updated 1/25/2007 1:16:37 PM ET 2007-01-25T18:16:37

Guests: Bill Press, Mike Murphy, Ira Mehlman

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  I don‘t know how many United States senators believe we have a coherent strategy in Iraq.  I don‘t think we‘ve ever had a coherent strategy.  In fact, I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the president talked about the other night.  There is no plan. 

There are real lives, and we better be damn sure we know what we are doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.  We better be as sure as we can be.  And I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators, to look into that camera and you tell your people back home what you think. 

Don‘t hide anymore.  None of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  That was Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska this morning on Capitol Hill. 

In his State of the Union Address last night, President Bush asked Congress to give his new plan for Iraq time to succeed.  Senator Hagel gave it fewer than 12 hours. 

A few hours after that, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee joined Hagel, passing a nonbinding resolution against the president‘s Iraq plan.  Bush never had a chance. 

When you are immersed in the munitia of news, particularly political news, it‘s hard to step back far enough to see what‘s really happening.  Well, in this case, here‘s what‘s happening.

President Bush and the Congress, Democrats, and to some extent, Republicans, are now in open war over the war in Iraq.  Bush is wholly committed to victory there.  The Congress increasingly is committed to leaving.

In the end, Congress will win.  Of course, the president is the commander in chief, he is technically in charge of the military and of foreign policy, but in America, public opinion, whether it‘s right or wrong, always prevails.  And Congress has the public on its side on this issue.

So it‘s time to start thinking seriously about what it will mean to retreat from Iraq.  That‘s something the advocates of withdrawal have until now rarely done.

We are getting out.  Will we be weaker or stronger when we do?  And when Iraq devolves into the most vicious civil war ever televised—think of Rwanda with oil money—when Iran moves in to fill the vacuum when we leave, when the entire region explodes, what then?  Will we go back? 

Now it‘s time to figure that out.

Well, joining us now with deep insight into today‘s news, Bill Press, nationally syndicated radio talk show host and author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion,” and Mike Murphy, the legendary Republican consultant. 

Welcome to you both.

So, Mike—welcome.  Leaving Los Angeles, joining us here in Washington. 

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT:  Absolutely.

CARLSON:  Great to see you.

So, Chuck Hagel, whom I like, who is actually very conservative on most things, goes completely ballistic today.  He yelled today in a clip that we didn‘t show.

He said, “This may be difficult for some of you, but too bad.  You want a safe job?  Go sell shoes.”

MURPHY:  Right.

CARLSON:  Did the president ever have any hope of winning people over like Hagel and others in his party to support his plan? 

MURPHY:  Well, I think it‘s hard.  I think Chuck is a pretty good guy, but he‘d clearly got an endless loop of network on his own VCR.

You know, he‘s doing the angry bit, but he believes it.  I mean, you‘ve got to give him some credit.

CARLSON:  He does believe it.

MURPHY:  Yes, he‘s been there from the beginning.  He‘s been a critic of this thing. 

I don‘t think he is in the mainstream of most Republican thinking, but he is on the outside edge of a great feeling of unease in Republican circles about where the war is going.  And I think—the problem here is, a lot of unease is focused on will the Iraqis step up? 

CARLSON:  Right.

MURPHY:  The president is kind of trapped.  I mean, he‘s—he‘s trying a proactive strategy.  The only other strategy is to be passive, let it get worse, and eventually leave.  The president has rejected that, which has kind of boxed him into the other alternative.  And I think there is a lot of Republican nervousness because there‘s been such a weak track record of the Iraqis stepping up. 

CARLSON:  Well, here‘s the flip side.  Do you know of any Republicans who are standing up, being counted, and saying, I support the president‘s foreign policy?  Where are they?

MURPHY:  Well, John McCain, Lindsey Graham. 

CARLSON:  OK.

MURPHY:  There are some.  But I think most Republicans are kind of in the tall grass right now, quietly supporting it but being afraid, as you said in your intro, of the public opinion pressure around this thing. 

It‘s very hard to fight a partisan war.  And the president‘s finding that out.  Even when it‘s in the national interest, because our democracy doesn‘t allow it. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

MURPHY:  But his biggest political problems are actually not in Baghdad, where everybody talks about a playbook solution.  They‘re right here, because without support he can‘t sustain it, and the only chance (INAUDIBLE) has to work is if it‘s sustained.

CARLSON:  I agree with that.

This is over, Bill, as far as I can tell.  I mean, I think in a contest, in a battle between, as I said a minute ago, the Congress and the president, the Congress almost always has a closer feel for what the public is thinking, the Congress is going to win. 

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Right.  I just want to see one thing about Hagel.  Right?  As a Democrat...

CARLSON:  Yes.

PRESS:  ... I fear that Chuck Hagel becomes the Republican nominee for president, because I think he would be—he would be the toughest guy for Republicans. 

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  Not John McCain, whom we were all... 

CARLSON:  Chuck Hagel is no liberal.  Chuck Hagel is angry at the president. 

PRESS:  No, that‘s right.  But...

CARLSON:  But he is not—I mean, if you actually looks at what Chuck Hagel votes for, you wouldn‘t agree with any of it, probably, apart from Iraq. 

PRESS:  I agree.  But on the signature issue of Iraq, he is standing up, he‘s shown the anger, he‘s shown the passion, he‘s got the war record.  I think he‘s just a tremendous leader. 

Now, we talked the last time we were on this show about the fact that on the Republican side there‘s a vacuum for someone who is going to stand up and openly oppose this war.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

PRESS:  And it could be—it could be Chuck Hagel.

