updated 1/16/2007 4:12:19 PM ET 2007-01-16T21:12:19

Guests: Mike Viqueira, Richard Wolffe, Mike Huckabee, Amy Argetsinger

NORAH O‘DONNELL, HOST:  Hello and welcome to the program.  I‘m Norah O‘Donnell, in for Tucker Carlson, who has the day off. 

The U.S. Embassy in Athens was attacked overnight. 

Hillary Clinton makes an unexpected trip to Iraq.

And the Defense Department faces congressional inquiry.

But the pressing news in Washington remains President Bush‘s new way forward and the reaction of officials on both parties. 

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell took the tact today of taking the president‘s side, going so far as to threaten a filibuster to block a Democratic-sponsored antiwar resolution. 

To help sort through Capitol Hill‘s reaction to President Bush‘s plan, I‘m joined by “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe, and NBC News congressional producer Mike Viqueira.

Welcome to both of you.

RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK”:  Thank you, Norah.

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC National Weather Service:  Thanks, Norah.

O‘DONNELL:  Mike, let‘s talk about what happened on Capitol Hill today. 

VIQUEIRA:  Well, first of all, we‘ve learned that the Republican leaders in both the House and Senate, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, headed to Camp David this evening to talk to the president, hash this whole thing out after that reception that Condi Rice and Bob Gates got on the Hill.  A lot of people were startled.

I‘m told by top Republicans on the House side that there is significant concern that running from the president, Republicans are.  One Republican who had a tough race for the first time in a long time this past cycle said that his constituents, his people want to give the president one more chance.  Startling things to hear from Republicans. 

O‘DONNELL:  In fact, the White House was very surprised, right, Richard, that they got the reception that they did up on Capitol Hill, particularly yesterday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?  I mean, Senator Hagel went off on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

WOLFFE:  Well, not so much of a surprise that it was Hagel.

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, yes.

WOLFFE:  I mean, after all, Hagel has been out there from the beginning, even before the war ramped up comparing this to Vietnam.  So, you know, Hagel is in one category, but to lose other people, to find so little support for people like Senator McConnell, that has been the surprise.  Now, White House officials say they met extensively with members of Congress before the speech came out. 

O‘DONNELL:  In fact, they did this different than they had had done anything else.  They had 150 members of Congress in the White House, they met with the network anchors, they briefed all of us reporters in advance of this big speech, hoping it would lessen the blow.  And still, they had this fierce opposition to the president‘s plan.

WOLFFE:  Right.  And that‘s the interesting thing here.

Normally, you know, with journalist Washington, we always ask people, were you surprised, were you shocked? 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.

WOLFFE:  The surprise question isn‘t what‘s important here.  It‘s how little support they are getting from their own party. 

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

WOLFFE:  And remember, look, it wasn‘t that long ago that this White House was laying out the talking points to people on the war and leading the party on the subject of the war.  And now that leadership is really just not there. 

O‘DONNELL:  And, in fact, the party usually marched in step with the White House, right, Mike, up on Capitol Hill? 

WOLFFE:  True.

O‘DONNELL:  Why is it that there‘s been so much—so many Republicans who have broken with this president?  Is it because there are 21 Republicans in the Senate up for re-election in 2008 and they‘re worried about their own hide, or is there generally a sense that, you know, this is an unpopular plan and they don‘t want to stick by it? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well, it‘s all part of the same thing, isn‘t it?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.

VIQUEIRA:  I mean, we‘re still rebounding from November 7th.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.

VIQUEIRA:  I mean, Republicans, especially in the House, are regrouping, there‘s some amount of disarray.  They are losing members by the dozens, more than 50 in some cases to this 100-hours agenda, the minimum wage.  They lost a couple of dozen just now on the prescription drug package, this Democratic agenda of the 100 hours they‘re pushing through. 

I mean, there‘s serious disarray here, and they‘re looking for someone or something to take them out of this funk.  And it could just take time.  Two years is a long time until the next election, granted.

O‘DONNELL:  So Bush is bringing the Republican leaders from Congress to Camp David to sort of buck them up and say, how can we get the boys back in line?

VIQUEIRA:  My understanding of it is that it‘s more than that.  It‘s just, we‘re going to have to re-evaluate this whole thing.  And how are we going to get these people back in line?

WOLFFE:  And remember here, there is a live debate, a difference of opinion, really, between Republicans in Congress and the White House about how to interpret the results in November.  The White House still...

O‘DONNELL:  What‘s the difference?

WOLFFE:  The White House still thinks that they lost the election in November basically because of scandal, because of sex, because some candidates were complacent.  It really wasn‘t about the war.  Where Republicans in Congress take the different view.  They say it was about the war.

A lot of them say if Rumsfeld had gone before the war, if all of this had been done before the election, then they might have made a difference in November.  So there‘s a real difference about what the politics looks like right now in this country and in Congress. 

O‘DONNELL:  Given, Mike, what‘s happened up on Capitol Hill, that there is fierce Democratic opposition to the president‘s plan, and now there‘s some Republicans who may go along with the Democrats in terms of opposing the president‘s plan, one, does Mitch McConnell have enough votes to sustain a filibuster in the Senate?  Does he even have enough votes?

VIQUEIRA:  It appear that he doesn‘t.  There‘s talk of 61 and 62 total votes losing a significant—that would be 13 Republicans... 

O‘DONNELL:  Would vote with the Democrats?

