updated 3/28/2007 11:27:18 AM ET 2007-03-28T15:27:18

Guests: Lynn Sweet, A.B. Stoddard, Chris Cillizza, Zach Wamp

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  The Senate spent this afternoon debating the most important element of the Iraq war spending bill, the mandatory September ‘08 withdrawal date for U.S. troops there.

President Bush has about as many friends in Congress these days as a tow truck operator cruising no-parking zones. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  And this Senate vote represents a moment of truth for him. 

Does he have enough political power to govern as he sees fit? 

We will discuss and bring you the results as they happen.  And they will happen today, we expect.

We also have the latest from Gonzo gate and a new poll shows that a majority of Americans favor subpoenas for key White House aides.  That includes Karl Rove.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, struggles to get his story straight.

And Senator-turned-actor Fred Thompson drifts toward a run for president, believe it or not.

It has been a busy day here in Washington. 

Joining us now, associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper, A.B.  Stoddard, and the writer of “The Fix” at WashingtonPost.com, that paper‘s second most important blog, but first in my heart, Chris Cillizza.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Welcome to you both.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Hello.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, “THE HILL”:  Thanks.

CARLSON:  Before we get to all this, there was in fact other news today in Washington that concerned the president‘s press secretary, Tony Snow, who has announced that he is sick, that his cancer has returned and spread to his liver. 

I want you to take a look at what the president said today about that.

The president came out and said, essentially, that his thoughts and prayers are with Tony Snow, and that—stay strong.  It was a measure of how serious this is.

Here—here‘s the bottom line.  There‘s not much to say, other than we feel sad.  I always feel guilty liking a press secretary. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  It always make you feel kind of dirty.  But, with Tony Snow, there‘s just no way around it.  He is just a thoroughly decent guy. 

STODDARD:  He was immensely popular before he became...

CARLSON:  Yes. 

STODDARD:  ... White House press secretary.  And I think he has done a great job of being very straight and full of humor with—with the—with his colleagues in the press.  And really—I really think they felt all along that he was one of them.  And that‘s why he is—both in his manner and because he came from the media.  He has really been so respected the whole time. 

And this is really devastating news. 

CARLSON:  Especially since...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... for the second time in less than a week, you have someone who other people actually like.  And there are many people in politics who you don‘t like, and you wouldn‘t wish cancer upon them, but—you know, but two of the best people in this whole little world.

CILLIZZA:  Well, it‘s cliche, but it also happens to be true, that, look, in politics, especially in this town, we get caught up with the sort of who is up, the who is down, the...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Right. 

CILLIZZA:  This one doesn‘t like this one.

And with Elizabeth Edwards and now with Tony Snow, as a reporter, as a human being, you take a step back, and say, gosh, like, there are bigger things that go on in this world than...

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

CILLIZZA:  ... whether Senator Edwards is at 14 or 16 in the most recent poll.  You know what I mean?

I think—I actually think perspective like that winds up being a good thing. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that.

And Tony Snow is one of those guys, when I first moved to Washington, who helped me for no reason.  I was just a lame magazine writer.  I hadn‘t even really written many magazine pieces.  And he went out of his way to be nice to me and give me advice that I still think about often.  And he‘s just a really decent guy.

And our prayers actually are with you.  We always say that, but we mean it this time.

So, speaking of who is up and who is down on the Senate, it is—it is—this vote on what to do about withdrawing troops from Iraq, this is a referendum, isn‘t it, Chris, on the president‘s authority over his own party.

CILLIZZA:  I think it is, with a caveat.

I think that it‘s very possible that the Senate does strip the specific withdrawal date from the legislation today, that Republicans and President Bush, in a way, get his way. 

But remember, the way that Congress works, this will go to a conference committee, where they will have to reconcile the fact that the House has passed a bill with a date-certain withdrawal...

CARLSON:  Right. 

CILLIZZA:  ... and the Senate has not. 

The indications that we‘re getting—and this was a story in “The Post” this morning—is that Senate leaders on the Republican side are—are going to say, look, this is the president‘s war.  He is going to have to be the one to veto it.  We‘re not going to—and I hate to use this phrase, but it‘s accurate—take the legislative bullet, at least, for him...

CARLSON:  Right. 

CILLIZZA:  ... any longer.  He is going to have to ride this out.  If he wants to veto it, let him veto it. 

