updated 1/26/2007 11:15:06 AM ET 2007-01-26T16:15:06

Guests: Frank Donatelli, Ed Schultz, George Pataki, Tim Dickinson

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the Thursday edition of the show.

Violence rages in Baghdad as President Bush sells his Iraq plan in the face of passionate opposition from some of his fellow Republicans.  More on Senator Chuck Hagel‘s quest for bipartisan support of his anti-war resolution in just a minute.  First, though, an update on the mental condition of Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

Last summer, Schumer gave an interview to the “America Prospect” magazine, and to illustrate his point about the future of the Democratic Party, he described a couple he called Joe and Eileen O‘Reilly (ph).  As Schumer put it, “They‘re registered Independents.  He‘s an insurance salesman who makes $50,000 a year.  She works part time in the schools and makes $20,000 a year.”

“I know these people.  I grew up with these people.”  Except these people, it turns out, are fictional.  As Schumer told the magazine, O‘Reillys exist only in his mind.

Chuck Schumer has imaginary friends.

Fast forward to this morning, when Schumer found himself on the “Today” show selling his new book, “Positively American.”  The book focuses on an imaginary couple, but it‘s not the O‘Reillys.  Schumer has invented yet another pair of middle class Irish-Americans.  They‘re named Joe and Eileen Bailey (ph).

They‘re similar to the O‘Reillys, but Mrs. Bailey makes about $2,000 a year less than Mrs. O‘Reilly and she doesn‘t work in the schools.  Interesting.

Senator Schumer did not say if the two couples are friendly, if they go bowling together, or what entrees they prefer.  No doubt he will explain all of that later.

Stay tuned.

Now to the war in Iraq and the domestic battle over President Bush‘s policy.

Joining me today, Republican strategist Frank Donatelli, and host of the nationally syndicated radio show, “The Ed Schultz Show,” Ed Schultz.

Welcome to you both.

FRANK DONATELLI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  I want to put up on the screen an exchange—I was going to say a colloquy, but it‘s more than that, between Carl Levin and John McCain.  This is over the non-binding resolution against the Iraq war.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Senator, I think I‘m familiar with the sentiment of many of the troops.  And the fact is, they want to win.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN:  We all want them to win.

MCCAIN:  And that‘s what they want, and that‘s why we‘re changing the strategy, Mr. Chairman.  And I‘m sorry you don‘t support the strategy.

LEVIN:  Well, it‘s a strategy which has failed, and finally the president acknowledged that he did not have a winning strategy.  So I‘m glad we have not, many of us, supported what has proven to be a failed strategy.  I‘m delighted the president has acknowledged that he wants to change that strategy, finally, after two months ago saying we‘re absolutely winning in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Nasty.

Frank, McCain at this point is the most articulate spokesman for a version of the president‘s plan.  He‘s not really endorsing what Bush has set forth, but in—in theme he has.  He wants to win.

Why is nobody else on the Republican side stepping up and making the case as McCain has?

DONATELLI:  Well, I think you will see others stepping up.  You know, on that resolution vote yesterday that was heralded as a bipartisan vote against the president, there was only one Republican that voted with the Democrats.

CARLSON:  Right.

DONATELLI:  And that was Senator Hagel.  So I—it‘s fair to say that there‘s a lot of queasiness within the Republican ranks.  But, until the opposition comes forward with a policy that can give us some chance for success, not just withdrawal, I think most Republicans are going to stay with the president, including Senator McCain.

CARLSON:  Ed, do you find it odd that the single most articulate spokesman for really the Democratic position on the war against the president‘s plan—he‘s not a Democrat himself.  It‘s not Hillary Clinton, it‘s not Barack Obama.  It‘s not even Al Gore, actually.

It‘s Chuck Hagel.  Let‘s just put up here part of what Senator Hagel said yesterday in the Senate to give our viewers a flavor of what he‘s been talking about.

Watch.  This is Senator Hagel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  We didn‘t involve the Congress in this when we should have.  And I‘m to blame.  Every senator who‘s been here the last four years has to take some responsibility for that.

What do you believe?  What are you willing to support?  What do you think?  Why are you elected?  If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes.

Maybe I have no political future.  That—I don‘t care about that.  But I don‘t want to ever look back and have the regret that I didn‘t have the courage and I didn‘t do what I could to at least project something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Why does it take a Republican to be that brave on this issue?

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, I think, Tucker, his memories of being a combat veteran are starting to come out.  It‘s almost as if he‘s been down this road before.  And I think what Chuck Hagel is what a lot of people around the country are saying, but he‘s just maybe the first from that party to vocalize it.

I think that you see John Warner moving over, saying that an escalation is not the right way to go.  It‘s going to give some political cover to some other lesser-known Republicans in the Senate to maybe follow that.  It‘s slowly going to be one domino after another.  But I think one of the reasons why Hagel is getting so much attention is the way he‘s presenting it, the venue in which he‘s presenting it, in these hearings, but also the fact that he‘s really breaking ranks. 

You can go back to the summer of ‘04, and it was Hagel who was question, OK, how many troops are we going to have in Iraq in the year 2006?  And then he came out and made a statement and said, well, it‘s going to be over 100,000.  That was a big news story.

Well, here we are in ‘07 and we‘re talking about putting more troops in.  The country‘s divided, the Senate‘s divided, and there‘s a lot of people choosing up sides.

