly.

DONATELLI:  And at some point he thought he was running—Reagan was running against Kissinger rather than Ford.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  And as you also remember, Henry Kissinger was under the a House arrest at the Republican convention in 1976...

BUCHANAN:  Exactly.

DONATELLI:  ... when they criticized him and the platform criticized him.  And Jim Baker said, you will not speak at all, go to your hotel room until the nomination is secured.

BUCHANAN:  Well, I mean, I must say, I found Woodward‘s piece riveting from beginning to end.  It was—did you read the material on Al Haig in there, too, on the pardon and all that?  What is your take on ford saying these things? 

VANDEHEI:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  Again, what‘s your take, though, on Ford saying these things?  I mean, is that consistent with your view of the man?

VANDEHEI:  Absolutely.  And also, if you closed your eyes and you listened to that interview, you could hear, you know, Bush‘s father saying that.  Or a lot of the folks that were around Bush‘s father.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  I mean, that‘s a pretty, you know, mainstream view among some of the older...

BUCHANAN:  He hit Cheney and Rumsfeld directly. 

VANDEHEI:  That was a little bit surprising.  But he was also complimentary...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Complimentary, but he did say...

VANDEHEI:  He did say that Vice President Cheney had become more pugnacious...

BUCHANAN:  Pugnacious.

VANDEHEI:  ... certainly as he grew older.

BUCHANAN:  Yes.

VANDEHEI:  Which, again...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know, I‘ll tell you, he‘s more pugnacious then I knew him.

How about you, Frank?  I mean, he seems—I mean, I think—I think all three of these men, the president—not Powell—but the president and Cheney and Rumsfeld were dramatically affected by 9/11 and the fact they were in power there.  And I think they are changed men from what they were. 

I just wouldn‘t see them, any of those—of course, I didn‘t know President Bush.  But any of those in the old days as launching an invasion on what the evidence that they had. 

DONATELLI:  You have to wonder, Mr. Cheney, who was secretary of defense in the first Bush administration...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... whether he was seeing the possibility of finally overthrowing Saddam and he regretted the fact that we didn‘t do it the first time. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, where was—now, where was Cheney in the first war? 

He agreed—they all agreed to stop...

DONATELLI:  Well, he was secretary of defense.

BUCHANAN:  I know he was.  But they all agreed to stop after a hundred hours before they got to...

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEHEI:  I also think that people—I mean, look, when you talk about Vice President Cheney—and I covered parts of the first and second term. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  I mean, after 9/11, imagine yourself, like, looking at these intelligence reports every morning. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.

VANDEHEI:  And he‘s—it has a very profound effect on how you view foreign policy, how you view the world. 

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

VANDEHEI:  And having been attacked, I mean, there‘s no doubt that that was the radical departure, at least in their minds, for how they changed their thinking, both Bush and Cheney.

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know, and—that goes to the point.  What does he have, the one percent doctrine, Cheney had.  If there‘s a one percent chance this guy‘s going to use a weapon of mass destruction on the United States, then we go after him and take him down.

DONATELLI:  And let‘s not forget that everybody—and I mean everybody—prior to 2004 thought that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  The U.N. thought it, the International Atomic Energy Agency thought it.  The British thought it.  Everybody thought it.

BUCHANAN:  Even some of us who opposed the war thought they had something in there. 

DONATELLI:  Well, those of us that supported it...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ...felt that that was a sufficient reason to do that.

BUCHANAN:  There was sufficient reason to go ahead and do it. 

DONATELLI:  And because the chances were much more than one percent...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... that had he acquired such a weapon, he probably would have used it. 

BUCHANAN:  You believer that, huh? 

DONATELLI:  Absolutely.  For Saddam Hussein, absolutely.

BUCHANAN:  He was into booze and broads and palaces and dynasties. 

Those aren‘t the guys you‘ve got to be afraid of.

DONATELLI:  And expansion.

BUCHANAN:  It‘s the guys who have got the lean and hungry look that are the problem. 

OK.  Coming up, folks, when and where will Saddam Hussein be hanged?  Many Iraqis want to view the execution for themselves, but would that version of must-see TV cause even more turmoil in that blood-stained land?

Plus, this young woman has a very active social life here in Washington.  And she‘s chosen to describe every lurid detail on the Internet.

Will kissing and telling cost her $20 million?