VIQUEIRA:  Yes, but, I mean, look at—what choice does Mitch McConnell have?  He‘s the leader of the minority party.  He‘s got to go—he‘s got to go down in flames, and he‘s got to do what the Republican base thinks is right.  That‘s his job.  He‘s going to lose a lot of people. 

Harry Reid has it relatively easy on that side, obviously, the way things are going and the way public opinion is going.  But down the road, as we move into this year and other legislative initiatives, Harry Reid is going to have a tough time with all these presidential candidates staking out unique ground. 

O‘DONNELL:  Has there been any movement, Richard, on whether the Democrats are willing to move now beyond just a non-binding resolution that says, yes, we oppose or support a troop increase, to really doing something bold, some say gutsy, their supporters say courageous, others would say a big mistake, but that they would move to cut off what Kennedy wants to do, additional funds for additional troops? 

WOLFFE:  Well, there is that feeling.  I mean, the calculation has changed.  Democrats fear that they might look timid if they don‘t do this, as opposed to fearing that they might get labeled as unpatriotic or not supportive of the troops. 

Having said that, on a practical basis, this is difficult.  The finances, the logistics of these extra troops, are very intertwined with current forces.  You can‘t easily strip out the new money from the old money, the new troops from the old troops.  So they‘ve got a clear shot at it. 

What are they going to be voting on?  What are they going to be filibustering?  You know, you can string this out for a few months, and the White House‘s hope is that in those few months they‘ll be able to see some progress. 

O‘DONNELL:  And the point that has been made to me, it‘s not—in terms of—in terms of the funding, it‘s not that clean, it‘s not like these 21,500 troops are sort of, you know, all sitting at one base somewhere, and they‘re packing them in a plane and then they‘re taking them all to sort of Baghdad.  There are troops who are already there whose stays are being extended, there are some troops coming from Afghanistan, et cetera. 

So it‘s not as clean as sort of cutting off an additional amount of funds. 

VIQUEIRA:  Right.  And as far as the money is concerned, the administration has said that the money is already there.  Remember, Congress, just in September, appropriated another $70 billion for the war. 

This $100 that they‘re going to—it‘s reported to be $100 billion that they will ask for on February 5.  I mean, that‘s got to move through the snake.  I mean, that takes months. 

So the money is probably already there to do it, which raises the question, as you do, is, what can Democrats do to cut off funding for this surge, this escalation, depending on where you stand? 

O‘DONNELL:  Let me ask you, Richard, about the reason I think there‘s so much distrust now, even among the Republicans up on Capitol Hill, and why Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, yesterday said he had been lied to by this administration, is that they believe they have been told over and over again, yes, Prime Minister Maliki can stand up.  That we heard Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledge yesterday that he‘s on borrowed time.  And we read in “The New York Times” today that the president, all along this plan, that the generals wanted less troops in Iraq and that the president then wanted more troops, and he got the generals to go along with him. 

Is that scare with your reporting? 

WOLFFE:  Well, the White House disputes it.  They says that the commanders, the military advice was that more troops were necessary, and they have been supportive all along.  And, in fact, the phrasing in the speech is very careful.  When the president said the military commanders have looked at this plan and they think it will work...

O‘DONNELL:  And General Pace, I noticed yesterday up on the Hill, kept saying this is what General Casey and what General Abizaid requested. 

WOLFFE:  Right.

Now, the bigger question here is about Maliki and about credibility. 

Credibility for the Iraqi prime minister and for the president. 

The White House is very cautious about Maliki.  They have been burnt before by him. 

They are looking at this not as a surge but as more of a stagger.  If he meets certain benchmarks then there will be other troops. 

What they didn‘t count on was this decline and collapse in support here.  And that‘s really about their own credibility.  Basically, they promised a big new strategy, a big change, and what we saw was really a different tactic.  It was much less of a change that people expected. 

O‘DONNELL:  And lo and behold, Prime Minister Maliki was supposed to hold a press conference yesterday and he canceled it.  So there‘s really not yet been a very public embrace for the president‘s plan in Iraq.  And we need the Iraqis. 

WOLFFE:  Right.  And one of the worrying things about Prime Minister al-Maliki is that he‘s made a number of very difficult comments.  Some of them have been ridiculous, like digging a trench around Baghdad.  The trench went nowhere.  Other things, his interview with “The Wall Street Journal,” where he said that he didn‘t much like the job and really didn‘t want to have to serve out his term. 

I mean, there are troubling statements that he makes that don‘t give people confidence.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.

WOLFFE:  That‘s true in the White House and in Congress. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right.

Coming up, more on that.  And, the U.S. confirms that our military raided an Iranian consulate inside Iraq.  Has the Bush administration already begun a campaign against Tehran?  And what‘s to come?

Plus, notably missing from the post-speech  TV political blitz was Senator Clinton of New York.  Where was she?  And where is she about to go? 

The interesting answers come right after the break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Check this out.  In seven of the last eight presidential elections, the path to the White House has gone through a statehouse.  Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all ran as governors, free from a voting record in the House and Senate. 

Joining me now, a man who just might have presidential aspirations, the former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, author of “From Hope to Higher Ground: Twelve Stops to Restoring America‘s Greatness.”

Steps or stops? 

MIKE HUCKABEE, FMR. GOVERNOR:  Stops.  It is stops.

O‘DONNELL:  And how are they stops?

HUCKABEE:  Well, in order for us to be all that we can be as a nation, we need to stop doing some things that are really in our way.  For example, stop thinking horizontally.  A lot of people who are involved in politics only think everything is left, right, conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican.  And while politicians think horizontally, the American people think vertically.