But I have to agree with you.  I think it‘s over. 

Yesterday, before the State of the Union, Tucker, I spent a lot of time across the street at the Capitol with members of the Senate, members of the House, in briefings before the state of the union.  They‘re organized.  They‘ve got a plan.

Republicans and Democrats are going to go ahead with this resolution in the Senate, and then the resolution in the House.

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  And then they‘re going to follow that up with whatever legal action they can take to limit the time or the nature of the deployment of troops.  And I think with public opinion and with the United States Congress, bipartisan, on record against it, they told us they had 58 votes yesterday for the toughest resolution. 

CARLSON:  I believe that.  I totally—Mike, before we get to Iraq, I just want to...

MURPHY:  Sure.

CARLSON:  ... sort of parenthetical note since you‘ve run campaigns for two of the candidates in this race, McCain and Romney...

MURPHY:  Right, sure.

CARLSON:  ... and you know everybody in Republican politics, is Hagel actually going to run for president? 

MURPHY:  Yes, I think he‘s going to run.  I don‘t know that.  He‘s acting like he is.

CARLSON:  When does he have to announce?

MURPHY:  Well, here‘s the interesting thing about the Hagel candidacy.  I think there will be a little Washington boom (ph) for him because he‘s interesting.  He‘s a young Colin now.

CARLSON:  Right.

MURPHY:  He‘s the one standing up, and he‘s the only guy competing for the 25 percent of the Republican base that doesn‘t like the war. 

CARLSON:  Right.

MURPHY:  Maybe it‘s 20, maybe it‘s 30.  A year from now, when the primaries start, it may be 50, because I disagree that it‘s over. 

What I think has happened is the shock clock has started.  The president played a card last night, one more chance.  He has the power of commander in chief to enforce one more chance.

The problem is, this drumbeat, this pounding against him from the Congress, from the public, will continue, which will limit his options to how long he has.  But I don‘t think it‘s immediately over.  I actually think there‘s going to be a whole new chapter in this, which is, in the next eight weeks, before we even have all the troops there for Petraeus, if the Maliki government doesn‘t get tough, then the drumbeat will begin, and now what?  They already... 

CARLSON:  Well, it strikes me as politically perilous for Democrats because up until now it has been Bush‘s war, and it is Bush‘s war.  I mean, he conceived of it, he prosecuted it, he‘s been a main cheerleader.  But once the Democrats force—squarely force the troops home and Iraq does devolve into this nightmare—and it will—that‘s their responsibility, to some extent. 

MURPHY:  Yes, they‘re in a box, too, because they really don‘t—their plan essentially is to wait eight, 10, 12, six months, and tell the Iraqi politicians, get your act together, and basically hold our military on their bases in Iraq and try to minimize casualties.  Bush‘s plan is to put them on the street and start shooting bad guys and try to stabilize the situation that way. 

I think the third turn of this thing, which will come in a month or two, will be the Biden idea, which I actually think is a pretty good one. 

CARLSON:  Partition.

MURPHY:  Which is use the surge to cover a migration of civilian population into the federal partition, which will be a mess.  It‘s a bad alternative, but it may wind up being the only reistic alternative in the end if the Iraqis don‘t stand up to this.

CARLSON:  I wonder, Bill—David Petraeus, who‘s now the—by everyone‘s

acclaim, the smartest guy in uniform in the U.S. military who‘s now taken

over the Iraq war, he was on  Capitol Hill yesterday and he told Congress -

he told the Senate, pointblank, these resolutions you‘re about to pass hurt us.  They empower the insurgents, they signify American weakness, they put our troops, in essence, at risk. 

Kind of a big deal.  He‘s not some—he‘s not a FOX news commentator. 

He‘s General Petraeus.  Like, how do you respond to that?

PRESS:  He‘s one general among other generals. 

CARLSON:  Well, he‘s the general in charge. 

PRESS:  No, no, no.  I know—now.  But he wasn‘t two weeks ago.

Before it was Casey, and Casey said no more troops in Baghdad, that‘s not the answer.  Abizaid came in front of the Senate and said no more troops in Iraq, that‘s not the answer. 

I mean, I think you‘re right.  Petraeus, I‘ve heard, is the smartest general around.  I used to think that before he took this job. 

I mean, I wonder, seriously, whoever would take this job at this time and this place and think that they could succeed and get the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police to step up and do the job that they haven‘t done for the last four years?  You know, Tucker, they can‘t even get a quorum in the Iraqi legislator to meet.  And we‘re depending on that government...

CARLSON:  No, no, they‘re pathetic.  I‘m in no way defending the Iraqi...

PRESS:  But what I‘m saying is that‘s the—top me, that‘s the fatal flaw of the plan. 

The peril for the Democrats, I believe, is to do anything that in any way can be construed to undermining or undercutting the troops that are there now.  And  they‘re very, very aware of that.

CARLSON:  Well, they‘re cowards.  They‘re cowards.

PRESS:  They‘re not cowards.

CARLSON:  Yes they are. 

PRESS:  They support the troops and they don‘t want to pull any...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  It‘s all double talk.  It‘s bumper stickers—you can‘t get up there and say this war is pointless, we are losing, every day we remain there is a compound tragedy, and then allow the president to keep our troops there.  You have a moral obligation to do everything you can, if you believe that, to get them home as soon as you can.

PRESS:  Well, that‘s what they‘re saying and that‘s what they‘re going to try to do in four to six months, gradually.  And, by the way, not bring them all home.  A lot of them will stay in the region.  So if the worst happens, which you predict, I don‘t think is going to happen—I agree with Mike.  I think it‘s going to be—if Iraq is—if we get out of there, Iraq‘s going to go a separate way, three different states, and the bloodbath is over. 

