updated 1/11/2007 12:16:37 PM ET 2007-01-11T17:16:37

Guests: Frank Donatelli, Bill Press, Jack Jacobs, Jim Moran

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there.  It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. 

This is not, however, just America‘s fight.  And what is at stake is not just America‘s freedom. 

This is the world‘s fight.  This is civilization‘s fight.  This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism and tolerance and freedom. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  That was President Bush addressing the country on September 20, 2001.  With those sentences he set the parameters of the new war on terror.  It was a brilliant speech, beautifully delivered.

Coming a little more than a week after 9/11, those words hummed with emotional force.  Even Bush‘s political enemies cried when they heard them.  A fight for civilization that will not end until every significant terrorist group has been found, stopped and defeated. 

It all seemed so straightforward then. 

Fast forward to today.  Nearly five and a half years later, the war on terror has narrowed and contracted to become essentially the war in Iraq.  And the war in Iraq has failed.  It has failed to make either the United States or the Middle East more secure.  More than 3,000 Americans have died there, close to 130,000 are still stuck there. 

Tonight the president will tell us what he plans to do to salvage this disaster.  Bush could start by doing something he rarely does, explain himself.  Most Americans still have no idea why we invaded Iraq in the first place.  It would be nice to know.

It would also be nice to know why we need another surge of troops and why previous surges haven‘t worked.  And when we will know we‘ve won the war, and when that might be.  And so on. 

President Bush has a lot to tell us tonight.  It had better be good. 

Joining us now, Bill Press, author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion,” and Republican strategist and White House political director for President Reagan, Frank Donatelli.

Welcome to you both.  

FRANK DONATELLI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Thank you.

BILL PRESS, AUTHOR, “HOW THE REPUBLICANS STOLE RELIGION”:  Hi, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Frank, this seems like a big-deal speech, this seems like a defining speech.  IT seems like a speech that America needs to hear. 

Is it as big as it seems? 

DONATELLI:  That was a very young President Bush we saw. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it was.

PRESS:  Yes, it was.

DONATELLI:  It‘s hard to believe it was only five years ago. 

Tucker, I think I can‘t add to the eloquence to the president on that night that the war on terror is the greatest challenge to American security in the 21st century.  And what we do as a nation and how the president explains himself tonight will determine whether or not we‘re on the road that Lincoln was when he captured Atlanta in 1864 or whether this is the Tet Offensive, the end of the Vietnam War that sunk President Johnson. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Which, in fact, was a military victory, in fact. 

DONATELLI:  Yes.

CARLSON:  In retrospect, but a political loss.

It seems to me, though, that the war on terror, Bill, has narrowed, and the White House hates this, and they have a pretty good argument, a rational argument against it.  But in real life, it has narrowed in the lives of most people to this war in Iraq.

And so it is bigger than partisanship.  It is important that we not lose there, both because of the ramifications and the region around Iraq, but also for America‘s—and more important, America‘s place in the world. 

What can Bush say to salvage this? 

PRESS:  First of all, I want to answer your first question...

CARLSON:  Yes.

PRESS:  ... which is I think this is a really big deal with huge implications, this speech tonight.

CARLSON:  Yes.

PRESS:  I mean, I think it‘s very important for the country because the country has a huge stake in Iraq in terms of the amount of money we‘re spending there, the lives that have been lost there, our prestige in the world.  It‘s huge implications for our position in the world and what other people think about what we‘re doing or not doing, or if we pull out or if we stay.  I mean, that‘s going to greatly impact particularly our position in the Middle East, but also our position with our allies. 

And I know we‘ll talk about this later.  At least, perhaps, importantly, this is going to have huge political implications...

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

PRESS:  ... for both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, depending on how they respond to the president‘s speech. 

CARLSON:  Is it your sense that voters...

PRESS:  So when you add all of that together, there is a lot on the line tonight. 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s pretty huge. 

Frank, if you—I‘m sure you have seen the poll numbers.  Most people are not in a position to be sold on this war.  I mean, they‘ve decided they don‘t like it.  They‘re not certain they want to pull out immediately.  I think only about 15 percent, according to the recent Gallup poll, wanted immediate withdrawal from Iraq.  But they are very, very unhappy, and they‘re very resistant to sending more men over there to fight and die.

Is it possible the president can convince those people? 

DONATELLI:  Well, I think there‘ll be a modest surge—no pun intended—in his favor.  I don‘t think it will be overwhelming. 

But how does a football coach hold his job?  He doesn‘t talk about it.  He wins.  He‘s got to win victories.  That‘s a football coach keeps his job. 

CARLSON:  Does he have time?

DONATELLI:  The same way President Bush, this new policy, it is worth trying, I think, because of the stakes uninvolved, but he has got to show success, some success this year in terms of the security situation, Bill, and in terms of the government reaching out and trying to forge some sort of compromises with the opposition. 

PRESS:  Well, first of all, I think we know what the president is going to say tonight.  I mean, this has been—for an administration that doesn‘t like leaks, this has been the most leaked presidential speech...