That exchange with Levin and McCain doesn‘t surprise me at all.

CARLSON:  It is hostile.

What‘s interesting to me, Frank, though, is this is not Susan Collins or Lincoln Chafee, the former senator from Rhode Island, both sort of tenuous Republicans.  This is Chuck Hagel, who‘s one of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate.

I spent all day reading his record.  He is as conservative as I thought.  In fact, I believe he‘s voted with the president more than any other Republican in the Senate.  He voted with him 95 percent of the time in 2006.

This guy is a genuine conservative.  Why is he the one to come out so forcefully against the Iraq policy?

DONATELLI:  Well, look, I‘m going to give him his due, and I hope he will give those of us who are supporters of the president their due also...

CARLSON:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... which is that he feels very strongly about his position on this, and Senator McCain feels very strongly about his position on this.  I think we should just take each at their word that there‘s just a very strong disagreement among the two—or between the two.

That being said, don‘t forget we‘re talking about a non-binding resolution here.

CARLSON:  Right.

DONATELLI:  Things that really would have the force of law, such as cutting off money for the troops, and so forth, aren‘t being—even being debated now.  So the hope is that the Senate expresses itself however it wants to.  It‘s non-binding, but the core of the president‘s policy will be given a chance to work because there is not any possibility that we can be successful, in the words of Senator Hagel‘s own resolution, if we just withdraw prematurely.

CARLSON:  Well, you know, as you know well, Ed, since you host a radio show every day, Hagel is the kind of hero of the moment to the Democrats.  There are people calling for him to run as Independent.

Very quickly, here‘s what Senator Hagel believes on the rest of the issues, just so you know.

He‘s against gay marriage.  He was against campaign finance reform.  He‘s for drilling in ANWAR.  He‘s for school choice, he‘s for school prayer.

He‘s got 100 percent rating from the Christian Coalition.  He‘s for a ban on flag burning.  He‘s against abortion.

He opposes limits on mining in the National Forest.  He was against the farm bill, against prescription drug bill.  For personal retirement accounts and Social Security.

I mean, against gun control?

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

CARLSON:  I mean, this guy‘s a right-winger.

SCHULTZ:  Well, make no mistake that he is a big business Republican. 

And he was also for the tax cuts to the top two percent.

CARLSON:  But he‘s also a social conservative, though.

SCHULTZ:  Well, but that‘s not the number one issue right now.  The number one issue is not the wedge issues.  The number one issue is Iraq.

He‘s a combat veteran.  He sees a failed policy in Iraq that‘s not going in to year number five.

They have missed on every calculation.  They‘ve missed on every move. 

And they‘ve sold every move that they‘ve made.  Now one more time...

CARLSON:  So if he runs for president—if he runs for president...

SCHULTZ:  ... they‘re coming back.

CARLSON:  ... how exactly does the Democrat run against him?

SCHULTZ:  Well, he‘s going to get a lot of middle—if he runs—now, I don‘t know what his plans are and I don‘t know what his resources are, because it does come down to money.  But the fact is, if you were to put Chuck Hagel up against McCain right now in a debate, I don‘t think McCain could carry his lunch.  And I think that what the issues the American people and with conservatives—conservatives are going to embrace Hagel a heck of a lot faster than they will McCain.

CARLSON:  Do you buy that, Frank?

DONATELLI:  No.

CARLSON:  Why?  Why?  Conservatives are very distrustful.  I‘m not attacking McCain, but conservatives distrust him, as you know.

DONATELLI:  Two-thirds to 70 percent of the Republican Party still support the president‘s goals in our ability to be successful in Iraq.

CARLSON:  Right.

DONATELLI:  So, Mr. Hagel would be fishing out of the—out of the moderates that are on the minority side of the party.

Remember when the Vietnam War was raging in 1972.  Richard Nixon did have a challenge from the anti-war left, Paul McCloskey.  Got about 20 percent of the vote and then quickly faded from...

SCHULTZ:  But Frank, there‘s a benchmark here.  And the benchmark is the Republicans lost in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, in Missouri, and Montana.  The public has spoken on the war.

Those are conservative states—Montana, Missouri.  What are the Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But it‘s different.

SCHULTZ:  It‘s the war.  It‘s the war.  It‘s the war.

CARLSON:  Right.  But I think—I don‘t think you‘re wrong, but I think Frank is making a different argument.

You‘re making an argument about the primaries, right?

DONATELLI:  Right.

CARLSON:  Can this guy get nominated?  I think—I mean, I don‘t think anybody doubts Chuck Hagel would be formidable in a general election.  Can he get there?

SCHULTZ:  Well, we know he can talk.

DONATELLI:  And there‘s no question that the American public does not like the current course.  The question for discussion for ‘08 is, is the preferred course a real strategy to try to win...

CARLSON:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... or to at least be successful.

CARLSON:  All right.

DONATELLI:  Or premature withdrawal.

CARLSON:  OK.  We‘re going to take a quick break here.

Coming up, if you want to hear unshaken confidence about the war—you don‘t hear it often—strike up a conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney.  Does he see things no one else sees in this country?

We‘ll get to that in a minute.

Plus, like bellbottoms, disco, and William Shatner, Al Gore has achieved the impossible.  He is back in fashion.

Is Al‘s return to glory a fad, or will the big man get in the middle of the run for the White House?