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Three years since his capture, Saddam Hussein is now scheduled to die.  As the world awaits his execution by hanging, the deposed dictator wrote an open letter to the Iraqi people, urging them not to hate their American occupiers but to continue their jihad. 

Joining me with analysis of Saddam‘s actions and his fate is retired Army colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs. 

Jack, thanks for coming on.  We appreciate it.

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET), ARMY:  Well, thanks for having me on the program. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Jack.

Let me ask you—any political figure who writes a letter like that wants to create some kind of an effect.  What is Saddam doing here?  Is he setting himself up as some sort of quasi martyr to the Iraqi nation? 

JACOBS:  Yes, I think he is.  He‘s doing two things.

First, is to set himself up as a martyr.  He knows that there are a lot of people out there from the old Ba‘athist regime who are out there harassing the Americans trying to get them out, and also carrying on against the Sunnis.  So he is trying to keep that going as best he possibly can. 

But there‘s something else is at work here, and that is the overused,

overworked but wholly appropriate in this case term of legacy.  He is

trying to establish a legacy as he is going out the door to say, look, it‘s

I did what I could do, don‘t carry on doing bad things, I‘m really a good guy no matter what these bad guys are doing to me.  If you are going to carry on in my name, do so in a fashion that is commensurate with the Koran, which he started to embrace as you saw as the trial went on.

So a lot of this is legacy. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Let me ask you—of course, look, we can‘t psychoanalyze the guy.  Do you think there‘s—it‘s possible that he sincerely wants to die as a good Muslim?  Because he surely did not live like one. 

JACOBS:  No.  You‘re absolutely right.  I mean, we shouldn‘t psychoanalyze him, but I think a lot of this stuff about carrying the Koran to the trial was all window dressing. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.

JACOBS:  And he was never a good Muslim.  And I know it‘s true that there are no atheists in the foxholes and there are no—there are no atheists in the death house either.  But in this particular case, you‘re dealing with a guy who is a psychotic murderer, and I do not think that he is taking—taking Islam to the heart and taking it with him to the grave. 

BUCHANAN:  Jack, let me ask you this, though.  You know, Stalin was a far greater murderer than was Saddam Hussein, simply in terms of numbers.  He was a monster, he murdered people for 30, 40 years. 

At the same time, he led the Soviets and the Russian people in the so-called great patriotic war, which was a great moment in the life of the Russian people.  They still celebrate victory and Europe Day. 

And many Russians today say, you know, -- and they still revere Stalin.  And he‘s still—he‘s not there in Lenin Square—he is in Lenin Square, but he‘s not in the tomb with Lenin.  He‘s in the wall.  And they still revere him. 

Do you think there are many—any number of people, especially Sunnis, who look upon the Saddam years as Saddam as a killer, he was ruthless, he was tough, but we needed that to win the eight-year war against Iran?  He led us in that and he did defy the Americans, and he went down fighting for his country? 

Do you think...

JACOBS:  Well...

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead.

JACOBS:  No, I was going to say, I agree with all of that, and then some.  Remember this, a lot of the Sunnis are saying now and will continue to say long after Saddam Hussein is dead that what you see taking place right now in Iraq, all the violence, the Shia coming out of the woodwork to blow everybody up and ruin Iraq and destroy its infrastructure, and all that stuff, that it was Saddam Hussein who kept that from happening.  It was Saddam Hussein who not only kept the Persians out of Iraq, but also kept al Qaeda out of Iraq.

And I believe that over time, Saddam Hussein‘s name will grow in stature among—among the Sunni.  And I think it will—I think it will be vitally important that the United States and certainly the Iraqi government try to quash that as much as they can over the years. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Quickly, Jack, we‘ve got a little bit of time here.  But I remember the British twice exiled Napoleon.  They didn‘t kill him.  And that turned out to be a very wise decision.

Is there an argument for not killing Saddam Hussein?

JACOBS:  No, I don‘t think there‘s an argument against killing Saddam Hussein.  You‘re going to continue to have the (INAUDIBLE) warfare that you‘ve got in any case.

This spasm from the Sunnis that you‘re going to see after Saddam‘s death is more or less inevitable.  But what concerns me and what‘s really amazing to me is what happened when Saddam Hussein was originally captured. 

You‘re taught that when you go up to a position like Saddam Hussein was occupying, this little foxhole, that the first thing that you do is to roll a hand grenade in there, you ask questions later.  This is what you‘re taught as a young soldier, an infantry soldier.  And the people who went in there didn‘t do that. 

