updated 1/16/2007 4:18:26 PM ET 2007-01-16T21:18:26

Guests: Karen Hanretty, Pat Buchanan, Tom Curry, Clint Van Zandt, Patrick Gavin

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the Martin Luther King Day edition of the show, coming to you from Tucson, Arizona. 

We‘re glad you‘re here. 

It‘s actually going to happen, it looks like.  Illinois senator Barack Obama reportedly is ready to announce his presidential campaign, a direct challenge to Hillary Clinton, and word is he plans to do it on “Oprah .”

Meanwhile, the Duke lacrosse case-travesty took a long overdue turn for the positive this weekend.  We‘ve got the latest on that.

We begin, though, with George W. Bush.  The president sat down with “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley over the weekend to sell his new way forward in Iraq.  Here‘s part of what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My attitude is, if we were to start withdrawing now, we would have a crisis on our hands in Iraq.  And not only in Iraq, but failure in Iraq will embolden the enemy, and the enemy is al Qaeda and extremists.  Failure in Iraq would empower Iran, which poses a significant threat to world peace.

So then I began to think, well, if failure is not an option and we‘ve got to succeed, how best to do so?  And that‘s why I came up with the plan. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  But for a lot of people, including me, those words are hard to hear.  The war in Iraq was a tragic mistake and an unnecessary one, and it was entirely Bush‘s fault. 

Yes, cowardly Democrats did sit back and let it happen, but Bush alone did it.  And yet, that doesn‘t make withdrawal a wise idea.  Bush, who has been so wrong about so much in Iraq, is right this time.  Retreat, which means failure, would be a disaster, and not just for us here in the United States, but for the world. 

But we‘ve already failed, say Democrats pushing for withdrawal.  That‘s too glib. 

Iraq is a disaster.  It could be much worse, though.  Much worse. 

Nobody, not even Bush himself wants to send another 21,000 men to Iraq.  But what exactly are the options?  Short of giving up entirely and inviting even more profound disaster, does anyone have a better idea?  If so, now‘s the time to share it. 

Joining us today for analysis of all the day‘s news, Republican strategist Karen Hanretty and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

Welcome to you both. 

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Pat, you think—you think Bush is making the sale?  You heard the president say what he said a lot over the past four years, we can‘t leave, it will be worse if we do.  Do you think he is convincing people of that? 

Pat Buchanan? 

I think we may have lost a little audio there with Pat. 

I don‘t know, Karen, if you heard what I said. 

HANRETTY:  Yes.

CARLSON:  My question was, is the president selling the notion that if we leave—yes, it‘s bad.  If we leave, it will be worse? 

HANRETTY:  No, I‘m afraid he‘s not.  I watched that interview on “60 Minutes” last night, and what really strikes me, it‘s—and I hate for this to sound so insulting toward the president, but it‘s almost like, you know, he is writing this junior high term paper where he makes assertions, but he feels no responsibility or there is no—he‘s not sophisticated enough to come out and actually back up those assertions with facts and data. 

He goes—he will go out and say, which to me seems very self-evident and to you, but I think to a lot of American people who weren‘t reading this news on a daily basis and covering it as closely as a lot of us are, which is Iran is a threat to national security.  He makes this statement, but then he never follows up with specific examples. 

He never goes and references what the president of Iran says about Western society, about Israel, and the very, very blunt threats that Iran‘s president makes against the United States and against Israel, this idea of wiping them off the planet.  And it seems like it wouldn‘t be that difficult for President Bush to go out there and explain and give some hard examples of why Iran is a threat.  But you can‘t simply say, well, Iran is a threat, therefore we can‘t withdraw because everything would be even worse than it is today. 

He has to really make a convincing case to the American people.  And I don‘t know if it‘s just that he can‘t think on his feet.  I know he has deep convictions and I know he believes this passionately, but why he can‘t seem to make that case, it really astounds me.  And it‘s quite—I think it makes America more dangerous. 

CARLSON:  It astounds me, too.  I‘m not sure, though, it detracts as much as you believe it does from the power of the situation, which has nothing to do with Bush directly. 

Here you have this country that means us ill, Iran, that...

HANRETTY:  Right.