What they‘re looking for is leadership that lifts them up, that doesn‘t bring them down.  And that‘s a vertical direction that they‘re more interested in, than they are some very strict, rigid position on the ideological scale.

O‘DONNELL:  Don‘t you think Governor Bush, as President Bush, has governed the way that you‘re saying he should stop?

HUCKABEE:  Well, I‘m going to leave it to the historians to make all those decisions.

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, you‘re not going there.

HUCKABEE:  I‘ve got enough problems that I create myself, Norah. 

(LAUGHTER)

HUCKABEE:  Read the book.  It‘s all in there.  Every bit of it. 

O‘DONNELL:  You‘re already trying to differentiate yourself from the current president. 

HUCKABEE:  Well...

O‘DONNELL:  Well, one issue that you‘re not differentiating yourself is on the issue of Iraq.  And you have said you do support the president‘s plan for an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq, right?  Why? 

HUCKABEE:  Well, I think we have got to give him a chance to let it work.  Whether it‘s the right decision, I honestly don‘t know, because I don‘t have access to the kind of military and intelligence information that he does.  But he‘s the commander-in-chief, and we have got to give him an opportunity. 

I think that the strategy that he has laid out is one that is risky in the sense that it has to work for him, because if it doesn‘t, I don‘t think he‘s going to get another chance to come up with yet another plan.  But it‘s also incumbent—if the Democrats don‘t like that plan, they‘ve got to put something on the table and say this is our plan.

But more importantly right now, I‘m concerned, as having been a governor 10 and a half years, what it‘s doing to the members of National Guard and Reserve units, because they‘re the ones who are really being asked to go back again and again and again for long periods of deployment. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, that‘s why I‘m surprised to hear that you actually

support this plan, because as a governor—we hear from a lot of governors

one of their biggest concerns is the strain this is placing on our Guard.

HUCKABEE:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  And as you well know, part of the plan and part of what Defense Secretary Bob Gates wants to do is—will ease some of the restrictions that allow our guard some time off, and instead is going to have extended duties for the Guard.  That really puts pressure on the states. 

HUCKABEE:  It does.  And I think that that‘s why I‘m saying—when you say I‘m supportive of the plan, I‘m supportive of the president having the right to lay that plan out there.  I think he‘s got to be given a chance as commander-in-chief to base his decisions on good military advice and intelligence. 

Do I think it‘s going to work?  I don‘t honestly know.  But I do know that he‘s got to be sensitive and careful not to overstress and stretch the National Guard and Reserve troops who have been over there in long-term deployments. 

O‘DONNELL:  The Democrats are picking on you today, if that‘s the right word, saying, “Huckabee admires Bush‘s stubbornness on Iraq,” because the other night after the president‘s speech, you said that “The president‘s stubborn.  That‘s a good quality in an executive.”

Do you really mean that?  I mean, one of the reports out today in “The New York Times” essentially has said many generals were telling the president they wanted a smaller force in Iraq and that he wanted a larger force, and so he just got people to do what he wanted to do.

HUCKABEE:  Well, I said what I did, and I stick by it.  What I mean is

stubbornness, in the face of criticism, is that you can‘t just base every

decision as an executive—I couldn‘t as governor, he can‘t as president -

based on the fact that there are headlines that are going against you or that polls are going against you.  You have to base it on good information and good advice. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I would describe that as stalwartness, not stubbornness.  Stubbornness suggests, you know, like probably your wife tells you sometimes you‘re supposed to do things, Governor, and you absolutely...

HUCKABEE:  I‘m certainly never stubborn.  Me?

O‘DONNELL:  ... refuse to. 

(LAUGHTER)

HUCKABEE:  Please don‘t ask her.  Please don‘t ask her.  Never on record.

No, I think that I used that term because of the manner that the question was asked.  But, the point is that there is a sense in which you have to be steadfast.  Maybe that‘s a better word than stubborn. 

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

HUCKABEE:  But to always be vacillating in the wind with every change of opinion is not something that you can have in a leader. 

O‘DONNELL:  You are mentioned as a potential candidate for 2008.  What kind of qualities do you think any Republican that runs in 2008 must have in order to win. 

HUCKABEE:  We better have some policies that we can articulate that touch every American.  I think Republicans really did themselves some harm in this last election cycle because, first of all, there was the war in Iraq.  Secondly, there was the corruption that was so prevalent in Congress and in Washington.  And thirdly, there was a sense of the incompetence that people saw in government and the response to Katrina. 

You add all that up, and people were just angry and they pulled the plug, rightfully so. 

We have to come back and show that we can actually govern and that our governing is not just going to touch the affluent and the privileged, that it goes all the way down to the single mom and it goes to the folks who are just trying to put bread on the table. 

O‘DONNELL:  And you‘re going to make a decision in the next couple of weeks?

HUCKABEE:  Very soon.  In the next several weeks there will be some announcement and a decision will be made. 

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll be watching, Governor.  I hear a lot of Republicans in this town that say they want you to run, that think you‘re the dark horse candidate.

We‘ve got to go.  We‘re out of time.  But we‘ll be watching.  I know you‘ll call me first and let me know when you‘re filing.

HUCKABEE:  Absolutely.  I‘ll be stubborn about it.  Stubborn is what I will be.

O‘DONNELL:  Stubborn about it.

Thank you, Governor Huckabee.

HUCKABEE:  Thank you, Norah.

O‘DONNELL:  And coming up, among the leading Democrats, it was Barack Obama who took the public lead in opposing President Bush‘s new way forward in Iraq.  But did his post-speech performance leave the senator in Illinois in ‘08 pecking order?