CARLSON:  Talk about a middle finger to Bush.  There was a House member quoted in “The Post” this morning who said—quote—“Republicans are sick of defending an ungrateful president.”

You can just feel the resentment coming out of the Congress toward Bush Republicans. 

STODDARD:  Yes. 

And, actually, Bob Novak‘s column yesterday, the headline was “A President All Alone.”  He said he had not seen a president, including Nixon, this alone before. 

He is—the—people have been talking this way since before the election and after.  But now they‘re actually talking about it, some on the record, and—and they‘re—they‘re—they are much more out there about this than they were two months ago. 

These procedural hurdles that the Republicans have failed to overcome

in the Senate that the Republicans have thrown up repeatedly, and now are -

are backing down from, have really protected Bush.  And this is—and he‘s been able to hide behind that.

And what—what the Senate leader, Republican leader, is saying, is -

is—is right.  It‘s, let him veto it. 

And there might not have been a veto if there was a filibuster. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  It‘s his...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  It‘s his war.  Why shouldn‘t he stand up for it?

STODDARD:  They really...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  And the Democrats are coming out with a poll number that I hadn‘t seen before.  I don‘t know if it‘s accurate, but it‘s certainly interesting, the new Pew poll.  Fifty-nine percent of Americans say they want the Congress to set a date by which American troops should get out.  I think that‘s new. 

CILLIZZA:  Well, one of the fascinating things that I thought, in the lead-up to the 2006, even, was that that polling bore out again and again that the American public was in front of every member of Congress, mostly, Democrats and Republicans alike, that, if you looked at the support for a six-month or a year date certain withdrawal, it was getting very close to a majority, even while Congress was still sort of hanging back, still sort of hanging back.

So, I don‘t think we should be terribly surprised.  Every day, the news continues on Iraq, bombings. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CILLIZZA:  It appears chaos continues to reign. 

And the American people have soured on this.  And recent history, including in Vietnam and polling on Vietnam, shows that, once the American people decide that isn‘t worth fighting, they don‘t, all of a sudden, come back around and decided, oh, yes, it actually was worth fighting.  This is something that is headed down a road that it‘s not likely you‘re going to going to be able to take an exit off of.

CARLSON:  So, does that mean—at 59 percent, I mean, that is getting to the point where this is a bipartisan concern.  This is not just people who read Daily Kos every day.

Does this mean you are going to see, in this coming election, ‘08,  Republicans, particularly in the Senate, run against the war? 

STODDARD:  I think it‘s a long way until this fall, when the surge is definitely—when people make their conclusions about whether or not the surge worked, can work, can continue to work, and—and also a long way to next spring. 

I mean, people want to believe that the ‘08 election is here, that the situation we see in Iraq today on the ground is the same as the one we‘re going to see 10 months from now.  But we just really don‘t know what is going to happen. 

Some people in the Republican Party still hope that something good can happen.

CARLSON:  But you haven‘t seen...

STODDARD:  And—wait.  About the polls, even though their constituents might be polling that—for a withdrawal...

CARLSON:  Right. 

STODDARD:  ... when you talk to the members, they say, look, they might say that now.  But, should we withdrawal, and it become even more disastrous, we will be held responsible for that decision. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  And that is what this is all about, is, nobody wants to be let with his arms around Iraq. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I mean, each side wants to hand Iraq off to the other side.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  It‘s a little tougher for the Republicans.

But, I mean, why won‘t—why have Republicans, up to this point, almost with no expectations, or very few, departed from the president‘s position on this war?  They haven‘t run against him.

CILLIZZA:  Well, I will say...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  I just jotted a few names down while A.B. was talking.  The names are Sununu, Coleman and Collins. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

Those are close races in the next...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... election.

CILLIZZA:  New Hampshire, Minnesota and Maine, all three Republican incumbents who are up in states...

CARLSON:  Right. 

CILLIZZA:  ... that the president lost in 2004, all three of those senators have distanced themselves in ways. 

Have they come out and said, this plan is disastrous and it‘s totally wrong? 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  As Chuck...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA:  Right.  As Chuck Hagel did?  No, they haven‘t.

But what they are doing is slowly, but surely putting in place a way, so, when they do stand for reelection, they can say:  Yes, I am a Republican.  Yes, I supported this war initially.  No, I do not stand in unison with the president. 

the question is, do voters buy it? 

CARLSON:  Right. 