CARLSON:  You have 30 seconds on this point.

MURPHY:  Without our forces aggressive under a great general like Petraeus to supervise the rearrangement into the federal regions, the kind of partition strategy, it will be a bloodbath.  And the Democrats are trying to have it both ways.  They want to say, don‘t bring the troops home, but don‘t leave them there, which is intellectually dishonest.

CARLSON:  I can‘t think of a partition that hasn‘t become a bloodbath.  When Pakistan was created—I mean, you know what I mean?  Every single time.

MURPHY:  Civil war is a bloodbath...

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  They said that about Vietnam, it was a domino theory.  It didn‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  And in fact it was a bloodbath.  The second we left...

PRESS:  That is not going to happen here.

CARLSON:  But millions of people were enslaved, hundreds of thousands were killed in Indochina.  Nobody cares, of course, but...

PRESS:  But we have a bloodbath now.

CARLSON:  Not to the extent we will.  You‘ll see.

I hope I‘m wrong.

Coming up, bipartisanship not—when is it not bipartisanship?  When it‘s one Republican, the president, and the whole Democratic Party agreeing on something—immigration in this case.  Can President Bush get his own party to back his liberal plans for the border?

Plus, for a guy with an approval rating in the toilet, President Bush still causes quite a stir when he comes to Capitol Hill.  Stay tuned for autograph seekers, the Vulcan death grip of Dennis Kucinich, the only vegan in Congress, and the rest of the ridiculous moments from last night‘s State of the Union Address.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  One of the longest and apparently most sincere ovations of last night‘s State of the Union Address came in response to the president‘s call for immigration reform.  It‘s a subject on which Mr. Bush shares more common ground with Democrats than with fellow Republicans.  That is to say, Mr. Bush favors a more liberal immigration policy than his own party does. 

Here to react to the president‘s proposals, their potential effect, and their potential to be enacted, if any, is Ira Mehlman.  He‘s the media director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Ira, thanks for coming on.

IRA MEHLMAN, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Is it—it seems to me that Bush is much more likely to get his so-called immigration reform through Congress now that there‘s a Democratically-controlled Congress. 

Is that your impression?

MEHLMAN:  There is a somewhat better chance, but it‘s by no means a slam-dunk.  There are already statements that have been put out by people like Charlie Rangel, who have said that there‘s no way they‘re going to go along with...

CARLSON:  He said so on this show yesterday.

MEHLMAN:  Yes, that there‘s no way they‘re going to go along with the guest worker program.

CARLSON:  Right.

MEHLMAN:  He called that the next best thing to slavery. 

And I think that is an uncompromisable position for the president.  He will not accept anything that doesn‘t have...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, explain—I mean, let me just flesh it out in one sentence to make certain I understand it.  The president is proposing that illegal aliens already in this country go through a series of steps in order to become citizens that include paying fines, learning English, going back to their home countries... 

MEHLMAN:  Right.  It‘s basically amnesty with a few provisions packed on. 

CARLSON:  Right.  And the Democrats just want amnesty—you‘re here, you snuck in, you‘re a now a citizen. 

MEHLMAN:  Right.  I mean, even the president‘s proposal is basically just amnesty.  There‘s a $2,000 fine, which in most cases is less than they paid the smuggler to get into the country in the first place.  So that‘s no big obstacle.

The other stuff, you know, like staying out of prison, learning a little bit of English, paying your taxes, those are all things you‘d expect from anybody.  As a matter of fact, most Americans would probably want to take the tax deal.  You just tell the IRS how much you earned over the past five years and pay taxes on that.

But, you know, essentially, it is amnesty.  I think on that score, he and the Democratic leadership are at least in sync.  But the president wants a massive guest worker program on top of that.

CARLSON:  Right.

MEHLMAN:  And I don‘t think the Democrats are prepared to go for that.  I‘m not even sure the Democrats—the pragmatic side of the Democratic Party, thinks it‘s such a good idea to go home to the voters after 12 years in the wilderness and say, hey, the first thing we did was approve an amnesty for 12 or 15 million illegal aliens.

CARLSON:  Yes, I can imagine that.  Though there seemed to be no political repercussions for the Republicans in ‘86 when Reagan did something similar.

I wonder what organized labor is in this.  If you represent people who—

Americans who work with their hands and want decents wages for doing so, it‘s obviously not in your interest to have a lot of people from Honduras coming here who will undercut the wages of your members. 

Aren‘t unions opposed to the guest worker program?

MEHLMAN:  Well, there is a schism in the labor movement.  There are some unions, those that are dominated by immigrants, and the government employee unions that see the immigrants as their—as their clients. 

On the other side, you have the old trade unions.  You have the building trades...

CARLSON:  Right.

MEHLMAN:  ... some of—some of those.  They are not for it.  And I think there is a schism in the labor movement that is going to become more and more evident as this debate moves along. 

CARLSON:  And quickly, tell me what the status of English-only legislation that apparently is going to be coming before Congress is.  I mean, are we going to see attempts in the next year to make English the official language in the United States?  And will they succeed? 

MEHLMAN:  You know, they may.  I doubt very much.  And it really is a side issue. 

If we had a rational immigration policy in this country that let people in at a limited rate, allowed them to assimilate into the linguistic and cultural mainstream, and economic mainstream of this country, the language issue would go away on itself.  You cannot legislate the language. 

Eventually, if you have so many people coming into the country who don‘t speak English, you‘re going to have problems, no matter what the law says.

