updated 2/21/2007 11:03:49 AM ET 2007-02-21T16:03:49

Guests: Frank Gaffney, Dan Gerstein, A.B. Stoddard

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in battle for what you would think would be one another‘s electoral bases—Hillary courting black voters in the South, Obama in Hollywood, flirting with celebrities.

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the show, where we have got a front-row seat for the Clinton-Obama competition, John McCain‘s changing relationship with the press corps, a new conservative campaign against some Republicans, and the closing arguments in the Scooter Libby trial.

But, first, back to Hillary in the South.  Last week, Senator Clinton got the endorsement of the state Senator Darnell (sic) Jackson of South Carolina.  Jackson is a well-known political figure in the state, as well as the pastor and self-described leader and visionary of the 9,000-member Bible Way Church.  That‘s one of the biggest in South Carolina.

Well, shortly after the endorsement, it was revealed that Clinton‘s campaign is paying Jackson $10,000 a month—that‘s more than $200,000 between now and Election Day—through a P.R. firm that he controls.

Hillary Clinton, in other words, is buying Jackson‘s support and, presumably, that of his congregation‘s.  Well, the Clinton campaign designs this, of course.  According to a spokesman, Jackson‘s firm will earn that money by giving advice on—quote—“political matters in South Carolina, outreach organizing issues,” whatever those are.

Right.  It‘s vote buying.  But don‘t take my word for it.  Take Darnell (sic) Jackson‘s word.  In an interview, Jackson admitted that other Democratic campaigns, including those of John Edwards and Barack Obama, also offered him money.  One Democratic campaign representative, he says, offered to—quote—“double” Hillary Clinton‘s offer. 

Now, Jackson said this to prove that his vote is not for sale.  Of course, it proves just the opposite.  There is, in fact, an old-fashioned vote auction under way in South Carolina.  And, if it‘s not illegal, it is, at the very least, wrong. 

Joining us now to the discuss the relative wrongness of that and the day‘s other news, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper, and the founder of the political blog Dangerous Thoughts, and former senior Lieberman adviser, Democratic strategist, and a dangerous man, Dan Gerstein.

Welcome to you both. 



CARLSON:  Now, I don‘t think I‘m naive.  I have certainly covered a lot of campaigns, and I have certainly seen this happen enough times before in various states, but particularly in the South, with clergymen, that I don‘t think there is any question that the Hillary campaign and other campaigns are—are buying support of a key political leader in the state. 

GERSTEIN:  I have got to disagree with you, Tucker. 

I think—I think this happens all the time in politics, is, people court supporters.  But a lot of people who are active and important influencers in politics are also political activists, who have P.R. firms and political operations.  And then they hire them. 

CARLSON:  Uh-huh.

GERSTEIN:  So, I can‘t—I don‘t think you can make that leap, just because she signed a contract with him, that she was buying his vote. 


CARLSON:  Make—make that leap?  I am going to Reverend Jackson.

The Reverend Darnell (sic) Jackson himself is saying that there was an auction, a bidding war, for his services.  Now, he is saying, in his own defense:  Look, I did not go with the highest bidder.  Therefore, you can‘t accuse me of selling out—which is actually not a bad point.

But he is saying openly to the press:  They were bidding on my services. 

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, “THE HILL”:   But, you know, in both the Republican nominating process and the Democratic...



STODDARD:  ... there have been actions for the best talent.  That has been happening at the...

CARLSON:  But this guy is not a political consultant.  He is a preacher. 

STODDARD:  But he—no, but he is a P.R.—he is selling his—his P.R. and marketing services.  I would like to say...






CARLSON:  You don‘t believe that.

STODDARD:  When I grow up, I really...


GERSTEIN:  He has got the oldest and largest...


GERSTEIN:  ... African-American-owned P.R...


CARLSON:  He has been around since the ‘80s.  He is a preacher who has got a 9,000-congregation church. 

If someone came to your synagogue and said to your rabbi, or to your church, or to my—my church, and said to the religious leader, I am going to pay you money, and that leader got up in front of the congregation and said, here is who you ought to vote for, I hope you would storm out, wouldn‘t you? 

GERSTEIN:  Well, again, Tucker, I think...


CARLSON:  You don‘t think that‘s corrupt? 

GERSTEIN:  I don‘t think it‘s corrupt, especially in this circumstance.


GERSTEIN:  Because—just because others were willing to pay more for his service doesn‘t mean, ipso facto, that what Hillary Clinton did was wrong.

And I will give you—and I will give you an important point here, is, this is a guy who supported her husband before...

STODDARD:  Right. 

GERSTEIN:  ... who knew the Clinton operation for a long time.


CARLSON:  He supported John Edwards in the primary last time.  John Edwards won almost double the next highest... 

STODDARD:  But Hillary Clinton was not running last time. 


CARLSON:  That‘s correct.

STODDARD:  And that‘s the—that‘s the key point, is that—is that this says so much about her machine. 

She—her one quote to the Associated Press was, he has been involved in Clinton campaigns back to 1992, or whatever. 


STODDARD:  And, so, that is the bottom line here...

CARLSON:  So, he‘s got a tax-exempt church.

STODDARD:  ... is that he can‘t support somebody else. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Wait.

I don‘t think he should be able to take money on behalf of any candidate.  This guy has a tax-exempt church.  They don‘t pay taxes, because they‘re a religious organization.  Our law allows them that.  We subsidize that church.  I‘m not aware that you are allowed to do that.  Are you?

GERSTEIN:  Well, Tucker, but come on.

If you‘re—does that mean, if you are active in your church congregation and you have a P.R. firm, you are going to get punished because you are an active religious figure, that your P.R. firm can‘t get hired?

CARLSON:  No, not punished.  You could pay taxes, like everybody else. 

I pay taxes.  Why shouldn‘t his church pay taxes?


CARLSON:  If he is getting paid to support a political candidate...

GERSTEIN:  Because he is not getting paid.  His P.R. firm is getting paid. 