We‘ll tell you.  Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  With the 2008 presidential race in full swing, our next guest naturally comes up in conversations as a potential contender.  He is George Pataki.  He is the former three-term Republican governor of New York, who tomorrow will announce his own way forward in Iraq at Georgetown University, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

He joins us now.

Governor, thanks for coming on.

GEORGE PATAKI ®, FMR. NEW YORK GOV.:  Thank you, Tucker.  Nice being with you.

CARLSON:  It seems pretty recently, just in November, I think, you were, in general, a supporter of the president‘s policy in Iraq.

What changed your mind, and how do you differ now?

PATAKI:  Well, I think what we have to do, before we go forward with a troop surge, is make the Iraqis step up.  The Americans, particularly our soldiers on the ground, have made an extraordinary effort, and I think every American is proud of them.  But what we haven‘t seen is that effort on the part of the Maliki government.

To hope that we‘re going to succeed in creating a stable representative government in Iraq, we have to have the active leadership of that Iraqi government.  And it hasn‘t been there.  So what I would propose is that we condition any further increase in our efforts to help the Maliki government on prior action on their part so that we know that they‘re going to be part of a solution and not part of the problem.

CARLSON:  Like matching funds?  You do this, we‘ll do that?

PATAKI:  Well, not matching funds, no, but a carrot and a stick.  They want our continued help, but we want them to finally step up to the plate. 

You know we, at enormous costs, gave them the opportunity to have free elections, tremendously successful elections, create democratic institutions.  But they haven‘t utilized them.

They haven‘t delivered security, they haven‘t delivered basic sewer and water.  And the people of Iraq now, I don‘t believe, have confidence that what they have is a national unity government.  It appears to be a government for the Shia, by the Shia.

CARLSON:  Well, it does.  And the government also appears to be lame and disorganized, maybe even sinister.  So there‘s no guarantee they will step up, as you said.

PATAKI:  Right.

CARLSON:  If they don‘t, do we mean it?  Do we actually pull the funding, pull the troops, and go home?

PATAKI:  No, I don‘t think we can just leave Iraq, because we‘re fighting in two battles there.  One, is we‘re seeking to create a representative government in Iraq, which would be a milestone in the Middle East and in the world if we were able to achieve that.  We cannot do that unless the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people themselves take the lead and show that they are serious about being a truly national government.

If they don‘t do that, we cannot stop fighting al Qaeda and the global jihadists who are out there, have attacked America, and want to attack us again.  So what we have to do is not inject ourselves in the middle of the sectarian strife between the Shia and the Sunni.  That is between them.  But continue to go after the al Qaeda and the other global terrorists in Al Anbar and other provinces and other parts of Iraq so that they don‘t have the safe havens, they don‘t have the bases or the training camps, and they can‘t organize to attack the United States or the West again.

CARLSON:  What a mess.  Wouldn‘t it have just been better to have Saddam remain in power?  At least he was predictable.

PATAKI:  You know, Tucker, you can look backward, but that‘s—first of all, I think...

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t know about looking backward.  We anticipate our forward moves.  I mean, we draw lessons from our mistakes, don‘t we?

PATAKI:  Tucker, I think we can be proud of a couple of things.  One, is we got rid of an evil mass murderer in Saddam Hussein.  We can be proud of that.

The second is that we, through our sacrifice, were able to give the Iraqi people the opportunity to have free elections, and to choose a representative government.  We can be very proud of that.

CARLSON:  Why does that matter now?

PATAKI:  But what we have to do is now look at the next step.  And the next step has to be that we are not going to make further American sacrifices and put American lives at risk to try to prop up a regime that doesn‘t seem to have the will to seek to defend its own democratic institutions.

Right now Maliki appears to be dependent on al-Sadr.  Al-Sadr is essentially a Shia terrorist.  He is the Hezbollah of Iraq.  And for us to be propping up a government that doesn‘t have the guts and the courage to stand up and put him at arms length and neutralize his military capability doesn‘t make sense.

CARLSON:  In an interview yesterday with Wolf Blitzer, Dick Cheney was asked, why don‘t we just arrest Sadr?  Why don‘t we have the Iraqi government do so?  And Cheney was unwilling to say that Muqtada al-Sadr ought to be arrested.

Why?

PATAKI:  Well, I don‘t know the answer to that, but that‘s exactly the point that I‘m trying to make here, Tucker.  Before we create—are willing to have greater sacrifice of American lives and American resources to support this government, they have got to show that they are prepared to go after al-Sadr, to go after religious extremists, whether they‘re Shia or Sunni.  To take...

CARLSON:  Even if they themselves...

PATAKI:  ... constant steps...

CARLSON:  ... are religious extremists?

PATAKI:  Well, if they‘re not willing to have a truly representative government in Iraq, then why are we injecting ourselves into the middle of the battle between the Shia and the Sunni?  Let‘s concentrate on fighting al Qaeda, let‘s concentrate on fighting those who want to engage in terror against the West and against moderate Muslim regimes.  Win that victory and let the Shia and the Sunni fight it out amongst themselves.

CARLSON:  All right.  Former governor George Pataki of New York.

Thanks a lot, Governor.

PATAKI:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Appreciate it.

Coming up, Hollywood, it has famously been said, is high school but with a lot more money.  There‘s a new prom king, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, and it is apparently Barack Obama.  Can Obama‘s every man image survive association with the liberal glitterati (ph)?