CARLSON:  We certainly are.

Ira Mehlman, thanks very much.  I appreciate it.

MEHLMAN:  Thanks.

CARLSON:  Coming up, fingers point from all angles over the Bush administration in the Scooter Libby trial.  Is it Dick Cheney‘s fault?  Is it Karl Rove‘s fault?  The most confusing and compelling case in recent history drags some of the president‘s men through the judicial mud.

We‘ll have the latest on that.

So we don‘t have John Kerry to kick around anymore.  Well, we‘re still going to kick him around anyway.  He is not running for president, it turns out.  He just announced it today in a very teary manner. 

We‘ll give you excerpts from his speech, if you can stand it.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I‘ve concluded this isn‘t the time for me to mount a presidential campaign.  It is the time to put my energy to work as part of the majority in the Senate to do all I can to end this war and strengthen our security and our ability to fight the real war on terror.  The people of Massachusetts have given me an incredible privilege to serve, and I intend to work here to change a policy in Iraq that threatens all that I have cared about and fought for since I came home from Vietnam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  It‘s official.  After the leading Democratic hopefuls in the race for president trotter themselves out all over the dial late last night, the ‘04 candidate, John Kerry, just hours ago announced that he will not seek and apparently will not accept his party‘s nomination in the presidential election—though of course he would accept it if he gave it to him—and they won‘t.

The embryonic phase of choosing the next American president is passing ever so quickly. 

Back for more politics, Bill Press, author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion,” and the great Mike Murphy, Republican consultant.

Bill, this is sad.  It was sad to watch John Kerry cry up there today.  And it‘s sad the contempt with which he is treated by fellow Democrats.  This is the guy who even today, as we speak, is the leader of the Democratic Party. 

He‘s the last nominee for president the Democrats have had, and they treat him like a stepchild.  They despise him. 

How unfair.

PRESS:  Tucker, that‘s the first time I have ever heard you say—even tongue in cheek—anything good about John Kerry. 

CARLSON:  No, I have before.

PRESS:  I‘m a big John Kerry fan.  I think he would have made a geat president of the United States.  But his time has come and gone. 

I think John Kerry made the right decision today, and the realistic decision, which is, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards, not to mention the seven others, from Biden to Dodd, all down the list, who have announced, this is not John Kerry‘s time.  He wouldn‘t make it, and he recognizes that.  And he‘s not going to go for it.

Good for him.

CARLSON:  Well, gosh, I wish he would have just said that, Mike.  Instead, he treated us to—I don‘t know, it was about nine hours long.  It was like a Fidel Castro speech.  This history of Iraq, it was like a freshman seminar on the history of the Middle East. 

He‘s a crashing bore, this guy.

MURPHY:  Well, no.  I actually can dredge up a little sympathy for him today. 

CARLSON:  I can, too, but...

MURPHY:  You know, he came close.  And the problem is it‘s a donkey, donkey world in presidential politics.  And he‘s old and he lost.  And that‘s death.

And so he wanted to run, but they had to quietly get out the elephant gun over the last couple of weeks and let him have it and tell him, you can‘t.  This wasn‘t his choice.  This was reality crushing the poor guy down.

CARLSON:  It‘s so sad.

MURPHY:  I forgive him being able to, you know, sit there in the Senate and ramble on for a while.  It‘s hard.  It‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  It‘s like the final seen “Of Mice and Men,” when George takes the gun to Lenny for his own good and just blows him into the next world.

MURPHY:  Exactly.

PRESS:  That‘s why they call it hardball.  But there‘s no rule that if you try and lose that you get first shot the next time around. 

CARLSON:  Of course there‘s not.  It‘s just that...

PRESS:  In fact, it‘s just like the opposite rule.

CARLSON:  He‘s treated like the drunk relative who shows up at Christmas uninvited. 

PRESS:  No he‘s not.

CARLSON:  Like, who is this guy, John Kerry?

PRESS:  Who treats him that way?

CARLSON:  I don‘t want to be mean to John—part of me bleeds for him. 

PRESS:  Don‘t be.

CARLSON:  I‘m interested in Rudy Giuliani, whether or not he‘s going to run for president.

Mike, as you know, he is leading a number of these national polls.  I‘m not sure how significant they are, because they‘re not state by state.  But “The Politico,” this new publication, today quotes a number of people who know him and who work for him and who you‘d have to talk to in order to run for president, who say he‘s not running, he‘s just flirting with it, he could never actually run. 

MURPHY:  They‘re all wrong.  He‘s running.  He‘s been running for a year. 

Here‘s what I think really happened.

CARLSON:  Really?  You really believe that? 

MURPHY:  Yes, I‘d bet money right no, $5,000, he‘s running.

What happened was—Rudy has been running for a long time, quietly, and they had a plan.  The plan was to jump in late and be exciting, because there‘s kind of a media elevator slot to be late and exciting.

CARLSON:  Right.

MURPHY:  Thought he‘d grap that.  Not a bad strategy. 

The problem is, there has been so much process interest in this very, very early stage with all this kind of silly—it‘s a great case study of how silly all the process reporting is, who‘s got what pin on what map and who‘s got what Hispanic focus group coordinator hired, that it made him look weak that he wasn‘t playing in that silly pre-season stuff. 

CARLSON:  Right.

MURPHY:  Which, by the way, is highly overrated and is a great way to blow a lot of money in a campaign.

