updated 3/23/2007 11:26:37 AM ET 2007-03-23T15:26:37

Guests: Chuck Todd, Peter Fenn, Frank Donatelli

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  The impending battle between George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys came closer to full blown political fisticuffs today.  We have all latest developments in that story including subpoenas and the announcement of a witness who could very well sink the attorney general of the United States. 

The story of the day was a far more poignant event.  Presidential candidate John Edwards and this wife Elizabeth addressed the press this afternoon to announce the reappearance of cancer in Mrs. Edwards. She was first diagnosed in the weeks just before the 2004 presidential election.  The cancer this time is treatable but it is not curable.  The couple explained calmly, but with obvious resolve that the Edwards for president campaign will continue unabated.  Here to tell us what it means, we welcome NBC political director Chuck Todd. Chuck, thanks for coming on. 

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Thank you Tucker. 

CARLSON:  For those who missed—let me say before I get to a clip of this, I think you will agree that of all the political spouses you run into living in Washington, I‘m not just saying this because she announced she‘s ill today, Elizabeth Edwards is - got to be at the top of the list for popular. Every time I watch John Edwards, every time he annoys me, I often say to myself I really like his wife.  He can‘t be that bad a guy. She really is popular isn‘t she?

TODD: She is.  During the last parts of the 2004 campaign, literally

the places that the Kerry campaign were worried most about, they sent her,

they sent her before they sent even John.  John Edwards and Elizabeth

Edwards were more popular at that point that John Kerry and Theresa Heinz

Kerry and they were sending Elizabeth Edwards to key places in Wisconsin

and Ohio to try to - at the last minute.  She was that popular on the

campaign trail.  So she is probably the most politically effective spouse

when it comes to public persona with swing voters.  Bill Clinton, that‘s

another story. I mean you can‘t really compare the two

CARLSON:  That‘s right and that has also got kind of a weird under current and all sorts of unpredictable dynamics that aren‘t obvious right on the surface.  But she I think is just in that plus in every way.  Let‘s just put up a quick sound bite of the, sort of the center of this press conference today. Here‘s John Edwards. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D) ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: The campaign goes on. The campaign goes on strongly.  Elizabeth and I have talked at length about this already, talked with our children about it.  Basically, as I mentioned earlier, we have been confronted with these kind of traumas and struggles already in our life and we know from our previous experience that when this happens, you have a choice.  You can cower in the corner and hide or you can be tough and go out there and stand up for what you believe in.  And both of us are committed to the cause.  We‘re committed to changing this country that we love so much and we have no intention of cowering in the corner. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:   The campaign will go on strongly, says Senator Edwards.

Chuck, do you the campaign really can go on strongly?

TODD: It‘s interesting.  The press conference, it did turn in to political messaging.  I don‘t want to say it turned into a political event.  That it was not. But you did hear what was clearly a political message about what the campaign is going to be about.  In some ways, it almost felt like it was a re-launching or sort of reframing of what kind of campaign he‘s going to run.  Instead of two Americas it was about this resolve and things like that.  So it‘s interesting, I think it will be a net plus for the Edwards‘ right now because people like you said, like Elizabeth Edwards. They‘re going to sympathize with her.  There are a lot of cancer survivors. That‘s going to inspire a lot of people.  And if anything, it might be very helpful in the short-term      . 

CARLSON:  I think you‘re right to note though, as uncomfortable as it is, that this was on some level a political event. Here is Jay Carney writing on time.com.  He just wrote this. I‘m quoting now, John said that when they were alone, Elizabeth was concerned about everyone but herself, her children, her husband, her country, in that order but not herself. It was clearly meant to be inspiring but there is also something discomforting about that statement.  Even more discomforting was Edwards claim that by soldier on while his wife has incurable cancer, he would be proving that he could deal with the pressures of being president. I wonder how voters will react to that sentiment. I wonder how they will react. What do you think?  

TODD:  I don‘t know. I mean it‘s possible that it‘s a polarizing effect.  I think that some people will be uncomfortable with that.  But you got to remember sort of coming where they are coming from with this.  It was the death of his son that seemed to inspire John Edwards into public service. This is how staying, doing public service, staying in the public spotlight has been how they have dealt with this.  So I don‘t think they would know to deal with it any other way and none of us have been through what they have been through losing a child, battling cancer a first time, now battling it a second time.  So, look, this is the way they have dealt with it.  Everybody deals with it in their own ways and so in some way, they actually are being very consistent in how they have dealt with this stuff in the past            . 

CARLSON:  Yes and there‘s no question that John Edwards, whatever you think of his politics, is a very tough man.  You have to be tough to run for president to lose and then start running again.  Even physically it‘s so demanding. It‘s not for wussies and he is absolutely not a wussie obviously. I wonder though, will it have practical effects? She is a real advisor to him politically is she not?