Plus, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich propose a solution for Iraq that sounds like something from Franklin Roosevelt‘s playbook.  A new deal for Baghdad?

We‘ll talk about the possibilities when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am against Congress providing more funding for an escalation of this war.  I think it‘s a mistake.  I think that this is one in a whole series of mistakes that this president has made in Iraq, and I think we should not empower him to make another enormous mistake. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Senator John Edwards is one of a growing group of Democratic hopefuls for the presidency in 2008.  And like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Edwards staked out territory in opposition to President Bush‘s new way forward in Iraq. 

Back to address the progress of the ‘08 hopefuls on the issue of the war are “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe and MSNBC congressional producer Mike Viqueira.

Welcome back, you guys.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

VIQUEIRA:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  So let‘s start with the Democratic lineup.

First, Hillary Clinton today—I think this is the big news of the day.  It was a previously planned trip, but surprise, surprise, she‘s not up there in her hearing on the Armed Services Committee questioning the new defense secretary.  She‘s on her way to Iraq. 

WOLFFE:  She‘s not talking, she‘s doing.  I mean, you want to run for commander-in-chief, you better be a person of action.

I think it‘s very unique timing.  You know, it shows she‘s informed.  Listen, I think Senator Clinton has worked incredibly hard over the last several years to establish some kind of credentials and show her experience on national security and foreign policy.  And being in Iraq is a great way to do it. 

O‘DONNELL:  And how does that benefit her, Mike, politically?  She comes back on Tuesday, holds a press conference on Capitol Hill, and she can speak about Iraq and say, well, I‘ve just been there.  But Barack Obama is not with her on this trip.

VIQUEIRA:  Well, I‘m not so sure about the timing.  I think that in an ideal world, she probably would have wanted to be at the Armed Services hearing today.  Plenty of coverage there.  We were all anticipating her appearance.

Generally these trips are kept secret for security reasons until the last minute.  And then go over the weekend, but I‘m sure that she had to leave on a Friday.  These trips generally start on a Friday.  There have been literally dozens of members to go. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, but what politically does it do for her, though, to be able to come back at this press conference and maybe even do an interview this weekend from, you know, Baghdad? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well, obviously it‘s a huge bump.  I mean, how can it be anything but?

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

VIQUEIRA:  I mean, she knows—she knows from whence she speaks, she‘s just come back from the region, she‘s talked to the commanders on the ground.  She is someone who speaks with authority, and that can only bolster her credibility on the subject . 

O‘DONNELL:  But, you k now, people sound like she‘s just on this trip like it was planned and she got on it.  These senators request and plan to go on them.

VIQUEIRA:  Sure.

O‘DONNELL:  So it‘s Senator Clinton, Senator Bayh and another congressman from New York. 

VIQUEIRA:  Sure.

O‘DONNELL:  Right?  So she staked out and planned to go on this.

VIQUEIRA:  Yes.  Maybe I‘m an institutionalist, but Armed Services Committee, you go to where the armed services are deployed.  I don‘t find it all that outrages or I don‘t see...

O‘DONNELL:  But you cover Capitol Hill.  You‘re not a cynic.  That‘s why we invited you on.

(LAUGHTER)

VIQUEIRA:  I know.  But, you know, I‘m also a reporter, right?

O‘DONNELL:  You usually are, Mike.

WOLFFE:  He‘s a stickler for the rules.

O‘DONNELL:  I know.

VIQUEIRA:  I can‘t win.  I can‘t win.

O‘DONNELL:  How is it, do you think, Richard—because I think it sets up an interesting dynamic, because a lot of people said, wow, Barack Obama.  I mean, he was on the cable programs the night after the president‘s speech sort of laying out very carefully and cautiously an opposition to the president‘s plan, but not yet saying we‘re going to cut off the funding.  Saying, we‘re going to look closely at it.  You  know?

And he was on the morning shows the next morning and really sort of captured more attention.  And everybody kept saying, “Where‘s Senator Clinton?  Where is she?”  And all of a sudden, lo and behold, she‘s in Iraq.

WOLFFE:  Right.  Well, look, we love the theater of having all the presidential candidates in the same hearing room and popping questions off.  It‘s great theater.  But for these guys and Senator Clinton, you want to separate yourself from the pack.  You want to look like you‘re not just a legislator, you have some different perspective and different experience.  You want to stand out from the crowd. 

Now, Barack Obama can do that very easily just because of the buzz all around him.  But unfortunately, there are lots of members of Congress being interviewed on TV.  And he was one face among many. 

Senator Clinton is, as you say, in Iraq, she‘s getting some experience.  You know, one of the conundrums for Senator Clinton is that she wasn‘t dealing with foreign policy in the White House.  She was a first lady.  She had her hands on domestic policy.  It‘s not really—she still also has a burden to prove that she‘s experienced in these things. 

O‘DONNELL:  And quickly, Mike, what does this do for Senator McCain, if, in fact, this plan doesn‘t work, since he‘s so in front of 21,000 -- being for it? 

VIQUEIRA:  It certainly is not going to help his candidacy.  I mean, the American public, the members of Congress, as reflecting members of Congress, so incredibly against the war at this time.  Everybody running for cover.  Sam Brownback? 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, who was just in Baghdad the last day or so. 

VIQUEIRA:  He sent a press release from Baghdad in opposition to the president‘s plan. 

I mean, Senator McCain, he will be consistent with his philosophy of straight talk, you know, what we heard from his 2000 campaign.  But, you know, he‘s going to have a hard time benefiting politically if this thing goes down.