CARLSON:  ... is acquiring nuclear weapons.  I think that‘s kind of beyond dispute. 

Pat, you were—Karen, there were a lot of people who were opposed to this war from the very beginning or from early on, I‘m one of them.  And I hear that and I say, I don‘t know, there are details I don‘t know about.  But I‘m not sure I need more details than that. 

Iran is bad, they hates us, they are getting nuclear weapons. And they will be empowered by the—by the disintegration of Iraq. 

I mean, that‘s all true, isn‘t it, Karen? 

HANRETTY:  I guess my question is, how much do the American people realize that?  And I‘m also not saying that, you know, the American people aren‘t paying attention. 

I wonder the extent to which they appreciate the danger that Iran poses to the United States, to Western democracy, the extent to which they hate us and the extent to which they believe—the extent to which Iran, really religious zealots, who have this philosophy and this—that they must eliminate our way of life in order for them to achieve their own spiritual destiny.  I‘m not entirely sure that that case has been made to the American people. 

Again, to the extent that I think you understand it and I understand it, because unlike most people who have real jobs and real lives, we pay attention to this stuff 24/7. 

CARLSON:  Right.

HANRETTY:  And the president has got to make an impassioned speech.  Somehow he has got to convince the American people the extreme threat we are in. 

What I fear is happening is that what we are seeing right now is we‘re seeing not just young men going off to war to die.  We are seeing middle-aged fathers, National Guardsmen who are up on their second tour of duty who have jobs, who have children at home, teenaged children at home, who are in their 40s and 50s being sent off in these infantry roles...

CARLSON:  Oh, it‘s pathetic.

HANRETTY:  ... that it‘s—and that we will lose our will much like I think much of Europe lost their will after World War I.  And when the next threat comes, we may not have the stomach for it. 

CARLSON:  Well, and I‘m not even sure, because it has been so underreported, the average American is aware how low some of the standards in the military have been dropped, just simply because it‘s hard to recruit people. 

HANRETTY:  Right.

CARLSON:  I mean, it is—it is, for instance, allowed to go through Army basic training while on Prozac.  You can be on anti-depression medication and go through basic training. 

It is apparently forbidden now for drill instructors to forbid overweight recruits from eating dessert because that‘s considered too mean.  I mean, you know, there are stresses on the military that I don‘t think the average person is even aware of. 

Pat Buchanan, is the president making his sale with you as someone who has been against this war since the beginning? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, he‘s not.  I will say this, the idea of the United States losing in Iraq and the consequences of defeat are enormous, and I share the president‘s view that the other side has not made the case that they either have an idea of how to avert that defeat or that they are aware of the consequences.

But with regard to the surge, the president had made the case for this simple reason.  For this to work, Maliki has got to—he‘s a Shia.  He has got to stand up to the most popular Shia leader in the country, Muqtada al-Sadr. 

He has got to defy him.  He has to send his troops into battle against him, even though Muqtada al-Sadr is one of his pillars of support.  I think, Tucker, we‘ll find out in a couple of months that he simply is not up to that.  And then we‘ve got to decide how to turn around and move out. 

I disagree on Iran being an enormous threat for this reason.  Iran—the Iranian revolution has been in power 27 years, and they have yet to start their first war. 

They have been attacked once but they have not started a single war.  They have an air force and a navy which is inconsequential.  They have an economy which is two percent the size of ours. 

They have a population, 70 percent of whom wanted the mullahs overthrown and voted that way twice.  They‘ve got a leader, Ahmadinejad, who was shouted down the way some of us are shouted down at liberal colleges in the United States. 

I think they are a lot of talk.  I do think they are a great power in the region.  But the idea that we‘re going to be praying to Mecca because Iran sets up a caliphate or that our kids are I think is preposterous. 

CARLSON:  Wait a second, Pat, though.  Is the fear that they are going to attack us?  I mean, I don‘t know anybody who fears that Iran is going to attack the United States.  The fear, as far as I understand it, is that Iran‘s growing power will incite a regional war because it will make Saudi Arabia, some of the Gulf States so completely paranoid that they will have to respond. 