TODD: She is.  Somebody said when they were trying to - and the Edwards campaign supporters and people that I was talking to within the morning when we were trying to get an idea of exactly what was going to be reported, the last thought that one person left me with was remember the last person who‘s going to want John Edwards to stop running for president is Elizabeth Edwards.  She is in some ways as committed and some would argue, more committed to this campaign for president than even John Edwards is sometimes, not to say that John Edwards isn‘t committed to be running for president.  But she has been incredibly important part of this campaign as a strategist particularly the second time around, more so almost as a strategist than she was the first time. 

CARLSON:  Is she ideological?

TODD: You know, I think the fact that she‘s been so active in the blogosphere, it tells you, ideological is not the right word. I think that she certain enjoys getting the activists, talking to the Democratic activist base.  So I think I‘ll let other people decide if that is ideological.  But she certainly enjoys tapping into that, to the blogosphere.

CARLSON:    Interesting.  Will this in any way—what will the response be from the other campaigns? How do they - how do you - if you‘re Hillary Clinton, you‘re Barack Obama, what do you say at this point?                

TODD: You say what they said all day today, which is their thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth Edwards and they‘re admiring her resolve in all this and the fact—I mean there is no other way to do it.  I think that the fact is she was an asset.  She‘s always been an asset to John Edwards and this is going to be another way that she‘s going to help John Edwards connect to the public. Look, we all know health care is probably the number two concern among Democrats after the Iraq war and there are a lot of cancer survivors and this is - it is a very personal thing for folks.  She‘s always been a humanizing force for John Edwards, even before she went through all this. So it‘s only going to allow John Edwards to look like he can connect even better—remember, these presidential elections, there is always that important poll question that says which candidate is the one that you feel like cares about you, cares about the issues that you care about and I tell you, it is going through things like this that people say huh, I relate to that guy.             

CARLSON:  She‘s always been the best thing about John Edwards and very quickly, we‘re almost out of time, but there was a report earlier this morning as you saw that Edwards might suspend his campaign or even get out.  It was in print. A lot of people believed it. Is there any significant to that or was it just a mistake?

TODD: Look, I think what you had happen here is there were a lot of people that were trying to guess at what was going on.  I know for instance, overnight in one of the key supporting constituencies of Edwards in both labor and trial lawyer, rumors were running rampant and I think these reporters probably were talking to a lot of who were normally good sources who probably weren‘t down in North Carolina at the time. So look, in a feeding frenzy situation like this, these things happen.         

CARLSON:   They do.  Chuck Todd, NBC news political director, thank a lot Chuck.

TODD: Thanks Tucker.

CARLSON:   Coming up more on today‘s moving announcement from John and Elizabeth Edwards. Plus how much worse can it get? White House aides are on the brink of being subpoenaed and the man behind some of the most telling e-mails in the scandal surrounding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys will testify under oath and through it all, Attorney General Gonzalez says he has no plans on resigning.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  John Edwards‘s wife, Elizabeth, has been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer.  By the couple said today, that the former senator‘s presidential campaign would continue, contrary to several media reports this morning that had predicted that he would either scale back or shut down the campaign entirely.  Joining us now, Democratic strategist and contributor to the Hills Pundits Blog Peter Fenn, and Republican strategist and former Reagan White House political director, Frank Donatelli. 

Welcome to you both.  I want to play a piece of tape of Mrs. Edwards speaking and explaining why this campaign will continue.  Here‘s Elizabeth Edwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS WIFE:  One of the reasons that it important, from my perspective, to move forward with this, is that I‘m immensely proud of John‘s campaign.  He has run a campaign that is based on substance and reaching out to individual people and he has made certain that the people understand the reason why he wants to be president.  It‘s not about John Edwards, if it were, it would be easy to give it up .

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  In other words, Peter, this campaign is bigger than me and my suffering?  What do you think about that? 

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I think it‘s pretty extraordinary.  She‘s amazing woman.  I worked for a Senate candidate in Minnesota who‘s husband had brain cancer and they talked about it, and he would not let her not run.  And I think you have a similar situation here.  Elizabeth would be suffering a lot more if he decided not to run.  My wife had a similar kind of breast cancer and it is a tough family thing to go through.  There is no doubt about it. 

I admire her and I admire him and you know it will be tough and maybe in six months he may decide it‘s too tough and they may decide that they have to pull the plug on the campaign.  But for right now this is to them larger than ...

CARLSON:  Boy.  That‘s a pretty big statement.  I wonder, obviously, Frank, you have been around a lot of campaigns and know people who have had or survived cancer, or had it, is it possible?  Considering the stress on a presidential candidate which is so enormous anyway, this is a lot to ask of anybody . 

FRANK DONATELLI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Absolutely.  Of course, we all join in sending our best to the Edwards family.  Putting out there, the message that you can have a good and productive life, even when you are a cancer survivor, is a good message to send. 

But to your point Tucker, there is the old story about the recorder who wants to cover a presidential campaign and he wants to know how senator x is doing in New Hampshire.  So he goes up to New Hampshire and he interviews voters.  And he comes to this one voter and says, “how is senator x doing?  Would you vote for senator x for president?”  And the New Hampshire voter says, “Well, I don‘t know, I have only met him three times.”

