updated 2/23/2007 11:15:53 AM ET 2007-02-23T16:15:53

Guests: Mort Zuckerman, Jonathan Alter, John L. Smith, Charles Barron

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Television news has been reduced or maybe elevated to a soap opera lately from the Anna Nicole Smith saga to Britney Spears on and off again relationship with rehab, to a topic in which we‘re more interested - Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama. The cagey, cool, spirited air play between the two Democratic frontrunners these last few months, the political equivalent of a waltz, erupted yesterday into a snarling, screeching cat fight. It all began Tuesday night Obama starred at a fund raiser in Hollywood bringing home more than $1million for his effort.  Hours later, columnist Maureen Dowd of the “New York Times” quoted one of the organizers of that event, Dreamworks head David Geffen, attacking Mrs. Clinton and her husband Bill as dishonest, vicious and without principles. 

Keep in mind that as of not too long ago, Geffen was one of the Clinton‘s closest political friends. Within about eight minutes, the Hillary Clinton campaign fired back, demanding that Obama disown Geffen for the apparent crime of incivility. Then Obama returned fire suggesting  that one of Clinton‘s supporters had made a racists statement.  Before long the battlefield was obscured by rhetorical gun smoke which is where we find ourselves now, a whole year before the Democratic primaries.  The fun has finally begun.  Joining me here at world headquarters to join that fun and to make sense of the rest of the day‘s news, we welcome editor in chief of “U.S. News & World Report” and chairman and publisher of the “New York Daily News,” Mort Zuckerman and senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine Jonathan Alter.  Welcome to you both.  

A lot of people with vested interests in this, mostly from the Clinton side, have tried to dismiss this as significant, Mort, but if you actually read what David Geffen says, it‘s pretty heavy duty. He accuses the Clintons of being dishonest. He goes right at Mrs. Clinton‘s biggest I think vulnerability, the war. Quote, it‘s not a very big thing to say I made a mistake on the war and typical with Hillary Clinton, she can‘t say that.  Wow. Why would he do this?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, US NEWS & WORLD REPORT:  I mean he obviously has an animus towards her and an animus towards the Clintons going back a number of years, even though he was a friend.  In that world, the animus of David Geffen doesn‘t last for a long time. But I don‘t agree with him that this is Hillary Clinton‘s big error, not acknowledging that it was a mistake. I think she handled it just right.  So I don‘t think she should have admitted it was a mistake, given what she thought she knew at that time.  So I don‘t agree with his analysis.

CARLSON:    But it does make it - I mean this is the point that sticks in the throat of many on the left, whether it‘s right or wrong, they are mad at her. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Yes, without question.  But in a sense what she is talking about or thinking about is not just garnering the left wing of the Democratic party, but commanding enough support in the center, not only in the Democratic party but in the country if she wins the nomination so that she has a chance to win the election. 

CARLSON:   Jonathan Alter, what do you think of the Clinton campaign‘s response? Here‘s part of what Howard Wolfson, senior advisor to that campaign said. If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics and he knew that was going to come back to bite him, he should immediately denounce these remarks, remove Mr.  Geffen from his campaign and return the money.  What? Come on.

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK:  You are going too far.   (INAUDIBLE) the idea that somehow they are living on Mars if they think that.  What they wanted to do was fire a shot against Obama‘s bow, see if they could get him to respond, which he did.  But I don‘t think it was smart on the part of the Clintons. This was a newspaper column. Yes, Maureen Dowd is a popular columnist, but it would have been a blip.  Now the whole country knows about it and what do they know? The Geffen critique is really not just about the war.  It basically says she is a much too polarizing figure for the Democrats to nominate and also, much more telling out of Hollywood, she is boring.  He wants to turn the page.  He says he is sick of seeing James Carville on TV and that he‘ll turn the page idea, Let‘s move onto the next thing, which is very big in Hollywood. He‘s also at the center of Obama‘s campaign. 

So what Geffen did was, he said publicly what a number of Democrats are saying privately and it‘s harmful to Hillary Clinton, because her whole campaign is based on her being inevitable and this thing basically being over because she‘s got such a fine campaign and she‘s got Bill Clinton behind her and the Democratic party establishment behind her and what this does is it says to the Democratic party activists across the country, this isn‘t over. Obama is not a flash in the pan. He‘s going the distance and she is not inevitable.  She might win, but she doesn‘t have it lined up. 

CARLSON:    The irony of course is that Geffen had accused the Clintons of using vicious personal attacks and immediately she leveled on.  I wonder what you think Mort of just to go back and forth here of the Obama response, which was this, which I think is really interesting.  He said, first they pointed out that David Geffen, the Clinton are now denouncing, raised $18 million for them, (INAUDIBLE) once a very close friend.  Then they said this. It is ironic that Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because quote, he‘s black. In other words, somehow the Hillary campaign has the support of a racist who I should point out is himself black.

ZUCKERMAN:   Well, I don‘t know why you are—I mean, is this really a racist comment or a political comment? It‘s a political assessment. It‘s from somebody who is black. I don‘t know whether he‘s right or wrong, but I‘ll bet you a lot of people would agree that he is right.

CARLSON:    But the Obama - I personally think he‘s right, but I don‘t think it‘s a racist comment. But the Obama campaign - it‘s couched in such a way as to suggest they have the support of David Duke.