CARLSON:  Oh, my God.  This is like—OK.

Well, speaking of just how repulsive...


CARLSON:  ... the political business can be, as Hillary Clinton—and, by the way, I am not even beating up on Hillary.  I am not even beating up on Jackson.  Everybody is doing it on the Democratic side.  And that‘s why it so deeply corrupt.

STODDARD:  When—when I grow up, I want to be a state senator, a pastor of a church, and run my own P.R. marketing firm at the same time. 

CARLSON:  Boy, if I was in that guy‘s church...


GERSTEIN:  ... go to New Hampshire.

CARLSON:  If I was in that guy‘s church...


CARLSON:  ... I would do everything I could to kick him out.  I just think it‘s totally—it‘s shocking to my sensibility, I have to tell you.

However, Barack Obama, meanwhile, is in Hollywood.  And he has gotten together—he‘s having a fund-raiser.  I want to put up on the screen a list of some of the actors and actresses who are going to this fund-raiser:

Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Oprah Winfrey. 


Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is having an event in March.  Here‘s who has bought tickets to that: Billy Crystal, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Seinfeld, Sharon Stone.

I ask you, Dan, a political professional, whose supporters are cooler? 


STODDARD:  Good question. 

GERSTEIN:  If they get trapped into that kind of thinking, they are doomed in a general election. 


CARLSON:  I bet that‘s right. 

But does this help her?  I mean, is there blowback from this?  You get all—I mean, remember when Barbra Streisand came out against Bush, and she didn‘t know the difference between Iraq and Iran, and people made fun of her?  And I think it hurt the Democrats.


GERSTEIN:  Well, I think even a better example is what Whoopi Goldberg did at that fund-raiser with John Kerry in the 2004 campaign.

CARLSON:  Good point.

GERSTEIN:  I think, in certain respects, there is nothing wrong with celebrities as activists.  And they—they want to have their say.  And they want to contribute money.

But I think the—the thing that Obama and any other Democratic candidate has to be—has to show is that, if you are a creature of—of that community, or you‘re, you know, held in their sway, that‘s not going to sell in a—in a lot of different parts of the country.  And it could become a liability, if he associated with the cultural elite.

CARLSON:  Yes.  I—I—especially him. 

But I have to say, I do notice one thing.  And maybe I am reading too much into it.  But the younger people are on Obama‘s side, the younger celebrities.


STODDARD:  Look, this is—the bottom line is, this is really upsetting to the Clinton camp.  It has to be. 

This is—you know, she was going to be invincible, and—and her nomination was going to be inevitable.  And having this huge, you know, a over $1 million fund-raiser is...

CARLSON:  Right. 

STODDARD:  ... is a really big deal for Obama. 

He is offering—he is playing on this generational advantage that he has. 

CARLSON:  Right:  I‘m not a baby boomer.

STODDARD:  And—and—and that—and it‘s just no surprise that—that he—that he is going—that he is attracting a younger crowd.

But he‘s also attracting some boomers, too.  I think that it‘s—I think it‘s very significant.  As far as like whether it‘s going to be problematic for him later, I—I think that he will probably walk away from these associations, and not highlight them as much.  But I predict that the one he will not is his connection to Oprah, because that‘s a connection, for him...

CARLSON:  Yes.  That‘s right. 

TODD:  ... that will continue to pay off for him, no matter what. 

GERSTEIN:  She‘s in a whole ‘nother category.

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

No.  She‘s—she is a godlike figure. 


CARLSON:  We are too afraid to say otherwise. 

But—but let me—let me just say, I mean, first of all, anybody who is not a baby boomer is halfway to getting my vote, just by definition of that. 


CARLSON:  But this is—as A.B. points out, Dan, this is kind of Hillary‘s base.  And I don‘t mean that in a cruel way.  I mean, Hollywood, you would expect everybody, all the producers, all the agents—Ari Emanuel, Rahm Emanuel‘s brother...

STODDARD:  Yes, that was really...

CARLSON:  ... is with Obama...

STODDARD:  That was really interesting.

CARLSON:  ... which is interesting.

I mean, is this a—sort of a snub to Hillary? 

GERSTEIN:  I think it‘s partly a reflection of the fact of a new-old paradigm.  And I think there‘s a lot of folks who are tired of the Bush-Clinton area, and they want a fresh break.  They want to get away from the partisanship, the nastiness. 

And I think what Obama is selling is hope and optimism, which is, you know, very refreshing and appealing to a lot of different people, even partisan Democrats in Hollywood.

I think—you know, to me, the—the most important thing of all this is, it shows how inside the bubble people in politics are, is that there is this derby for Hollywood support that...

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

GERSTEIN:  ... is completely meaningless, especially to someone like Hillary Clinton, who is in a dominating position, and, more importantly, is going to raise more money than God. 

CARLSON:  No, that—that‘s a good point.  And you waste a lot of time trying to win Sharon Stone over. 


STODDARD:  But she won her over. 

CARLSON:  Yes, she did. 


CARLSON:  Actually, it works.


CARLSON:  Coming up:  Seventeen Republicans in the House bailed on the president‘s new way forward.  Some conservatives are annoyed by that.  Loyal Republicans take names and hold them accountable, and our next guest leads that charge. 

Plus:  John McCain has learned how important social conservatives can be, and he has begun to court their vote, but at what cost?  The former darling of the press corps feels the flames of media love flicker.  We will talk about the consequences of that, if any. 

Stick around. 


CARLSON:  Just when it seems like nobody is on Bush‘s side on Iraq, it turns out that somebody is.  And that somebody is getting organized.

Next up, we will talk to a man leading the anti-antiwar movement.

We will back in a minute.


CARLSON:  Last week‘s antiwar resolution in the House saw 17 Republican members vote against the president‘s position.  As with any vote of consequences, there is a political price to pay, in this case, for the GOP congressmen who broke from their party.