Had they done that, Saddam Hussein would already be dead and we wouldn‘t be going through this routine. 

BUCHANAN:  We wouldn‘t be doing this show. 

JACOBS:  No, not at all.

BUCHANAN:  OK. 

Coming up, the president of the United States continues to develop his strategy for year five of the war in Iraq.  Will he take us deeper in or start out?  And what will Iraq mean in the presidential politics in 2008?

Plus, every candidate wants the NASCAR vote, but stay tuned to find out which NASCAR driver took a political stand that didn‘t stand well with the FEC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN: Still to come, President Bush summons his top advisors to Crawford to devise a new war plan for Iraq.  But is it too late?

Plus, a NASCAR driver is reprimanded for advertising his support of the Bush-Cheney ticket.  What‘s that all about?  We‘ll explain in a moment, but right now, here‘s a look at your headlines.

(NEWSBREAK)

BUCHANAN: President Bush assembled his de facto war cabinet in Crawford, Texas today to draw up the new strategy he plans to reveal next month.  Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were among those gathered to discuss a plan that many expect will include sending tens of thousands of fresh U.S. troops to Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘re making good progress toward coming up with a plan that we think will help us achieve our objective.

As I think about this plan, I always have our troops in mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN: I‘m joined once again by Jim Vandehei, Frank Donatelli, and MSNBC‘s Colonel Jack Jacobs. 

Colonel Jacobs, let me come to you first.  It seems clear right now that the president is planning, and everything you hear, is planning on a surge somewhere upwards of maybe 30,000 troops into Iraq for at least a brief period of time. 

Do you think this will work?

JACOBS: Well, it depends on the objective is.  If the objective is to establish some short period of time in Sunni areas where there‘s going to be some peace, where we‘re going to be able to kill some bad guys and so on, sure, it‘s going work.

But if the objective is to bring peace to all of Iraq, separate the Sunni and Shia, keep further deterioration in the control of the central government from occurring, to make sure that the police and the Iraqi army are up to speed in short order, it‘s not going to do any of those things. 

BUCHANAN: All right, if it does not, well, let‘s say you got a surge of 25,000 troops for six to nine months and it really does not crush the insurgency and it does not end the sectarian violence, where does that leave the president of the United States?

And what I‘m getting to is, is the Iran card on the table now with the movement of those carriers over there?

JACOBS: Well, there‘s very little doubt, in my mind, that that‘s so.  I think one of the reasons the carriers are in the Gulf is effectively to be one large target for Iran. 

If we can‘t do anything on the ground with Iran, and we can‘t, certainly, since we‘ve been in Iraq, and then perhaps if Iran loses its marbles altogether and shoots one or more of the large number anti-ship missiles they got from China and other places, then all bets are off and we‘re open to do whatever we want to do with Iran, things that we can‘t do now, at least partially because we‘re tied up in Iraq.

BUCHANAN: Jim, they call it a surge, but you put 15 or 30,000 troops into Iraq, this is escalating the war.

VANDEHEI: Absolutely and, also, escalating at a time when you just came off an election where people seemed to vote for pulling troops out or moving troops away.

And, essentially, you have John McCain, who‘s been arguing for this surge for some time, but most people aren‘t, including you hear a lot now from even commanders on the ground who are at least very skeptical of this idea, unless it accompanies a very firm strategy.

Remember, this is a president who, from day one, said, I‘m jus going to listen to the commanders on the ground.”

BUCHANAN: Jack Jacobs said you‘ve got to have a mission that these guys are going to do and a mission that‘s credibly leading to some kind of victory and some kind of exit.

But this is the McCain plan.  Now, if you‘ve got a surge of 15 to 25,000 troops and this is a bloody mess, like it is right now, six or eight months from now, it seems to me that McCain‘s ideas are discredited and he will have a real problem explaining what you do next.

VANDEHEI: I always thought that McCain‘s great defense in all this would be, “Well, you know, I was always saying increase troops, increase troops.”

You‘re right.  Now, what happens if the president actually takes the McCain position and implements it and it doesn‘t work, which a lot of Democrats and Republicans are saying it‘s not going to work?

It certainly is hard.  I mean, McCain gets a lot of leeway.  There‘s a lot of things that he does and gets away with that other politicians would get criticized for.