The point is that, these early primaries just take a terrible drain on the candidate.  They want to see you up close and personal.  You can‘t be out of the lime light for any appreciable period of time because that is how Senator Edwards has built a very, very good organization in Iowa by literally going county to county. 

CARLSON:  Well, this is a window into what it is actually like to run for president.  I don‘t think most people understand or frankly can relate to the intensity required.  I don‘t think most people take, and this is no way a judgment against anyone and I think Mrs. Edwards is actually a delightful person.  I was genuinely, personally sad to see this today.  But most people don‘t take politics that seriously.  Given the choice, if someone said to you, you know what I mean? 

FENN:  I think that what will happen here, Tucker, is that they will reassess this as they go along.  If he needs to be by her side, he will be there, I have no question about that.  But in terms of psychologically balancing a tragedy like this and running for president, it‘s hard. 

DONATELLI:  There is no question ...

I will come back to the first point when she said this is a campaign larger than us.  I think there is some substance to that ...

CARLSON:  I‘m sure she means it!

DONATELLI:  Mr. Edwards is making points about issues that no other democrat is talking about.  Now, as a conservative, I don‘t agree with his solutions, but I do salute him for actually raising issues in a presidential campaign.  When so much of it today is fluff and poll driven speeches, and so forth.  He‘s raising genuinely substantive issues and the campaign is better as a result of that . 

CARLSON:  Oh, no.  In some ways, it‘s a more disquieting, upsetting campaign.  It‘s not a fluffy campaign though, he is for real.  He gets out there and says I believe this, this and this.  None of which I personally believe.  But you got to admire him.

FENN:  He says, look, health care is such an important problem in this country, I‘m ready to have $120 billion a year put into solving the health care program and having national health care insurance. 

He‘s going to raise taxes and he‘s not worried about balancing the budget as the some of the other candidates.  That is tough stuff.  That‘s tough medicine, he‘s just letting it go.

CARLSON:  It just seems that one of the lessons in this, that you all know better than I, is that tomorrow will not look like today.  You always think that tomorrow will be an extension of the current trends, but these  amazing things happen, some good, many of them bad that alter the landscape of politics and life. 

DONATELLI:  That is why every time a pollster says if the election were held today, it‘s not held today . 

CARLSON:  Well, as Paul McGolly (ph) always used to say, if the election were held today, we‘d be pretty damn surprised. 

It‘s not election day.  We‘ll be right back. 

Coming up, the hits just keep coming in the U.S. attorney scandal.  But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he won‘t back down.  Can he make it?  Can he keep his job?  Plus, gather the kids, call the neighbors, the secret is out, we know who crafted the once anonymous, Hillary Clinton “1984” ad.  A brilliant ad.  The question is why did he do it?  We‘ll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  There were a couple of key developments today in the Justice department scandal that is hurdling toward a constitutional showdown between President Bush and the Congress. 

First, the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for White House aids, including Karl Rove, to testify about the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys.  President Bush says he will defy those subpoenas with executive privilege.  We‘ll see what happens.

Second, that committee‘s Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy, announced that recently fired Justice Department chief staff Kyle Sampson, who in fact, may not have been fired technically, but essentially was, will testify under oath before Congress next week.  Samson was the first casualty of the scandal and the author of some pretty outrageously indiscreet e˜2Dmails at the center of it.

And finally, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales under fire from all sides.  He said to reports in St. Louis that he will not resign.  To assess these developments, we are joined again by Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and by former Reagan White House political director Frank Donatelli.  Frank can they, they being the White House, just hold the line on this executive privilege mater?  I mean, subpoenas?  Are they going to risk a contempt of Congress action here?

DONATELLI:  Well, yes, I think they can.  If you want to know who has the upper hand in this fight, in my judgment, the White House is holding the cards primarily because the courts are loathe to get into these fights in the first place.  Referring between the executive and the legislative. 

And secondly, unless the past litigation demonstrates, and unless there is an ongoing criminal proceeding, and there is a very specific document, or in the Nixon case, tapes, that Congress is after.  The claim of executive privilege is valid. 

CARLSON:  And yet as far as I can tell, and I may have misread this, but I believe that this is true, in virtually every showdown between the executive and the Congress over aids testifying on the Hill, the White House has caved to some degree . 

DONATELLI:  Well both sides cave to a degree.  But what is true is the White House normally compromises in some way.  You could say that, Fred Fielding, who is the president‘s counsel who is as professional as you come in these matters.  He has offered a lot of e˜2Dmails, he‘s offered testimony, but not under oath.  So there‘s still some compromising to be done here on both sides . 

CARLSON:  Do you think the Congress is going to compromise at all?

FENN:  I think unless the White House agrees to have them come up and have them testify with a transcript, I think having tea with these guys isn‘t going to work. 