A new conservative group, the Victory Caucus, aims to hold politicians accountable for their positions, serving as a counterpoint to organizations like MoveOn.org.

Joining me now is a member of the Victory Caucus‘ board of governors and founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney.

Frank, thanks for coming on.


CARLSON:  So, you—you all, according to “The Politico” this morning, are going Bill Keller, Republican from Florida, who voted...

GAFFNEY:  Ric Keller, I believe it is, isn‘t it?

CARLSON:  I—I think—yes.  Congressman Keller from Florida.

GAFFNEY:  Congressman Keller.

CARLSON:  Right. 

GAFFNEY:  Good old what‘s-his-name.

CARLSON:  He is conservative, by any measure, on almost every issue but this.  The implication, from my point of view, seems to be that, if you differ with the president‘s Iraq policy, you—you cannot call yourself a conservative. 

GAFFNEY:  Well, I think what we are trying to do is raise a question about, if you are not interested in victory, whether you can call yourself a person deserving of the support of not only Republicans, but I would like to think Democrats and independents as well. 

If you are advocating defeat—and, by the way, as we have talked about many times, this is not just about Iraq.  This is one theater in a larger war...

CARLSON:  Right. 

GAFFNEY:  ... indeed, a global war.  If defeat is really what you are prepared to put your career on the line for, then so be it. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

GAFFNEY:  We are willing to hold you accountable. 

CARLSON:  But there is an argument—and I half agree with you.  I resent, and bitterly resent, the war.  I think it was a terrible mistake.  On the other hand, pulling out strikes me as kind of reckless at this point.

But there—there is, I think, a cogent argument—and it‘s made by some conservatives—that getting out actually is the best for preserving America‘s strength; it‘s the best—it‘s in our interests to get out. 

You don‘t—I mean, you don‘t even rank that as a serious enough argument to... 

GAFFNEY:  Yes.  I just don‘t think it stands up to close scrutiny.

What getting out means, as a practical matter...

CARLSON:  Right. 

GAFFNEY:  ... is defeat.  It is retreat in the face of the enemy. 

The enemy in Iraq will be emboldened.  The enemy that has tried to defeat us in Iraq will be emboldened.  And people elsewhere around the world, allies and enemies alike, will take from this that the United States is, unfortunately, a waning power. 

Now, we will be able to regroup and to fight on other battlefronts?  Quite possibly.  But, alas, some of them will almost certainly be here in the United States.  And I don‘t think that‘s what anybody who voted for change in Iraq really wants to happen. 


CARLSON:  So, you all are spending time going after, politically going after, people on the Republican side who disagree with you.  How much energy are you spending scolding the even larger group of Republicans who were terribly wrong, wrong about the—the correctness of the war in the first place, and then subsequently about the prosecution of the war? 

I mean, it seems to me those are the Republicans who have actually hurt America and its place in the world.  Are they being held to account by you or anyone else? 

GAFFNEY:  Well, we have a disagreement. 

I think that it was necessary to go into Iraq.  We now know that Saddam Hussein had hot production lines for biological and chemical agents.

CARLSON:  You really believe that, that it was...

GAFFNEY:  This is what the Iraq Survey Group determined, hot production lines, and plans to both ramp them up when sanctions came off and to put them into aerosol cans and perfume sprayers to send to the United States and Europe.

CARLSON:  So, when you look at this war, you say, you know what, I am glad we did it?


GAFFNEY:  Absolutely. 

I was in favor of it years before it happened, and believed that it was necessary...

CARLSON:  Oh, I know.

GAFFNEY:  ... in fact, because what Saddam was doing was preparing to act on his plans for revenge, including using terror and weapons of mass destruction in this country. 


GAFFNEY:  So, far from saying, you know, the Republicans who thought that and worried about it and took corrective action were wrong, I think they were right.  They deserve our commendation. 

CARLSON:  I guess it just seems to me that anybody who is responsible for getting us to the very sad place we find ourselves now ought to be punished. 

But, very quickly, don‘t you at least concede that it would have been helpful to have a greater debate about the way the war has been prosecuted?   And there are some authoritarians on the Republican side who kind of squelched debate and called liberal people—people like Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who is no liberal at all, when they tried to raise the point, this isn‘t going well.

Don‘t you wish there had been a freer debate about that up—before now? 

GAFFNEY:  I don‘t know. 

I have written a piece in “The Washington Times” today that talks about the line between constructive dissent, where what you‘re talking about are ways in which you can actually improve the chances for victory, and what amounts to treachery, which is basically destroying the chances for victory.

And the correlation here, in terms of what has been going wrong, I think you can‘t leave out of the mix the Chuck Hagels and the others who have been decrying this war and have been signaling to our enemies that, in fact, the will to win it is dissipating in the United States, in both Republican ranks, to some extent, and predominantly in the Democratic ranks. 


GAFFNEY:  What we need to do, I think, is signal a determination to win, and see what happens then.  I think it will get better.


CARLSON:  I would like to hold people accountable for the screwups, though.  I hope somebody does.

GAFFNEY:  Hold them all accountable.


Frank Gaffney, thank you.

GAFFNEY:  My pleasure.

CARLSON:  Coming up:  Abe Lincoln had it right.  You really can‘t please all the people all the time. 

When we come back, we will look at whom John McCain is trying to please, and how he is doing it, and whom that displeases.  Does it spell success or trouble for the Republican front-runner?

Plus:  Most Americans think Dick Cheney‘s lovability puts him somewhere between Montgomery Burns and Pol Pot.  So, what has the almost completed Scooter Libby trial meant for a man whose approval ratings could hardly be lower?  The real takeaway from the most complicated and, in some ways, most interesting trial in memory—when we come back. 


CARLSON:  Among the many domestic political effects of the quagmire in Iraq has been unusual division within the Republican ranks. 

Back to talk about the effect of Republicans splintering on the war, the president‘s agenda, the next election cycle, we welcome once again A.B.  Stoddard of “The Hill” newspaper, and the founder of the political blog Dangerous Thoughts, Dan Gerstein.