That is kind of the question.

Barack Obama‘s self-told life story was a gripping tale of alienation, growth and vision.  A piece in today‘s “Washington Post,” though, suggests that it wasn‘t all exactly true.  We will get to that in a minute.

Plus: Alberto Gonzales‘ -- Alberto Gonzales chose his words carefully, extremely carefully, with NBC‘s Pete Williams.  The question is whether it is too late for him to correct his poorly worded interviews with the Congress.

You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  America‘s love affair with Barack Obama is just a few months old, and, like most new relationships, details of his past may dampen some of that infatuation. 

In today‘s “Washington Post,” it is reported that Senator Obama‘s accounts of life-changing childhood events, as written about in his memoir, are at least different from the accounts of his contemporaries, and, at worse, they‘re simply not true. 

Joining me now, one of America‘s most informed Obama watchers, the Washington bureau chief for “The Chicago Sun-Times,” Lynn Sweet.

Lynn, thanks for coming on.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES”:  Hey. 

Hi, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You wrote one of the—I think the first piece taking a close look at his memoir back in 2004 and matching it to reality.  You found that there were discrepancies between the two, right?

SWEET:  Well, I highlighted his literary technique, which he talked about in a paragraph in the opening of the book...

CARLSON:  Right. 

SWEET:  ... which now why he is getting into the situation he is in now, because he used composite characters, made up dialogue, and he had—he had renamed people who now can be found.

And what people are doing, now that he‘s under the microscope of a presidential run...

CARLSON:  Right. 

SWEET:  ... is that people are going to them and finding out:  Who are you?  What do you say?  And they are matching it against the book.

The book, which was his calling card—the book is what he rode on the arc of his rise...

CARLSON:  Right.  It‘s a good book.

SWEET:  ... is now what is also being used to have people look at it and say, hey, what is real here and what‘s not? 

CARLSON:  Well, some of these—I have no doubt—and I‘m open to convincing that parts of the book are false. 

Some of this seems a little picky even to me, however.  “The Chicago Tribune” reports that, in the book, he talks about picking up a “LIFE” magazine as a boy in Indonesia.  And, in there, there‘s a story about a man, a black man, who has lightened his skin, and he feels depressed at looking at this.

“The Chicago Tribune” reports that “LIFE” magazine never printed such a story.  Obama said, well, maybe “Ebony” magazine did.  Well, “Ebony” didn‘t either.  Well, maybe some other magazine did.  Obama—I mean, is this—does this matter?

SWEET:  Well, I don‘t know what the consequences of this.

I mean, I know it—he made it up, but is it important in the context of a presidential race?  And, Tucker, this is what I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  And I talked to the campaign a little bit ago.  And I said, do you have any idea why he just wouldn‘t go to a library, which even when he wrote the memoir, he had old “LIFE” magazines...

CARLSON:  Right. 

SWEET:  ... just, if nothing else, to refresh his memory?

I—I don‘t know the answer to that.  So, if you look at this, if this was just a literary memoir, you have a lot of license...

CARLSON:  Right. 

SWEET:  ... as opposed to an autobiography you and I would write, where we better have the facts right and go look up that “LIFE” magazine.

But the consequence will be if somehow this slows the momentum.  At

this point, right now, I don‘t think you have a critical mass.  But it is -

for people who want to know everything about him, I think it‘s reasonable to think you want to know what really happened and what did not in his life. 

CARLSON:  Well, what is going on now, obviously, is the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Republicans are trying to set the narrative early, as they did with Al Gore, with some justification, I believe, in Gore‘s case, but, you know,, this guy is a prevaricator; he‘s a B.S. artist; you can‘t believe what he says.  That‘s what they‘re trying to do.

Here‘s something, I think, is interesting.  He—down in Selma not long ago, “The Politico” reports, he attacked the energy bill, and said, this is outrageous, just another example of Washington run amuck.

Well, it turns out he voted for that bill, and indeed bragged about the provisions within the bill. 

Why—why would he—is that bad staff work?  Does he write his own speeches?  Can he not be told what to say by people who work for him?  How did that happen?

SWEET:  Well, I don‘t think he necessarily has all the discipline that I would think he would have for this big run.

Mike Allen had a good piece in “The Politico.”  It‘s the same thing when, on “LARRY KING” the other night, when they were about the YouTube flap over this commercial, and Obama says, well, you know, we don‘t have the technical ability to make such an ad.