CARLSON:  Right.  But you think not under oath, but with a transcript.

FENN:  Well, if you testify before Congress you are technically under oath anyway.  You don‘t want to go and lie up there.  If I were in Leahy‘s position, as long as I had a transcript, I would be OK.  But I don‘t know if they are going to go that far.  But the problem is the longer this goes, the worse it goes for the White House, I think. 

Look, in the Clinton administration, you had nine counsels testify.  You had Chiefs of Staff testify three times.  You had Erskine Bowles up there, he was testifying about the president of the United States Christmas card list, for crying out loud! 

CARLSON:  I think during the Clinton administration it was the holiday card list. 

I remember it well. 

DONATELLI:  It was the Lincoln bedroom list.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  But why, Frank, is the attorney general coming out and saying I‘m staying?  That‘s great and I know that the attorney general and the president are old pals from Texas, that‘s the operative word here, Texas, very important state.  Why is, the White House is sort of bleeding over this, why are they investing all this capital in Alberto Gonzales? 

DONATELLI:  I‘m not sure they are.  But I think there is a practical calculation here.  If you fire the attorney general, and other people in the Justice Department, does that calm the situation or does that just put blood in the water to roil the situation?  I think it‘s probably ...

CARLSON:  But they have already admitted that quote “mistakes were made.”  First of all, there ought to be a federal law banning the use of that phrase.  Mistakes were made.  If you say that you ought to go to prison, I think. It‘s a terrible thing to say. 

But they‘ve already admitted it so now that they admitted they did something wrong, and not bothered to explain what that something was, incidentally, it‘s kind of hard to defend the guy . 

DONATELLI:  You are not going to get me to say that the White House has been less than accurate in terms of describing why these U.S. attorneys were fired.  I still don‘t know to this day what the reason is.  But that is a long way from saying the attorney general should be fired, if there is any case for executive privilege Peter, it‘s a situation where the president‘s closest aids are giving him advice on an evolving decision ...

FENN:  This isn‘t a question of advice ... 

CARLSON:  Fifteen seconds ...

FENN:  They should have admitted what happened.  They should have put it right out there and the thing would have been over in 72 hours.  They wouldn‘t have had any confrontation.  Gonzales might have stayed, he might have gone, but the result wouldn‘t have this silliness that is going on now. 

CARLSON:  You are up 35 percent in the polls.

The opposing team can ultimately tap dance on your face and there is nothing you can do about it.  Coming up, Hillary Clinton thinks she has found Barack Obama‘s weak spot, his kryptonite, and she is attacking it relentlessly, as she is wont to do.  We‘ll tell you what that weak spot is and whether she is right or wrong to attack it.

And Rosie O‘Donnell has lost her mind.  Its fine if she is joking about her crush on Tom Cruise or giving Donald Trump the Bronx cheer but what about when she accuses the government of unspeakable atrocities?  Scarborough swings by to try to stop Rosie before she talks again.  Stay tuned for that. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Subpoenas are coming to the White House.  The attorney general says he won‘t resign and his recently departed chief of staff is going to testify on the U.S. attorney scandal that has gone from political tussle to the brink of a constitutional showdown.  So how is this all going to end?  And how big will it get? 

Joining us once again Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and former Reagan White House political director, Frank Donatelli.  I‘m sorry, this is mean, Frank, but I can‘t resist putting up—these are the actual words from the attorney general, explaining why he‘s not going to resign.  This is Alberto Gonzales in St. Louis. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I‘m not going to resign.  I am going to stay focused on protecting our kids.  There is a lot of work to be done around the country.  I am committed to work with Congress to make sure that they have the information that they need to determine what happened here . 

(END VIDEO CLIP

CARLSON:  Protecting our kids.  First of all, it‘s Chris Hanson‘s job to protect our kids.  Not Alberto Gonzales.  I‘ll just put my air sickness bag away.  “I‘ve got to protect our kids?”  What the hell is that? 

DONATELLI:  That‘s an expansive view of his job.  Well, I think—I was going to say, what I think he was trying to say is all the duties of the attorney general, he‘s going to try to perform them in a good way, and he wants to earn the trust of Congress back. 

FENN:  Look, a good advanced man had the background that you could see.  He was giving some kind of a speech and you could child and a picture of a kid back there.  They were going with it . 

CARLSON:  I hate that.  Peter, what do you think, Kyle Sampson, speaking inept federal employees.  I actually don‘t think there is fire at the bottom of this scandal.  There is no smoking gun so far.  We don‘t know why these guys were fired.  And I don‘t think there‘s any evidence a crime was committed.  But there is a lot of evidence that a truly dumb person was chief of staff to the attorney general, Kyle Sampson. 

He wrote these e-mails saying openly, we‘re lying now.  What a moron. 

He‘s now going to testify.  What could he say? 

FENN:  I think this guy could be a real problem for the Republicans in the White House.  Mr. Loyal Bushy and who Domenici just happy as a clam to have the guy gone.  This guy is, I think, not only dumb, but very, very clumsy.  These e-mails are going to keep on coming. 