Welcome to you both.

I have to say, Dan, I wish that somebody would go back and systematically collect the statements of leading Republicans and some Democrats about the Iraq war, and how great it was going to be for the world, bring them to public attention, and, if nothing else, shame the hell out of the people whose projections were so miserably wrong. 

I mean, there is this kind of instinct on the right and among liberal neocons, too:  That was yesterday.  You know, let‘s move forward. 

I don‘t know.  Don‘t you think it‘s useful to kind of hold people who made big mistakes accountable for those mistakes? 

GERSTEIN:  Well, I have some special scars from this, from...



GERSTEIN:  ... with people holding—trying to hold Senator Lieberman accountable. 

And, actually, what Frank Gaffney‘s group is doing seems a somewhat interesting parallel to what the—you know, the left wing of the Democratic Party tried to do to Senator Lieberman. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

GERSTEIN:  But even...

STODDARD:  It‘s called eating your own.


GERSTEIN:  Well, but, even, in a weirder way, just because, you know, the Republicans are clearly on the wrong side of the American people on this.

And to punish people now, politically, for coming back to their senses, and saying the war is—is really screwed up, and we should not necessarily, you know, follow the president, may make them feel good, but, politically, seems going to be really damaging to Republicans. 


STODDARD:  Look at someone like Republican Jim Walsh of Upstate New York...


STODDARD:  ... who just barely held on.

I mean, he—you know, do they want him to lose his job next time?  Because savaging him over this is—is—I mean, you know, trying to primary him out is not, at this point, looking good for ‘08.

But—but what is interesting to me is this, what I discovered last week.  I am really surprised, obviously, by 17 defections only.  I mean, they were talking about upwards of 60 Republicans...

CARLSON:  Right. 

STODDARD:  ... joining the Democrats.

But I am also surprised.  I was saying last week I really thought that their argument was going to kind of resonate.  And I—and—and it‘s surprising how much it did, not only that they could keep those Republicans.

But I talked to one last week who opposes of the surge, but he was

able to oppose the resolution, because he explained to his constituents why

that the surge is already under way, but he is opposed to it, he thinks there has been many mistakes, but he felt uncomfortable opposing the—the president on war strategy.

And he said to me two things that I thought were so striking.  He said:  We would have been in deep trouble if they had done this earlier.  But, once the surge was under way, you know, they felt that they had cover.

CARLSON:  Right. 

STODDARD:  And the second thing he said was, Republicans are feeling -

while we thought they were in such a box three to six weeks ago, they are feeling more and more that, not only is that argument about denying reinforcements to troops in harm‘s way going to be—you know, really muddy the debate for the Democrats, but that, if—once they join the Democrats, they are going to have to be part of the solution.  And they don‘t know how to do that.  They don‘t know what to say.

CARLSON:  Well, that...


CARLSON:  They don‘t want to own it anymore than they do. 

I have to say, though, the Republicans, Dan, have been on the president‘s side on Iraq pretty much uniformly for the last four years.  And they paid a pretty stiff price for it. 

What do they get in return from the Bush White House?  What can the Bush Saudi say, “We will give you in return for your support”? 



CARLSON:  They don‘t have anything, do they?

GERSTEIN:  Their store of political capital is depleted. 



GERSTEIN:  I want to go back to your—your point, which is, I—I think the Republicans would be much better off, in terms of talking about accountability and sort of saying, we are going take to make sure that, when we do this surge, we are going to do it right...

CARLSON:  Right. 

GERSTEIN:  ... because I fundamentally I think that the—the thing that killed the Republicans in the congressionals was not just being linked to Bush.  It was the fact that they were patsies.  They—they had no oversight.  They had no questioning of this administration‘s conduct of the war...

CARLSON:  Right. 

GERSTEIN:  ... which, in the long run, wasn‘t just the right thing to do for the country, but it was the right thing to do politically, because it would have prevented them from being in the mess they‘re in. 

CARLSON:  I completely agree with that, which—which gets to my question.  I mean, they—the Bush administration, the White House, has demanded absolute loyalty from the Republican caucus, and has pretty much gotten it.  And it has hurt everybody as a result.

And it just—you—you wonder, do they have naked pictures of a lot of these guys?


CARLSON:  I mean, what was the leverage they used to get this—this just...


CARLSON:  ... obedience?

STODDARD:  No, I—this time, I don‘t think they actually—I think they saw, on the Senate side, that there were some serious numbers to work with. 

I think, this time, on the House side, they did not work it that hard. 

But the members themselves really looked at:  What are my choices?

CARLSON:  Right. 

STODDARD:  And lot of them are—are able to tell their—the constituents back home:  Look, I‘m—totally agree with you.  This is—we are really having problems.  It‘s not going as planned.  I am upset by the lack of progress.

But they were able to sort of walk this line, where they say, we—the—the surge is already under way.  I don‘t want to be seen...

CARLSON:  Right. 

STODDARD:  ... by the troops as...

CARLSON:  Which is a fair—which is a fair point. 


GERSTEIN:  It also seems—it also seems like they‘re—they are trying to set up the next debate, which is...

STODDARD:  They are.


GERSTEIN:  It‘s almost like a bank shot, which is that...


GERSTEIN:  ... they‘re—they‘re banking on the Democrats to overreach and try and cut off funding for the troops. 


CARLSON:  Which—which sounds like it‘s going to happen, to me. 

Coming up:  John McCain has choice words for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.  He is not here anymore, by the way.  What is the use of kicking a guy who has already been kicked out?  We will tell you. 

Plus:  Joe Biden has got as much chance to be president as you do of getting a tan in Manitoba this week.  But, like a suntanner in a snowstorm, he is at least interesting. 

We have got the latest from silver-tongued Senator Joe when we come back. 




ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY:  Every place that Mitt has gone he solved problems that people said were nearly impossible. 