CARLSON:  Right. 

SWEET:  Well, he has a big-league ad maker, and, if they really wanted to do something, certainly, they have the ability.  Again, I say, is it a speed bump along the way?  Probably.  If you have a critical mass of those, maybe it could stop some of his momentum.  Far too early to tell.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: “The Chicago Tribune” actually wrote a piece that said, in his book, he claims that, as a child in Indonesia—he moved there with his mother and his stepfather, who is Indonesian—he became fluent in Indonesian, its own language.  I don‘t know how much of it you speak.  I don‘t speak a lot.

They went back and talked to his teachers, a first-grade teacher, who said, actually, you know, he wasn‘t that fluent in Indonesian. 

Now, if I was Barack Obama, I would hold this up and say, you know what?  The is ludicrous.  Like, who cares one way or the other?

Are they responding that way?  How are they responding?  Are they defensive at this point?

SWEET:  They‘re defensive.

The whole point is, is that they say people outside the beltway.  And you‘re going to hear this a lot.  And I think, at some point, Tucker, it‘s just—you can‘t say—it‘s not the answer to everything that you bring up about Obama—that people outside the beltway don‘t care, that that‘s just Washington talk. 

CARLSON:  Oh, please.

SWEET:  Now, again, the people who tell me this are the people working for the campaign who might be headquartered in Chicago, but they did come from Washington.

CARLSON:  Well, yes.  And if you don‘t like Washington so much, then why are you trying so—why are you spending hundreds of millions of dollars to come here, if you‘re Barack Obama?

SWEET:  Well, I think it‘s always good to have something to run against.

But the point is..

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Run against somebody else‘s city.

SWEET:  Before you even form an opinion on somebody, you kind of want to know what the facts are.

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SWEET:  And right now, this is a big fact-finding period in the campaign.  Even if they wanted to, the Obama campaign can‘t stop this train.  It has left the station. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SWEET:  There are reporters combing everything all over the place.  And I don‘t think it‘s nitpicking, which is more or less what the campaign says.

CARLSON:  Right. 

SWEET:  They don‘t use that phrase.  That‘s my phrase.

And I think it‘s all kind of is fair.  Let‘s find out.  Let‘s put him under the microscope...

(CROSSTALK)

SWEET:  ... and just see what the “it” is.

SWEET:  I just wish—I wish some presidential candidate would attack another city.  You know, run against Baltimore or Cleveland or Santa Fe.  You know what I mean?  I would like to see someone do that.

I‘m sick of this:  It‘s inside-the-beltway talk. 

Oh, buzz off.

Thank you, Lynn.

(LAUGHTER)

SWEET:  And thank you.

CARLSON:  It‘s great to see you.

SWEET:  Great to see you.

CARLSON:  Fred Thompson has got one thing on every person hoping to be president of the United States, “Law & Order.”  People love that show.  He is on it.  The former Tennessee senator may be inching closer to a run for the White House.  And we are joined by a veritable Fred Thompson expert, also a member of Congress.

Plus:  President Bush stands by his man.  Does the passage of time mean that Alberto Gonzales won‘t be forced out of the Justice Department?  All the latest details ahead.

This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I asked for their resignation not for improper reasons.  I would never have asked for their resignations to interfere with a public corruption case, or in any way to interfere with an ongoing investigation.  I just wouldn‘t do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  The firings of eight U.S. attorneys by the Justice Department were justified on apolitical grounds.  Nothing to do with politics, they said.  That has been Alberto Gonzales‘ story from the beginning and he stuck with it in a sit-down interview with Pete Williams of NBC. 

While the interview was unlikely to sway public or political opinion about the simmering controversy, there were negative implicates for Gonzales and the Bush Administration when one of the A.G‘s top aides, White House liaison Monica Goodling, invoked her fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination instead of testifying before Congress.  The Catch-22 of it all, as it always is, is that preventing self-incrimination leaves the incrimination to the imagination of everyone else.  If you‘re not guilty, why don‘t you talk?

Here with their views of this scandal, as it stands today, associate editor of “The Hill Newspaper,” A.B. Stoddard and the writer of “The Fix” at WashingtonPost.com, Chris Cillizza.  Welcome to you both. 

Would you have pled the fifth if you were Monica Goodling?  And does that mean she did something bad? 