He has a very good persona with the American people, has a lot of support among Democrats, independents and Republicans.  The question is if, on the core issue of this election, which I think everyone thinks Iraq is going to be the core issue, if it looks like your policy was wrong on that, can you overcome it?  I don‘t know.  It‘s difficult.

BUCHANAN: You‘ve only got 12 percent or something of the American people support the surge.  I think the president can do it.  I don‘t think the Democrats will do a thing to him.

They‘ll gripe, Biden will hold hearings, but this is, Frank, the McCain plan.

Now, if this doesn‘t work, I mean, what is McCain‘s argument as to what we should do next?  Is he not discredited, in a sense, because more and more Americans will perceive the initial war was wrong, the McCain idea of increasing troops was wrong, and it was wrong all along.   Why should you put this guy in the White House?

DONATELLI: Well, look, I agree with what the colonel said.  The key is to find out what is the objective. 

We‘re all talking about troop strength, but as we know, the troop strength is just a function of what your policy is.  So let‘s hear what the president is going to be saying in terms of if he‘s going to recommend the surge, why the surge is necessary. 

I assume it‘s going to be for a very specific purpose to make one last attempt to stabilize Baghdad, to stabilize the government, because as the president said today, in the final analysis, it‘s the Iraqis that are going to determine whether or not we‘re successful there or not.

So for that limited purpose, I think you can justify the surge.

BUCHANAN: Well, this is what I want to ask Jack Jacobs.

Jack, this so-called Keene-Kagan, General Keene and this Kagan fellow at AEI, their plan is for, I think, 30,000 troops for two years at least and they say if you don‘t do it that long and that heavy, don‘t do it.

Do you think the president is going to do that?

JACOBS: No, I don‘t think so.  I think he‘s going to put some folks in there, there‘s no doubt about that. 

They‘re going to articulate some mission that has to do with stabilizing the Sunni areas and the areas where there are both Sunni and Shia and specifically to focus on places like Baghdad and the Sunni triangle, Fallujah and places like that.

And, therefore, it will be a limited objective, but the fact is that if you bring the troops there and if you don‘t leave them there, you‘re going to eventually have to bring them out and the bad guys are going to come out of the woodwork.

We have to remember that the president is leaving town in a coupe of years and at the end of the day, he can send troops in there over a short period of time, have some short-term objectives met, eliminating the significant number of bad guys and so on, and think say, like George Akin once said that we should do in Vietnam, say he‘s done a good job, say we prevailed and then go home.

I think the objective is to have the preponderance of the American troops out of there before the election.  And the number of troops that we‘re talking about here are significantly different than the number of troops that McCain‘s been talking about.

BUCHANAN: Let me ask a follow-up.  Do you think Bush‘s objective is to have the preponderance of American troops out by the election next year, Akin‘s formula, declare victory and get out?

In your judgment, Jack Jacobs, if we pull out all those combat brigades the Baker commission talked about pulling out, do you think this stands up or do you think it collapses?

JACOBS: No, I think it‘s likely to collapse and I think we‘re just buying time.  At the end of the day, the Iraqis are going to do whatever the Iraqis are going to do and if recent history is any indication, that means they‘re going to blow each other up and it doesn‘t really matter whether we‘re going to go there with 30,000 or three guys and eventually pull out.

I think the president‘s objective is to have the preponderance of the troops out of there by the time the election in earnest, maybe about 12, maybe about 5 months from now, but I think it‘s likely to go down the tubes in any case no matter how many people we put in there, unless we‘re willing to put in large numbers of troops.

BUCHANAN: Huge numbers for a long—we‘re not going to do that.

JACOBS: We‘re not doing that.

BUCHANAN: OK, let me ask you both you fellows, quickly.  If this goes down, now, there‘s one point of view,  which is the whole thing goes down, it‘s a disaster, the people who were against the war, it was right, get out of there.

And there‘s another point of view, which is that, look, they humiliated us, they defeated us, let‘s kick somebody and the guy you want to kick is Iran.

Do you think the country turns hawkish if you get Jack Jacobs‘ scenario in 2008 or does the country turn to someone who will just get us out of these places, we shouldn‘t have been in there, let them solve their own affairs, and let‘s come home?

VANDERHEI: I just cannot imagine that the country‘s going to turn suddenly more hawkish, I mean, given what happened in Iraq and given the similarities with Iran, where there‘s questions about what are their nuclear capabilities, which would be part of the rationale for doing something to Iran.