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s fun to watch.

Coming up, things got personal between Senator Barbara Boxer and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  Was the senator out of line or was she right on the money? 

Plus, Tony Snow has a new favorite catch phrase and it‘s got nothing to do with staying the course or a new way forward. 

Stick around.

(MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY CARD, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  The president doesn‘t have a the luxury of wearing blinders as he looks at the challenges in Iraq.  He has to have peripheral vision and make those tough decisions.  I‘m not sure that I agree with every decision that the president has made, but I agree that the president has given every single decision a good, thorough look and review.  He‘s not making it shoot from the hip.  He‘s not walking in with a bias.  He recognizes victory must be the final answer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The perception in Washington and the rest of the world is that President Bush stands nearly alone on the war in Iraq, given the language of Wednesday night‘s speech and yesterday‘s arrest of five Iranian nationals inside of Iraq, the administration appears to ramping up an offensive against Tehran. 

Back to analyze the president‘s decision and next move on his foreign policy are “Newsweek‘s” senior White house correspondent Richard Wolffe and NBC News congressional producer Mike Viqueira.  Let‘s talk quickly first about Iran because there were a lot of people who interpreted the president‘s speech and some of the words in that, as that we could have a lot more cross-border raids into Iran.

The big issue, of course Richard, there was an arrest of six Iranian diplomats inside Iraq.  Iran claimed—sorry Iran claimed that they were diplomats and the U.S. says, they‘re not diplomats.  These guys were fighters and we had to roll them up quickly.  Is there a suggestion that we could expand into Iran? 

WOLFFE:  No there isn‘t and there has been a lot of speculation about this. 

O‘DONNELL:  What about when Biden says, listen, I don‘t want to see us going, doing these cross border raids into Iran.  We didn‘t give you authority to do that.  

WOLFFE:  And the administration would say they‘re not doing cross border raids.  I don‘t think anyone who is seriously, who is plugged in to what‘s going on, believes that.  There‘s a lot of fear.  There‘s a lot of talk.  There‘s a lot of rumor.  There‘s stuff on the Internet, but does the administration have these kinds of plans?  No they don‘t.  I think they miscalculated with the speech on Wednesday, was the sort of saber rattling affect.  They rattled it too loudly on Iran. 

They also were trying to assure people in the Gulf, especially people in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that they would be there to protect them if Iran does try and reach out for regional dominance, as many people think they are.  Both those signals were overplayed.  That‘s not the same as saying there are war plans or even operational plans for combat with Iranian forces in the region. 

O‘DONNELL:  But General Pete Pace did say today, Mike, I noticed in his testimony up on Capital Hill, he did mention that in a lot of the raids they have done in trying to find out where these IED are coming from, that they almost all lead back to Iran.  There‘s no big surprise.  You know, we‘ve sort of heard that before.  But aren‘t lawmakers very concerned that things spread over to Iran? 

VIQUEIRA:  And whether the president intended to or not, it certainly came off as very bellicose.  sitting it and watching it myself, I immediately interpreted it as saber rattling, as you point out, Richard. 

O‘DONNELL:  Why? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well, why bring it up to begin with?  Why say it won‘t be tolerated?  It sounded very bellicose.  Democrats on the hill—I have talked to several of them today—agree.  One made the analogy to Cambodia, when President Nixon said he was going to end the Vietnam War and it was revealed that he expanded into Cambodia.  I mean, so this is the way it‘s being interpreted on the hill.

I mean, politically, as far as reality check is concerned, it will never fly.  He wouldn‘t try to come back to Congress.  If he did, it wouldn‘t stand a chance and the American people wouldn‘t support it. 

O‘DONNELL:  There was a great deal and there has been a great deal of anger up on Capitol Hill towards this administration.  It really boiled over yesterday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  It even got colonel.  There was this exchange between Senator Barbara Boxer and Condoleezza Rice, in which Senator Barbara Boxer directly challenged her about who pays the personal price for this war. 

And let‘s take a listen to it, because it‘s a pretty interesting piece of sound. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  I‘m not going to pay a personal price.  My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young.  You‘re not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family.  So who pays the price? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Richard, was that appropriate for her to mention that Secretary Rice is not married, or that Secretary Rice doesn‘t have any children? 

WOLFFE:  Not really.  But it is appropriate to raise the question of who is actually making a sacrifice in this war.  But no, whenever these politicians land personal punches—I mean, just think back to John Kerry in that last debate with President Bush, when he talked about the vice president‘s daughter, these things never come off well.  But the broader point that this is—there are real people fighting in this war and real families.  That seems to me a very valid case for debate. 

O‘DONNELL:  Going personally after Secretary Rice‘s probably doesn‘t play that well. 

VIQUEIRA:  They are professional politicians and they always leave the personal out of it.  I think that a lot of people would argue, especially on the Internet, and perhaps Senator Boxer‘s comments were a reflection of that, that this is the most personal thing you could possibly imagine, sons and daughters are dying.  Bust still it was unusually and it seemed somewhat out of context and somewhat out of bounds. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s turn to 2008 news, there was a big “Wall Street Journal” editorial today on the issue of Iraq, an op-ed by Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich together, talking about how Rudy Giuliani and how he managed the streets of New York as mayor, could be applicable to managing the streets of Baghdad?  Richard, your take on that? 

WOLFFE:  Well, there are lots of things to admire about Rudy Giuliani. 