CARLSON:  Well, he‘s done a lot for us in the cable new industry.  I‘m grateful so far.  It‘s sort of interesting though, don‘t you think, Frank, that all of this conversation has diverted conversation away from the central issue really of our time, which is the war in Iraq, and what to do about it.  Democrats are arguing right now about a funding bill for the war that would end the war by a timetable.  Is this smart politics on their part? 

I get the sense they may be over reaching and we‘re just not noticing because we‘re so caught up in this attorney general thing.

DONATELLI:  Well, I sort of feel like think they are doing something because they have to, to satisfy their base.  This is one of the worst bills in the history of the republic.  Peter, please don‘t tell me you‘re for it.  You know, as Strom Thurmond once said about another bill, it‘s illegal.  It‘s immoral.  It‘s unconstitutional.  And what‘s more, I don‘t like it. 

This bill is unconstitutional.  It‘s immoral, in a way, if you are going to buy off votes for spinach growers and peanut farmers, for a bill that should fund our troops.  It‘s just a very, very bad bill. 

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  You‘re saying this is buying off.  Peter, I don‘t know if Frank is telling the truth.  Let me name a few things in the bill, 500 million for emergency wild fire suppression, 400 million for rural schools, 283 million for the Milk Income Loss Contract Program, I could go on, 74 million for peanut storage costs.  I mean this is—it‘s bribery, but it‘s also a mockery.  It‘s a mockery of what this bill was supposed to do, which is to fund the troops.

FENN:  Well obviously there are things in that bill which are designed to help folks in certain congressional districts.  There‘s no question.  But, of course, the last six years of Republican rule has done wonders for earmarks in this country.  

CARLSON:  It‘s been terrible.

FENN:  I think the whole thing, the earmark stuff is crazy.  Here is what everybody knows:  Everybody knows that this president is going veto this bill, if it does happen to make it.  If it gets to conference, a lot is going to change.  And House members know that to.  The question really now is, you know, will this pass?  Pelosi says, if it doesn‘t pass, she is going to bring up the money side of it anyway.  The trouble, I think, right now for the Republicans on this is that this will be one of those defining moments.  It will continue. 

And as somebody said, look, unless the Republicans go down to Pennsylvania Avenue, to 1600 and tell the president of the United States, hey, come on.  You know, this ain‘t working.  We have to move on.  It is going to be very difficult for the Democrats to actually move this whole needle. 

CARLSON:  It‘s nice to see, in a time of stale debate, somebody who is truly innovative and creative.  I‘m speaking of Phil De Vellis.  He is the creator of the Hillary Clinton as big sister ad, really a beautiful ad.  I‘m sure you saw it on YouTube.  It‘s been viewed by hundreds of thousands of Americans.

FENN:  Over a million. 

CARLSON:  He was discovered recently and fired from his job.  Nothing in life was fair.  Here was his explanation for why he made that ad promoting Obama, attacking Hillary: “I made the VoteDifferent ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process.  This shows that future of American politics rests in the hands of ordinary citizens.  This was not the first citizen ad.  It won‘t be the last.  The game has changed.”

Now bloggers, obviously Frank, are notorious for proclaiming the beginning of a new era, and themselves in the center of that era, but this guy actually is telling the truth.  This is kind of a big deal, don‘t you think, and a harbinger? 

DONATELLI:  Absolutely, I‘m going to horn in on Peter‘s territory here.  But the age of television in presidential campaigns, which began around 1960, 1964, centralized and nationalized campaign messages.  And the Internet is doing exactly the opposite.  It used to be that a 527 could come in and change the dialogue.  Now it‘s one smart guy like this fellow here, comes in and totally changes things. 

He‘s absolutely right.  I mean, he had basically a computer and he worked at his desk at home, and he created more buzz than any thing else in this campaign so far. 

CARLSON:  Well this is kind of a deep question, and I don‘t know that answer to it.  I don‘t know if anybody‘s thought about this.  But this has got to change campaign finance.  I mean, the reason campaigns cost so much, partly, largely, is because television time is so expensive, and I want to thank everybody who buys it, but honestly, this costs nothing.  And if it is effective, campaigns won‘t need as much money as they have.  Will they? 

FENN:  This is going to very interesting, Tucker.  Consumer generated content, as it‘s now referred to, is taking off like a rocket.  You are going to see, in a few cases, in campaigns last year, you had actually people creating their own ads in campaigns, and putting them up on websites.  And now with YouTube, look,  everybody is going to be able to look at them on their phones pretty quickly.  I think this is going to change the whole nature of—

DONATELLI:  But remember, campaigns that live by the sword, die by the sword . 

FENN:  That is absolutely right. 

DONATELLI:  This happens to be a good ad.  But somebody produces a clinker, then the campaign gets stuck with that. 