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  ... that I‘ve ever witnessed or experienced.

CARLSON:  And presumably, that‘s by design.

PRESS:  By design.  Of course it is.  It always is. 

And I think that the problem that I see with it is that there‘s—you say something new.  I don‘t see anything new here yet.  And we have tried more troops before.  We have tried more money before.  We have tried to call on other nations to come in and help us before. 

Presumably, those are the three things the president is going to say tonight.

CARLSON:  Well, here‘s—here‘s...

PRESS:  ... and they haven‘t worked before.  So I‘m skeptical that they are going to work now. 

CARLSON:  Here‘s what we‘re hearing.  We‘re hearing two things.  And again, this is a president, we‘ve learned through hard experience, likes to surprise the press.  Above really all, he takes personal delight in doing so. 

PRESS:  Right.

CARLSON:  But here‘s what we‘ve heard—that the president is going to call for a surge of troops, more additional troops being sent to Iraq, but he is going to say that their deployment to Iraq is dependent upon certain conditions being met by the new Iraqi government.  This government has to stand up and start, you know—the troops have to actually show up, for instance.  There are going to be benchmarks to measure the progress.  And our troops aren‘t going until those benchmarks are met. 

And second, he‘s saying that we‘re going to spend a lot of money to employ Iraqis.  We‘re going to have a vista-like jobs program.  It takes a lot of brass to suggest something like that, it seems to me, Frank. 

DONATELLI:  Well, I don‘t think—yes, but I don‘t think that‘s the major part of the program. 

CARLSON:  No.

DONATELLI:  That might be a way to flesh out everything.  But it‘s the first part of which you have described as a real message to the Iraqi government. 

And to Bill‘s point, I think that is the new part here.  For the first time, you know, the Democratic Party, it seems to me, can take some pleasure because they have been calling for this, a real commitment on the part of the Iraqi government to get serious about political reform.  You might call it sort of a forced Vietnamization (ph), a forced Iraqification (ph).  And I think that‘s—everybody agrees that that‘s the ultimate solution. 

CARLSON:  If he gets up there and blames the Iraqis for a lot of the chaos in Iraq, which I think would be fair, I mean, how will you take that?  Will you say right on, or no? 

PRESS:  Well, clearly, the Iraqis haven‘t stepped up to the plate. 

By the way, just a slight twist here.  A tweak. 

CARLSON:  Yes?

PRESS:  I think it‘s half—what I‘ve heard is half of the troops now...

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  ... and then the other half will hold back...

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

PRESS:  ... until the Iraqis show some promise. 

Well, I repeat, we‘ve—we‘ve also told—said before and told the Iraqis, you‘ve got to step up, you‘ve got to take responsibility.  We started Operation Together Forward about six months ago in Baghdad which was precisely this: We go in, the Iraqis join us, together we clean up Baghdad. 

Guess what?  The Iraqis didn‘t show up.  So how do we know that they are going to show up now? 

But I want to come back to something you said earlier, too, Tucker, if we can just a minute, is I think the premise that this war—the central problem here, I think, is the premise of this war from the beginning, that this is part of the overall war on terror. 

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  I really do think it was distraction from the war on terror.  And what we‘ve ended up now is in the middle of a civil war in Iraq between the Shiites and the Sunnis.  We are never going to win that.  And no matter how many more troops get...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I agree with you, of course.  But as a practical matter, the bulk of the energy, the money, the thinking is going toward Iraq.  So that is the center of the war on terror, whether it ought to be or not. 

DONATELLI:  And there is no question at this point, whatever your beliefs on the origins of the war, that a defeat at this time would embolden our greatest enanys, including Iran.  Certainly you don‘t disagree with that? 

PRESS:  What is victory and what is a defeat?  The fact is, I think this is a failed strategy.  It‘s a failed war.  It‘s not winnable. 

Even right now, the generals are saying, if you send more troops, we are talking about another—years.  Are we really willing to commit that many more dollars... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Wait.  In the 30 seconds we have right now—we‘ll come back to this.

PRESS:  OK.

CARLSON:  But would you be satisfied if the president admitted tonight a lot of what you just said?  His aides have said there are going to be a number of mea culpa moments in this where he says, I screwed up—you know, our strategy isn‘t work, a lot of our assumptions were false.  Will you be happy if he says that? 

PRESS:  No.  That would be a good beginning, but then what?  OK, I screwed up, so therefore I think we should turn it over to the Iraqis and come home.  I think that is what the president is has got to say.  And anything short of that I think is just more of the same.  Same old, same old, same old.

DONATELLI:  OK.  But even most Democrats will tell you that failure in Iraq would be disastrous for the United States. 

PRESS:  That‘s right.

DONATELLI:  So the question is, do you best achieve some sort of success by withdrawing, the way Bill‘s friends want to, or by giving it one more shot if the Iraqis say that they are going to step up to the plate? 