It‘s hard to see how that—what was the shift after Vietnam?  It was a shirt towards.

BUCHANAN: There was a shift after they took the hostages and we were humiliated in Iran and after they go into Afghanistan and things are bad, they go let‘s turn to Ronald Reagan.  What do you think?

DONATELLI: I think the country turns dovish at that point.  I think the country‘s on the verge of washing their hands of the situation and, by the way, when Senator McCain talks, there‘s not politics involved. 

BUCHANAN: He‘s got his son.  His sons go in there.  I don‘t doubt his sincerity for a second.

But I do think he is constantly hawkish and he‘s the supreme hawk in this war and if  his policies are followed and they‘re perceived not to have worked, I think he‘s got a lot of explaining to do.

DONATELLI: Well, but I think the party has a lot of explaining to do at that point.

BUCHANAN: What does the Republican Party do, Frank?

DONATELLI: If the situation deteriorates in Iraq, it‘s a very tough situation, I think, for any Republican candidate.

BUCHANAN: I know it‘s tough.  What do you think they do?

DONATELLI: A lot of them will start jumping ship.

BUCHANAN: They‘ll jump ship and say get out, but there‘s still a very

Duncan Hunter, very hawkish, very hawkish part of the Republican Party would say the Syrians are responsible, the Iranians are responsible, let‘s at least do the nuclear weapons in Iran.

               

I think Bush and Cheney believe that, don‘t you?

VANDERHEI: That‘s a very minority view.  I just can‘t imagine.

BUCHANAN: There‘s only 12 percent for going for a surge.

VANDERHEI: But there‘s no doubt, I mean, I can‘t see the Republicans even coalescing around that.  I think most Republicans are now rethinking what we should have done in Iraq. 

There‘s certainly some elements of the Republican Party that would like to escalate or.

BUCHANAN: Let me ask Jack.

VANDERHEI: I think it‘s hard to get the U.S. will behind something.

BUCHANAN: OK, I have a quick question, Jack Jacobs.

Jack, do you think George Bush and Cheney will leave office and leave the Iranian nuclear program as it is today?

JACOBS: I don‘t think they‘re going to have much of an impact.  Don‘t forget, they‘ve got a lot of resistance from countries like Russia, who has a dog in the fight.

I think Cheney and Bush are powerless at the moment to affect, over the short period of time they have left, anything that takes place inside Iran. 

No, I think they‘re going to leave office with their tail between their legs, I‘m afraid.

BUCHANAN: OK, coming up, as if he didn‘t have enough problems, President Bush stirs up a controversial stock car race in, of all places.  We‘ll tell you where.  Let me get this thing right.  Apparently, it was a bumper sticker on one of the NASCAR cars that got this driver in the pits.

We‘ll be back with that in a minute.  Thank you very much, Jack Jacobs.

Plus, Tony Blair jets off to South Beach with his favorite rock star and the Brits aren‘t exactly enthusiastic about footing the bill. 

Details when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN: OK, now from all the hard news, let‘s get to the gossip, rumor and innuendo floating around Washington today.

For that, we turn to Patrick Gavin of the “Washington Examiner.”  Pat, what have you got for us today?

PATRICK GAVIN, “WASHINGTON EXAMINER”: Well, proving that nobody can make a sex scandal more boring and complicated than Washington, D.C., we‘re about to see another sex scandal hit D.C. in January.

You may remember that a couple of years ago, Jessica Cutler, who was a staff member with Senator DeWine, wrote a blog detailing all of her sexual encounters with her various people, including one Robert Steinbuch, who was a staff member for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Anyway, the lawsuit is now going to go to trial, maybe in January.

BUCHANAN: These are 3-year-old charges that are going to trial.

GAVIN: These are 3-year-old charges and it‘s going to bring up the whole issue of are you allowed to blog about pretty much anything, can you talk on people‘s sex life, and it‘ll be interesting to see, when the Democrats come back into power, can they beat the news cycle and these stories of prostitution, spanking, dirty sex talk.

I mean, all this is going to come out in the trial. 

BUCHANAN: This is all on the Internet. 

GAVIN: Yes, she blogged about this.  Then when it came out, it was popularized by the Website.  She was then fired.  Steinbuch sued her, saying character defamation, how can you talk about a private sex life, et cetera, et cetera.