ANNOUNCER:  Romney, business legend, rescuer of the Olympics, the Republican governor who turned around a Democratic state. 

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I believe the American people are over taxed, and the government is over fed.  I believe we‘re spending too much money, and that‘s got to stop. 

I believe our laws ought to be written by the people and not by unelected judges. 

Look, these are critical times we face.  We face attacks from jihadists.  We face tougher competitions than we‘ve never known before coming from Asia.  We‘re spending too much money here.  We‘re using too much oil here.  Our schools are failing too many of our kids. 

This is not a time for more talk and dithering in Washington.  It‘s a time for action.  I believe in the people of America.  Free American people are the source of this land‘s great strength.

(voice-over) I‘m Mitt Romney.  I‘m running for president, and I approved this message.


CARLSON:  What Mitt Romney lacks in name recognition in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, he makes up for some in personal wealth.  He is very rich, and a smooth delivery.  He‘s very smooth.  And budding support inside his own party.

The ad you just saw will hit the airwaves on Wednesday. 

Here to discuss Mr. Romney‘s new campaign.  We welcome back A.B.  Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill”, and the founder of the political blog Dangerous Thoughts and also a former senior Joe Lieberman advisor, Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein. 

Welcome to you both.

And that spot is called “Unplugged”, “Mitt Romney Unplugged”.  He looked pretty plugged to me.  What did you think of it?

DAN GERSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Seems pretty stocked, traditional bio ad.  I think it‘s going against conventional wisdom.  Most people in politics say it‘s a waste of money to advertise this early.  Who knows whether it‘s going to pay any dividends. 

I think there is a plausible explanation for it, which is he‘s got to up his name I.D. 

I think the interesting thing, though, is, you know, the guys who went in politics, and will come out of nowhere are the guys who are willing to take risks.

CARLSON:  Right.

GERSTEIN:  So the fact that he‘s willing to take this risk, I think at least says something about...

CARLSON:  In politics this qualifies as a risk. 

GERSTEIN:  A little bit of a risk.


A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, “THE HILL”:  Why?  He has so much money.  It can‘t hurt him at all.  He needs to pump up his profile.  He‘s trying to blunt the Rudy thing.  Look, Romney is scraping bottom in the poles.  He doesn‘t come close to McCain and Giuliani, but he‘s smart, that it‘s now or never.  When he is going to blunt Rudy‘s momentum and come up and creep up on McCain?  Now. 

CARLSON:  Dan, it was announced this week a change of policy in the United States Marine Corps, that members of the Marine Corps, female ones who become pregnant will now remain on active duty.  Pregnant women in the Marine Corps. 

A news account this morning says that this policy seems to be in line with other military branches.  The Navy—I didn‘t know this—keeps women on active duty.  If a pregnant sailor wants to go inactive, she must show that staying on active duty is a hardship for her family, as if it wouldn‘t be. 

This—barbaric is the term I guess that comes to mind.  When you have a country that‘s running a voluntary war using pregnant women, can you get lower than that, do you think?

GERSTEIN:  Well, I don‘t know if it‘s barbaric, in large part because I don‘t know about what the standards for the other services are.  And from what I hear...

CARLSON: ... if you‘re pregnant (ph).

GERSTEIN:  That‘s you.  And the limited nature of the duty that they‘re going to be put on.  Are they serving in combat?  Probably not.  I think a lot of it has to be, you know—the common sense standard to me would be is woman—is the woman ready to serve?  Does she feel like she can serve, and is it a health risk?  And that should be left up to me and left up to a doctor, but I‘m going to defer to A.B. on this.

CARLSON:  It is the Marine Corps.  What they do is fight wars.  I mean, they‘re United States Marines.  I mean, this is obviously a commentary on how desperate the services are. 

STODDARD:  Yes, including all these waivers.

CARLSON:  Right.

STODDARD:  Criminals, overweight, too old. 

CARLSON:  People on mental health medication. 

But there‘s something—I don‘t know.  I know that I‘m—I‘m the only person in America that‘s offended by this, but I think something really profound has changed in our attitude toward—towards ourselves, toward human life, toward the dignity of people when you even consider allowing a pregnant woman, really the woman that society ought to be designed to protect, it seems to me, to serve in the Marine Corps during a war.  Now, it‘s just—it‘s a joke. 

STODDARD:  Well, I think that when the Democrats get down to this readiness debate, which is what they‘re going to use to try to focus—to squeeze the war funding...

CARLSON:  Right.

STODDARD:  ... I mean, this is going to sell.  When they start holding hearings about how we‘re sending back people—sending people back too many times.  We‘re using pregnant woman, and we‘re allowing criminals...

CARLSON:  I bet you a thousand dollars to one that this is considered a feminist triumph, actually.  There are a lot of people that have pushed for this.  And this is considered—you know, this is—this is you‘ve come a long way baby kind of thing?

STODDARD:  It obviously means they‘re scraping for every last person. 

CARLSON:  Well, I just thought it‘s totally depressing.

What did you think, Dan, of John McCain‘s remarks this weekend about Donald Rumsfeld?  “I think Donald Rumsfeld,” he said, “will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history.”  Donald Rumsfeld is long gone.  Why is McCain pounding on him?

GERSTEIN:  Well, first off, I think what he‘s saying is absolutely right. It‘s totally consistent with what McCain has said throughout.

CARLSON:  That‘s true.

GERSTEIN:  He‘s not flip-flopping.  He‘s not being opportunistic.  He‘s just saying what he‘s been saying.  I think it‘s absolutely very smart for him to be emphasizing that now.  And here‘s why.

He‘s got to walk this fine line, where he can‘t walk away for support from the war, and he can‘t seem like he‘s attacking President Bush.  I mean, he is, in essence, co-opting much of the Bush team, much of the Bush base and a lot of his staff. 

But at the same time, if he looks like an apologist for what is clearly a failed war effort, his credibility is shot.  I think by going after Rumsfeld as the straw man for the Bush administration‘s mistakes without attacking the president is the best that he can do. 