CILLIZZA:  Well that‘s an easy question, Tucker, thanks. 

CARLSON:  No, I‘m saying, the last time you fired an attorney.

CILLIZZA:  Yes, right, I mean, this is an easy parallel for me.  Look, I think you‘re right is that what it inevitably does is say, wow, isn‘t she hiding something? 

CARLSON:  Well, the White House says they wanted her to testify, and that she pled the fifth on the advise of her lawyer and they‘re upset about that.  Do you buy that? 

CILLIZZA:  Sure, I don‘t have alternative story line not to buy.  I mean, I think the issue that exists, and I think a lot of people believe this happened with Scooter Libby, is:  Are Kyle Sampson and this woman the true creators of this problem, or does this problem go up higher in the food chain.  The argument always with Scooter Libby was this guy has been scapegoated by the people above him.  Her not testifying lends to the belief that she is skeptical and worried about the possibility of certainly incriminating herself in something that she does not believe ultimately she was the buck stopper on.

CARLSON:  NBC‘s Pete Williams talked to the attorney general and asked him a series of questions about this scandal, if it can be called that.  Here, I thought, was the most interesting exchange between Williams and Alberto Gonzales.  Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Given that, then how can you be certain that none of these U.S. attorneys were put on that list for improper reasons? 

GONZALES:  What I can say is this:  I know the reasons why I asked these United States attorneys to leave and it was not for improper reasons.  It was not to interfere with a public corruption case.  It was not for partisan reasons.  We also know that there‘s nothing in the documents that indicates that they were asked to leave for improper reasons. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  OK, so they weren‘t asked to leave for improper reasons.  There‘s no political reasons.  We also know that they were not terrible U.S. attorneys in every case.  So, why were they asked to leave?  That is the center of this.  I don‘t know—these scandals are all the same.  They start out with an interesting question that nobody answers, and they move off in these other directions.  Do we have any idea?

STODDARD:  The thing is, Tucker, the train has left the station.  If David Iglesias along, of New Mexico, who testified to the Congress that he felt sick, pressured and violated—

CARLSON:  Right. 

STODDARD:  If he was the only one that was questionable, the only case that was questionable, it would be enough of a scandal for the Democrats and you know that. 

CARLSON:  Absolutely, but why don‘t they have a counter-narrative?  I agree with you.  Iglesias is the one that bothers me most. 

STODDARD:  And Gonzales is trying to say now that they weren‘t fired for improper reasons.  He‘s been telling us all along that he doesn‘t belong in this debate, because he delegates his responsibilities. 

CARLSON:  Why the hell don‘t they get the reason and tell us.  Why doesn‘t the White House just answer the question, and that would kind of end the conversation. 

STODDARD:  I am going to start an abuse of power university and teach people how to plan a cover-up before the --  

CILLIZZA:  I was just going to say that.  It‘s like every time this happens, whether its in campaigns or in governance, the cover-up is always worse.  Again, cliches are often right.

CARLSON:  But what is the crime.  Why don‘t they just look, I‘ll tell you.  You asked.  I‘ll tell you.  David Iglesias wore a tie that offended me, hit on my wife, did this—why don‘t they tell us what the reason is?  Why haven‘t they?  I don‘t get that.               

CILLIZZA:  Unless there isn‘t a reason.   

CARLSON:  They went to a lot of trouble to can this guy.

CILLIZZA:  Or a reason that -- 

CARLSON:  Maybe they‘re guilty.  Maybe they canned him because he wasn‘t investigating Democrats enough?  They‘re leaving me no option but to believe in the absence of another explanation.

STODDARD:  That‘s what the Democrats are going with, and it‘s too late to stop it now.  And the Monica Goodling situation is—I mean, nothing could inspire Senator Chuck Schumer or Chairman Pat Leahy more than a top aide to the top law enforcement officer in the country saying she fears legal jeopardy if she comes and tells the truth about her job. 

CARLSON:  Yes, man, I wouldn‘t want to testify before Congress.  Never talk to the authorities, I think, is a pretty good rule of thumb.

CILLIZZA:  The steroid investigation didn‘t do so well for Mark McGuire. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  When was the last time you heard someone say, you know, the FBI came knocking and I decided, you know what, I will talk to them, and I am glad I did.  I have never met a single person who has come to that conclusion after talking to the federal authorities, not one.  Do you know anybody who‘s been like, you know what, we had a great chat.  I didn‘t do anything wrong, and they believed me.