But now Rudy went from the cagey guy holding back to the guy who—he hasn‘t (ph) hired some useless county chairman somewhere who can‘t deliver a pizza, let alone a vote.  But he looked weak.  And I think he is showing a lack of national political savvy by not sticking to the strategy that might have paid off for him, but investing in, because of a few bad process articles and Web sites that nobody but geeks like us read say he‘s in trouble. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  If you‘ll lend me $5,000, I want to bet.  I want to take that bet. 

CARLSON:  Well, here‘s one of the quotes.  Let me just read it to you. 

This is a former Giuliani aide, OK?  Not named.

“I‘m having a real hard time believing the guy is taking it seriously.” 

“In 2000”—remember, he was talking about running for the Senate—

“there was this feeling that he didn‘t have to play by all the rules that little people have to play by, and I see that even more strongly now.”

PRESS:  Yes.  I mean, look...

CARLSON:  He‘s taking a lot of heat.

PRESS:  I think he‘s going to—I think he‘d love to be president of the United States.  Number one, I don‘t think he can get the nomination.  I think he‘s kidding himself.  And when he gets out there—I mean, everybody loves Rudy Giuliani now because of 9/11.

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  They‘ve seen the pictures of him, the towers are falling, and he was a mensch at that time.  But when he gets out in the Republican primary and he says, yes, I am pro-choice, I am pro-gay rights, and I am pro-gun control, and yes I had a mistress and I‘m proud of it, he‘s going to go down in flames.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I agree with that. 

Coming up, President Bush almost said the words “global warming” last night, but not quite.  Can the administration actually get something done about climate change, or was the president playing to his Democratic audience?  And what‘s the use of that?

Plus, justice is still undone in the Duke rape hoax, but there was another important step on the path to righteousness and justice today.  We‘ll tell you who‘s getting what when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  One of the more interesting elements of last night‘s political theater was the picture of Dick Cheney, freshly accused of bad behavior in federal court, sitting over President Bush‘s left shoulder during the State of the Union Address.  Both Mr. Cheney and the president‘s resident political master-mind Karl Rove were dragged into the record yesterday in the Scooter Libby trial.  Neither was accused of crimes, but they were both accuse of political malfeasance of various kinds by prosecuting and defense attorneys. 

Here with today‘s developments in the ever confusing, but compelling case, MSNBC‘s David Shuster, who joins us from the courthouse, David. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well Tucker, what prosecutors are doing now is they had two witnesses testify this morning, saying that they told Scooter Libby about Joe and Valerie Wilson before Scooter Libby‘s conversations later with reports. 

The prosecutors are trying to show that when Scooter Libby said he learned about Valerie Wilson from reports, this was a deliberate lie.  But we just had in the courtroom, just a few minutes ago, perhaps the most compelling testimony in this case today, was from a CIA briefer, the guy who would who provide Scooter Libby with his morning intelligence briefing a couple of days a week, and then a couple of days a week during the relevant time period was providing a morning intelligence briefing to both Scooter Libby and Vice President Cheney. 

The briefer provided compelling testimony about how these briefings happened and the note taking that the briefer does.  In other words, the briefer testified that if Libby had a question or an issue for the CIA to follow up, or just something that he wanted the CIA briefer to know, the briefer would write it down.  And what was so compelling for the prosecution about the latest testimony is this was the first document introduced in which you see somebody actually writing down the name Valerie Wilson and Joe Wilson, prompted by something that was said by Scooter Libby. 

In other words, so far we‘ve had testimony from people, saying they told Scooter Libby.  This is the first time we‘ve had a government official, in this case a CIA briefer, he was told something by Joe and Valerie Wilson and it prompted him to write it down and take the issue to the C.I.A.  What‘s so crucial about this is this morning briefing came on June 14th of 2003.  There is another episode before Scooter Libby said he started having conversations with reporters. 

The other thing that was interesting about this, Tucker, is that there was another briefing a month later in July, in which the briefer said he was briefing both Vice President Cheney and Scooter Libby, and there was yet another notation.  The briefer said he does not remember whether it was Cheney or Libby who prompted him to write this, but he wrote down, did you read the Novak article, not your problem? 

He testified that he said to whoever had asked him this, either Cheney or Libby, no I haven‘t read the Novak article, which had just come out.  And then he testified that he later read the article had a conversation with either the vice president or Scooter Libby and said, you know, this could be really dangerous to the CIA if, in fact, Valerie Plame‘s identity was revealed.  This could cause a lot of damage.

Again, Scooter Libby is not accused of leaking her identity, but prosecutors are trying to show the state of mind that Scooter Libby had about this episode in the Summer of 2003, and give the jury a reason why they might believe Scooter Libby would then go to the FBI and the grand jury and blame this on reporters, as opposed to saying, I learned from the vice president.  I learned about the Wilsons from an under-secretary of state.  I learned about the Wilsons from a press secretary for the vice president, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  David Shuster, the only reporter I know, and I mean this sincerely, who could actually condense the case down to that.  This is very complicated, admirable. 

SHUSTER:  And Tucker, can I give you one note about Tom and Penelope Cruz, one funny thing that you especially would appreciate.  Among the things that were noted in this June 14th, 2003 briefing, apparently Scooter Libby told the briefer how excited he was that he had just met the actor Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruise.  The briefer excited, that was another notation.  The briefer testified the reason that Scooter Libby met with Tom Cruise was because Tom Cruise wanted to talk about Germany‘s treatment of Scientologists.  There you have it Tucker.

CARLSON:  You know, the more you learn about the world, the weirder it is.  And I‘m glad you‘re there to tell us about it.  David Shuster from the court house.  Thanks a lot David. 

Well for more on this and other news, we‘re joined once again, we‘re proud to be, by Bill Press, author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion,” and by Mike Murphy, really one of the most famous Republican political consultants there is. 