CARLSON:  It‘s a little bit like beating up on Gerry Ford as a way to get the Republicans, though, isn‘t it?

STODDARD:  He—Dan is right.  He has to criticize war policy and war strategy and how things have gone, and he‘s been critical of Dick Cheney, which I think is quite politically brave thing to do.

What‘s interesting, though, is he has been critical of Rumsfeld all along.  But he was quiet about it when he was in office, sort of as—out of deference to the Bush administration, not wanting to cause problems. 

And then the day that Rumsfeld departed, he—you know, he said we should thank him for his service, and now it is more convenient for him to sort of really dump on him. 

GERSTEIN:  If you go back and check the record, he was pretty...

CARLSON:  No, I‘ve noticed this.  He was going after him for a while. 

STODDARD:  He did not go out of his way to do it. 

CARLSON:  There‘s this kind of—this feeling growing among people who cover politics for a living that McCain has changed.  He‘s not the same McCain we knew and loved so much in 2000.

And I confess I was with McCain for a long time in 2000, and I thought he was a great guy.  But a lot of the press doesn‘t like him because the perception is he‘s moved to the right. 

There‘s a piece today in the “Philadelphia Inquirer” by Dick Pullman who said this.  I‘m quoting now.  “The media feels so betrayed.  They fell hard for McCain in 2000, not just because he granted so much access but because he sold himself as a rebel.” 

It seems to me, Dan, this is exactly the opposite of reality.  McCain is now, if anything, the biggest rebel he‘s ever been in his entire career.  He is almost alone, along with your former boss, Joe Lieberman, supporting a war that everybody on both sides hates.  Talk about rebellious behavior.  Why isn‘t he getting credit for that?

GERSTEIN:  Well, I think—I think what this is—this is a lot more about the media than it does about John McCain, to a certain—to a certain extent...

CARLSON:  I agree with that.

GERSTEIN:  ... which is that they fell in love with him.  He was the truth teller, and what reporters prize above all else is telling the truth. 

CARLSON:  But that‘s actually not what they pride themselves in...

GERSTEIN:  I‘m being a little...

CARLSON:  Being a suck-up.

GERSTEIN:  ... optimistic.  A little.  But—and what McCain did in 2000 was very appealing to the press, and he showered them with attention.

CARLSON:  Right.

GERSTEIN:  He‘s got to do something different now, he is not the candidate here, and he is trying to be the establishment candidate, because the establishment candidate wins.  And he‘s making some compromises.  Are they good compromises?  It‘s going to be for now, for a while. 

CARLSON:  Real establishment, the establishment that actually runs the country.  I mean, George Bush doesn‘t run the company.  The people who actually make the opinions in this country, who own the industries, who make America work, the real establishment, they‘re 100 percent against the war.  And good for them, for that matter. 

But they—McCain is taking, in fact, deeply a position that‘s so anti-establishment that we even don‘t recognize it as much.  For the war in 2007?  I mean, that takes stones. 

STODDARD:  I just think that the media was cataloguing his—his romancing of the conservative establishment long before he became the last man standing to support the Iraq war. 

CARLSON:  Right.

STODDARD:  And so this has been happening for over a year.  And the Jerry Falwell thing...

CARLSON:  Right.

STODDARD:  ... was this huge sort of crashing moment where he became the alternate politician instead of the anti-politician. 

CARLSON:  That was the moment at which Jerry Falwell, someone he‘d attacked pretty drastically.

STODDARD:  Right, right.  He called him an agent of intolerance.  And then he ended up speaking at his university and giving a commencement address. 

Now, that relationship isn‘t so warm, but obviously, he made amends.

CARLSON:  It could be embarrassing.

STODDARD:  And he has done a lot of things to reach out to—to people that he used to reject, including, you know, people who raise money, ad makers, tons of people that he once loathed and was quite, you know, vocal about it. 

That, you know—once you become—once—when you make your name as the un-politician and you become the ultimate, you know, you‘re going to take flack from it. 

CARLSON:  They‘re all political establishment.

STODDARD:  Is that he‘s worked so hard—forget the media.  He‘s worked so hard to earn the trust again of these people that he did criticize, and he may never be able to, because now it seems like they‘re going with Romney, because all these Bush people, you know, are sort of dumping him. 

CARLSON:  Conservatives hate McCain for reasons that are mostly unreasonable, I think.  He‘s actually more conservative—he‘s way more conservative than Rudy Giuliani, who they‘re trying to love. 

I wonder if Joe Biden, another sort of tragic figure in politics, a subject for the great profile today by Roger Simon in “The Politico”.  The profile begins this way.  It‘s a wonderful opening line, “Joe Biden is in the 27th minute of his 5-minute presentation.” 

He goes on to say, which—anybody that has ever spent time around Joe Biden knows that he‘s a talker, but an interesting one.  He says this about his vote in 2002 for the Iraq war.  Biden says, quote, “It was a mistake.  I regret my vote.”

Now, why can‘t Hillary Clinton just say that?  And is that a smart thing for him to say?

GERSTEIN:  I think it‘s a smart thing for Biden to say to curry favor with primary voters.  I think it would be a terrible mistake for Hilary Clinton to admit she made a mistake because she didn‘t make a mistake.  And her being this liability, not just in terms of the primary voter electorate, but in terms of the general electorate, is this notion, and I think it‘s unfair, but it‘s out there that she is too calculating, and too political, and...

CARLSON:  Now where do they get that idea?

GERSTEIN:  Well, but if she were to cave under pressure to the antiwar wing of the party, to pressure her to say something that she honestly doesn‘t believe...

CARLSON:  Right, right.

GERSTEIN:  ... would be, I think really damaging. 

CARLSON:  Except—except you and I both know that she honestly does believe it.  I mean, it‘s causing her—do you think she doesn‘t regret voting for the war?

GERSTEIN:  That‘s different.  But it‘s different to say that you regret that you cast a vote in hindsight knowing what you know, versus saying, at the time, “Oh, I screwed up.”