We‘ll tell you.

Plus, if looks could kill, Dick Cheney‘s most recent interviewer would be very dead.  Was America‘s least beloved public servant righteously indignant or too sensitive to a fair question?

We‘ll tell you.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  There are at least three absolute truths about the people of show business.  They are shameless suck-ups to power, they have tons of money and know how to get more, and they love to insert themselves into politics.

This week, some of the major (INAUDIBLE) of Hollywood put their political influence behind Barack Obama.  This glittery endorsement coincides with poll numbers that suggest Mr. Obama doesn‘t rate as well with black voters as does his chief rival, Hillary Clinton.

Here to check our daily Obameter, Republican strategist Frank Donatelli and host of “The Ed Schultz Show,” Ed Schultz.

Ed, last one first.  Every poll does show that Mrs. Clinton is way out in front of Barack Obama in the report she‘s receiving from likely black voters.  It seems to me in one way a good sign, that it‘s not actually automatic that people vote their color.  I mean, that‘s good.  That shows progress, it seems to me.

But it also strikes me as this kind of weird divide between this new

civil rights establishment and the old civil rights establishment.  People

like, the older guys whose orientation is Selma in 1965 are behind Hillary, and the new people, Pastor T.D. Jakes, for instance, are behind Obama.

Who‘s going to win in the end?

SCHULTZ:  Well, it‘s a long campaign and it‘s a long time to stay out in front.  I think one thing Americans have got to pay attention to is that Barack Obama is only known by 40 percent of the black community in America.  Hillary Clinton is known by...

CARLSON:  Today?  As of today?

SCHULTZ:  As of today.  He‘s not had the exposure, he has not been out there long enough for every black person to know who he is and where he stands on the issues.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is known by 100 percent of the black community in America.  And, you know, of course, obviously, because of President Clinton and also the fact that she‘s a senator and pretty much rock star status.  But as time goes on, I think this is going to be a real horse.

I mean, you‘re going to have Barack Obama out there.  I had a chance to visit with him for a half an hour in his office earlier this week.  I‘ve had him on the program numerous times and he wanted to talk.

He‘s very confident.  He believes he can raise the money.  He believes that he‘s correct on the issues.  And he feels compelled to get into this race with a tremendous amount of determination because he senses it when he goes out in public.

The response of the crowd to Barack Obama in Ohio, in New Hampshire, it‘s unlike anything I think I‘ve seen in politics for a long time.

CARLSON:  Well, I believe that.

Frank, I‘ve been continuing to do my daily survey of Democrats.  I surveyed my babysitter last night, who said what every Democrat I‘ve asked has said.  She said, “Every one of my little liberal college student friends is for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.”

Why is Hillary leading so dramatically among black voters?

DONATELLI:  I think it‘s a reflection of what was just said, the name ID gap.  Hillary, I think that she‘s benefiting of blacks‘ love of Bill Clinton.  He‘s always had a lot of support among black voters.

CARLSON:  Right.

DONATELLI:  But I agree.  You know, I agree to this extent—black—upper—sort of professional black politicians are going to be for Hillary Clinton because she is the establishment candidate.

CARLSON:  Right.

DONATELLI:  She‘s the preferred candidate of the Democratic establishment.

Barack Obama is the new face.  And he will get some of these younger voters.

I don‘t think it‘s necessarily bad that he only gets 27 percent and she gets 53 percent.  If you think about black candidates that have had a monolith of black support—Jesse Jackson coming to mind.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

DONATELLI:  Kweisi Mfume, who ran for the Senate in Maryland this time

they tend to be not acceptable to whites.

The whole point of Barack Obama‘s candidacy is he happens to be black, but he‘s running for the Democratic nomination.  And so I think he‘s a real threat to Hillary among white voters...

SCHULTZ:  He is.

DONATELLI:  ... in a way that, say, Jesse Jackson....

CARLSON:  Well, here‘s—as if we needed more evidence, Ed, here‘s the latest.  There‘s a fund-raiser February 20th at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles -- $2,300 a person, two hours.

All the people—all the celebrity types, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, who supported the Clintons throughout the 1990s, supported Mrs.  Clinton‘s two Senate bids, they‘re all signing up to give money to Barack Obama.  Katzenberg has actually endorsed Obama.

SCHULTZ:  Well, it‘s the safe thing to do.  I mean, they want a Democrat to win and they want to buy the right government.  And, of course, Barack Obama is saying things that connect with them.

CARLSON:  Oh, you think it‘s safer to endorse the insurgent candidate over the establishment candidate? 

SCHULTZ:  I think it‘s safe to endorse any of them right now because this is a long process.  But I think the gap is going to close quite a bit.

When you listen to Barack Obama—he went to Iowa for Tom Harkin‘s steak fry.  Now, these are white folks.  You wouldn‘t have believed the enthusiasm around this guy.  He‘s electrifying.

And I think he‘s got a chance to truly be a generational leader in American history.  I think this guy‘s going to be around for a long time.

I think the Clintons made the first mistake when one of her advisers said to a media person that he‘ll eventually fade.  That‘s the first mistake.  He is not going to fade.

CARLSON:  Frank, does he have to quit smoking before he gets elected president?

DONATELLI:  I don‘t think so.  I think he has to—we still don‘t know anything about his priorities...

CARLSON:  Right.