PRESS:  Frank, we won.  Saddam Hussein is gone.  They have a new government.  They have a new president.  They have a new constitution.  They have a new parliament.

CARLSON:  Yes, but I mean, come on, it‘s a disaster.  And everyone...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  We did what we went there to do. 

CARLSON:  Coming up, the reality of a troop surge.  What does it mean for our troops?  What does it mean for their mission?

A military analysis of what‘s next, that comes after the break. 

We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them.  But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. 

Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight, and sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever.  As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continued to be guided but the advice that matters, the sober judgment of our military leaders. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Eighteen months ago, President Bush announced he would abide by the recommendations of his military command.  Tonight, the world expect the president to deploy at least 20,000 more men to Iraq. 

Whose recommendation was that?  And was it a god one? 

For answers, we welcome now MSNBC military analyst Colonel Jack Jacobs.

Colonel, thanks a lot for coming on.

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, good afternoon, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You just heard the president.  You‘ve heard him say that many, many times, “I do what my generals recommend that I do.”

Have his generals recommended this surge? 

JACOBS:  My guess is that is a sub-optimal solution to the problem of getting out of Iraq.  And when presented with the opportunity to either leave immediately or stay there forever, or have this brief surge during which time we can isolate pockets of bad guys and the bring Iraqis down to take our place and then leave and go home, they‘ve selected this one.  But the president can‘t have it both ways in saying that the—in the past that he asked his generals, and his generals said they didn‘t want any more troops. 

And the generals assert, which they haven‘t done publicly, that in fact they were doing all they possibly could do to achieve the mission.  Can‘t have it both ways. 

Anybody worth his salt in the military will say, I want as many troops as you can possibly send me.  And they obviously either didn‘t do that, they didn‘t ask for it, or they asked for it and they didn‘t get it. 

CARLSON:  Well, but isn‘t, you know, the president‘s first explanation a little suspicious?  I mean, the idea that “I do what my generals recommend that I do”?  Isn‘t the president elected to conduct our foreign policy and to oversee strategy and to make those kinds of decisions?  Since when are unelected generals supposed to be doing that? 

JACOBS:  Well, they‘re not supposed to do that.  But if you‘re going to use the military instrument of foreign policy, you better listen to people who are experts in the subject.  And if they tell you that they need 10 divisions, giving them three divisions doesn‘t make any sense. 

I think what happened in the past is that they made their recommendations, the secretary of defense decided otherwise, and the military establishment went along with the poor decisions that were made because they have been inured to do what the civilian leadership tells them to do.  Unfortunately, that‘s produced exactly what we see now.  And I‘m not so certain that the recommendations that have been made for a short-term surge are for any purpose other than finding a short exit out of Iraq. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s—it‘s funny you said that.  It‘s exactly what Leon Panetta suggested, former White House chief of staff, suggested today in an interview.  He said that this surge could be political cover for a withdrawal. 

What does that mean?

JACOBS:  Well, I think it‘s not only political cover, but it‘s also military cover for withdrawal.  You are not going to pull out anybody from any conflict on a very, very short period of time with absolutely no preparation, because that is disastrous not only for the country—in this case, Iraq—but it‘s also disastrous for the force that you are pulling out. 

So whenever you‘re going to withdraw from any engagement, unless the enemy has been completely totally annihilated, which it hasn‘t in this case, you‘re going to do it relatively gradually.  And the way to do that is to keep a reasonable force in place to protect as the withdrawal occurs. 

That, I believe, is what‘s happening right now.  You‘re having a force effectively left in contact to cover the withdrawal ultimately of the American force that is there.  At the same time, replacing American forces with Iraqi forces.  And I think that is what the objective is here. 

CARLSON:  So the soldiers and Marines we‘re about to see sent to Iraq will be part of the force that protects the retreat?  Is that what you are saying?

JACOBS:  Well, if you think about it—look, unless—unless you think

that we are going to stay there forever, or for a very long period of time

and I think nobody who looks at this has come to that conclusion—that we‘re there for finite period of time.  And the finite period of time is relatively short. 

You have to come to the conclusion that the forces that are there are going to serve two purposes.  They‘re first going to do actually three, if you think about the covering the withdrawal. 

First, they‘re going to isolate areas where the worst concentrations of bad guys are located, secure those areas, and then be replaced by Iraqi units who are well trained. 

Second, we are going to train more Iraqi units so that when we leave they will be there in order to protect Iraq.

And third, we‘re going to withdraw over time.  Unless you think we are going to be there forever, which we are not. 

CARLSON:  Well, and finally, Colonel, you mentioned Iraqi forces.  Are there any?  I mean, how many specifically do you know?  How many Iraqi forces in Iraq right now are capable of fighting the insurgency or quelling the civil war, or battle ready, basically? 

JACOBS:  Well, that‘s a very good question.  There are more than there were before but fewer than there needs to be.

There are several dozens of first-rate Iraqi units.  Many of them actually in control of parts of Iraq by themselves without any American assistance, except for logistical assistance and to provide air strikes when required. 