I must say Bill, in two years we‘re almost certain to get a Democratic president and during the course of that president‘s term or terms there is almost certainly going to be a criminal investigation of the behavior of that president‘s staff, at that point I will stand up and say, you know what, if this investigation veers into the wild and takes off in a different direction from which it started, I will denounce it as wrong, as I think you ought to denounce this.  This is actually demented.  Leaking Valerie Plame‘s name is not a crime.  Let‘s remember that.  It was not a crime.  No one is being prosecuted for it.  What the hell is all of this?

PRESS:  No, it is a crime.  Nobody got caught doing it. 

CARLSON:  What do you mean?  Everybody got caught doing it.  Like nine different people have conceded doing it.

PRESS:  Well, Fitzgerald has not yet caught the person who deliberately leaked. 

CARLSON:  Yes he has. 

PRESS:  No he hasn‘t.  No, Scooter Libby is not charged with that.  It is a crime.  He didn‘t catch anybody doing it.  I happen to think, by the way, that Scooter Libby is a scapegoat.  First of all, as a talk show host, I think this is delicious, this trial, because you have the whole Bush team turning against each other to save their own political ass. 

CARLSON:  Well no their political ass.  I mean, Scooter Libby may go to prison, like real prison, adult prison. 

PRESS:  No, he‘s not.  The prosecution is going after Dick Cheney and they‘re going after Karl Rove, and watch, they‘re going to go after Ari Fleischer as well.  So all of these Bushies who have be so tight are suddenly falling apart.  And Tucker, you‘ve got to admit that that is fun to watch.  

CARLSON:  And I loved the impeachment with Bill Clinton, but when you stand back you realize the way to solve political differences is at the ballot box.  That‘s something that Democrats used to talk a lot about, but, of course, they have fewer principles than most people. 

PRESS:  The way to solve political differences is not to leak the identity of an undercover CIA agent in order to get to her husband. 

CARLSON:  Under cover CIA agent—

PRESS:  She was.

CARLSON:  No she wasn‘t.

MURPHY:  I‘ve quietly slipped into a coma.  I‘m so bored with this whole thing.  It‘s right out of Linden LaRuche‘s (ph) dream journal, you know, red Chinese and all that.  I hope Scooter gets off for the simple reason that the “New York Post” will be able to do a headline, “Scooter Skates on All Charges.”  That‘s pretty the level I‘m at on this thing. 

PRESS:  But you‘re forgetting the most important point, which is Tom Cruise.  I would have been interested in meeting Tom Cruise as well, particularly since Scientology has now identified him as the new Jesus of today. 

CARLSON:  What‘s so interesting about that is you remember—

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:   ... just year after year.  It infuriated me.  No one else mentioned it.  And now to find out that the Bush administration is actually doing the same thing is very upsetting. 

PRESS:  They rule the world.

MURPHY:  There‘s a saucer right out there watching us.

CARLSON:  And I mean that with all due respect to Elrond Hubbard and descendants.  I want to get to a story that actually has not been, as far I know, in any major metropolitan daily news paper.  And it ought to be. It concern the congressional black caucus, which is, I think, 100 percent Democrat.  It is.  And a man named Steve Cohen, who just was elected to Congress from Memphis, Tennessee from a 60 percent black district.  The man he replaced, of course, ran for Senate and lost. 

While he campaigned Cohen said, look, if I get elected from this mostly black district, I‘m going to try to join the congressional black caucus.  He gets elected.  He tries and they say, sorry whitey, you‘re not allowed because you‘re white.  That‘s why.  They don‘t apologize for it.  Bill Plight (ph) from St. Louis says, look, you know, this is pretty clear. 

This is the way we do things.  He admits its. 

Nobody says anything about this.  It‘s over the top actually.

MURPHY:  I‘m shocked, shocked, identity politics out of control in America? 

CARLSON:  No but to bar someone because of the color of his skin—can‘t you agree that‘s wrong? 

MURPHY:  Well, in matters of the black caucus very little things are agreed to as horrible.  So, I think it‘s one of the things weird things that is offensive, yet totally accepted. 

CARLSON:  I know a lot of members of the black caucus personally.  I know a couple of them very well and I like them and I think they‘re decent people.  So, I am shocked actually, that decent people I know would bar someone from membership because of the color of his skin is so immoral, I‘m surprised that people I really like would participate in that. 

PRESS:  Well, I think there‘s a good reason why nobody else in the media is talking about it is, because it‘s not a big deal.  Tucker, there‘s a Democratic caucus, Republicans are not allowed.  There‘s a Hispanic caucus, and non-Hispanics are not allowed in.  There are probably 50 caucuses—

CARLSON:  If there was a white caucus, you would be leading with that every day on your show, saying that‘s the worst thing I‘ve ever heard.

PRESS:  No, here‘s the difference, you know—

(CROSS TALK)

PRESS:  You could have a white caucus.  The problem is with a white caucus comes all the memories of slavery and segregation and discrimination. 

CARLSON:  That‘s so stupid.  That‘s why people don‘t like liberals, because they say stuff like that. 

PRESS:  Look, I wouldn‘t have problems if whites have a caucus.  I‘m saying they will inherit some problems which the blacks don‘t.  Mike‘s right.  It‘s identify politics.  It‘s always happened.

(CROSS TALK)

PRESS: I live in Washington and I thought I was the most cynical person I know, but apparently not, because obviously everyone else feels the same way you guys do, not a big deal.  Here‘s the point, shouldn‘t we be at least trying or paying lip service to the idea that we are trying to move away from excluding people on basis of their immutable physical characteristics like skin color?  Shouldn‘t we say that‘s wrong?