ZUCKERMAN:  Right. I don‘t think that‘s an accurate thing, but what you‘re getting is mudslinging going back and forth.  That‘s in one sense.  There are two parts to this.  One is, Barack Obama is sort of asserting that he is going to run a different kind of political campaign without this mudslinging. Now he is directly involved and in the second place, if I were any presidential candidate, I would stay away from Hollywood supporters, because this country does not like what comes out of Hollywood and a lot of people in this country who are in the middle of the country, do not like what is in the entertainment world, the violence, and—

CARLSON:    But you need money, don‘t you?

ZUCKERMAN:  Hillary Clinton is not going to have any trouble raising enough money for her campaign. I don‘t think that‘s the issue and she will raise a lot of money out of that community, in any event, even if it‘s not from the particular group that  supported Barack Obama.  I mean, all I can say that it‘s not a clear picture, that one side benefited over the other. 

CARLSON:   I agree.  Isn‘t this inevitable?  The Clinton response was to Obama, you said you were waging a war on cynicism. You were above the politics of slash and burn. See, you are just like everybody else. Doesn‘t Obama set himself up for this when he comes out with these ludicrous statements - I‘m running against cynicism. I mean come, you‘re a politician running for office.

ALTER:  And eventually this was going to have to happen anyway and he wants to show people that he is not Obambi, as he‘s sometimes called in Chicago, that he wasn‘t born yesterday. So he needs to show that he can get out there and respond and also, he does really have to take responsibility for what every supporter of his says and to expect him to is kind of ridiculous. 

But this other story that you talked about, is actually more important, the one out of South Carolina and let just me quickly explain why.  This is where the black supporter of Hillary Clinton said if Obama was nominated, he would drag down the whole ticket.  What happened is that in South Carolina, it seemed like Clinton was getting a lot of black support, right? And that—that state is 47 percent African-American in their Democratic primary, so it‘s hugely important.  Then what happened is, that gaff by that state senator, Robert Ford, gave Obama an opportunity last weekend to connect himself to the civil rights movement and what he did is he used it to drive a new stump speech that had thousands, 3,000, 4,000 black South Carolinians at a time on their feet.  What he would say was, what he would basically say is, they told us we couldn‘t do it when we were in the front of the bus.

CARLSON:   They said our color would prevent us.

ALTER:  He missed the civil rights movement and what this Hillary Clinton supporter did for him was gave me a chance to connect himself to the movement. 

CARLSON:   Very clever and I think (INAUDIBLE) quickly Mort, you know a lot of people involved here. It doesn‘t seem right to me that the newspaper accounts say Geffen is mad because Leonard Peltier, the Indian activist murderer didn‘t get pardoned.  Is that really why he turned against the Clintons?

ZUCKERMAN:  Who knows That particular community can draw flights in ways that most people do not sort of react that way. No, they are thin skinned and generally insecure.  Not that David Geffen is like that.  Thus, everybody says about him, you may want him as a friend. You don‘t want him as an enemy. Nevertheless, that‘s within the entertainment world. I really don‘t think that that world carries a lot of political weight.  They do carry a fair amount of money to a campaign, but not that much. Hillary Clinton is not going to have trouble raising money. 

CARLSON:   She‘s not, but who needs this?  I wouldn‘t want David Geffen yelling about me.

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, it‘s not a question of David Geffen yelling. The real question is, it became a column in the “New York Times” and it caused everybody to go back and forth.  And people like you and Jonathan and myself are talking about it. 

CARLSON:   Coming up, Dick Cheney may not win every fight, but he seems unable to walk away from one. All the way from Asia, the vice president sends his special brand of love to John McCain and Nancy Pelosi and others. Cheney versus the world in a minute.

Plus, we‘ve got the latest from Camp Giuliani. New suggestions emerge that his leadership strength hides critical weaknesses that might prevent him from becoming president. Details are just ahead.


CARLSON:   The drama between Hillary and Barack Obama evoked response today from a man who maybe the most qualified Democratic candidate of them all. He is Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Richardson took Hillary Clinton‘s side versus Barack Obama.  Why did he do that? Why doesn‘t he have a chance to win his party‘s nomination moreover? Here to tell us is John L. Smith. He‘s a columnist for the “Las Vegas Review-Journal.” You saw both Clinton and Richardson and most of the rest of the Democrats running for president yesterday in Carson City. John, thanks for coming on.

JOHN L. SMITH, LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL:  Thank you very much, Tucker. 

CARLSON:   You point out in a column correctly that here is a man, Richardson, who has been a governor, a congressman, ambassador to the UN, secretary of Energy, a freelance ambassador in all these hot spots around the globe.  He‘s got the best resume by far, I think really on either side in this race. Why is he not taken seriously?

SMITH:  I think possibly for starters, obviously he is from New Mexico, the New Mexico governor. He‘s not getting the kind of face time on national television that others are getting.  He also doesn‘t strike that kind of Hollywood image that seems to be very popular with voters.  He is not as pretty as some.  And but I think when you look at resume, not all voters do, of course, but if you look at resume, this guy‘s got it.  He has the knowledge. He has the kind of one on one experiences, you know, with leaders of rogue nations, for instance.  He can talk that talk. 

CARLSON:    Of course in a time when people are worried about global warming and our use of carbon-based fuels, he is literally Energy secretary. Moreover, as you point out, he is the advantage in geography.  He‘s from the southwest, an area Democrats think they can make great inroads in.  He lives in a state right next to Nevada, which is going to have a really important primary. I mean you wouldn‘t think, despite the fact he is not the most telegenic, this would have dawned on more people.  He must have some fatal flaw.