DONATELLI:  ... if he were to be president and govern.  And we want to hear a lot more about that.

CARLSON:  Well, he says as of today every American should have healthcare coverage within six years if he‘s elected—universal healthcare.

Good luck with that.

Coming up, has Dick Cheney become a liability to the Bush administration.  As John McCain has suggested more pointedly, can such an unpopular administration still have liabilities?

We‘ll talk about that.

Plus, the freak show that is “American Idol” rolled on last night.  MSBNC‘s chief freak show correspondent Willie Geist is preparing for a full analysis.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  How worried are you of this nightmare scenario, that the U.S. is building up this Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, with enormous amount of military equipment, sophisticated training, and that in the end they are going to turn against the United States. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Wolf, that‘s not going to happen.  Bottom line is that we have had enormous successes and will continue to have enormous successes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was Vice President Dick Cheney expressing the kind of confidence that just about every other human being in the world doesn‘t have about the situation in Iraq.  What to make of his bold declarations?  We again turn to Republican strategist Frank Donatelli, and the host of the Ed Schultz show, E Schultz.  Welcome to you both. 

Frank, I wish we could have played more of that pretty interesting interview, in which the vice president really took an aggressive, snappy tone.  I think of Dick Cheney as someone who is in full command of himself when he is in public.  He has this kind of reassuring calmness.  Even if you don‘t like him, you recognize it. 

Yesterday, he was nasty, snippy, short.  Is he rattled? 

DONATELLI:  Well, I guess everybody can have a bad day.  I mean, he was saying - I think trying to put it in proper context, what he was saying was look, getting rid of Saddam Hussein was an accomplishment.  That is widely viewed as being very, very positive.  We no longer have in Iraq a government that is going to seek weapons of mass destruction, which there is no question that Saddam Hussein would have done, had he remained in power. 

So I think he was looking at it from that perspective.  Have we had setbacks in the war against terror, especially in Iraq?  Absolutely, but  I think what he was saying—I mean, he is a defender from the very beginning.  He is saying was the right thing to do.  Look at the alternatives—

CARLSON:  It was just sad, because he kept saying things like well, we have a Democratically elected government.  There is a constitution, the only in the reason and I kept thinking I could care less.  I mean, that‘s completely immaterial to me and to Iraqis.  I mean, does that stuff matter? 

DONATELLI:  I think it matters to Vice President Dick Cheney, it certainly does.  But honestly, I really believe, in the final analysis, for us, success can be defined as a non-terrorist government, capable of defending itself, and will not seek to dominate—

CARLSON:  I think everyone agrees.  Ed, in the interview, Wolf Blitzer asked, I thought, a pretty good question, which is why don‘t we get the Maliki government—why don‘t we ourselves arrest and detain Muqtada al Sadr, the head of Shiite militia in Baghdad that killed a lot of Americans.  I haven‘t heard any Democrats call for that.  It seems kind of obvious. 

Why aren‘t they? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, if we can back up just a second here, Frank uses the word defender, I would use the word architect.  I mean, you can put what has happened in Iraq right on Dick Cheney‘s desk, along with President Bush.  They knew exactly what they were getting us into and it has been one miscalculation after another.  But now we‘re going into a new chapter.  Now we‘re hearing the president say that Maliki has got the force, he has got the intestinal fortitude and he has got the will. 

That is the question, what do the Iraqi people want?  He says he is going to go after al Sadr.  I think Democrats are a little bit puzzled right now, and many Americans are, that General Petraeus is saying on the hill yesterday that well, we will see some results by Summer.  By summer, it‘s going to take us that long to figure out whether Maliki is going to go after al Sadr, if his hoods break the law and go out of the government, and cause a bunch of death and strife? 

I think we have to start defining what success is and success is defining exactly what Maliki is going to do.  You can‘t say one thing in Washington and then go say something else in Baghdad and act differently.  I find it interesting, on the heels of State of Union Address the other night, both a Sunni-elected official and a Shiite-elected official didn‘t agree with President Bush.  They talked about—

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ:  But they‘re leaders, Frank, they‘re elected leaders and 80 percent of the Iraqi people want to us disengage.  They want us to redeploy.  And I offer to you that redeployment is a strategy.  It is a strategy.  There are many people in this country that think if we start redeploying troops that we will see a different social function take place and violence subside—

CARLSON:  I must say that seems awfully faith-based to me.  I mean, on what evidence.  Why exactly do we think when we, really the only authority in the country, disappear, that somehow magically the Iraqi people will create order? 

SCHULTZ:  No, no, well, if they have got these troops that they have been training—

CARLSON:  But the troops are a joke.  That‘s the whole point.  I mean, Democrats can‘t say, on the one hand, well the troops are lame and they are disloyal, and they secretly hate us, because they are Islamic extremists, but once we leave, they will decide, you know what, I ought to participate in civil society.

SCHULTZ:  So there is absolutely no security whatsoever, as far as the Iraqis are concerned, in Iraq? 

CARLSON:  I‘m merely saying you can‘t argue both at the same time.  Either the Iraqis are capable of standing up, as we say, and taking care of their own affairs, in which case all is going to go well, or they are not capable, in which case we probably shouldn‘t leave, because when we do, they will eat each other. 