Lots of Iraqi units, but there are not nearly enough to control all the country, nor nearly enough to control those contested areas like those in Baghdad and Anbar province.  The American hope is that over a relatively short period of time more units will be able to be stood up among the Iraqis so that they can replace American units. 

But there are good units in Iraq.  There‘s just not enough of them. 

And one other thing before we break.  That is the police.  The weak link in the whole Iraqi operation is...

CARLSON:  Yes.

JACOBS:  ... are the police, and we have got to do a better job of training the police and get them squared away. 

CARLSON:  Well, time and again, you read reports of people in police uniforms, possibly actual police officers being involved in kidnapping and murder.  And it just—it does kind of shake your faith in the Iraqi police. 

Colonel Jack Jacobs, from headquarters, thanks a lot. 

JACOBS:  Good to be with you.

CARLSON:  Coming up, Democrats won Congress by opposing President Bush‘s war policy.  What about the Republicans, though, left standing?  Can John McCain‘s presidential aspirations withstand his support of the troop surge? 

What‘s next for the Republicans when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror.  States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world.  They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States.  In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  The “axis of evil” speech, State of the Union, 2002.  It led to bipartisan support for President Bush‘s very aggressive foreign policy.  Times could hardly have changed more, though, in five years. 

As we prepare for the new way forward, are leaders like John McCain and Mitt Romney forsaking their presidential aspirations by supporting a troop surge?  Or do they and President Bush see something most of us don‘t?

Joining us once again, Frank Donatelli and Bill Press. 

PRESS:  Tucker.

CARLSON:  Here is the problem for Republicans, it seems to me, Frank.  You‘ve got a number of long-time Republican senators who are all of a sudden finding themselves in blue states, in states that are trending Democrat, and they‘re up for re-election in 2008. 

Just a partial list: Allard in Colorado; Susan Collins in Maine; Norm Coleman in Minnesota; John Sununu in New Hampshire; maybe even Inhofe in Oklahoma; definitely Dole in North Carolina.

Can they support the president‘s surge? 

DONATELLI:  Gordon Smith in New Hampshire...

CARLSON:  ... Gordon Smith in New Hampshire has already come out as if he doesn‘t support it.

DONATELLI:  Has already come out and opposed it.

PRESS:  Yes.

DONATELLI:  The answer is that the larger Iraq is in the 2008 equation, the tougher it is going to be for Republicans.  There‘s no question about it. 

The hope has got to be that this new policy with the surge can work fairly quickly so that moving at the end of 2007 into 2008, Iraq gradually begins to fade.  We begin to withdraw troops. 

The situation somewhat stabilizes.  We don‘t have to have the democracy that the president has been talking about, but the situation stabilizes a little bit. 

In the short run, I would argue this actually helps Senator McCain because it keeps him closer to the Republican base and probably makes him more competitive in the primaries. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

DONATELLI:  But then going into the general election, Iraq has to fade as an issue.  If it‘s the number one issue in the campaign, I think any Republican running for president is going to be in trouble. 

CARLSON:  That‘s (INAUDIBLE).

Don‘t you think, Bill, it could actually help McCain?  McCain may be the one person who is helped by his support for the surge because McCain is seen as a guy who takes counterintuitive, or certainly positions that are counter to popular opinion?  And he gets courage points for it, don‘t you think?

PRESS:  Well, first of all, I have to say, I think the Republican side of the presidential contest is lacking a Republican who will stand up and say this strategy is wrong, we need a new strategy.  We need to not bring them home tomorrow, but begin to redeploy our troops. 

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  I don‘t hear any Republican saying that.  I think there is a big opening for somebody who is willing to do it. 

CARLSON:  For a Chuck Hagel?  Is that what you‘re talking about?

PRESS:  For a Chuck Hagel.  OK.

But, you know, I think, Tucker, McCain could be the big winner here.  It‘s a big roll of the dice for McCain, and I think it goes back to what Colonel Jack Jacobs told us. 

If this surge, to use the word, is, in fact, let‘s say, a six-month or an eight-month surge, and then leads to start bringing the troops home, McCain will be seen as a visionary, as a real winner.  But if it lasts—if two years from now we‘re still surging and we‘re not redeploying, I think the American people don‘t want that.  I think it will turn against McCain. 

CARLSON:  Well, see here‘s how I...

PRESS:  Or anybody else.

CARLSON:  Here are the poll numbers I‘m reading, Frank.  And there are a lot of polls, and they‘re not entirely consistent.  But this—this comports with what I think. 

“USA Today”-Gallup poll, 36 percent of voters approve of the idea of a temporary surge.  That is more than twice the number of people who say they want an immediate withdrawal. 

So, actually, you know, this isn‘t a popular idea, but it‘s not the least popular idea out there.  Actually, Nancy Pelosi‘s ideas are less popular. 