SMITH:  It‘s possible that he does. Certainly he has a track record that he runs on and you can pick that apart and that‘s one of the issues.  In races this like this, a lot of people like their prince or princess on that tall stead, riding in without a battle scar. Certainly Bill Richardson has those. He‘s served in office.  So I think there is a downside in that regard.  The up side, especially if he‘s—if someone gets the idea that he might put some western states in play for the Democrats, for the first time in many years, he is the kind of guy that can do that.  He obviously appeals to potentially to Latino voters and might energize that base.  So there‘s a lot of upside to Bill Richardson.

CARLSON:    You describe him, if he were to become president, as the first minority in the White House.  His mother as you point out was Hispanic. He is also the child of privilege. He went to Middlesex boarding school in Massachusetts.  He is a rich guy.  Can he really play that card with a straight face, do you think?

SMITH:  I don‘t know.  He can answer reporters‘ questions in Spanish.  He did that once or twice yesterday at the forum in Carson City, so he can do that.  Is he from the barrio or the street or, you know, that sort of thing? No, clearly he is not.  But one thing he does have is experience dealing with leaders from Mexico, from Latin America.  So I think that there is, again there‘s a positive there, even if his personal story isn‘t quite as dramatic as a Barack Obama or someone else. 

CARLSON:   That‘s actually a good point.  I want to play you a clip that you‘ve seen before. This is Hillary Clinton yesterday at the Democratic forum in Carson City and I wonder after you watch this if you can tell me what exactly she meant? This is Hillary Clinton.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) NEW YORK:  I am very excited about what I am going to do.  President Kennedy said in his inauguration that he wanted to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade, I want to have universal health care coverage by the end of my second term. 


CARLSON:   The rap on Hillary Clinton is among other things that she is arrogant, the end of my second term.  Did anyone flinch when she said that?

SMITH:  Not in that crowd. This was a crowd of very partisan folks.  They loved her. They would have carried her out on their shoulders if they had an opportunity to.  So she didn‘t have a problem in that crowd. But clearly some would call that presumptuous. We haven‘t won our first term yet. 

CARLSON:    And I wonder if you can explain this. I want to put up a clip of Dennis Kucinich, the congressman from Ohio promises to build a department of peace if elected.  Here is his performance, part of it, yesterday. 


REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D) OHIO:  Why is it that I am able to do this?

What? I can‘t hear you?  I can‘t hear you.

AUDIENCE:  No strings. 

KUCINICH:  That‘s right.  That‘s the answer.  You need a president with no strings, a president with no strings.  A president with no springs!  A president with no strings. A president with no strings, no strings, no strings!


CARLSON:  John, very quickly, there seems to be a lot of applause. 

Was that three people screaming or did he get real applause?

SMITH:  No, the house was packed and they loved that. I think they—he might have frightened some people by about the ninth time he said no strings, but this is a guy who, throughout his talk, obviously he energizes the very left end of his party, but by the end of his talk, he hit all the right notes in my opinion, from that political perspective and then starts in with the no strings, and I think that he is ready to catch the next bus to the Hail Bop comet. 

CARLSON:   Definitely, definitely.

SMITH:  He looked like he was ready to beam up. 

CARLSON:   He‘s energizing me. John Smith, of “Las Vegas Review-Journal, thanks a lot.  I appreciate it. 

SMITH:  Thanks very much. 

CARLSON:    Coming up, if he had a mustache he would surely twirl it with an evil grin.  He is Dick Cheney. He‘s for the war in Iraq and he‘s happy to tangle with anyone who disagrees with him. Stay tuned for accounts of his latest attacks, their targets and their purpose. 

Plus America loves Rudy Giuliani, so how come so many New Yorkers don‘t?  One of them made a case against his old mayor today and our resident Manhattanites weigh on the prospect of President Rudy.  Stay tuned.


CARLSON:   Not many people who aren‘t related to him love Dick Cheney, but you got to respect him in some ways. He sticks to his proverbial guns no matter what you think. This week from the far east, Cheney lashed out at among other people, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her antiwar stance.  Pelosi fired back, but Cheney remains an unapologetic and aggressive defender of the Bush administration‘s policies.  Is it working?  Joining us again, editor and chief of “US News & World Report, chairman and publisher of the “New York Daily News,” Mort Zuckerman and senior editor of “Newsweek,” Jonathan Alter. It seems to me, Jonathan, that Cheney has got nothing to lose.  I mean he is not running for anything. Neither is his boss.  He could not be less popular.  Why not make the pure ideological case against his enemies.  Who is hurt by it?

ALTER:  Well, fine, but when you said you got to respect that, I have to respectfully disagree.  Why do you have to respect somebody who is incompetent and wrong? He might sound and look competent. He‘s got this gravitas...

CARLSON:   I‘m not arguing - but I‘m not arguing about that. Hold on.  I‘m not arguing on behalf. You may be blinded by your dislike because  I‘m not arguing on behalf of his competence. I‘m merely saying it‘s interesting to see someone articulate his beliefs fearlessly and he does that.

ALTER:  Sticking to your guns is kind of over valued don‘t you think?

CARLSON:    It might be.