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  We should have a zero tolerance policy for sectarian civil wars.  Look, admirable, the White House draws a lot of comfort from the fact that Giuliani is taking a supportive position.  Obviously McCain is too and so is Mitt Romney.  The three front-runners in the Republican fight, but to draw a comparison between policing the streets of New York and Baghdad right now is a little facile. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, it‘s interesting, because he‘s also done some interviews and he‘s suggesting that‘s the kind of, not only his 9-11 experience, but that his experience as a mayor of New York City, his management experience, would be comparable or applicable to managing the streets of Baghdad.

VIQUEIRA:  Well, I mean, the situation in New York, crime wise, was bad, but was it really that bad?  Is it analogous?  What are we Wyatt Earp?  Is this the wild west show?  I mean, is he going to come in with six guns blazing?  It seemed like, again, a bit of an over reach.

O‘DONNELL:  And interesting that he teamed up with Newt Gingrich to write this op-ed?

VIQUEIRA:  I would say so.  You know, Newt Gingrich is a very smart individual, his intellectual approach to economics was always quoting Edward Demming (ph), an overlooked economist here in the United States, and so he‘s very interested in this kind of thing.  A lot of times Speaker Gingrich‘s theories get a little bit far afield.  But perhaps he‘s got something here that people can latch on to. 

O‘DONNELL:  That was so polite the way you said that.  His theories get far afield.  Let‘s talk about Iraq and the Republicans and 2008 and what we have is very interesting.  Giuliani, Romney, John McCain all support President Bush.  They‘re walking in line, they support this troop increase, very little criticism of this president.  Then there‘s Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, who says no, it‘s a bad idea, that we need a political solution, not a military collusion.  That really sets him apart. 

WOLFFE:  It does, but then many things separate his candidacy from the others. 

O‘DONNELL:  People view he‘s really the only two true conservative in the race, on social issues. 

WOLFFE:  And that he‘s a very long shot, compared to those three guys.  I think it‘s interesting that they‘re taking this perspective and I can‘t for myself figure out whether it‘s because they want, as possible future commander-in-chiefs, to have the latitude fight wars the way they see it, or they think they need to project executive responsibilities and confidence, even as candidates.  So they need to show that they could, if necessary, do the tough stuff and take the difficult decisions. 

Whatever it is, these are not popular positions.  The majority of polls say that even though people are divided on how long troops should stay, this current strategy doesn‘t have a lot of support.  So, you know, it‘s a bold position on their part. 

O‘DONNELL:  My own view of the politics of it is that by Giuliani and Romney moving to the same position that McCain has held for some time now, that it inoculates McCain somewhat, in case this policy does not work. 

VIQUEIRA:  It‘s something that Giuliani and Romney have done because McCain‘s already out there in the front.  They‘re not going to let him stake out that position all by himself and have that territory that appeals to ...

O‘DONNELL:  But he‘s not as vulnerable.  John McCain is not as vulnerable, if this policy fails, if we have an additional 20,000 troops in Iraq, and this policy fails to quell the violence, McCain is not as vulnerable now that the other major Republicans in the field have also supported ...

VIQUEIRA:  When you consider that Romney and Giuliani are there near the top with McCain, true. 

WOLFFE:  And it would be far better for them just to say, wait and see.  I‘ll take my position in six months, in a year, wait and see.  They didn‘t have to do this right now. 

O‘DONNELL:  What happens next, do you think, for 2008.  I mean, what do we see, McCain and Giuliani at the top of the polls?  Most of them are it in now, are we sort of in the a waiting period?  It‘s all about gathering the best staff and the best, sort of, contacts in each state.  McCain has done a pretty good job doing that.

WOLFFE:  Right, look, you‘re going to have some announcement, you‘ll have some hires, people will be leaving, there will be some internal conflict.  But, you know, sustaining interest and momentum in these races, apart from raising money, is very hard, especially when you get around the middle of the year.  Obviously things are going to ramp up towards the end of the year, but right now it‘s a phony war. 

O‘DONNELL:  Right now we‘re watching most of where Mike is every day, Capitol Hill.  The Democrats that serve on Capitol Hill, when are they going to throw their hat into the ring, specifically Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. 

VIQUEIRA:  Sitting here listening to us talk about the president and Senators who are presidential aspirants, and I‘m thinking Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are going to have the hardest jobs in America.  These people are all going to be out, staking our their own territory, regardless of what the leadership wants, regardless of what the White House wants.  How is anything going to get done in the United States Congress this year? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, nothing got done in the last one. 

VIQUEIRA:  I guess that‘s true. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right, well Mike Viqueira and Richard Wolffe, thank you so much.  And coming up, just when peace between Donald Trump and the ladies of “The View” appears imminent, the Donald opens a new offensive.  Hear this morning‘s salvo when we return. 

Plus attention all U.S. military personnel, if you take off your uniform for playboy magazine, you may not be allowed to put it back on.  Full frontal military nudity is forthcoming, so stick around. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  If its juicy and it‘s happening in D.C., you‘re going to hear it about here.  For today‘s dose of capital water cooler talk, I‘m joined by Amy Argetsinger, the woman behind the Reliable Source, the “Washington Post‘s” universally read gossip page.  Nice to see you.

AMY ARGETSINGER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good to be here. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s talk first about this scoop you have about Maryland‘s Governor Martin O‘Malley.  Tell us about it. 

ARGETSINGER:  Yes, Martin O‘Malley, the former Mayor of Baltimore, preparing to take over as governor of Maryland next week.  He‘s inaugurated on Wednesday and there‘s been much talk about what happens to his band?  As you may know, O‘Malley for the past 20 years has played in a part-time Irish rock band called O‘Malley‘s March, which, you know, it got him some tweaking on the campaign trail, but it has also arguably helped to cement some of his fan base. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, how is he going to be governor and play in a rock band? 