PRESS:  We have.  We made a terrific progress in the last 200 years and so today, because of that progress, if today a group of blacks want to get together, or a group of Hispanics or a group of Asians, and just have a caucus among themselves, what‘s wrong with that.  What‘s wrong with that?  

CARLSON:  But it‘s illegal.  If I have a country club and I say only people of a certain skin color can join, the Justice Department opens an investigation and I go to jail.  They close the place down if I do that.  And you‘re making apologies for this being productive in Congress? 

PRESS:  I think it trivializes segregation or discrimination to compare an all white or non-Jew country club to the black caucus just having a meeting to discuss policy. 

MURPHY:  It‘s incredibly intellectually dishonest, but that‘s identity politics for you.  When we start dividing up our identity based on our gene code and excluding each other, it‘s bad for America and it‘s bad for politics, but it‘s the state of our popular culture. 

CARLSON:  You know, honestly, I really believe in my heart it is bad for our country.  It‘s bad when white people, and they do it a lot, and it‘s bad when black people, and they do it a lot.  And it‘s bad for our country.  And I don‘t want to be a bystander.  People kill each other over this stuff in the rest of the world.

MURPHY:  But looking for intellectual purity in Congress—

CARLSON:  You‘re right, you‘re right—

MURPHY:  Standing ovation for earmark reform. 

CARLSON:  I am hereby baptized by reality.  Thank you guys. 

PRESS:  Charlie Rangel, go ahead, call any meeting you want.

CARLSON:  Mike Murphy, Bill Press, thank you both very much. 

Coming up, we‘ve got the latest from the Duke lacrosse fraud.  Finally prosecutor Mike Nifong is in increasingly volumes of hot water.  How much water, how hot is it?  We‘ll tell you right after the break.

Plus, President Bush got exactly one thing exactly right in his talk last night, Wesley Autry, the New York subway hero is utterly excellent.  The real highlights of Washington‘s big night with the great Willie Geist, coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  If Durham, North Carolina district attorney Mike Nifong has half a brain, and that‘s an open question, he‘ll run for hills and never come back.  The North Carolina State Bar Association is adding ethics charges to the complaint it filed against Nifong, charges that could get him disbarred.  Will it happen?  Say your prayers.  Here with details MSNBC general manager and NBC News chief legal correspondent Dan Abrams.  Dan welcome, what does this mean? 

DAN ABRAMS, NBC NEWS CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, this means that these ethics charges you and I have talked about are a much bigger deal now.  I mean, up to this points, the allegations against Mike Nifong in front of the North Carolina Bar Association have really focused on public statements that he made.  Should he have said them?  Did he cross the line in terms of what he can say and should say, et cetera? 

Those are significant, but they‘re nowhere near as important as the ones we are hearing about now.  Now, we are hearing that the bar has leveled allegations against Nifong, ranging from effectively lying to the court, to failing to turn over important exculpatory evidence to the defense team, not telling the defense that he had DNA evidence that could help their case, not telling the court about certain test results, et cetera. 

These are very serious allegations.  I mean, you can talk about what people should and shouldn‘t say in public.  When you‘re alleging that a prosecutor may have lied to the court, that‘s a big deal. 

CARLSON:  Can Nifong keep his job as the elected D.A. while this investigation unfolds or is he going to resign?  What happens next?

ABRAMS:  That‘s up to him.  For now, he is, like anybody else, presumed innocent.  These are allegations. 

CARLSON:  Not by me. 

ABRAMS:  And look, not by me.  I mean, I called on Mike Nifong many times on my show, when I had that show, to explain himself, to explain why he saying one thing when he absolutely knew that the facts didn‘t support it.  He never was willing to come on the show.  He was never willing to defend himself publicly and now we are learning that the reason may be because he didn‘t have anything to say in his defense.  Now, we‘ll see.  he‘s got a lawyer. 

We‘ll see what happens, but Mike Nifong is in a lot more trouble today than he was even last week. 

CARLSON:  So where does this leave the case?  I mean, it is now in the hands of another prosecutor.  Can that prosecutor proceed with the case, given that it was originally brought by a man whose personal ethics are now being called into serious question by his fellow lawyers? 

ABRAMS:  I would say almost put aside the personal questions about Mike Nifong and ask yourself—you asked this question—what does it mean for the case?  If the bar association is coming forward and saying, this evidence, exculpatory evidence, this evidence that would help the defense is so important, and this D.A. never turned it over, that tells you, in a way, how the bar association feels about this case. 

Now, as you know, the North Carolina attorney general now has control of the case.  Nifong stepped down as a result of the allegations.  So now the attorney general is going to evaluate all the evidence, but you and I have talked about this.  I‘d be stunned if the attorney general moves forward with this case based on the evidence they have. 

CARLSON:  Well here‘s another question that I posed to you before, but hope springs eternal, so let me ask it again: in the wake of these new developments, these ethics charges, does this open Nifong, in any way, up to legal vulnerability?  Can he be sued for the terrible misdeeds he‘s committed? 

ABRAMS:  Well look, He can certainly be sued for comments that he made publicly, meaning outside of court records.  Prosecutors, lawyers are generally protected for statements that they make, for example, in briefs or in oral arguments, but they are not protected the minute they walk outside the courthouse and they make certain statements.  Remember though that even as a prosecutor, you can‘t file a statement with a court that turns out to be a lie. 

Again, I don‘t think you‘re going to see criminal charges against Nifong here.  I do expect severe punishment against Nifong.  And I would expect that he very well may get sued by the families for statements that he made publicly.