ALTER:  . the wrong guns. I mean there‘s a lot of odious people in this world who stick to their guns.  I am not sure it‘s the top list of the character traits, but Cheney‘s basic point is so fallacious.  He‘s basically saying look, if we get out, then the terrorists win.  This is a civil war. Who is he talking about? Who does—


ALTER:  . say the enemy is Tucker. That‘s the question. Who‘s the enemy?  Yes, there is al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. They‘re clearly the enemy, but all the other combatants the people who are blowing things up, these are Sunnis fighting Shiites.  These are not the people that did this to us on 9/11.  He continues to connect the two. 

CARLSON:   Well, actually, he may be complaining, but I also believe you are too.  I think it‘s easy—it‘s simple enough to say, if we leave there will be vacuum, which will be filled by people who hate us and I think it‘s very hard to argue with that.  I don‘t think you need to Dick Cheney - I say this as someone who hates the war - I still believe that that‘s true and I don‘t see how you can argue with that.

ALTER:  I do think there is an argument on the other side, and have you a number of the Democrats who are starting to raise that argument and say that the only motivation for the Iraqi government to get its act together is the idea that we have a timetable to go. 

CARLSON:   Yes, I know.  I have heard that, that faith-based assertion. 


CARLSON:    Let‘s just talk - that‘s one of the arguments he has been making.   I don‘t agree with it.  But in this case, he is making the argument, if we leave, people who hate us benefit.  Do you think that‘s an out of bounds argument?

ZUCKERMAN:  No, I do not think it‘s an out of bounds argument. I think it is a legitimate argument, because there is no doubt that if we leave, particularly if we leave with our tail tucked between our legs, I think it will without question, empower the radicals all around that part of the world and weaken our relationships with all the moderates.  If we are the major sort of father figure for all of the moderate community, and we walk away from Iraq in the wrong way, I think that we are going to have a huge problem going for us. 

CARLSON:   The Gulf States for instance don‘t want us to go?

ZUCKERMAN:  No, absolutely not.  They do not want us to go.  And the Pakistanis do not want us to go.  The Egyptians do not want us to go. The Saudis do not want us to go because, what it will do, it will without question strengthen Iran. Iran‘s a Shiite country. That‘s the one that worries all the Sunni countries.  I think they - in fact I know they don‘t want us to go because they said it very specifically.  So I don‘t think it‘s quite that simple.  It‘s not easy for us to say and we made huge mistakes in going into the war and huge mistakes running the war, but leaving the war has got to be done in a way that minimizes the damage and think that is a big, big issue for us. 

ALTER:   We disagree, just so we are clear.  Because you said the way we leave, and that‘s critical.  If we go with our tail between our legs and just flee, that‘s one thing. If we leave with an international framework and the right kind of diplomatic initiative, maybe a partition agreement, that‘s a whole different thing but the idea that this is. 

CARLSON:    Well, if we leave while there is chaos there, we will still have April 30th, 1975 where people were clinging onto the struts of the final helicopter. 

ALTER:  Not necessarily. There‘s a lot of ways to get out.

CARLSON:   Coming up, they are coming out of the woodwork to endorse Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.  But would America‘s political leaders and Hollywood billionaires be wiser to wait a while before committing one way or the other? We will tell you. 

Plus there is no denying America‘s morbid fascination with the legal wranglings of the departed Anna Nicole Smith.  We will analyze the theater of the absurd occurring this week in Florida.  What does it mean, why do we care, apart from the amazing ratings.  Stick around.


CARSLON:  Still to come, they call him America‘s mayor but while he was busy winning over the hearts of the nation, was he losing the love of his own former constituents here in New York?

All that in just a minute.  Right now, though, here‘s a look at your headlines.


CARLSON:  Just about everybody respects Rudy Giuliani for his unflinching attitude on 9/11.  It may still be the first and best reason to vote for him for president.  But some of the people that lived under his mayoral rule here in New York have less flattering memories.

Jacob Weisberg writes on slate.com today, “Most New Yorkers see Giuliani as a hero, but as a self sabotaging, thin-skinned bully.  To put it more bluntly, he is a bit of a dictator.”

But does that mean Giuliani should not get a nomination and should not be president?  Here to tell us, two New Yorkers, editor and chief of the “U.S. News and World Report,” chairman of the “New York Daily News”, Mort Zuckerman, and senior editor of “Newsweek,” Jonathan Alter.

Mort, you know Giuliani pretty well.  At this point, I think everyone who knows him would concede he is a bit of a dictator.  He probably would concede that.  Would that make him a better or worse president?

ZUCKERMAN:  I think he is a very talented, very competent man.


ZUCKERMAN:  Not the easiest to work with or to work for, but that does not mean that he did not accomplish a lot and wasn‘t tough enough to accomplish a lot in New York City, particularly in his first term.

When he was unwilling to accept the conventional wisdom that you could not deal with the crime problem, you could not deal with the welfare problem, etc.

Now he lost a lot of interests in his second term, admittedly, but as far as the country is concerned, he is the General Grant of 9/11.  He is the only person to come out a hero.  He, at the big moment in his political life, he was up to the challenge, and he is going to present himself as a leader and a tough-minded leader, and from 9/11 on he was that kind of a person.

Mike Lupica in the “Daily News” said New Yorkers are going to measure him and maybe the country should measure him on what he did before 9/11, from 9/10 backwards, but that I don‘t think is the way the country will look at him.

CARLSON:  They don‘t appear to be now.

ALTER:  Well, doesn‘t he have the temperament, you think, to be the president and defend the Constitution?