And now it‘s going to trial for $20 million.

BUCHANAN: Is this guy a Democrat or is he another one of Donatelli‘s people here?

GAVIN: I think that when its comes to this.

BUCHANAN: What happened to family values?  Go ahead.

GAVIN: Well, you know, of course, some are just saying this is another form of lobbying.  Apparently, she was paid for favors and I think it‘s just called lobbying.  So what‘s the problem here?

BUCHANAN: Was she basically a hooker, was she?

GAVIN: Well, she would say that she had multiple sexual partners and some of them paid for them.

BUCHANAN: Paid her money.

GAVIN: He was one of the best.

BUCHANAN: She worked in DeWine‘s office.

GAVIN: In DeWine‘s office.  Then once it came out.

BUCHANAN: He‘s no longer with us, is he, Frank?

GAVIN: When this came out, she was fired. 

BUCHANAN: They didn‘t do this in the old days, I don‘t think.

GAVIN: She‘d actually leave Capitol Hill during some of her lunch hours, go with him to the hotel and do her thing.

BUCHANAN: Does the guy think he can get $20 million if the gal is telling the truth?  I mean, you‘re into libel law and slander and things like that.  The truth is the best defense, as we used to say in the Nixon days.

But in Washington, it runs a poor second to the statute of limitations.

GAVIN: Except it‘s raising—I mean, it‘s obviously a fun issue for us to talk about, but it‘s quite serious in the sense that it‘s raising issues about privacy.  And it will have implications. 

On the Internet, can anything go?  Can you blog about anything or not?

BUCHANAN: It‘s like a book.  If a woman has an affair with a man or something like that, writes a book about it, if you‘ve got a defense of truth, it is libelous, but you have the defense of truth, I don‘t know what kind of case the guy has got.

GAVIN: And he‘s obviously bringing more attention to himself by doing this.  I mean, had he not filed the lawsuit, he now moved out west.  He now teaches a class.  She‘s up in New York.

So how do you just let this drop? I think we ought to forget about it, but he‘s suing and so this is going to bring it all back to the forefront.

BUCHANAN: And the other names, are people named in this thing, they‘ll all be called into court?

GAVIN: Well, Steinbuch has named Anna Marie Cox, who was the editor of the Wonkette Website at the time, as a defendant.  No word if she‘s going to appear yet, et cetera, et cetera.  So far, that‘s only.

BUCHANAN: She‘s the one that wired into her Website and put it all.

GAVIN: Extremely popular, found Jessica Cutler‘s Website, which was read by probably a handful of people and that‘s what blew it up.  That‘s what made it popular.

BUCHANAN: It would seem to me that the Wonkette one is the one who would have the liability here.  They‘re the one who took the information and broadcast it to the world.

GAVIN: Well, can you blame Wonkette for being popular and just linking, bringing your attention to something that already existed, not their fault?  I don‘t know.

BUCHANAN: Here‘s the thing.  Really, libel law, if you and I exchange some dirty information on somebody and we three know it and I‘m the guy that puts it in a book, I‘m the guy that‘s sued.

GAVIN: Jessica Cutler already wrote about this stuff on her own personal Website.  So she had already made it public.

Now, maybe only a couple of people had read it, because it wasn‘t popular, but she did go public with it.

DONATELLI: I understood this not to be a libel case or a slander case, but a privacy violation.

BUCHANAN: So these are admitting it?

DONATELLI: Well, no, but that‘s what I‘m saying.  Truth is a defense to libel. It‘s not necessarily a defense to a privacy violation.

GAVIN: Most of the things she said about him were quite flattering. 

So I don‘t think he‘d want to deny it, actually.

BUCHANAN: OK, what about this?  What‘s this stock car thing?

GAVIN: Well, it‘s proving that the SEC has way too much free time on their hands.  They‘re now focusing on NASCAR, which, obviously, is no fan of politicians already.

On Tuesday, they released, made public a decision that they had made which fined a guy named Kirk Shelmerdine, admonished him for, in 2004, putting a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker on his car, saying that that technically counted as basically sort of a political expenditure, because whatever the real estate that that bumper sticker took up is worth something, because of other ad revenues.

BUCHANAN: Isn‘t this preposterous? 

GAVIN: Yes.

BUCHANAN: I mean, look, suppose the “Washington Post” says “Gore for President” in headlines and that goes out to maybe a million people and that‘s fine and this guy puts something on his car?