FENN:  Well, and then Obama gets a little stuck, although he did say in his comments that if Hillary is the nominee, he is going to support Hillary.  But this kid, he is heading to an agency, no question.  He is going to make a lot more money that he was making. 

CARLSON:  The reason this ad worked is the same reason all effective advertising works, because there is a kernel of truth at the center of it.  People looked at this ad, and they‘re like, you know, there is something about Hillary Clinton that bothers me.  Democrats don‘t mind her politics of course.  Something about her.  And this expresses it perfectly. 

FENN:  It also merged popular culture and politics, and which is very important in this.  

DONATELLI:  And it strikes at the heart of her campaign, which is inevitability. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

DONATELLI:  People say, you may not like her, you may have this or that disagreement, but she‘s going to win. 

CARLSON:  As soon as Democrats figure out that it is not, in fact, a federal law that you vote for Hillary Clinton, that you are allowed actually to have dissent and divergent views. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  It‘s OK not to be Clintonian.  OK, very quickly, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, for that matter, her husband, have both attacked Barack Obama on the grounds that he wasn‘t actually against the war in Iraq at the time of the vote.  They are attacking him on the basis of this interview with the “New York Times” in 2004.  You‘ll hear more about it.  This is what he said then, quote, he said, “I‘m not going to attack Kerry or Edwards on their Iraq vote.  I‘m not privy to the Senate Intelligence Report.  What would I have done, I don‘t know.  What I know is that, from my vantage point, the case was not made.” 

This is actually a pretty low way for Hillary to be attacking Obama,  I think.  The guy was against the war.  He said so.  And now they are claiming he wasn‘t really against it. 

FENN:  I‘ll tell you, If I were going to make that argument, I would have mad it on the basis that look, every vote that he has cast, he has cast the same way that Hillary Clinton has cast it.  I wouldn‘t go back and impugn that from the beginning.  I would say, look, he didn‘t have the chance to vote.  He didn‘t vote.  But he was pretty clear. 

DONATELLI  Well look, she‘s getting killed on Iraq right now.  She‘s not where the Democratic base is.  So she‘s got two alternatives.  Number one, she could move to the left, which she‘s refused to do that.  The other way is what she‘s doing, which is to muddy the water, saying, hey, you might not like everything I‘m saying about it, but look at what this guy said.  He‘s just as unclear as I am. 

FENN:  She is not going to win that argument. 

DONATELLI:  She has do something.  Peter, she has to do something.

CARLSON:  They are going to hit him so hard.  I mean, do you remember the 1990s?  You all lived here.  Do you remember what they did to their many opponents during the 1990‘s, the Clintons?  I mean, they are tough.

FENN:  You mean poor Ken Starr? 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  I‘m not talking about Ken Star.  I mean, all these women who actually went out there and said, you know what, I did have sex with him.  You‘re a slut.  You‘re a whore.  They went after them personally.  They are nasty, even though I like some of them.  You know that‘s true.  Thank you both, Frank Donatelli, Peter Fenn.  You know that is true.  It‘s unbelievable.  That is why I never slept with Bill Clinton.  I didn‘t want to get accused. 

DONATELLI:  Time ran out just in time. 

CARLSON:  Coming up, Rosie O‘Donnell joins the 9/11 conspiracy nuts, alleging a cover up in the attacks on the World Trade Center.  It‘s all fun and games until someone goes crazy, in this case, Rosie O‘Donnell.  Is it long past time for her to be quiet?  Joe Scarborough says so.  He joins us in a moment. 

Plus, Bill Clinton teaches a spin class, and god knows he‘s got experience spinning.  Where he‘s teaching and who is learning.  MSNBC‘s chief comedic investigation correspondent, Willie Geist, has the day off from jury duty.  He will join us with that story. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  -- but he‘s been gone for a couple weeks.  He‘s had jury duty or been in court.  The details are unclear even now.  But, in any case, he is back today.  And we couldn‘t wait.  We moved Willie up one block, that‘s how excited we are. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I had to move up a block.  I‘m back for one day again only again.  It‘s just a furlough.  I think I‘ll be paroled in a couple weeks, I hope.  This is getting weird. 

CARLSON:  You and Willie Horton.

GEIST:  Yes, exactly, right.  Tucker, before we get to the important business of last nights “American Idol” disgrace, we have to show you what happened this afternoon during a joint press conference, given in Baghdad, by Iraqi Prime Minister al Maliki and new U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.  Watch and listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(EXPLOSION)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  That sound you heard, the explosion of a Katyusha rocket that landed about 50 yards away from the building inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the press conference was taking place.  Luckily, Tucker, nobody was hurt in that attack.  The irony, of course, the blast came just moments after the secretary general was talking about the U.N. increasing its presence in Baghdad because of improved security. 

CARLSON:  That‘s just another example of you and the liberal media painting Iraq as a dangerous place.

GEIST:  Well, the press conference did kind of blow up.  That seems dangerous to me.  But I don‘t know.

CARLSON:  I shouldn‘t laugh.  That‘s awful.