DONATELLI:  Well, what Senator McCain has been saying is, again, what‘s the alternative?  This isn‘t the best alternative, but the other things that have been thrown out there have probably less support and less possibility...

CARLSON:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... of being successful, including the redeployment strategy that most Democrats favor—Bill. 

PRESS:  Well, I would disagree with that.

But I think, Tucker, again, the idea that this is going to be short term, that we can accomplish this in six months with this temporary surge, I think it‘s just simply not realistic. 

CARLSON:  Well, I think you‘re right, though it depends what we are attempting to accomplish.  If this is, as Colonel Jacobs suggested, cover for a withdrawal, which is an interesting idea, the plan may be larger than we—that we realize. 

Coming up, from Senator Kennedy, to Senator Biden, to Senator Reid, to Speaker Pelosi, the Democrats are united in opposition to President Bush.  But about what else do they agree?  A leader in the House of Representatives joins us to tell us when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:   Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.  In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. 

Now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.  In this battle we have fought for the cause of liberty and for the peace of the world.  Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Perhaps the most famous, famous last words in American history.  They were uttered aboard a warship off the San Diego coast in May of 2003, which seems a long time ago.  But the American mission in Iraq has not been accomplished, and many doubt that tonight‘s presidential address will further its cause. 

Joining us now, Bill Press, author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion,” and Republican strategist and former White House political director for President Reagan—I wish he was still there—Frank Donatelli. 

Welcome to you both.  Bill, it does raise the question, and President Bush tonight will raise the question, I think it‘s a very good question, and the one subject on which he is credible.  What if we lose?  That‘s a disaster of epic proportions—it‘s not an overstatement to say it‘s a disaster of epic proportions, and Democrats say, well, we are already losing.  No, it could be much worse. 

BILL PRESS, “HOW THE REPUBLICANS STOLE RELIGION”:  I think we have already lost, Tucker, and I think you have to accept the reality, this is a flawed strategy and a failed war, and the best way to approach it is to accept that reality, to tell the Iraqis they are going to have to take charge of their own country, and within four to six months start redeploying the troops.  I think that‘s a smart strategy. 

CARLSON:  Right, that is what the Democrats have been saying.  I personally believe, when it comes time to actually do that, they will look into the abyss and pull back, because it is too scary.  But let‘s just consider what would happen, that happens and Iraq devolves into literally like Hobbesian scenario, where everybody is killing everybody.  There is genocide.  Democrats are going to stands back and just, sort, well, that‘s what happens? 

PRESS:  First of all, I think there‘s going to be trouble any time we leave.  So we might as well get it over with.  To me the analogy here is—the parallel is to Yugoslavia.  In both cases you had tribal competition, under a strong man for a while, that kept them all together, and when Tito went, Yugoslavia broke up into six or seven pieces.  With Saddam Hussein gone, there‘s no doubt about it, the Iraqis that I speak to say Iraq is going to end up into three different countries, three different regions. 

Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds will never get along in one country.  So we might as well let them get about doing it. 

CARLSON:  President Bush—

PRESS:  If we stay, it‘s not going to make any difference.

CARLSON—made a point.  This was something I hadn‘t thought of, or even heard before, President Bush to members of Congress at the White House yesterday said if we leave Iraq, if we run away, we retreat, we give up, the Saudis will feel unprotected.  Apparently our presence there protects them in some way.  And they will turn to some other great power for protection, thereby shifting the balance of power in a very bad way in the Middle East.  What does that mean?

FRANK DONATELLI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, I disagree with Bill because I think things could get a lot worse.  In addition to the human rights toll, that an Iraqi civil war would take, I think we also have to see that Sunnis and Shiites would be possibly fighting each other in other countries.  Iran would emerge more dominant in the region than ever before.  The moderate governments, Saudi Arabia, that we‘ve been talking about, are going to have to look elsewhere. 

They would probably make more of an accommodation with the radical Islamic fundamentalists and, to the extent that we criticize the Saudis, I understand that, but if they make an out and out accommodation with those movements, that definitely is a problem for us.  And I think you would have to say that terrorists all over the Middle East would be emboldened and there would be other terrorist actions all over the world, Bill.  So things could get much worse. 

(CROSS TALK)

PRESS:  There have been other terrorist actions all over the world since we have been in Iraq.  In fact, our government has said more terrorists attacks in more countries since the war in Iraq started than before the war in Iraq. 

DONATELLI:  Do you disagree with the proposition that Iran would be emboldened by an American defeat in Iraq?  Do you reject that proposition? 

PRESS:  I think Iran is already emboldened by America‘s failure in Iraq. 

(CROSS TALK)

DONATELLI:  The first thing they would do would be to rearm Hezbollah, start putting pressure on Saudi Arabia, start putting pressure on the oil kingdoms.  Put us on the defensive all over the region. 

CARLSON:  Let me ask this question.  I want to quote Osama bin Laden here.  He has said in statement after statement, and including in a very long statement found on his computer in a cave near Khandahar, after the invasion of Afghanistan, he said the most profound lesson in our lifetimes is the Soviet withdraw from Afghanistan.  The Soviets couldn‘t handle it.  They left, and that‘s when we knew that we could bring down a super power. 