STODDARD:  I don‘t know.

CARLSON:  No, the FBI comes knocking on your door, you go out the back door. 

STODDARD:  It‘s a thankless job.  It‘s a thankless job.

CARLSON:  What?  Being under investigation?

STODDARD:  Public service in the Bush administration.  Just ask Scooter Libby. 

CILLIZZA:  Public service.

CARLSON:  We‘ll be right back.  John and Elizabeth Edwards continue his push for the White House after announcing her frightening health situation.  A new poll reveals how Americans have reacted to this situation.  We‘ll tell you what they said.

Plus, Fred Thompson wouldn‘t be the first conservative Republican to go from the sound stage in Hollywood to the biggest political stage in the world.  A look at the likelihood of Thompson for president.  That campaign could be starting.  We‘ll tell you about it.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Cable TV talk show hosts react to just about every story with the froth of rabid interest, mea culpa.  But How have Americans reacted to the most recent news from Washington?  “USA Today‘s” new poll reveals several interesting public sentiments, including support for John Edwards‘ campaign and for the subpoenas that would draw key White House officials under oath before Congress about the scandal at the Justice Department. 

Here to comment on these fresh new poll results and those big stories, we welcome back the associate editor of “The Hill Newspaper,” A.B.  Stoddard, and the writer of “The Fix” at the WashingtonPost.com, a blog worth reading—there aren‘t many—Chris Cillizza.  

OK, first, I just can‘t resist.  LostRemote.com, which is apparently a credible website has found that someone this morning hacked into John McCain‘s MySpace page.  All the candidates now have MySpace pages.  WE just got this.  We don‘t have it up on the screen.  A picture of McCain; underneath it says, dear supporters, today I announce that I have reversed my position and come out in full support of gay marriage, particularly marriage between passionate females, says John McCain. 

This is not real, apparently.  And I guess they‘ve taken it down.  I couldn‘t resist.  So much of this campaign is going to take place online that it‘s just too excellent.  A.B., were you surprised to see these “USA Today”/Gallup numbers that indicate Edwards‘ numbers went up.  John Edwards, for his campaign, went up five percent after the announcement last week that Elizabeth Edwards, his wife, has cancer and that people support him staying in the race? 

STODDARD:  I‘m not surprised.  I think that they are seeing a real ground swell of sympathy.  I think it‘s going to last a while because so many Americans are living with cancer, or someone in their family has it, or they have lost a family member to cancer.  It‘s so pervasive that I think that there‘s a real feeling—I mean, I think everyone is really feeling very emotional and very actually impressed by the fact that she is being valiant and they are getting up and saying that they want to live the rest of her life, instead of begin the process of her dying. 

But if you look at it long-term, and obviously, if and when she worsens, it is going to be very hard for him, because those very same people who now sympathize and support him staying in the race may begin to question that he is not devoting his time to her care.   

CARLSON:  Well, I saw another poll today, and who knows if it‘s true, but it shows that a sizable percentage—I think it was 38 percent—of people asked did not believe that Edwards would finish his campaign.  I have no way of knowing.  I certainly hope that he finishes his campaign, and that Mrs. Edwards is fine for many years to come.  But that‘s a problem, that perception, don‘t you think, for Edwards? 

CILLIZZA:  Absolutely, it is.  You know, I saw him speak actually just a few blocks form here this morning to a group of unions, the Communications Workers of America. 

CARLSON:  Those are his people.

CILLIZZA:  It was interesting, because I‘ve seen him speak many times before to crowds like this.  The reception he got was not terribly excited, but warm.  And so people feel like they have, as A.B. said, a connection to him.  Remember, John Edwards‘ life story, extremely well to do and well known trial lawyer, handsome, very gifted politically, lives in a huge house.  This is not necessarily the story—that‘s a many people knew.  And it‘s not necessarily a story that humanizes him.  That puts a three dimensional angle on him.

The story that is now getting out there, a lot of people either didn‘t know this or had forgotten this.  Obviously, their son was killed, Wade, in 1996, in a car accident, when he was a teenager.  We now have Elizabeth Edwards battling not just breast cancer, but now bone cancer.  I think it—and I‘m not saying this has anything to do with John Edwards trying to be politically savvy on this, it‘s just the facts.  But the reality is that it humanizes him.  It gives him some sort of three dimensional way to relate to people.