ARGETSINGER:  Well, he officially—When he was starting his gubernatorial race, he put out an announcement saying that he had to go on hiatus from the band, but they kept reuniting to play during the campaign, at fund raisers and what night.  And then on Wednesday—O‘Malley‘s March is not officially scheduled to play, however there‘s a better known Irish band called the Saw Doctors that‘s scheduled to play. 

O‘DONNELL:  Amy, Amy, Amy, stop, stop, I don‘t care about the name of his band.  Look at his guns.  Let‘s put that picture back up there.  This guy has got some biceps, you know, What‘s that phrase, guns ...

WOLFFE:  Take her to the gun show. 

O‘DONNELL:  Guns get the girls, meaning his biceps, wow. 

ARGETSINGER:  And they get the votes too.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.

ARGETSINGER:  So he has hinted he may take the stage one last time, or maybe not last time, on Wednesday with the Saw Doctors.  I don‘t know how the rest of the guys at O‘Malley‘s March feel about that.

O‘DONNELL:  So from Martin O‘Malley‘s guns, let‘s switch to Denny Hastert and a sighting at a Chinese restaurant. 

ARGETSINGER:  Yes, you know, we love to spy on various VIPs as they‘re out and about.  This one was interesting, because Denny showed up with his security detail.  And we‘re instantly wondering how does he still get security?  You are only supposed to get security if you‘re in a leadership role of some kind and he‘s not anymore. 

Well, we called around.  It turns out that he will continue to get a small amount of security for a while.  So the guys with the ear pieces accompanying him to Peking Gourmet, it was all right. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right, and Tony Snow, the president‘s press secretary, has some new for term, what is it?

ARGETSINGER:  New favorite song, I think, Kumbaya, remember that song?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, sure. 

ARGETSINGER:  Kumbaya my lord, Kumbaya—anyway, we couldn‘t help but note, he‘s been using this a lot, dropping it into some of his White House press briefings, saying, for instance, like, everybody assumes that when we talk about bipartisanship that it‘s just sort of happy face, Kumbaya stuff, and that we‘re really lying through our teeth. 

He‘s used this word on about four different occasions in the past few months.  It always seems to be some kind of catch phrase, some kind of ironic buzz word to signify bipartisanship.  It seems to be a little ironic, a little snarky, maybe he thinks bipartisanship isn‘t such a—I don‘t know.  Kumbaya, I just think he‘s being a little snarky, could be wrong, but we‘ve caught him using it on four occasions.   

O‘DONNELL:  Amy Argetsinger, I got your last name right there, fabulous stuff, we love it.  Thank you so much. 

ARGETSINGER:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  And we‘re back with Richard Wolffe and Mike Viqueira. 

Where should we start?

(CROSS TALK)

VIQUEIRA:  We‘ll start with Kumbaya, let‘s outlaw that one.  The phrase, throw him under a bus, I‘m sick of that one.  Let‘s move on from that, think of something else. 

O‘DONNELL:  Is that true Richard.  I mean, first, do you go to the White House briefings? 

WOLFFE:  Religiously. 

O‘DONNELL:  And what‘s up with the Kumbaya? 

WOLFFE:  I think he may be a little post modern.  I mean, you know, he‘s trying—he‘s trying to express some skepticism about what we think bipartisan spirit means and Kumbaya is his way of doing it.  Look, Tony snow, who would want that kind of job?  You are saying so many things all the time.  There are only so may phrases we all have.  You have it on transcripts.  Lots of people are going to try to glob on to phrases. 

O‘DONNELL:  The other big news that people are talking about too, is S.M.U., which is where first lady Laura Bush went, they want the Bush presidential library and, of course, the board of trustees and many of the alumni want the presidential library, but now we hear a lot of the professors do not want their—of course more liberal leaning—do not want this library.  This is shocking right, that many of the professors are liberal leaning at S.M.U., or any university? 

WOLFFE:  Well, S.M.U. has not got that level of reputation, but it has been the front-runner and I think it still is.  There is this dispute, as I understand it, about the location, the citing of it, but it‘s Laura‘s favorite place.  So, you know, I still think she gets the ultimate vote. 

O‘DONNELL:  And the other contenders are Baylor? 

WOLFFE:  Right, and some other places. 

VIQUEIRA:  Don‘t look at me. 

O‘DONNELL:  Clearly not your favorite and neither am I.  Might be the Denny Hastert security.  I mean, once you‘re no longer speaker of the house, do you lose all these privileges? 

VIQUEIRA:  There‘s generally a transition period, I‘ve noticed with other leaders, after they leave the leadership.  You know, Denny Hastert, I have to tell you, I‘m frankly surprised that as speaker he‘s stuck around and I‘m wondering how long he‘s going to stick around. 

O‘DONNELL:  Meaning he has not resigned all together? 

VIQUEIRA:  Well yes, I mean, once you go from speaker of the house, he‘s got a sub committee chairmanship on the Energy and Commerce Committee on the House side now.  He loves being a congressman.  He loves being in the game.  He‘s done this. 

He‘s been to the mountain top.  He‘s had health issues all along.  You have to wonder how much longer he‘s going to stick with it.  You know, there‘s talk about internal politics in Illinois, that there‘s somebody he‘s trying to block from succeeding him in his seat and that‘s why he‘s sticking around. 