Now, I think he is sincere when he says that.  You don‘t think we would be sending exactly that same message to the nut cakes like Osama around the world? 

PRESS:  Well first of all, I think we would be a lot better off as a country today if we had gone after Osama bin Laden and captured Osama bin Laden, instead of going into Iraq.  I think the best decision we made, unfortunately took too long, was to get out of Vietnam when we did.  We should have made that decision a lot longer.  I think this is a parallel Tucker.  We are involved in a civil war that is going to go on, that we can‘t win, that we can‘t stop, and we have got to recognize that. 

CARLSON:  But the Soviet Union was the winner, of course, of the Vietnam war in the end.  It was the patron of North Vietnam.  But the Soviet Union wasn‘t sponsoring wholesale acts of terrorism on the U.S. main land, whereas we are now fighting people who are. 

PRESS:  But Tucker, it comes back to this—you started this show with this Wilsonian vision of George Bush that we can go in and remake the Middle East country, by country, by country. 

CARLSON:  No, look, everyone rejects that.  Everyone recognizes that was stupid.  This democracy talk is ludicrous.  I reject all of that.  I am merely saying there is a disaster underway in Iraq.  It‘s terrible.  The assumption that it can‘t get worse is wrong though.  It could be a lot worse.  How do we prevent that? 

PRESS:  There is a disaster we created.  We made in Iraq—

CARLSON:  OK, I agree.

PRESS:  We get out and let it dissolve into three different parts. 

And then let them go on with their lives.

CARLSON:  Holy smokes, is that a politically sustainable position? 

Can Democrats get up there and—

PRESS:  Joe Biden has got that position. 

CARLSON:  Apparently he does, but, you know, we are not in election year right now.  Can you, a year from now, look into the camera and say, I‘m sorry they‘re eating each other, but we are not going to stop it.

DONATELLI:  Most Democrats don‘t agree with Bill, because I began the show by saying, my expertise in the Democratic party, that most Democrats will say that failure in Iraq would be disastrous for the United States, Bill.  They make that point, so they disagree with your rosey scenario on that point. 

PRESS:  Well, you know, failure or victory in Iraq.  We just throw those words around.  I‘m just saying, let‘s accept reality.  I‘ll just say this Tucker, one thing, it is just for the Democrats, I see it just the exact opposite of what Frank, correctly, I think, pointed out for Republicans.  They got hammered in 2006 over Iraq and they can‘t go into 2008 with the same strategy.  I think the Democrats have to recognize they won in 2006 because of Iraq, and they can‘t go into 2008 merely endorsing what George Bush wants to do and send more troops into Iraq. 

I think they have got to stand up and say, no more money for no more troops in Iraq.  That is the strong winning Democratic strategy. 

CARLSON:  Don‘t you think that is overdrawing the lesson of the last election.  Voters are very dissatisfied with this war and with President Bush‘s leadership on foreign policy.  There is no question about that.  They are not clamoring for an immediate withdrawal.  They are not. 

PRESS:  They don‘t want more of the same, and this speech is going to be more of the same, more troops, more money, more talk, period. 

DONATELLI:  I think we pointed out that there are differences, calling on the Iraqis to really step up to the plate.  And again I think that is something that the Democrat—I think that is something that the Democrats can take credit for.  I mean, if you want to say that you changed the president‘s policy, I mean, for the first time he is saying that the Iraqis have to do this.  But when Senator Kennedy yesterday came out with his statement about a vote before the president allowed to surge. 

PRESS:  Absolutely correct. 

DONATELLI:  Well, you may feel that way, but I don‘t think most Democrats were very happy with the senator coming out with that, because it forces them to take a position.  I don‘t think it would pass. 

PRESS:  But I‘ll come back to what I said, otherwise you are just giving George Bush a free ride and letting him piggy back on a 2002 resolution, which was premised, we know now, on the lies from the Bush White House about the threat in Iraq.  Why let that stand forever? 

CARLSON:  What about the people who are running for president on the Democratic side.  Barack Obama hasn‘t been pinned down on this.  Hillary Clinton, however, has a long and sordid and pretty embarrassing history on this subject, having voted for the war in the first place.  Why isn‘t she come out and saying immediate withdrawal. 

PRESS:  I think there are a lot of Democrats who are too timid on this issue.  They‘ve got their finger to the wind.  Yes, she is and Barack Obama as well.  I mean, he‘s opposed.  He said he wouldn‘t vote for the war.  I think, right now, so far Teddy Kennedy is the only one that is really talking sense, in my judgment, in addition to Dennis Kucinich.   

DONATELLI:  But these are good politicians.  Bill, they must have some reason why they are not taking your advice, and I think it‘s because they don‘t want to be seen as advocates for the Cindy Sheehan position, which is it is of no consequence to us at all what happens in Iraq if we get out.  That‘s essentially their view.