Iran moves into southern Iraq, in the heavy Shiite areas once we leave, and all of a sudden, you know, the surrounding nations become so upset about it that they all go to war.  And you could see very quickly that becoming a world war.  And I don‘t think that‘s—that‘s not hyperbole.  That‘s real. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I don‘t know that it becomes a world war.  I do say this, look, the United States has won the war in Iraq, and the big winner is Iran.  There is no way we‘re going to prevent the Shia from either being completely dominated in a United Iraq or from being dominant in the nine southern provinces which they control. 

So Iran has them right now.  And the Sunnis are terrified of a Sunni-Shia conflict in the region. 

But, Tucker, I‘m not sure Iran wants that conflict.

I think Ahmadinejad would like to be the leader of all the Islamic world.  That‘s why he focuses on Israel, which is a unifying issue with all Arabs and Muslims.

But I do think there‘s a real danger of a regional war.  There is a real danger the United States could be expelled from the region.  There is a real danger that the enemies of the United States, jihadis, insurgents, terrorists, al Qaeda, Shia militants are going to win a victory which is a horrendous defeat for the United States. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it is. 

BUCHANAN:  But the only thing we can do to—the only way we can avert that right now, you know, as Jack Jacobs, you want to send 500,000 Americans in there fully armed and equipped for an indefinite period of time, we can hold off that defeat. 

CARLSON:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  We can‘t do it with what we got. 

CARLSON:  No, it‘s not going to happen.

All right.  Coming up, with genuine respect for Al Sharpton—and that is heartfelt—Barack Obama‘s expected presidential run will make him the first viable black candidate for national office ever.  Will race be an issue in that race?  And will it help or will it hurt Barack Obama? 

Plus, the Duke lacrosse case, whose racial component was supposed to have exposed the Jim Crow reality of the new South has instead exposed itself as a fraud.  And a terrible one at that.  All the latest news and what comes next in Durham when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PELLEY, “60 MINUTES”:  Do you believe as commander in chief you have the authority to put the troops in there no matter what the Congress wants to do? 

BUSH:  In this situation I do, yes.  And I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it, but I‘ve made my decision and we‘re going forward. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  President Bush laid down the executive gauntlet to Congress last night.  Is he right?  Is Congress in fact powerless to steer the president‘s war policy? 

Here to tell us, Tom Curry, MSNBC.com national affairs correspondent. 

Tom, thanks for coming on. 

TOM CURRY, MSNBC.COM NATIONAL AFFAIRS WRITER:  Good to see you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Can the Democrats do anything about this? 

CURRY:  Congress could cut of the funding, as they did with the Vietnam War, or they could put conditions on the funding, as they did with Somalia back in 1994, or with some of the Reagan-era deployments to Central America in the 1980s.  So they could put either conditions on the funding or they could put an actual deadline and cut it off completely. 

CARLSON:  And yet, Nancy Pelosi who was a bitter opponent of this war and has been, unlike a lot of Democrats, really since day one, has said point blank, we‘re not cutting of funding to the troops. 

What does that mean exactly? 

CURRY:  Well, she said that back in December, early December.  And that was before the president announced his plan for an increase of 21,000 troops to Iraq.  But, you know, the Democrats right now in Congress are—some of them, anyway—are wrestling with the problem of how to pay for the things that they want to pay for in Iraq.  For example, training the Iraqi troops and wiping out any al Qaeda cells that there might be there, but not paying for the surge. 

And they are trying to sort of thread the needle, pay for what they want to

pay for, but not for the things that they don‘t want to pay for.  And it‘s

there is a great debate going on now among the Democrats in Congress over whether this is micromanagement and whether you can really do it through the supplemental spending bill that‘s going to be coming up in February and March. 

CARLSON:  So, as far as I understand it, some of the 21,500 troops that the president wants to send to Iraq are being deployed today.  I mean, this is under way, they‘re going.

Is there anything the Democrats can do in real life to stop all 21,500 from getting to Iraq? 

CURRY:  Well, John Murtha, who has been a leading opponent of the—of the Iraq war, said yesterday on one of the talk shows that, you know, by the time Congress gets around to the supplemental spending bill in February, that a number of these forces will already be deployed, and there is not much they can do about that.  But Murtha wants to put conditions on readiness. 