SCHULTZ:  How about this?  We fought it out on this soil in the civil war.  These people are going to fight whether we are there or not.  What‘s wrong with that?  I mean, --

CARLSON:  But—Frank, do you—I mean, that‘s pretty heavy.  Maybe you are right, I just don‘t think that we have got the guts—

DONATELLI:  But there is chaos in Baghdad.  I mean, the civil car war was two separate groups of states fighting with each other.  But you had individual governments.  If we are to leave and the Maliki government false, it does fall into chaos. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  The vice president said a number of things that I thought were not only hard - and I‘m not beating up on Cheney—actually, I am beating up on Cheney.  Things were hard to believe, but hard for me to believe that he believes.  You know, we were not successfully containing Saddam.  We had to do this.  This was the right thing to do.  We have made the world safer.  It‘s really a series of profound successes that for some reason the media are not reporting, probably because they are left-wingers, or whatever.  All this stuff, do you think he believes, I mean for real?  

DONATELLI:  Yes, I think he does, because that was the consensus in 2002 and 2003, that the sanctions, the U.N. sanctions were breaking down, that we couldn‘t enforce the no-fly zones indefinitely, that Saddam was getting around the sanctions—you remember the oil for food program and all the scandal there—and that soon he was going to be back on his feet.  He was going to have money.  He would be able to continue to pursue weapons of mass destruction. 

I‘m sure that‘s the vice president‘s view, and I think there is a lot of evidence to support -- 

CARLSON:  I must say, with respect, it seemed a little frozen in amber to me.  Al Gore, as you know Ed, has been against this war from the beginning.  A lot of Democrats give him credit for that and talk wistfully about Gore.  In a minute we‘re going to a whole segment who is proposing a Gore candidacy.  Is there an appetite among Democrats for a Gore for president campaign? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, there is an appetite among Democrats for Al Gore if the current candidates don‘t appeal to them.  I mean, the more the merrier.  This is the probably the best field the Democrats have had in generations when you look at qualified people running.  I think one person that is very qualified, that hasn‘t been mentioned, is Bill Richardson.  He‘s got a resume that‘s pretty doggone impressive, especially what he has done as governor down in New Mexico.  Now, does he have the resources and the media attention and the money, we‘ll see. 

But, I think Al Gore would definitely be a force, if he were to jump into it, but I don‘t think he will. 

CARLSON:  Frank, I mean, when you listen to the Democrats, you rally get the feeling they believe Al Gore is a prophet.  I heard one of them describe him the other day as a prophet.  You know, he is Isaiah. 

SCHULTZ:  It was one issue though, Tucker.

CARLSON:  No, but they say on global warming and the Internet and the war in Iraq.  You know, we mocked him before, but now we take him seriously.  Do Republicans take him seriously?  I mean, if Gore actually ran again, do you think he would have any shot of winning? 

DONATELLI:  Oh, of course he would have a shot.  Any time you a have a major party nomination you have a shot.  If Al Gore had run in 2004, he would have been a man of the past.  There would have been sympathy for what happened to him in 2000, and so forth, and so on.  If he ran in 2008, he could say that he was forward-looking, in terms of climate change and the environment, in terms of being against Iraq and so forth. 

He also for that reason would take, I think, probably bump John Edwards out of the way, and have the number one claim on sort of the liberal base of the Democratic party.  And if he wins an Oscar, that will be something even Ronald Reagan never did. 

CARLSON:  Quickly Ed, do you see the net roots, as they call them?  You know, the activity left spends a lot of time online in their undershorts, you know, talking to one another on their computer.  Do you see them supporting Hillary Clinton? 

SCHULTZ:  No, I don‘t.  And I think Hillary has got trouble with base Democrats right now.  She said the other day that she is going to be accessible.  I would like to know what that a means.  Holding more rallies, doing more TV interviews.  She needs to do what conservatives have done, solidify the base on talk road.  They better get with it.  I guarantee you, you go interview John Kerry, and ask him what mistake he made in 2004, he didn‘t talk to the base on radio. 

I am a radio guy, but I believe that.

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ:  And I think Hillary—there is a base out there in America.  There is an undercurrent in America, that think that she is not well defined on the war and that she hasn‘t been out there enough and she should be—

CARLSON:  Undercurrent?  There‘s over current and it starts here. 

Thank you both.  I appreciate it. 

Next up, we will meet the man who says Al Gore is the perfect presidential candidate for 2008 and explains why. 

Plus, that is a man frolicking in the water with a full-grown domesticated crocodile.  It‘s all good until the crocodile hits its rebellious teen years.  Better to send it to crocodile boarding school and avoid the confrontation.  Stay tuned. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Two term vice president, former presidential candidate, now Academy Award nominee.  Will he ever give up?  The Democratic leadership is begging him not to, but Tim Dickinson of “Rolling Stone Magazine” says Al Gore could be the man.  He wrote the article “Run Al, Run” in this month‘s issue.  He joins us now with his best pitch.  Tim, thanks for joining us. 

TIM DICKINSON, “ROLLING STONE”:  Thanks for having me. 

CARLSON:  With Al Gore, you get the impression, I know that he is very popular among Democrat, but you get the impression that he‘s popular precisely because they don‘t expect him to run, and therefore he‘s not a threat.  Do you think they would like him if he declared his intention to run? 