CARLSON:  But isn‘t the macro story American power?  We run the world.  We prevent—nobody has used a nuclear weapon in anger since 1945.  Why is that?  Because we run everything and we won‘t allow it.  The second—the rest of the world, the savages, and they are, in the rest of the world, see that we don‘t have the authority to stop people from doing bad things.  They will do bad things. 

PRESS:  No, two points quickly.  One is our power does not include the power to go into any country we want and overthrow that government and force the kind of new regime that he want. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not saying it does.  I‘m merely saying that American weekness is dangerous.   

PRESS:  We have already shown our power.  I keep coming back to that. 

Why are we so afraid of asserting that we have made major change in Iraq.  Saddam Hussein has gone.  They have a new constitution.  They have a new parliament.  They have a new government.  Hip, hip, hooray, declare victory and get the hell out. 

CARLSON:  Do you see this as the end of American power, as the end of this age that spanned from the second world war until now.  Is something ending now?

DONATELLI:  If we get out without some sort of government in Iraq that can at least defend itself, it is not a Jeffersonian democracy or anything like that, it will be a terrible blow to the United States.  It can only benefit one of the remaining axis of evil, which is Iran.  That can‘t be good for the United States, and I think a lot of Democrats recognize that Bill, which is why is they don‘t take your position. 

CARLSON:  Well if Democrats are such hard realists now, and they don‘t care if the people eat each other and there is genocide or whatever, that‘s the cost of doing business, then why are they pushing for U.S. troops in Darfur of all places.  Talk about a place where there is no compelling American interest to be.  Why are leftists pushing us to intervene in Darfur?  What is the justification for that?

PRESS:  I don‘t think you have to make too much of an excuse to suggest that genocide is worth the civilized world—

CARLSON:  We‘re about to have one in Iraq, but that‘s OK, right?

PRESS:  But genocide is not civil war.  These are two people who are fighting.  This is not one group that is crushing another.  These are two powerful groups that are fighting for control of the country.  Tucker, there is a big difference and our troops, we are leaving our troops there, caught in the crossfire, in the middle of a civil war, that is not fair to them.  It is not right. 

CARLSON:  OK, we are out of time.  Bill Press, Frank Donatelli, thank you both very much. 

Coming up, President Bush had almost universal bipartisan support four years ago for his plan to invade Iraq.  Hillary Clinton was all for it.  Where there was support there is now staunch opposition though to his new plan.  A Democratic Congressman joins me next with his plan for Iraq.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force.  And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures and we will accept no outcome but victory.  My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome.  We will defend our freedom.  We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well we certainly haven‘t prevailed yet.  President Bush clearly hopes his new plan for a troop surge will pave the way for success in Iraq.  Joining me now to explain the Democratic position on the president‘s plan is Congressman Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia.  Congressman, thanks a lot for coming on. 

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  It‘s always good to be with you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I follow this as closely as anybody who‘s not actually in Congress, and I‘m still confused as to what the Democratic position is on adding more troops to Iraq.  What is it? 

MORAN:  It doesn‘t make sense to put more troops into a losing war.  What we need to be doing is to decrease the number of troops and increase the responsibility of the Iraqi government to govern themselves.  You know, when the president met with Prime Minister Maliki in Amman, Jordan, Maliki suggested a lower troop presence. 

There really are very few people in Iraq that want more American troops.  In fact, I can‘t even find a whole lot of people in the Republican administration that want more troops, but the president does because he is trying to save face.  You know, it sort of reminds me of back in the 1960‘s with Lyndon Johnson, when we were just about four years into the Vietnam war.  We has lost the same number of troops, 3,000 and Johnson assured us that by committing more troops, we could win this war and protect this country. 

Of course, we wound up losing 55,000 more troops and kindly withdrawing. 

CARLSON:  But congressman, is that fair?  I mean, you disagree with the troop surge.  That is of course legitimate.  Lots of people do.  Sam Brownback, by the way, the Republican senator from Kansas who is running for president, has just announced that he is opposed to the troop surge as we.  But is it really fair to say the president is proposing additional troops because he wants to save face.  He think this is a plan for victory.  Isn‘t that an admirable goal, victory?  And do you have a plan for victory or only defeat? 

MORAN:  Tucker, this is not a winnable war.  We never should have gone into Iraq in the first place.  You know, corporations, when they find that they are in a project with sunken costs, it is very difficult, but eventually they decide to cut their losses.  It is time to cut our losses in Iraq.  It is not fair, in fact, I think it‘s immoral to our troops to allow anymore lives to be lost in vain.  We put 22,000 more troops into Iraq last year, last Fall, Tucker.  What good did it do?  It didn‘t do any good.

CARLSON:  It didn‘t do any good.  I agree with you completely and I think the war is tragedy and a travesty.  But I wonder if you think that an American retreat from Iraq will make America safer?  Do you think it will?  Do you really think this will be a safer country when Iraq disintegrates even more than it has? 