You k now, any new deployments after February, March, the troops being sent over there would have to meet certain readiness requirements.  You couldn‘t -- you couldn‘t deploy them before their full training was finished here in the United States.  The ones who were already there, you could not extend their deployments. 

You would have to—Congress would have to do that in the language of the supplemental spending bill itself. 

CARLSON:  Right.

CURRY:  Now, the big number here, of course, is 60 votes.  Can the proponents of that—the Murtha type approach, can they really get 60 votes in the United States Senate?  And I think that‘s a very difficult threshold to meet, because you have some Democrats like Ben Nelson from Nebraska who told me on Friday he would be very unenthusiastic about the idea of micromanaging or putting conditions on funding. 

So how they got to 60 is very difficult to see how they do that. 

CARLSON:  So, I mean, what‘s the upshot of that?  As I understand, Democrats are under intense pressure from the left, from the activist groups, particularly the online groups, to do something about the president‘s war in Iraq.  As you just said, they are not really going to do anything to stop it, at least in the immediate future. 

Could you see a third party candidate jumping into this presidential race, as happened during Vietnam, over this issue? 

CURRY:  Well, that‘s a good question.  I mean, there is certainly room in the Democratic field.  John Edwards has tried to take that spot in the Democratic field, criticizing other Democrats for not being willing to cut off funding or not being firmer in their opposition to the war.  But I think the vote in—whenever that supplemental is put to a vote, whether it‘s in February or March, you will—you will—that will be a moment of decision for both Republicans and Democrats. 

I think there is part of the Democratic rank and file who are really looking for someone not exactly Howard Dean, but someone who would have that same boldness about criticizing the war.  Whether it would be Al Gore or somebody who is not yet—not yet declared. 

The question is, for the electorate, the 2006 electorate, the people who sent these new congressmen here, do the Democrats hurt themselves more by cutting off funds or by not cutting off funds?  What did those people really want last November? 

And that‘s—you know, that‘s what members of Congress are still trying to figure out.  And I think a lot of Democrats are looking at this non-binding resolution that‘s going to come up for a vote probably the week after next. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

CURRY:  That‘s—they are looking at that as kind of a way of taking the temperature of the other members of Congress, especially in the Senate, because, again, getting to 51 doesn‘t matter.  If you can‘t get to 60...

CARLSON:  No.

CURRY:  ... and if the Republicans try to filibuster, especially the funding bill, the supplemental spending bill, then nothing will get done. 

CARLSON:  Well, and that‘s probably what we‘re likely—I wouldn‘t want to be a—as weak as Bush is, you wouldn‘t want to be a Democratic leader right now.

Tom Curry, MSNBC.com.

Thanks a lot, Tom. 

CURRY:  Good to see you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Coming up, Hillary Clinton goes to Iraq and takes off the gloves for some good old-fashioned political sniping.  Her target, the fair-haired and relatively inoffensive John Edwards. 

We‘ve got details.  Stay tuned for those.

Plus, it‘s as close to a confession as O.J. Simpson will likely ever make, and it‘s in “Newsweek” magazine this week.  If he did it, we‘ve got a pretty good idea how he did it. 

We‘ll get further into it in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Senator Barack Obama will establish an exploratory committee as early as this week, thereby unofficially announcing that he‘s running for president.  All this according to “Chicago Sun-Times” columnist Bob Novak.  Whether he‘s got the date right or not, it does seem pretty clear Obama will, in fact, run. 

Back to discuss his candidacy and put it in some context, Republican strategist Karen Hanretty and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

Pat, you ran for president a couple of times.  You know a lot about the process. 

How long before the press starts to eat Barack Obama? 

BUCHANAN:  About two weeks after he‘s in.  I think—or very soon after that. 

He‘s very attractive.  He‘s got great charisma.  He voted against the war, which puts him in good stead with 90 percent of the Democratic Party. 

But Tucker, he‘s never been vetted before.  And he‘s only two years in the Senate, and he has been in that Illinois state legislature.  And when I was in St. Louis, that was not a place of high political purity. 

So I think that—I think Barack Obama is going to have a very tough time from beginning after a couple of weeks when he gets in. 