CARLSON:  .. to defend the country.  That is, I think a significant question.  I think it‘s a totally fair question.  But don‘t you think— defend the constitution and defend the country, that may not be so different, but in the face of an imminent mortal threat, defending the country does come first.  And it is different from defending the Constitution.  He is dictatorial, he is monomaniacal, single-minded, intense, that‘s kind of what you want in a war president, isn‘t it?

ALTER:  You want it in crisis leadership.  I am a great admirer or what he did after 9/11, I covered him up close in those weeks and he made my city a much safer place to live and work.  And he deserves full credit for all that.

But the presidency requires a first class temperament.  That‘s the way Franklin Roosevelt was described.  If you don‘t have it.  If you are always feuding with people as Giuliani was when he was the mayor of New York, he wouldn‘t be able to get along with his Cabinet and with Congress and he also did have an instinct to run roughshod over certain civil liberties.

So if we were attacked again, Giuliani would be the guy you might want, but if we were not attacked and not all the presidency is a crisis, then the General Grant comparison is a very apt one, because General Grant was terrific during the Civil War, but he was an awful president of the United States.

CARLSON:  Well, I wonder—We have never had a New York mayor - New York mayor is the most famous politician outside the Congress in the country always.  We never had one elected president, I think Teddy Roosevelt, police commissioner, was the closest we ever came.  Part of the reason is New York is kind of crooked by the standards of a lot of places.  Is this going to be a problem for Giuliani?

ZUCKERMAN:  It may be a problem for Giuliani.  It won‘t be a problem for Mike Bloomberg.

CARLSON:  Well, they‘re both .

ZUCKERMAN:  Mike Bloomberg is someone who might run as an independent candidate and he made his reputation as the mayor of New York and he will have no difficulty going across the country.

CARLSON:  In any state nationwide .

ZUCKERMAN:  I wouldn‘t go that far actually.  He has done a lot of good things for New York, in fact I think he has been the best mayor we have had, period.

CARLSON:  I think he is the most annoying mayor probably America has ever seen.

ZUCKERMAN:  We obviously have disagreements.

ALTER:  Tucker, he is a great mayor.  He really is.

CARLSON:  I‘m glad to get back to Washington (inaudible).

But let me just put it this way—Do you think that he self financed two campaigns, really paying $40 a resident practically to get elected—is he rich enough to self-finance presidential campaign and do you really think he would do that?

ZUCKERMAN:  Not only would he do that but it would be one of the most powerful arguments on his behalf.  If he could say to the country, my father never made more than $11,000 a year, which is true, I happen to have done a lot better.  But one of the things I have done is devote my life to both public philanthropy and public service.  But one thing I am going to tell you, I will not accept a penny, a nickel, a dime or a quarter or a dollar from any of them moneyed interests who had their fingers on a lot of legislation in the last eight years of the Republican administration.

And that is going to be a huge appeal, because this is the guy, as you saw with Dennis Kucinich who is going to be able to say I have no strings attacked to me, no financial strings, I‘ve done it all myself.  And he proved that in New York City when he was able to stand up to a lot of the basic political interests in the city of New York because they had no financial hold.

CARLSON:  What would be the rationale for a Bloomberg run?

ALTER:  Well, I think if he felled like the major parties were not getting it done in terms of nominating someone who can govern the country .

CARLSON:  But where would he position himself?  Would he be—

Typically third-party people run on an issue, Ross Perot ran on the deficit, Ralph Nader ran on a whole host of left wing issues.  But the point is, he needs a rationale voters can understand.  Do you think there is an obvious one?

ALTER:  Well, first of all, it‘s so early that there could be an issue as things move forward.  Certainly the competence of our federal government in the last few years has left something to be desired, and Bloomberg could rightly run as a competent executive who does have the temperament to deal with competing forces.

He tends to defuse crises, political crises where Giuliani would inflame then them, and he tends to get people working together, where Giuliani more often would polarize people.  These are the kinds of temperamental issues that the press really needs to focus on with all of these guys.  I am not saying anybody in either party is necessarily the most suited temperamentally, but let‘s talk about temperament when we‘re talking about this campaign.

CARLSON:  If you can make it through the primary, any candidate that can make it through the primaries without going insane and punching someone out I think has got a pretty even temperament.  You are a famous guy, and you are also a publisher, I believe it‘s still, or one of the biggest - used to be the biggest papers published, still is in New York City.  Are you going to endorse anyone?


CARLSON:  Surely you wouldn‘t endorse this early.

ZUCKERMAN:  No.  I don‘t think newspapers should endorse this early.  I will tell you that we were the only newspaper to endorse Bloomberg the first time he ran.

CARLSON:  Right.  But all of these other people are endorsing Democrat nominees.

ZUCKERMAN:  I think it‘s ridiculous to endorse this early.  There are people who want to associate themselves with particular candidates either because they know them or like them or hope somehow or other he or she wins, that they‘ll have some sort of an early entr’e into whatever .

CARLSON:  Everyone wants to be ambassador .

ZUCKERMAN:  Of course and so you know, the fact is the nature of our politics today is that it requires campaigning this early.  It‘s absolutely astonishing.  We are really two years away and basically the election is on full bore.

CARLSON:  I think it‘s better than Anna Nicole, personally.

ALTER:  Unless you raise $1 million, Tucker, you are not going to get that ambassadorship.  So these donors are getting suckered.  They really do not to have to commit to Obama or Hillary or any of the rest of them right now.  They can keep their powder dry and stay uncommitted.