MORAN:  I know that we are a less safe, less secure country now, because this is an opportunity for al Qaeda and other extremists to recruit more adherents to their philosophy, to show this country, not as liberators, but as occupiers of a Muslim nation.  The only thing they can figure out is that we are there for the oil, and, in fact, President Bush has required that 75 percent of Iraq‘s oil is going to have to be kept in ownership by American oil companies.  That‘s not why we went into this war. 

If we had a justifiable mission, it was to depose a ruthless dictator.  Well that mission has been accomplished.  These other—you know, he continues to change the goal line, the goal posts.  I don‘t know what he is going to say tonight, but at some point he has got to give us some measurable objectives and how he intends to reach those objectives, before we commit more resources and more lives, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  OK, we‘re going to take a quick break.  I personally think securing Iraq‘s oil would have been a better mission than bringing democracy to Iraq, but -- 

MORAN:  Well, I happen to agree with you too.  What we‘re going to have is a Shia theocracy.

CARLSON:  I agree with that.  Coming up, Mr. Moran if you could stay right there, we will be back.  Will the president—his eighth prime time address to this country to talk specifically about Iraq.  Will it be enough to win over the many, many thousands of skeptics who think the war was a mistake?  We‘ll be back with Congressman Moran in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The work in Iraq has been especially difficult, more difficult than we expected.  America, our coalition, and Iraqi leaders are working towards the same goal, a Democratic Iraq that can defend itself, that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists, and that will serve as a model of freedom for the Middle East. 

My fellow citizens, not only can we win the war in Iraq, we are winning the war in Iraq. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well if you thought that was a mea culpa, stay tuned.  Four hours from now the president, a new address to the nation from the White House, where he is expected to concede the war has gone badly and the strategy has been deeply flawed.  News from nowhere, but it will still be fascinating. 

Joining us again, having stayed through the break, Congressman Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia.  Congressman, do you think, for all the talk over the last three days about defunding the war, there will be a real effort on the part of Democrats to stop paying for this troop surge? 

MORAN:  We will limit the number of troops that can be deployed in Iraq, but the reality is that we don‘t need to.  20,000 is all we can muster up.  We are over-stretched.  One thing we are not going to do is to in any way deprive the troops that we have of the protection that they need.  Our utmost concern is the protection of these American lives, and secondly, I do think that there is consensus that we need to complete the job in Afghanistan. 

And thirdly, we need to listen to the American people who now understand that this was a misguided mission in Iraq, and we need to do the responsible and the moral thing, and turn Iraq over to the Iraqi government. 

CARLSON:  So we‘ve got 130,000 odd troops still in Iraq.  You‘d like to see them come home, retreat.  What is that exit going to look like?  Most of those troops and those marines are going to have to come out by land, presumably to Kuwait.  That‘s going to be a disaster, isn‘t it, that retreat? 

MORAN:  Tucker, this is not a retreat.  This is a redeployment.  There will be—

CARLSON:  What‘s the difference? 

MORAN:  There is a big difference.  You retreat under fire because you faced up to an enemy that is dominating you.  The reason why this—

CARLSON:  Wait, but you just said that we‘re not winning—

MORAN:  We‘re not winning because it‘s not a winnable situation.  The vast majority of people who we‘re supposed to be there to help want us out.  So we are listening to them, and giving them the kind of Democratic prerogative that we stated was our principal intention in going in there.  When 84 percent of the Iraqis want us out, it‘s about time we listen to them.  If we don‘t listen to them, maybe it‘s about time the president will listen to the American people. 

CARLSON:  Well wait a second, I mean, 84 percent of the Iraqis think that you should burn homosexuals at the stake and woman shouldn‘t be allowed to vote.  And 84 percent of the Iraqis believe the Jews are behind 9/11 and 84 percent of Iraqis believe all kinds of crack pot things.  Who cares?  

MORAN:  So we know best what is best for the Iraqi people. 

CARLSON:  Absolutely, we do.  That‘s the whole point.  Of course we do. 

MORAN:  I don‘t think you really mean that. 

CARLSON:  I do mean that, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart.  I really mean that.  I don‘t think the Iraqis know best.  Look at Iraq today.  That tells you what the Iraqis know.  It‘s not best.  

MORAN:  Well, my study of history yields something different, that you can‘t impose on people a style of government that they don‘t want.  People have to decide how they want to govern themselves, and for us to come in at the point of a gun, and tell them we know what is best, which is what you‘re saying, Tucker, even if only sixteen, one out of eight people, one out of six people, agree with us, we know best.  Well that‘s why we are never going to have success in Iraq, because we‘re taking this attitude and we‘re not giving sufficient respect to what the Iraqi people want. 

CARLSON:  Congressman, we are out of time.  I appreciate it.  Jim Moran of Virginia, thank you.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  We‘ll be back here in an hour.  We will be live with more on the president‘s historic speech tonight.  See you then.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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