CARLSON:  I understand.

GERSTEIN:  And I think she on principled grounds is refusing to say that, because on the information she had, she did the right thing.  And I think she should go at a certain point—if she‘s going to hold this line, she should go to the other candidates and say, “OK, Barack Obama, you say you were opposed to the war from the beginning.  What did you know about the weapons of mass destruction, at that time, when all the intelligence said that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and Bill Clinton was saying that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  What did you do know that I didn‘t know that justified you to criticize it?”

CARLSON:  First of all, that would require an actual debate, which I‘m not sure she‘s capable of.  But if she did that, MoveOn.org would storm her compound and take her into captivity.  I don‘t think she would do that. 

Thank you to you both.  I appreciate it, Dan.

Coming up, the sands of the hour glass are dwindling down in the Scooter Libby trial.  So what was the whole ordeal really about?  What does it mean, especially for those in charge of the Bush administration?  We‘ll look at the trial of the accused and Dick Cheney when we come back. 

Plus with a signature mop like this, why would Donald Trump follow Britney Spears down the path of total baldness?  The most famous hair in all of television is in peril, and as always, MSNBC‘s chief beauty and hair care correspondent Willie Geist has the latest.


CARLSON:  As the Scooter Libby trial draws to a close, we‘re learning more and more that it‘s actually less about Libby‘s guilt or innocence and more about our White House, specifically Vice President Dick Cheney.  We‘ll talk to someone who‘s at the courthouse for closing arguments.  That‘s next.


CARLSON:  Government and defense lawyers delivering their closing arguments in the trial of Scooter Libby, and both the “Washington Post” and the “New York Times” marked the day with long pieces about the trial and what it told us about the inner workings of the White House. 

With his view close-up to the trial, is MSNBC‘s David Shuster, who has covered it from the very beginning. 

David, welcome. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, good to be with you. 

CARLSON:  So the—the official version, as presented in the big newspapers here in Washington this morning is that this trial will shed light not simply on whether or not Scooter Libby committed perjury but on the role of the vice president.  I‘m a little skeptical about that.

But I mean, tell us the three most interesting things that you would, briefly, that we‘ve learned about Cheney in the course of this trial?

SHUSTER:  We learned that Scooter Libby was essentially acting at Dick Cheney‘s behest on several different occasions.  That‘s the first thing. 

In other words, the idea that Scooter Libby was taking these actions that were at least suspicious because Vice President Cheney wanted him to.  And second, as we learned that the vice president essentially ignored other government officials, other members of the cabinet and even the CIA director when the vice president thought it would be advantageous to him—maybe not anybody else—but advantageous to him to have information declassified. 

And we‘re talking about a National Intelligence Estimate.  Cheney decided to go to the president and say, “Hey, I need to but back this case that‘s being made against me.  Allow me to declassify it.”  The president signs on.

Cheney tells Libby to give this information to Judy Miller, and nobody else even knows about it.  The CIA director didn‘t know.  The Defense Department secretary didn‘t know.  The national security advisor didn‘t know. So that‘s the second.

And the third thing that we‘re learning in all this is that the motive for Scooter Libby to lie during the FBI investigation and criminal investigation about those events before Valerie Wilson was out, it has now become abundantly clear that Scooter Libby was lying, according to prosecutors, not just to protect himself legally and perhaps politically, but also to protect Vice President Cheney politically and possibly legally. 

And the reason we know this is because of all of the evidence showing the vice president and Scooter Libby had conversations about Valerie Wilson before she was outed.  And these are conservations at which Scooter Libby sometimes can remember things when it‘s advantageous to him, but at other points simply can‘t recall conversations with Vice President Cheney. 

So despite it all, there‘s still a lot about the vice president that we don‘t know about, and that has fueled the suspicions of prosecutors, now we find out, from the beginning. 

CARLSON:  Well, here—here is a question that I don‘t know the answer to.  And I‘m really interested in learning it. 

This whole case began, of course, out of this argument about Valerie Plame, Valerie Wilson, the wife of Joe Wilson, who worked at the CIA.  And the statute that triggered all this requires—it says that it‘s not a crime to divulge the name of someone who works in national intelligence, unless that person‘s role is covert. 

So the question is was Valerie Plame covert?  The judge in this case apparently told jurors they were not allowed to ask.  Do we know whether she was covert, and why could the judge say that?

SHUSTER:  Well, the judge decided that was because is that not material to whether Scooter Libby lied during the grand jury... 


SHUSTER:  ... and the FBI several months later.  The judge said that‘s not a relevant fact and that it would be prejudicial. 

But there has been testimony outside of the jury‘s presence, and statements by Prosecutors Fitzgerald that yes, she was covert.  She worked in the counter-proliferation division, the most sensitive at the CIA and that anybody in this town that knows something about the CIA would know that if you heard that somebody worked in the counter-proliferation division, it‘s almost a 95 percent certainty that they were covert and that they are covert.  But again, you‘re right. 

That has not been presented to the jury, because Fitzgerald did not charge somebody with leaking.  But that is essentially the background to this entire case, the idea that Scooter Libby thought at the time the criminal investigation began he might have done something illegal. 

And that is the motive that prosecutors have introduced as to why Scooter Libby would then say—concoct this story, according to prosecutors, blame reporters, instead of Scooter Libby saying the truth, that he really did learn this from other government officials and passed it along himself. 

CARLSON:  Right.

SHUSTER:  That is the motive issue that they‘ve been able to get into. 

CARLSON:  And finally, when are we likely to know whether Scooter Libby is going to be found guilty or innocent?  When‘s the jury going to decide that, do you think?

SHUSTER:  Tucker, we could find out as early as tomorrow afternoon. 

Tomorrow, they‘re going to—they now finished with the closing arguments.  The jury is going to get their instructions by the judge tomorrow morning, and then the jury is going to deliberate. 