GAVIN: Well, it‘s a clever move by him, because he‘s a former pit boss for Dale Earnhardt and he‘s an awful driver.  I think he‘s never placed higher than 26th.  He‘s under-funded.  No successful driver has free real estate on their car.

BUCHANAN: Just like Bush-Cheney, he‘s got problems, too.  OK, thanks Pat Gavin, “Washington Examiner,” Jim Vandehei, executive editor of “Politico.com,” and former Reagan political director, Frank Donatelli, an old friend.

The godfather of soul gets a Harlem sendoff fit for a king.  James Brown can still draw a crowd at the Apollo.  We‘ll show you that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN: President Gerald Ford, John Edwards and Saddam Hussein have rightly dominated the headlines today, but there was other news in the world.

And for that, we turn to Willie Geist.

WILLIE GEIST: Hello, Pat, great job today.  Let me just say I once had a Buchanan for president bumper sticker on my car.  The SEC didn‘t do anything, but people kept trying to run me off the road.  I‘m not sure what that‘s all about.

I‘m just kidding.  There is some other news today.

BUCHANAN: A lot of folks had that problem.

GEIST: Pat, if you didn‘t know better, you would have thought a king was being paraded through the streets of Harlem today.

Close, it was the godfather of soul they were lined up to see.  Two white horses drew James Brown‘s gold casket in front of thousands of cheering fans in New York.  Brown‘s body was taken to the Apollo Theater, where he will lie in repose until 8:00 this evening.

Fans are streaming into the theater for a glimpse of Brown, who lies in a purple sequined satin suit, white gloves and, of course, silver boots. 

Now, Pat, I don‘t know what they have planned for President Ford‘s funeral, but I will just say the bar has been set very high today, if you watch that.  It‘s pretty amazing. 

BUCHANAN: Let‘s see, it‘s getting on the scale of what they did for Elvis.  What else you got there?

GEIST: It sure is.  And, by the way, Al Sharpton is presiding.  So you know it‘s big. 

BUCHANAN: OK, it‘s big.

GEIST:  Tony Blair‘s holiday scare on a Miami runway has called attention to a trip that the British prime minister would rather have kept quiet.  Turns out Blair was traveling to Miami Beach to spend time at the $11 million home of his favorite rock star, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.  The vacation has now turned into a controversy in Great Britain as opposition conservatives demand to know if taxpayers are footing the bill for Blair-Gibb getaway. 

Blair‘s office insists that the prime minister is paying.  There are also questions about whether Gibb is using the trip to lobby for a change in British copyright law. 

Now, I don‘t know about you, Pat, but when I read this story, the first thing I thought is the prime minister of Great Britain flies on British Airways?  Can we get this man a plane already? 

It‘s unbelievable.  Can you imagine passing out the peanuts and getting a pillow and a blanket?

BUCHANAN: It really is amazing.  There‘s no imperial percent over there.

GEIST: I know, they Blair Force One.  I think they‘re working on that right now.

Finally, Pat, I‘m not sure what this means for Hillary Clinton‘s possible presidential run, but Gallup asked about a 1,000 Americans which living woman in the world they most admired, and Hillary came out on top.

Thirteen percent of the people polled said the New York Senator was their pick.  Oprah, of course, came in second with 9 percent.  Condi Rice, Laura Bush, and, yes, Angelina Jolie rounded out the top five.

By the way, President Bush was the most admired man in the world by a wide margin, actually, over the second place Bill Clinton.

Now, Angelina Jolie had 2 percent, Pat.  I guess we have to more clearly define admiration, because I certainly admire her and all she‘s done. 

And, actually, coming in two percentage points behind Laura Bush, I‘m not sure where I come down on that.

BUCHANAN: Well, I‘m surprised Laura Bush isn‘t higher.  It‘s usually the president of the United States is number one.

GEIST: Right, right.

BUCHANAN: But I‘m really surprised Laura Bush isn‘t higher, because she‘s about one of the most popular, uncontroversial first ladies we‘ve ever had.

GEIST: Well, she‘s more popular than Angelina Jolie.  That surprised me, I guess.  Twenty-one percent, by the way, said “other,” Pat.  I have to believe that you fall in that category, most admired men.

BUCHANAN: OK, that‘s the guy with the bumper sticker.

That does it for us, folks.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “Hardball” with Chris Matthews. 

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