But on the question of security, it‘s not that unusual to see the capital police and incidentally, it is the United States capital police that look after him, to transition for a few months after a leader leaves the leadership. 

O‘DONNELL:  Mike Viqueira, Richard Wolffe, thanks to both of you. We covered a lot of ground today, I appreciate it. 

And coming up, a lion reaches through the bars of his cage to hug and kiss a woman.  It‘s a remarkable scene, but how does the story end?  We‘ll show you when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Given what we have been talking about all week, you hate to use the word war to describe the fight between Donald Trump and Rosie O‘Donnell, but there was another nasty escalation this morning and things just keep getting uglier.  With that story and more, we turn to Willie Geist.  Hi there, Willie. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi there Norah.  You know, this war too is lasting a little longer than most of us would have liked and as long as the Donald is involved, there is really never an end in sight, is there.  A day after Madonna threw her support behind Rosie during an appearance on the “Today Show,” Trump called into the Imus in the Morning Program this morning, just to reiterate his opinion of O‘Donnell.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, “THE APPRENTICE:  I have an expression, when you deal with scum, you have to treat them like scum.  And Rosie is scum, she‘s garbage.  And I hit her hard.  I hit her between the eyes.  You know, I learned a long time ago in high school, when you have a bully, hit them hard right between the eyes.  And that‘s what I did.  And, you know, every poll is showing 91 percent.  The fact is, people hate Rosie and her ratings are up? 

You know why her ratings are up?  Because of me.  When I stop with this stuff, which maybe will take me a long time, because I‘m actually enjoying it, but when I stop this with stuff, I guarantee you that those ratings are going to plummet, because it‘s a dead show.  It‘s a boring show.   

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  I don‘t know if you know that Norah, people hate Rosie.  It‘s a fact.  It‘s studied.  He‘s got the polling data to show it.  I love these polls he pulls out.  What is that, 91 percent?  Where are those polls.  I haven‘t seen those.  I don‘t know if you know this, but Tucker and I had bravely taken the Donald‘s side from day one, but I am starting to wonder where we‘re going with this, every single day.  What‘s the end game?  What are we doing? 

O‘DONNELL:  What about the sisters?  You‘re not sticking with the sisters, Rosie and Barbara? 

GEIST:  No, no, no, it‘s all about the Donald.  The Donald‘s been our guy from day one.  We ride him a little bit, but in the end, we love him.  But I‘m just a little concerned.  I would like to no know where we‘re going, as long as I‘m on board this train.  You know what I mean?

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m enjoying watching it.  I‘m sorry to say I am.

GEIST:  It is kind of fun, isn‘t it?  Hopefully he keeps calling into Imus.  Well, another story for you here Norah, Air Force Staff Sergeant Michelle Manart (ph) has been relieved of her duties because she posed for this month‘s issue of playboy magazine.  There she is.  I‘m told Manart appears both in uniform, holding weapons, and also in the nude, all under the headline, tough love.

An Air Force spokesman said, quote, the staff sergeant‘s alleged action does not meet the high standards we expect of our airmen.  Manart says she didn‘t do anything wrong.  The military says it‘s investigating the matter, which is my favorite part of the story.  I‘m sure they‘re investigating this matter very closely.  I‘m sure a bunch of guys are locked in a room, having a tribunal, investigating the matter. 

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m not reacting to this, Willie.

GEIST:  No, you shouldn‘t.  You really shouldn‘t.  It would be bad for you.  But I think I‘ll be launching an independent investigation of my own.  I think it‘s important to be impartial in such matters.  So my opinion would help, don‘t you think? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well yes, maybe when Tucker comes back, you two can investigate it together. 

GEIST:  All right, you‘ve got to see this video Norah.  It is unbelievable.  What you‘re about to see—it is either one of the most amazing displays of animal affection ever captured on video, or the moments right before a day at the zoo gone horribly wrong. 

Come on, we wouldn‘t show you that unless it was good for ratings.  This is a lion in Coly, Colombia, hugging and kissing the woman who saved him from a life of abuse in a traveling circus.  Her name is Anna Torres.  She rescues animals in Colombia.  She rescued this lion named Jupiter six years ago and nursed him back to health at her animal shelter.  As you can see there, Jupiter, extremely grateful. 

Look at that, Norah, that has to be a man in a lion suit.  It‘s too much.  That can‘t be real. 

O‘DONNELL:  It looks like that lion has the same hairdresser as Tucker, don‘t you think. 

GEIST:  No, Tucker‘s mullet is much worse than that. 

O‘DONNELL:  He is going to kill me. 

GEIST:  I don‘t want to rain on this parade, it‘s a hilarious, wonderful story.  But have we not learned the lessons of Siegfried and Roy?  I mean, let‘s just be careful.  This is a nice story, and I don‘t want to ruin this Friday afternoon.  Let‘s end with a smile, but let‘s be careful how close we got to the wild animals, because it‘s that scene one day and a much different scene the next. 

O‘DONNELL:  Willie, this is my first time sitting in for Tucker, but I always think you—I mean, they should give you half an hour on this show. 

GEIST:  I totally agree.  Would you talk to the executive producer about that? 

O‘DONNELL:  I will.  I will.  I think they should give you 50 minutes and give Tucker five.  What do you think.

GEIST:  I‘ll be sure to bring that up with him.  I‘ll call him after the show.  You‘ve got pull, make it happen.

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m so fired after today.  Thanks a lot. 

GEIST:  Thank you Norah. 

O‘DONNELL:  And that does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Have a great weekend.

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

END   

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