DICKINSON:  I think so very much.  I mean, you have two superstar candidates who each have a fatal flaw right now.  You have got Barack Obama, who is appealing, but he‘s got essentially zero experience.  And you‘ve got Hillary Clinton who has alienated herself from the base of the party because of her support, middling stance on this war that seems to veering off into John Kerry-like contortions as we speak.  So people are looking around for someone of substance and experience and somebody who has got that superstar quality, and more than anything, they‘re looking for somebody who is electable.  It‘s hard to beat somebody who has a popular vote win under his belt already. 

CARLSON:  Yes, but that will be eight years by the time of the election.  I‘m struck by how profoundly the Democratic establishment dislikes Al Gore.  I‘m sure you talked to some of the former Clinton people, the Bill Clinton people and they just have complete contempt for Gore.  Bill Clinton himself I don‘t think has talked to Gore literally in years, considers him politically inept. 

If he is so good at politics, why do they think he is so bad at politics? 

DICKINSON:  There is no question that Al Gore traditionally has been quite bad at politics and one of the biggest critiques that people will tell you is that he allowed himself to be manhandled by his handlers in the 2000 campaign.  But the Al Gore that we have seen over the past few years, the Al Gore who just recently sold out the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho, a 10,000 seat arena, faster than Elton John did, is a superstar.  I mean, this guy‘s—he‘s going to be an Oscar winner before all is said and done.

And so he has really rehabilitated his public image and you have a lot of the consultant people who really blame Gore for blowing it in 2000.  But I think among the people, you have this very clear perception that Gore was robbed, instead of having blown it, robbed by the Supreme Court, a partisan Supreme Court. 

CARLSON:  You have got this fascinating statistic in your piece, in “Rolling Stone.”  You said that in an online poll of 14,000 activists, held last month by the “Daily Kos” website, left wing website, 60 percent voted for Gore.  By comparison Hillary Clinton received 292 votes total.  That‘s amazing.  Does that signify affection for Gore or hostility toward Hillary, or both?

DICKINSON:  It‘s both things, but the affection for Gore on the side of the net roots, which really are the—you know, you can talk about them being in their pajamas, but they raise millions of dollars and they‘re the people who get out and get excited, just like the talk radio audiences for the right-wing base.  And so if you don‘t have these people in your corner, you have a hard time winning the nomination.

CARLSON:  But wait, Howard Dean had them.  He was the first candidate in history to have them, the first candidate to raise all that money online.  He was where Al Gore is now.  He was the hero of the kind of committed blogger left and had got stomped.

DICKINSON:  But you are forgetting that Al Gore has shored up his bona fide net roots people, with the Move On, but he is still Al Gore.  He is still that centrist, lock box guy, who actually didn‘t win the 2000 election because he had alienated the left-wing base and let them slip off to Ralph Nader. 

CARLSON:  Interesting.  Do you think—I mean, Gore, at this point, I believe he is on the board or at least a very heavy-duty shareholder in Google.  So he‘s a trillion basically.

DICKINSON:  One of the side benefits of being right about the Internet. 

CARLSON:  Right, I guess.  I think it‘s a little odd, actually, a guy who‘s been in public life all his life, gets out of office and immediately gets handed hundreds of million of dollars.  It‘s a little weird, but anyway it happened.  He‘s rich now.  He‘s obviously having a good time being Mr. movie maker guy.  Does he want to run?  Why would he want to run?

DICKINSON:  Al Gore has been running for president since 1988.  This is the brass ring he has been chasing all his life.  So why wouldn‘t he run?  I mean, certainly he has got a great life.  He can have an impact on public dialogue, but a lot of that right now is predicated on this will he, won‘t he tension about his presidential ambition.  If he rules himself out as a presidential candidate, does some of the excitement die away. 

You know, and I think if you‘re Al Gore and you believe, as he does, that there is a 10-year window to deal with the issues of global warming.  There is no way to make sure that those vital decisions happen, than to be the decider, to be the president of the United States.

CARLSON:  Has he hired anybody?  Is he getting his act together internally to actually make a run?

DICKINSON:  It‘s a combination of things.  Certainly one of his key advisers is handling communications for his different kind of campaign, which he is running around global warming.  But he is out on the road packed a 10,000 seat house, training activists, gathering a million post cards, online post cards to send to Congress to lobby on the issues of global warming, and those are a million e-mail addresses he is going to be able to send out a fund raising appeal to the day he decides to throw his hat in the ring.  He is—he has left the door wide, wide open for himself. 

CARLSON:  That would be—this would be the most amazing year in politics in American history, probably, if that happened.  I‘m hoping for it.  Tim Dickinson of “Rolling Stone,” thanks a lot. 

DICKINSON:  Hey, thanks a lot. 

CARLSON:  Just when we thought we were out of “American Idol,” they pull us back in.  One of the most obnoxious characters in that show‘s history threatens to have Simon Cowell deported.  Willie Geist joins us next to draw up the papers.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Joining us now, a man who didn‘t invent the Internet, but, how to put this delicately, uses it a lot, Willie Geist. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  More than I care to admit Tucker.  You have to admit, as much as you disagree with Al Gore and what he believes, you would love it if were in the 2008 race. 

CARLSON:  Willie, I am literally praying for it every night. 

GEIST:  Can you imagine?  It would be like “The Departed.”  You have every star in Hollywood in one movie.  It‘s going to be unbelievable.

CARLSON:  No, it‘s like “Love Boat” where all the washed up characters show up for one last star turn.  It‘s awesome.