CARLSON:  The day that I go to Dunkin Donuts in Durham and there‘s Mike Nifong behind the counter handing me a half dozen crawlers, that‘s going to be the happiest day of my life. 

ABRAMS:  I would not be surprised if, as a result of the allegations we see here, that Mike Nifong ultimately loses his law license.

CARLSON:  Amen.  What a blessing that would be.  Dan Abrams, thanks a lot.

ABRAMS:  All right Tucker.

CARLSON:  For once, President Bush was not the biggest star in the room last night.  The New York City subway hero stole the show at the State of the Union.  He will steal ours when we come right back with Willie Geist. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Joining us now one of the very few heroic American not singled out by the president last night for special praise, but one who should have been.  He is, of course, Willie Geist. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  It was a glaring omission Tucker.  You‘re right, I‘m still upset about it.  A lot people were calling that night somber last night, but you know us.  We find it wildly entertaining. 

Here‘s what we‘re talking about, in a chamber full of so-called stars, the brightest, by far, was sitting in that balcony last night.  The New York City subway hero, Wesley Autry, recognized by the president for his courage in saving the life of a man who had fallen in front of an on-coming train. 

As you can see there, Autry basked in that richly deserved ovation.  He engaged in a great back and forth game of “No, you the man” with President Bush, and he leaned clear across the balcony to shake the first lady‘s hand.  Tucker, I have to say, watching it, all kidding aside, that was the moment of the night.  And it was a great gallery, by the way, between him, you know, you had the army sergeant Tommy Reman, Dikembe Motumbo from the NBA, and the woman who started Baby Einstein, really good gallery this year.  

CARLSON:  It‘s such a cliche and I hate it every year.  I think, I wish they would knock off this phony populism, but then every time they do it the people seem so cool that I kind of like it.  I‘ll admit.  It‘s like “American Idol,” I hate it, but I watch it. 

GEIST:  And I thought Bush‘s quote was excellent, where he said “there‘s something wonderful about a country that produces a brave man and humble like Wesley Autry.” 

CARLSON:  And that‘s true.

GEIST:  It was so true.  It was beautiful.  And that was just a real guy living in a moment and it was a room full of the most powerful men in the world and it was 50-year-old construction worker from New York.  He owned the room.  It was a great, great moment, I thought. 

Well Tucker, not such a great moment—you know, the speech was only about 50 minutes long.  So you would have thought that Vice President Dick Cheney would have grabbed a bite to eat after, you know, maybe go out with Condi and a group.  Watch him on the left of your screen.  He‘s looking down.  He‘s looking down.  And yes, there it goes, just pops in a combo, or I don‘t know what that was, maybe a Twizzler bite, some Reeces Pieces.

CARLSON:  Funyon, that‘s a Funyon right there.   

GEIST:  Or maybe it was a No-Doz.  I‘m not sure what he was doing, but he was hitting those pretty hard.  Did you notice, also, the occasionally I‘ll clap, occasionally you won‘t.  It was sort of like a seesaw between him and Pelosi getting up and down.  It was pretty good. 

CARLSON:  She looked grouchy.  She looked like she was going to tell me I couldn‘t go to the bathroom.  She reminded—I had a kindergarten flash back looking at her.

GEIST:  You know, I heard you say that in your HARD-blogger last night.  I thought she looked kind of pleasant actually, but I don‘t know.  It was all right.  Well, you know what Tucker, for a group of legislators who talk about how much they dislike George Bush, the members of Congress certainly were anxious to get the president‘s autograph after his speech last night. 

President Bush moved through the crowd slowly, like Brad Pitt at a movie premier, giving hugs and signing autographs for all those giddy fans.  Look at that, but no one looked more like a teenager meeting Justin Timberlake than newly elected Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bockman (ph).  Watch her there on the right of the screen.  She reaches out and grabs the president, gets her token kiss and hug and an autograph.  But that‘s just not enough.  Look at her.  She holds on for dear life, holds on for more than 30 seconds before finally freeing him from her death grip.  It was a hilarious moment. 

And I got to say Tucker, we were about ten seconds away there from a Secret Service situation.  There were guys talking into their wrists for a minute there.  I mean, it was going to get ugly.

CARLSON:  Did you see Dennis Kucinich? 

GEIST:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Congress‘ only Vegan, and a great guy, I have to say, probably the most left wing member of Congress.  He had Bush in a death grip.  I don‘t know what he was saying to Bush, but it was very meaningful.  It was yoga tips or something. 

GEIST:  That was on the way in, when Bush was coming in.  He gave him that I‘m going to hold to you with my left hand and you can‘t go.  The president had other things to attend to, but Kucinich didn‘t seem to be interested in that. 

There was one other good moment that I know you and I both noticed, when President Bush referred to alternative energy, he was obviously talking about Ethanol, look at Chuck Grassley (ph) just leap out of his seat.  As you said perfectly last night Tucker, he looked like he just won the lotto. 

CARLSON:  Which he had. 

GEIST:  Exactly, which he and other folks across the Midwest had.  It was just one of those hilarious moments.  But to me the great moment of the nights was Wesley Autry.  What was yours? 

CARLSON:  And I would say Wesley Autry.  I actually thought the woman from Baby Einstein was kind of appealing too. 

GEIST:  Well, that was a different moment, yes, but I know what you mean. 

CARLSON:  Willie Geist, thanks. 

GEIST:  All right Tucker.

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.  We‘ll back here tomorrow, same time.  Tune in then, have a great night.

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

END   

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