I make the case on newsweek.com, the case for being uncommitted right now.  It‘s just insanely early in the process.

CARLSON:  I always wonder how much it means, anyway.

I wait always until I see who Barbra Streisand is backing, and then I am there.  I‘m willing to wait.

You live in New York, Charles Barron, it‘s one of the city councilmen from Brooklyn, quite of voluble guy and a frequent guest on the show, I‘m proud to say, has introduced legislation that would allow non-citizens to vote in your city.  This seems to me an opportunity for demagogues to take advantage of people who don‘t know who they are voting for.

Is it more than that?

ZUCKERMAN:  You have to look at who the constituency is.  I think that he is representing a constituency in the city of New York, a lot of people who are there who are not citizens, and we have a huge immigrant population that‘s come into the city in the 1990s and is continuing to flow into New York City, it‘s booming in that sense.

And that‘s a big constituency for Charles Barron.  I don‘t know that is it necessarily the right policy to give everybody the right to vote unless they are citizens.  That‘s a different issue.  But I certainly can understand his constituency.

CARLSON:  That‘s a good point.  I can see who he is pandering to, but it seems to me there ought to be a distinction between citizens and non-citizens that is meaningful, and it is voting and the people who have a vested interest in our country gets to decide who runs it.

ALTER:  I agree with that completely but here‘s a problem that‘s developed that doesn‘t relate to this particular point and that is we are about to double the amount of money that a new citizen must pay for processing their papers to close to a $1,000.

That‘s a freedom tax.  There is all this talk about tax relief.  We don‘t want to raise taxes on people who make over $100,000 a year.  This is raising taxes just to become a citizen for people who have very, very little money.

CARLSON:  It takes years to become a citizen.  And if you can‘t .

ALTER:  And a processing fee of $1,000.  Do you think that‘s right?

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t know.

ALTER:  Why should you have to do that.  A poor and struggling working person who has gone through the obstacles of becoming a citizen .

CARLSON:  But why is it—the exact same people are telling us how important the right to vote is, what a sacred right this is, many people have died for this right, etc, ad nauseam, all of which is true, but these people that give us the lectures are always the first to try and devalue voting, telling us people that don‘t know what they are voting for ought to be voting, that the mentally ill homeless ought to vote more often, that non citizens ought to vote more often.  Why are they the exact same ones who cheapen voting?

ALTER:  I don‘t want non-citizens voting.

CARLSON:  Have you ever noticed this?

ALTER:  I don‘t think that you should have to jump through hoops and pay what in some cases what is 10 percent of your income in order to become a citizen.

CARLSON:  I think you may be right.  I must say I have not thought that through.  It just seems to me voting is a big deal.

ZUCKERMAN:  I agree with you completely, I think it‘s ridiculous to increase the amount of money it costs for people to become a citizen.

CARLSON:  But I think you ought to know something about America before you determine its—Thank you both very much, Mort Zuckerman, Jonathan Alter.  Appreciate it.

ALTER:  Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Coming up, why not let everybody in America vote whether or not they are citizens.  One of New York‘s most compelling politicians joins us after the break to explain why that is in fact a great idea.

Plus, what would happen if you crossbred Earl Warren, Judge Judy and Shecky Green?  You would wind up with the judge in the Anna Nicole Smith proceedings.  His act has dominated cable news this week.  What the hell is he doing in a court of law, other than giving us monster ratings?  Thanks, judge.  We will be right back.


CARLSON:  Among the many millions of people who live in the city of New York are tens of thousands of legal immigrants and long term visitors who are not U.S. citizens.  None of them at this point has the right to vote.  Our next guest would like to change that.

He has proposed legislation in New York to allow all legal aliens to vote in local elections.  Welcome to the set a Democratic member of the New York City Council, Charles Barron.  Mr. Barron, thanks for coming on.


CARLSON:  Why should people who are not even citizens of this country be able to vote?

BARRON:  Because the same citizens can go to Iraq and die, and the same citizens, 1.3 million of them in New York contribute $18.2 billion to the tax base, and no taxation without representation, that‘s what this country was built on.  These are the same citizens that years ago, 40 years straight, they were able to vote in school board elections until they got rid of the school boards, and prior to this, the complexion of immigration changing, when white immigrants were here predominantly from 1770 to 1926 they allowed non-citizen voting.

CARLSON:  Well, they also had separate water fountains at the time so I don‘t think looking to the past is necessarily a useful guide for the future.

BARRON:  It is if you treated immigration that way.

CARLSON:  Let me say, it‘s true that non-citizens can fight and die in Iraq and maybe we should change those rules, but the point is, there is, and I think most Americans agree, should be a difference between being a citizen and being a visitor?

BARRON:  And there is.  If you are a citizen you get rights to funding for education, that non-citizens cannot get, there is certain professions that you cannot become police, firefighters, and there is a lot of citizens get.

But if you can take their money and they can die for you in the war, and these are Africans from continental Africa, these are Caribbean people, these are Russian immigrants, these are Latino immigrants, if they can do all of that, why can‘t they vote?

CARLSON:  They don‘t have a vested interest in our country.

BARRON:  Of course they do.

CARLSON:  No they don‘t.

BARRON:  Yes they do because some of them have been here for 10 or 15 years waiting on citizenship in that backlog.

CARLSON:  So why not make your legislation say if have you been here for 20 years you get to vote.  Yours says if you have been here for six months.