GEIST:  I would watch that movie.  It‘s going to be good.  A little bit of breaking news for you Tucker.  Nicole Kidman injured in a car accident on the set of a movie late last night or early this morning here on the east coast.  She and seven other people went to the hospital with injuries.  The police say she had, quote, a boo-boo.  So I think she is going to be OK. 

But on the set of her movie she was injured in car wreck.  There‘s pretty dramatic video that we will be showing you later on MSNBC.  In the meantime, Tucker, just about 48 hours ago, we made a solemn pledge to the decent, hard-working viewers of this program that we would stop talking about “American Idol.”  Well, I don‘t want you to think of us so much as liars, as open minded people who never close a door completely. 

I mean how could you not talk about this clown.  Look at him.  His name Ian Bernardo.  He sauntered in to the New York auditions with a big chip on his shoulder.  When his horrific performance was summarily ripped by the judges Bernardo questioned Simon Cowell‘s right to judge anything in this country. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON COWELL, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  It‘s just rubbish. 

IAN BERNARDO, “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Rubbish? 

COWELL:  Rubbish. 

BERNARDO:  That‘s British for garbage, like what is that?  Who says that word?

(CROSS TALK)

BERNARDO:  Who says that word.  Who are you? 

COWELL:  Do it outside. 

BERNARDO:  Do it outside?  Do you even have a working Visa to be here? 

COWELL:  Ian, I am bored of you.  They are bored of you. 

BERNARDO:  No, as a tax-paying America, in my county, I want to see your working Visa, because I don‘t think you‘re legally supposed to be here.

COWELL:  Ian, I‘m bored now.

BERNARDO:  I‘m bored with you.  I don‘t think it‘s fair that you are treating me like this. 

COWELL:  Mike, take Mr. Boring out. 

BERNARDO:  Mr. Boring out, who are you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  He wants to see his working papers.  Now, as irritating as that guy is, I know you like a little gratuitous Brit bashing, don‘t you?   

CARLSON:  I‘m an American.  I mean, we fought a war to throw off the yoke of British influence.  We get Simon Cowell in return, come on.

GEIST:  It‘s amazing, this guy says he is going to Hollywood either way, because he‘s so rich, he can pay to go.  So he doesn‘t care about the competition.  But this show is really exposing a dark underclass of our society that frankly I didn‘t know existed.  It‘s like they are coming out of the sewers and getting in these audition lines.  It‘s very creepy.

CARLSON:  I agree with that.  And here we are talking about it again today. 

Anyway, here‘s a name, Tucker, I bet you were hoping you would never hear again, Jennifer Wilbanks.  Yes, the runaway bride.  Her 15 minutes of self-kidnapping fame are now being turned into a rock opera.  Yes, and where else, the Red Clay Theater and Arts Center in Duluth, Georgia.  Well, that play house will tell the story of the community coming together during and after that run away bride fiasco. 

The theater‘s owner says the opera will not in fact be a comedy.  He will not spoof the bride.  But rather a story about the town and it‘s citizens.  That show opens in October.  And if you go to their website, Tucker, they are going to cast in the summer.  So if you are a googly eyed woman with a head shot, they want to hear from you by the summer.  They want to get you in the show. 

But by the way, they‘re totally missing the point.  Don‘t make this a serious play about the town coming together.  Make fun of the runaway bride.  That‘s why we are here.  What are you doing? 

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right. 

GEIST:  That‘s just bad direction in my opinion. 

Well, Tucker, there, as you know, is a disturbing new global trend of people believing they can bridge the gap between man and beast by supposedly taming deadly wild animals.  The latest, a Costa Rican man who is now buddy-buddy with a halt ton, 16 foot crocodile.  Gilberto Graham (ph) says he domesticated the animal after he found it shot and wounded five years ago.

What are you doing?  Graham gained the crocodile‘s trust by nursing it back to health.  The pair now performs together for crowds in Costa Rica.  I can‘t give this speech again, Tucker.  I don‘t know how many times I have to say this.  In the end, it‘s a wild animal.  I know he is hugging you and putting on shows, and it‘s juggling, or whatever it‘s doing, but it‘s not going to end well, and I wish people would start listening to me. 

CARLSON:  There is no question that Alberto will be, in fact, eaten by the reptile.   

GEIST:  Of course he will.  I think he wants that.  You know what this obviously calls to mind, Tucker, one of the great pieces of video in modern television history.  That‘s right, the lion hugging the woman.  There it is, the hug and the kiss.  That‘s Jupiter the lion, one of our favorites here on the show, down in Columbia, hugging and kissing, and again, I know they are getting along nicely now.  The question is which is worse, the right of your screen or the left of your screen?  Putting your head under a crocodile‘s jaw or hugging a giant, wild beast with a mane? 

CARLSON:  I kind of like the cat one.  You got to wonder—I‘m not an animal behavior expert—but you‘ve got to wonder what is going through the animal‘s mind.  I doubt it‘s, I love you.  It‘s probably like, you smell tasty. 

GEIST:  Right, also they say these animals, they appreciate that they were nursed back to health.  No, no, they are animals.  They don‘t appreciate.  They don‘t know what‘s going.  They just want to eat you.  That‘s the bottom line in their daily lives, OK. 

CARLSON:  I like to believe they do.  Willie Geist.

GEIST:  All right, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thanks Willie.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Stick around tomorrow.  We will be back at the same time.  Have a great night. 

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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