GEIST:  No, but, luckily, nobody was hurt.  So, we‘re OK.  Let‘s get down to business, Tucker.  The voting public, once again, granted Sanjaya a stay of execution on “American Idol” last night.  In a sobering reminder of democracy‘s inherent flaws, some other girl was voted off, instead of the dreadful Sanjaya.  And he owes it all to the crying girl.  Thirteen year old Ashley Ferl helped to create the illusion of Sanjaya as a rock star by sobbing uncontrollably on Tuesday night, as he sang “You Really Got Me,” and as the Kinks rolled over in their graves, unless they‘re still alive.  Then, they didn‘t..

Ashley and her mom visited our MSNBC studios today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASHLEY FERL, “THE CRYING GIRL”:  I think he‘s really good and I love him. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She‘s been such a huge “American Idol” fan and she has recorded every episode since Season One.  And we have this huge video collection at home . 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  I was actually watching that live, Tucker.  I don‘t know if you saw it.  I have never seen someone cry that hard at a funeral.  There is something very deeply wrong there.

CARLSON:  I have a daughter about that age, and if there was ever a spectacle like that, there would be such a significant spanking.  I‘m sorry.  You can‘t spank a 13-year-old.  Yes, you can.

GEIST:  I think those tears were the end or outward expression of some deeper things happening in the home. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I don‘t think there‘s any question.  I‘ll call child services.

GEIST:  Well Tucker, a group of inmates in Arizona set out to prove that singing competitions aren‘t just for creepy, androgynous teenagers anymore.  Fifteen prisoners at the Maricopa County Jail, home of America‘s toughest sheriff, Joe Arpaio, are competing to determine who is the best singer in the slammer.  Here is a sample. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Tucker, do you like any think you see there?  Pretty good? 

CARLSON:  I‘m not sure the cinder blocks are an acoustically preferable background.  You know what I mean?

GEIST:  I think you‘re right.  The fluorescent light doesn‘t help a whole lot either.  They are bringing in Alice Cooper to judge this competition, the finals of it.  No joke.  As you know, Joe Arpaio, America‘s toughest sheriff, showing a little compassion her.

CARLSON:  I know Joe Arpaio.  In fact, I was down there to write a piece on Joe Arpaio about 15 years ago and he was serving his inmates rejected bologna. 

GEIST:  He‘s also got these guys were wearing pink.  Did you notice that?

CARLSON:  Yes, pink underwear.  I used to be for that.  He‘s the kind of guy who makes you take the side of the prisoners after a while, honestly.  

GEIST:  It‘s a little over the top.  We‘ll bring you the results of the finals soon.  Now, Tucker, for today‘s sign that the end of days is nearly upon us.  Paul McCartney has agreed to become an agent of Starbucks evil plan for world dominion by signing onto the coffee empire‘s new music label.  McCartney says he will release his next album on Starbucks Hear Music label in June. 

It‘s a long way from stepping off that plane in New York in 1964, to having your album on the counter of Starbucks, next to Kenny G‘s greatest hits, and a pile of stale rice crispy treats, Tucker.  This actually may be the day the music died.  The other stuff was nonsense.  This might be it right now.  The guy who changed it all now works for Starbucks, which I guess, in the end, we all end up working for Starbucks.  

CARLSON:  But you know what, I think the truth is, it was all a triumph of mass marketing retail genius.  I mean, I hate to say that.  All of it is. 

GEIST:  And even Paul McCartney‘s not immune. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

GEIST:  You know. 

CARLSON:  Maybe he was always part of mass marketing. 

GEIST:  Oh no, of course he was.  And now he is just playing along. 

Finally Tucker, if you are Bill Clinton, and you‘re hosting a New York City fund raiser to discuss your wife‘s health care initiatives, you could hold it boring and appropriate, like a hospital, but what fun would that be?  Instead, the former president will be at Soul Cycle, which is, of course, New York‘s premier indoor cycling studio. 

For 2,300 bucks a head, you get a Clinton speech and a 45 minute spinning session set to some of his favorite tunes.  There is no word if President Clinton himself will throw on a pair of spandex and mount one of the stationary bikes.  Apparently, Tucker, Flash Dancers was booked with a corporate event.  So, the president couldn‘t get in there tonight. 

It‘s a little odd.  He‘s going to be surrounded by sweaty women on the Upper West Side of New York . 

CARLSON:  Yes, that doesn‘t sound appealing or anything.  I don‘t think people have thought this through.  I mean, we could be looking at eight more years of this.  I guess, that‘s great or horrifying, depending on how you feel about it.  It‘s very much deja vu for me though.

GEIST:  And eight more years of freedom for him, as she‘s locked up in the White House.  He‘s roaming the great swathe of this country.  Be careful.

CARLSON:  I have three daughters, terrifying.  Willie Geist, we are so glad to have you back for one day only.  Good luck in court.  I hope you get off.