This is an incredibly complex country.  I have been here all my life, so have you I think, and we are still figuring out how it works.

How can someone who has been here six months understand enough to vote on anything?

BARRON:  Come on now.  It does not take a long time to understand this country.

CARLSON:  Yes it does.

BARRON:  First of all, most of them are not here six months.  Most of them have been here 10, 15, 20 years.  There is a backlog to citizenship.  Now, even the ones that already passed the test that cannot become citizens because of the backlog jam.  It is too difficult .

CARLSON:  That is a separate question.

BARRON:  That is not a separate question.  It is part of the problem.

CARLSON:  then you ought to use your efforts to make that system more streamline.

BARRON:  What (inaudible).  This is the critical issue, because .

CARLSON:  Why the hell do I want foreigner‘s choosing my government?

BARRON:  You are a foreigner .

CARLSON:  I am not foreigner.  I was born in San Francisco, California.

BARRON:  Originally what are you ethnically?

CARLSON:  I have no idea and I couldn‘t .

BARRON:  You don‘t know who you are ethnically?

CARLSON:  What do you mean, who I am.  I am an American.  I was born here.

BARRON:  You may have been born here as an American citizen but most of the people that we are stopping and don‘t want to be here, we—everybody in this country, to some extent as been an immigrant, came from somewhere.  These are people who came just like you came, and .

CARLSON:  That is not an argument.  I did not come from anywhere.  I came from the west coast.

BARRON:  Originally.  I am talking about your parents.  You know what I‘m talking about.

CARLSON:  But that has nothing to do with me, I was born here, I have a vested—and moreover, I have nowhere to go.  This is the key different.

BARRON:  Then don‘t take the tax paying dollars.  Don‘t send them to go to war.  Don‘t let them go to war and die for you.

CARLSON:  Hold on.

BARRON:  They can die for you, and you can take their money, but you don‘t want them to pick representation.

CARLSON:  Very few non-citizens serve in our military.  Relatively very few.

BARRON:  Not true.  Not true.

CARLSON:  It‘s a fact .

BARRON:  If one dies, that‘s too many.

CARLSON:  The vast majority of immigrants to this country came here by choice they are happy to be here, and let get more in services than they put back in taxes.

BARRON:  That‘s not a fact in New York City.

CARLSON:  Of course it is.

BARRON:  No it isn‘t.  We have 1.3 million citizens who are non citizens or legal residents that pay $18 billion dollars.  We have to pass legislation sometimes so they can get social services, because they don‘t want to give them driver‘s license.  So you don‘t know what you are talking about on this one Tucker.

CARLSON:  That‘s not an opinion, it‘s a fact.  Unless—you have to make a lot of money in this country, citizen or not to put in more than you take out.  Period.  That‘s the way our tax system is structured.

BARRON:  Everybody in this country is using the money of non-citizens, because that‘s taxpayer money that you are using.  Including you.

CARLSON:  But you are telling me somebody that has been here for six months, this would be legal under the legislation I think you are responsible - legislation you proposed, has been here six months, doesn‘t speak our language doesn‘t know ..

BARRON:  No, many of them do speak the language and you are picking a segment of it.  Most of them have been here for five years, 10 years waiting on citizenship.  They didn‘t have that problem when the citizens were .

CARLSON:  Very quickly, final question.  Any other countries enlightened enough .

BARRON:  Absolutely.  Forty other countries allow non-citizens to vote after six months.

CARLSON:  Just random people can show up and vote?

BARRON:  Forty other countries allow for non-citizens to vote.

CARLSON:  After the show give me a list so I can make certain I don‘t move there.

BARRON:  You got it.

CARLSON:  Thanks.  Charles Barron, I appreciate it.

BARRON:  You‘re welcome.

CARLSON:  It‘s a photo op the White House probably should have thought through before President Bush did it.

The president put on a lab court and goggles and looked pretty confused.  NBC‘s chief costume correspondent Willie Geist tells us what the president might have been thinking when we come back.


CARLSON:  Joining us now, a man who put himself through law school at night by driving a cab, Willie Geist.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Me and Judge Sheidlin - Seidlin.  We did it together.  I was going to say it‘s good to see you here in person again.

CARLSON:  Yeah it‘s good to be here.

GEIST:  But personally I prefer the satellite.

CARLSON:  I know what you mean.

GEIST:  Yes, I like distance between us.

CARLSON:  Yes, makes the heart grow founder.

GEIST:  It does.

Now, Tucker, you, Mr. Hollywood are going to be a star tonight on the NBC network.  The show is “30 Rock.”  Tucker will be appearing 9:30 Eastern and 8:30 Central.

CARLSON:  I think you will enjoy my character, kind of complicated and sophisticated.

GEIST:  Here is a little frozen shot of you, looking sort of perplexed.  What‘s going on in that picture?  Chris Matthews - you‘re obviously on HARDBALL.  Can you tell us about that?

CARLSON:  Chris has just made a major and frankly pretty startling admission about his personal life.

GEIST:  You will have to wait until 9:30 Eastern for that.

CARLSON:  Stay tuned.

GEIST:  Stay tuned for sure.

Well, Tucker, it‘s almost 7:00 p.m. here on the east coast, and almost 4:00 p.m. at the Promises rehab facility in Malibu, California and time to check in to see if Britney Spears is in rehab.  Let‘s take a look at the big board.  Yes, she is currently in rehab.  She is currently in rehab.