And remember, in each of these counts, there may be, in some of them, three or four different aspects to the count.  And the jury instructions, which a lot of people may not realize, the jury is going to be told they only have to find one particular section, say, out of the four on the obstruction of justice.  One out of four believe that Scooter Libby was guilty, and they can find him guilty on the entire count. 

So yes, there‘s a lot of information, but it is not that complicated a case, and I think that‘s why we‘ll get a verdict within a matter of days, maybe as early as tomorrow afternoon. 

CARLSON:  That would—that‘s amazing.  David Shuster has been on the scene since the beginning.  Thanks a lot, David. 

SHUSTER:  Thanks.

CARLSON:  We‘ve got breaking news.  Britney Spears checks into rehab once again.  Will she stay for more than 24 hours this time?  Is it too late to save her?  Willie Geist ponders those deep questions among others when we come right back. 


CARLSON:  Joining us now, a man who has not shaved his own head in a drug-fueled fit of post-adolescent angst but is amused by those who have, Willie Geist from headquarters—Willie. 

WILLIE GEIST, PRODUCER:  Not yet, anyway, Tucker.  Not yet.  We‘re going to get to Britney Spears in a second.  But a quick update on one of the terribly important stories we brought you yesterday. 

Tom Brady, his girlfriend Bridget Moynihan pregnant with a child.  Brady‘s agent said today that Brady is, quote, “excited about it.”  Now why wouldn‘t he be excited?  Things are a little complicated.  He broke up with Moynihan and is now together with this young lady, Giselle Bundchen. 

So Tom Brady at least publicly saying he‘s excited but now what to do with Giselle, Tucker?  What to do with Giselle?

Well, let‘s get to the big news of the day.

Britney Spears‘ manager announced this afternoon that Spears and her shaved head voluntarily checked themselves into an undisclosed rehab facility today.  TMZ.com reports it was an in-patient facility in Los Angeles and that Spears went in at the urging of her mother. 

Now, didn‘t she just bail out of a Caribbean rehab center after less than 24 hours a couple of days ago, you ask?  To that, we say stop asking so many questions. 

Today‘s news comes on the heels of a stunning report about her partying and parenting, or lack thereof, in today‘s “New York Post”.

Tucker, I don‘t know if you got a chance to read this, but if you haven‘t, go to NewYorkPost.com.  I hate to plug it.  It‘s too good.

It‘s a story from about a week ago.  She was out with her nanny and her kids.  She said, “I‘m going to run into Dwayne Reed (ph), a local drugstore in town.  You go on to the hotel.”  Didn‘t show up back at the hotel until 3:30 the next day, after having been partying out all night.  Nobody knew where she was.  Her kids were back at the hotel with the nanny. 


CARLSON:  You‘ve never done that?  “I‘m going out for ice cream, get a pack of smokes.  I‘ll be right back.”  And never come back. 

GEIST:  I didn‘t say.  I‘m not saying I haven‘t done that, but I‘m not a pop princess with two little kids back at home.  Three thirty in the afternoon is par for the course for me, Tucker.  You know that.


GEIST:  But no, she—I mean, this is getting pretty weird.  I mean, she‘s entering Michael Jackson territory.  It‘s a matter of time before she has a theme park in her back yard. 

CARLSON:  When she—when she starts buying monkeys, that‘s when I get nervous. 

GEIST:  Exactly.  But also, there‘s another interesting element to this head-shaving business.  Donald Trump, who has the best hair in the world, obviously, has entered a bet with Vince McMahon of the World Wrestling Entertainment for Wrestlemania 23 in Detroit.  They‘re each going to pick a wrestler, and whoever‘s wrestler loses the match has to shave his head. 

They swear this is real.  Somehow I have a feeling that Trump‘s guy is going to win.  Because Trump is too shrewd of a man to enter any deal that would cost him that wonderful head of hair.  Don‘t you think, Tucker?

CARLSON:  He‘s proud of that hair.  I have mocked his hair before on this program. 

GEIST:  You paid for it. 

CARLSON:  I did.  I paid for it.  I got an outraged and pretty amusingly obscene message from Mr. Trump.  So I‘m just going to say, “Mr.  Trump, I‘m on the side of you and your hair.” 

GEIST:  We always are.  We always are.

Now to a patient who‘s faring much, much better than Britney.  It‘s hard to imagine that a baby as inconceivably small as the one in this picture is healthy and ready to come home from the hospital. 

The little girl who doctors are calling a miracle baby was born in Miami last October about four months early and weighing less than 10 ounces.  The infant was delivered by caesarean section after just 22 weeks in the womb.  She‘s the first baby ever to known to have survived after a gestation period of fewer than 23 weeks. 

Here she is today, weighing about four and a half pounds.  Doctors say the baby will have no long-term health problems, which is absolutely amazing. 

CARLSON:  It‘s amazing.

GEIST:  She‘s going to stay in the hospital a couple more days, but the baby is OK.  And you have to think—you‘ve got to remember the name Amelia Taylor, because this baby is going to be president or something.  It‘s too good. 

CARLSON:  That is awesome. 

GEIST:  Check out this video.  A guy on a high rise in Hong Kong today.  Some drama about 36 stories above the street.  He escaped a fire, went out to a ledge, hung onto the ledge for dear life.  Slips here a couple of times.  People down on the ground gasping as he almost falls. 

And then he eventually leaps to a nearby ledge, allowing firemen to come down and get him.  Now it‘s dramatic he survived.  Everything is OK.  But apparently there was something shady going on.  The door was barricaded when the firemen got there.  A little paraphernalia maybe in the apartment.  I think he was more escaping authorities than looking to be saved. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know what he was doing, but he definitely gets a pass in my book after that. 

GEIST:  All right, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Willie Geist from headquarters.  Thanks a lot, Willie. 

That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  We‘ll be back tomorrow. 

Tune in then.  In the meantime, have a great night. 



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.


Watch Tucker each weeknight at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET


Discussion comments