CARLSON:  Karen, do Republicans see his entry into the race as a good thing or a bad thing?  It seems to me he‘s the one person who really could neutralize Hillary Clinton.  On the other hand, he might win. 

How are Republicans looking at this? 

HANRETTY:  Well, I don‘t think anyone thinks that—on the Republican side, I don‘t think anyone is concerned that Barack Obama is going to win.  Personally, I think there is a greater threat from John Edwards.  I think he is much more likely to beat Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama. 

But—but at the same time, I think that Republicans also underestimate Barack Obama.  I don‘t think that he‘s going to get a hard time from the media two weeks in. 

They always like to have their golden child.  And the last—the last golden child they had was John McCain, but he‘s not going to be their favorite anymore because he‘s actually supporting this war in Iraq, and he‘s supporting a surge. 

And I think that if Barack Obama does a couple of things, if he goes on “Oprah” and announces his candidacy on “Oprah,” makes himself very open and available to reporters, they will like all of that.  They will not scrutinize this book he has written, “Audacity of Hope,” and they won‘t see it for as shallow as it is.  I mean, it‘s a nice feel-good book, but it‘s hardly deep, thoughtful policy. 

You know, the same things they criticized George Bush of they are not going to criticize Barack of. 

CARLSON:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  But what is missing here is there are two people, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards, especially, with a vital, vested interest.  The presidency hangs on their bringing Barack Obama down. 

And Mrs. Clinton is married to a fellow that knows how to do this.  And I think when they get into this, these folks have their own units and attack dog units and operations research and adversary research, and they are going to dig up everything and they will feed it to a friendly press.  Whereas Hillary has been vetted. 

CARLSON:  And yet, Pat...

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead.

CARLSON:  But Pat, you saw—I mean, I agree with you completely, but Mrs.  Clinton so far has restricted her criticism really to John Edwards.  She is in Iraq now. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.

CARLSON:  And she just—her office just issued a statement saying Edwards is trying to push moderate Democrats to oppose the war on the grounds that that‘s why they were elected and they ought to do it for moral reasons.  Hillary Clinton‘s office responded that, you know, you said you were going to be positive and now you‘re being mean. 

Another example, as far as I can tell, that they fear, as Karen just said, John Edwards far more than they fear Barack Obama.  Are they right? 

BUCHANAN:  I think they might be because, again, I think, as I said—I think Barack Obama, as someone said, the trajectory is too high.  He will burn up on reentry. 

And I think that Hillary Clinton should fear Edwards more.  Frankly, the one she should really be worried about is Al Gore. 

But I do think this—once you get your opposition research and you get all this material, you don‘t get the candidates‘ hands on it.  I mean, you keep her above the battle.  You keep Edwards sort of above the battle, arguing intelligently and properly, whereas below the water line the sharks are working. 

CARLSON:  So—wait.  Hold on, Karen, very quickly, we‘ve only got 15, 20 seconds left. 

HANRETTY:  Yes.

CARLSON:  You‘re from California.  “LA Times” today, or this weekend, called for Arnold Schwarzenegger to be the—the Constitution to be changed so he could run for president. 

Is this real? 

HANRETTY:  This is such a cliche.  The “LA Times” three years ago tried to decimate Schwarzenegger because he ran on a platform of opposing tax increases and cleaning up government. 

He gets reelected three years later.  What does he do?  He‘s out there calling for universal health care, mandating that employers with as few as 10 employees provide healthcare or pay anywhere from a  four to eight percent payroll tax. 

This is about a $12 billion tax.  What a surprise that the “LA Times” all of a sudden wants Schwarzenegger for president.  Disgusting. 

CARLSON:  Not a surprise at all. 

Karen Hanretty...

HANRETTY:  I would rather have Hillary than Arnold for president. 

CARLSON:  I agree with—I agree with that.  At least she kind of is the way she seems. 

Pat Buchanan—thank you both very much. 

HANRETTY:  You know what she believes?

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.

Coming up, Mike Nifong is finally out as the prosecutor of what is left of the Duke lacrosse case.  With the North Carolina attorney general now in charge of justice for the accused and the accuser, who will deliver justice to Mike Nifong?  And what will it be? 

We‘re praying for prison.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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