That‘s right, Tucker.  You will remember, she left Promises - she has done it twice now, it is hard to even keep track, but she left yesterday, and now today she went back in.  So .

CARLSON:  So much for promises.

GEIST:  Exactly.  So it‘s certainly a minute-to-minute situation with her.  You don‘t know whether or not she is going to be in rehab or not.  But apparently last night she went to Kevin Federline‘s house, this is how bad things have gotten, she went to his house to see the kids.  Kevin Federline, yeah, Kevin Federline would not let her in the house to see the children, so now Kevin Federline is the good parent.

CARLSON:  If Kevin Federline is the fit parent.

GEIST:  Yes.

CARLSON:  You‘ve gone astray.

GEIST:  It‘s the end.  Child services, we need you.


GEIST:  Well, there was some other news.  You mentioned our favorite judge.  He was grandstanding again today.  Larry Seidlin ruled today that Anna Nicole Smith‘s remains should be released to a guardian for Smith‘s five-month-old daughter.  The highlight of the day though occurred when the attorney, you see it right here, for Anna Nicole‘s mother, fainted in court.  He popped right up quickly.

The lawyer who Judge Seidlin calls Texas collapsed only briefly but it did cause a recess in the trial.  Later as the judge prepared to give his ruling, he took the courtroom and the television audience, millions watching at home, along on his personal journey.


LARRY SEIDLIN, FLORIDA JUDGE:  I would be happy to walk out of here standing up, standing erect, not - I kid around with my friends and families, I don‘t want to be carried out of here like what happened to you, Texas, for minute.  I wanted to walk out of here healthy.  I wanted to walk out of here 56, healthy.  You understand?  I wanted to feel good.  This thing wore me out.  It will take a while to regenerate.

And we all cried for her.  You know we were in the chambers and you all had me crying.


GEIST:  OK.  So they had him crying there.  That was back in the chamber.  It turns out that was just a setup to set the stage for the emotional ruling that he would give 20 minutes later.  Watch this.


SEIDLIN:  I hope to God you guys give the kids a good shot.  I signed this order effective almost 4:00, and it‘s a long order.  It‘s a long order.


GEIST:  So Judge Seidlin officially jumped the shark today.  He was funny all the other days and then today, the lectures, the jokes, the crying.  It was a little too much.

CARLSON:  I thought since day one he deserved to be flogged.

GEIST:  Really?

CARLSON:  Yes, I do.  It‘s obviously not about the trial, or the hearing or justice or the legal system, it‘s all about his quest for syndication.  I think in his final act, the weeping, the repeating, right, I think he went too far.

GEIST:  Do you think he cost himself a job?  Is that what you‘re suggesting?

CARLSON:  Yes.  I think he cost himself a job.  He has brought us amazing ratings, and for that we will always be grateful.

GEIST:  Remember the standards, though, for judge shows.  There might be a spot for him.  They‘re pretty low, you know what I‘m saying?  He is entertaining.

CARLSON:  Pretty low but I think he‘s sunk beneath even those standards.

GEIST:  Really?

CARLSON:  Yes, I really do.

GEIST:  Boy, that‘s low.

CARLSON:  Ask yourself when you evaluate him, would Wapner do that?

GEIST:  You know what I do?  I ask myself that every mourn when I wake up.


GEIST:  Yes.

Well, there was a little other news today.  President Bush, Tucker, had a Michael Dukakis in the tank kind of moment when he put on a lab coat and safety goggles to learn about the alternative energy sources while he was in North Carolina.  He looks a little vexed there, doesn‘t he?  What‘s that guy talking about?

CARLSON:  He looks like he is in a sperm bank.  I don‘t know why I think that.

GEIST:  The president was there to tout ethanol as the fuel that could wean us off foreign oil.  He probably should never wear a lab coat in public again, because you really don‘t want to write the jokes yourself for the late night comics, which he was doing right there, and Tucker, you know first of all, in science, when he was in school, he was the guy playing with the burner lighting things on fire, not meant to be in a lab, certainly.

Also, where are the handlers on this?  You can‘t put the president of the United States in a lab coat and goggles.

CARLSON:  I have seen it on campaign after campaign.  By the way, I can just imagine him throwing frog eyes during the dissection at other students.  You‘re right, I have been on campaigns when they try and throw a hairnet on the candidate when you go into a candy factory.

GEIST:  Yes.

CARLSON:  No hat.  That‘s always the rule.

GEIST:  Don‘t toss pancakes either.  We learned that .

CARLSON:  I was there.

GEIST:  You were there?

CARLSON:  I was there.

GEIST:  And he fell backwards off the stage.

CARLSON:  Fell backwards off the stage.  It was the highlight of it was either New Hampshire or Iowa.

GEIST:  I think it was New Hampshire.

There also—one other thing that I want to show you, real quickly here—a guy set a world record, I am not going to go on about the record.  For squats on an elephant.  Most squats performed in a minute on an elephant.  Forty in a minute.  He is a New Yorker.  This is taking place in Thailand.  He also holds 53 other world records.  He is a professional world record setter and I disapprove.  That is all I have to say.

CARLSON:  Who says this is the Roman Empire?

GEIST:  It is over.  That‘s it.

CARLSON:  (inaudible)  Willie Geist, it‘s great to see you.

GEIST:  All right, Tucker.

CARLSON:  That‘s it for us tonight.  Thank you for watching.  We‘ll be back tomorrow.  Have a great night.



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