GEIST:  All right Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Were Congressional Democrats willing to just take it or leave it, like the White House has offered?  We‘ll find out straight from the hill next when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  There has been a development in the tussle between congressional Democrats and the White House over the firing of those eight U.S. attorneys.  For details, we go now to Mike Viquera, MSNBC congressional correspondent, live on the Hill.  Mike, what‘s going on?   

MIKE VIQUERA, MSNBC CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well Tucker, I just want to give you an update.  Remember, it was Fred Fielding, the White House counsel, who came up to the Hill here two days ago, and made his offer of negotiation in the inquiry that the Congress is doing into the firing of those eight federal prosecutors. 

The House Judiciary Committee, led by John Conyers and Linda Sanchez, has just issued a formal letter in response and I have to say, it is quite conciliatory here.  They are merely writing down all the things that they had said a couple of days ago.  Basically they say that this proposal is not satisfactory.  Americans want to hear the truth, that not permitting a transcript of the interviews, limiting questioning and document production is unacceptable.  And that this has been done by past administrations, have testified, given documents. 

They don‘t understand why this White House is not doing it now.  They‘re basically asking if there‘s any room for negotiation.  Remember, the White House has said these terms were not negotiable.  Congress here, at least as far as the House is concerned, clearly trying not to appear over-zealous, trying to be conciliatory.  Here‘s the pay-off line: “We would be pleased to discuss further proposals from you to achieve these objectives, provide us with the records and information we need to complete our investigation.  In the meantime, we also ask that you ensure the preservation of relevant White House documents, as defined in the letter of the document request letter they wrote on March 9th

So that is the first formal response, Tucker.  Of course Pat Leahy on the Senate side, and White House, President Bush, Tony Snow, everybody digging in their heels here.  This is the one side, here, Conyers, Linda Sanchez, trying to appear conciliatory, asking if there‘s any possibility of a middle ground, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Interesting, they are pleased, not something you‘d expect John Conyers to say.  Mike Viquera from the Hill, thanks a lot. 

We are joined again by Mr. Donatelli, Mr. Fenn, thank you both very much.  Pleased?  This does sound --  Mike said this was conciliatory.  It actually sounds remarkably non-strident for a John Conyers document. 

FENN:  Amazing for a Democrat, huh?  No, here is what I think—it is just like, is this your final answer, Regis Philbin line.  The question now, I think, is will Fielding come back and say, well look, let‘s sit down and talk.  Let‘s have a negotiation.  Let‘s see if we can avoid this constitutional crisis.  It will be interesting to see what the White House response is. 

CARLSON: It seems to me escalating this is not good, necessarily, for anybody.  I don‘t see who gains from that.  I understand why they don‘t want their aides under oath, of course, but do you think they will bend on the transcripts? 

DONATELLI:  I think it is possible, sure.  As we said earlier in the show, virtually all of these confrontations get settled well before subpoenas and court action.  And to hear that from the House Democrats—you would expect to hear that maybe from the Senate Democrats—it is a good sign.  Again, Fred Fielding is a pro.  I would be shocked—

CARLSON:  Is he a good diplomat? 

DONATELLI:  Yes.  I think there‘s room, based on this response, for there to be further discussion, with the hope of getting some deal.  Because, as you said, this doesn‘t help anybody.  The White House has their priorities.  Congress has their priorities.  And this not on the priority list. 

CARLSON:  Because it is a question of trust, in the end.  The White House doesn‘t want—they don‘t want any of this.  But they really don‘t want Karl Rove stuck up on the Hill for the next three months, getting a proctology exam from John Conyers.  

FENN:  What they don‘t want is they don‘t want a picture of these guys with their hands raised at the witness table.  But the real question to me on this, because if you testify up there, you better not be lying, if it is a transcript.  I think the key with this is the transcript.  If the House and Senate can get a transcript, I would hope that they would accept that. 

CARLSON:  Actually, I would too, not for any political reason, but I‘m just interested in the news.  And for historical reasons, don‘t you think it would be interesting to have a record of what was said? 

DONATELLI:  Yes, I do.  I would like to know something more, as we said earlier, about exactly how this all transpired, and what happened, and so forth and so on.  It‘s not going to be pretty, in some cases.  When you do things, sometimes, for political reasons, it can be a little embarrassing.  There‘s nothing criminal about it. 

I think what is most important to the White House is, number one, getting beyond this, and number two, preserving the idea of executive privilege.  Because if it applies to anything, certainly it applies to this situation. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I think they can do it.  You know what, people can be reasonable and get it done.  Why can‘t we just all get along, as Rodney King said.  Frank Donatelli, Peter Fenn, thank you both very much.  That is just about it for us.  We have been on from 4:00 to 5:00.  Believe it or not, we will be back from 6:00 to 7:00.  We hope you will tune in then.  In the meantime though, if you stay tuned, the payoff fast approaching.  That‘s “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  We will be back an hour after that, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time.  So tune in then.  We will see you tomorrow.  I hope you have a great night.

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

END   

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

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