It‘s hard to relate to somebody who lives in a massive home in North Carolina, who is a handsome trial lawyer. 

CARLSON:  Wait, you‘re saying that just because his pool house is bigger than your house, that you don‘t have that much in common? 

CILLIZZA:  You haven‘t seen my house. 

CARLSON:  No, I haven‘t.  I know you work at a newspaper, so I‘m guessing.  OK, A.B., maybe you can explain these poll numbers to me.  OK, these are the latest poll numbers on the U.S. attorney scandal.  And we‘re all assuming, for the sake of argument that it is, in fact, a real scandal.  And it‘s being followed by virtually nobody.  Nobody is really paying attention to this, though we are.

Though 53 percent of respondents say the U.S. attorneys were dismissed for political reasons, not because they were incompetent; 59 percent say Democrats are investigating these dismissals for political advantage, not because of ethical concerns. 

STODDARD:  Two to one.

CARLSON:  Yes, then 64 to 24 percent, three to one, responded to say Congress should subpoena White House officials to testify under oath.  so even though people believe this is, in effect, a political fishing expedition, undertaken by Democrats, they still think the White House ought to give up these people and let them testify under subpoena, under oath.  What does that mean?

STODDARD:  Well, there are two things in play, and the Democrats will have to balance this.  Obviously, Dan Burton, who was chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, issued over 1,000 subpoenas during the Clinton years—

CARLSON:  I think I got one, and I agreed with him.

STODDARD:  And there was obviously a backlash against that, after impeachment in 1998, and they lost seats.  They will bear this in mind, probably.  But, right now, obviously, they‘re off to the races with this.  And they are so because of this: in the summer and the fall before the election, Republicans and some of the media sort of snickered at this, the Democrats repeating this culture of corruption mantra. 

You know, they were always out there about the Republicans being so corrupt and running a corrupt government, and actually, it became a really huge—in exit polls, a really huge issue upon which the voters made up their minds. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

STODDARD:  And that was four months ago.  And so, bear in mind, as the Walter Reed thing has happened, and other things, that the Republicans now are tapped with the label, can‘t run the government, almost could ruin the rest of the government.  They have such a failing grad right now that it‘s not surprising to me at all that the voters feel that everyone should be called on the carpet and start answering every question right now? 

CARLSON:  Do you think that‘s what it is?  I find, time and again, the hardest element of politics to understand is public opinion polling, because so often—I‘m not attacking the public—but so often it‘s contradictory.  You know, yes, the war was a mistake; no, we don‘t support it; yes, we ought to bring the troops home as soon as we can; no, we can‘t lose this war.  What the hell does that mean? 

CILLIZZA:  I think it‘s—and I don‘t want to go back into your outside versus inside the beltway rant from earlier.  I don‘t want to get you mad at me. 

CARLSON:  It was a soliloquy actually.  It was deeper than a rant.

CILLIZZA:  I think that voters are complex.  They have a lot of things going on.  I think we like—

CARLSON:  Like your teenage daughter is complex, slams the door in your face. 

CILLIZZA:  We like to say, Oh, OK, this person voted against Republicans because they are opposed to the war in Iraq.  Well, maybe, and that‘s probably true in some cases, but people are many issues.  You know, you talk to social conservatives, who are always seen as, well, they vote on abortion and gay rights.  Well, I‘ve talked to a lot them, and they say, we think fiscal policy is extremely important, the way our stewardship of this economy; we think the environment is important. 

I think we tend to put people in a box and say, you‘re a social conservative, abortion and gay rights.  You‘re an environmentalist; you care about water and global warming.  You know, I think people are more complex than that.  And, the other thing is, 14 percent of people have been following this very closely.  People have not made up their mind yet.  They‘re not paying that close attention.  They don‘t know how to feel about it, and I think that‘s what the polling gets to.

CARLSON:  I think there‘s something about that.  Now, the polling that matters, I have thought, from day one, going back five years, which party is better on security and national defense.  That‘s a threshold issue.  You are not going to vote for someone you think is going to make it more likely you die in a terror attack.  Hillary Clinton has this as a primary concern.  That‘s why she‘s a hawk on the war, or has been until recently.

A “New York Times” piece today says she has been doing her best to educate herself about military and to become current on military affairs, surround herself with people who are credible representatives of military culture, et cetera.  Will it work?  Will, in the end, Hillary Clinton seem like someone who understands the concerns of the average soldiers? 

STODDARD:  Well, I think that there were some on the record very flattering quotes from military in the story, saying that she does her homework, that she listens, that she wants to know more, and that there‘s a sort of genuine concern for educating herself on these issues.  There was also an interesting quote in there from someone who said, look, politicians rarely come in with any military experience and understanding of the military.  And then they just sort of flail around and make decisions form there. 

This is the best day she‘s had in a long time.  That story, combined with the one in the “New York Times,” ten days or two weeks ago, about how -- the reasons for leaving some troops in Iraq, appeal to independents, appeal to some disheartened Republicans, who don‘t like the lineup, appeal to a lot of Democrats.  She is running a general election campaign but—and that has good days and bad.  I mean, that.

CARLSON:  But you are exactly right.  That is exactly what she is doing.  She is running a general election campaign.

STODDARD:  But—she absolutely is.  And with all this Barack Obama stuff, this is sort of the perfect thing to have—even though it might not speak to primary voters, it is perfect to have on the cover of The New York Times today. 

CARLSON:  Well, I agree with that.  And if she is—if she gets the nomination and is elected president, I will call in from Barbados, my new home there.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  . and tell you what I‘m saying now, which is the moment she won the campaign is the moment she said he would leave the troops behind in Iraq to protect our vital interests.  Because that is the moment she started campaigning as an adult. 

CILLIZZA:  I have been out with her a few places, New Hampshire, South Carolina, what I have been struck by is the A.B. is making.  Look, Hillary Clinton is a smart enough politician to know that it would be more popular for her to say, I made a mistake in my vote for the war in Iraq, and we need to bring the troops home now.  Or, I have a health care plan, here is how we are going to fund it. 

She doesn‘t do either of those things.  If you listen to her rhetoric on health care, which remember, this is John Edwards‘ signature issue, he has got a plan that he says is going to cost $90 billion to $120 billion annually, Hillary Clinton does not put a specific plan in place because, and she says this, she doesn‘t want to do it until she does a detailed analysis of the way in which the current system works... 

CARLSON:  Ah yes.

CILLIZZA:  . and tries to find ways to do it smarter.  She doesn‘t want to present a big fat, what Republicans will call, tax increase plan that they can shoot at.  This is all aimed at, say, I am an adult.  I have been in the White House for eight years.  I understand that governing is different than campaigning.  And we need someone who is going to govern. 

CARLSON:  I think that is very—and I say this as someone who is likely not to vote for Mrs. Clinton, believe it or not, I think it is very, very smart. 

Now in the minute we have left, A.B., there was a writer at The Washington Post, I can‘t remember his name, he writes a blog there—a political blog.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  . who wrote a piece once saying that.

CILLIZZA:  He is very handsome, whoever he is.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Saying that Fred Thompson ought to run.  And then he wrote a piece saying he shouldn‘t run.  I think I will remember in a minute who it was.

STODDARD:  And he was actually right both times. 

CARLSON:  Exactly. 

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, A.B.

CARLSON:  Where are you on that? 

STODDARD:  I‘m not the Fred Thompson expert that Chris is.  And we were having a discussion about this before.  I think that if he—if the opening is there, and he wants it, I think he is in and he will see a big festive-like atmosphere of just bubbling enthusiasm and.

CARLSON:  From desperate Republicans.

STODDARD:  . frothing anger from Republicans (INAUDIBLE).  The ones that I have talked to recently about Fred Thompson, I mean, they just—you can just see they are just hanging every last hope on this guy.  Whether or not that means he is going to make it for the long haul, I have no idea. 

I think what is interesting.

CARLSON:  Wait, but hold on.

STODDARD:  . about the Fred Thompson boomlet is how much the people that keep appearing as the new alternatives are friends of John McCain‘s. 

(LAUGHTER)

STODDARD:  The—every candidate.

CARLSON:  That is definitely right, Hagel, then Thompson...

STODDARD:  . that comes out to be alternative—and Rudy Giuliani, are always trying to.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  So, have you made up your mind yet? 

CILLIZZA:  I haven‘t.  What I will say though is remember, and I think A.B. is right about the boomlet that would surround him.  Remember the last time we saw this fervor and this excitement around a candidate who was going to come and then change the race?

CARLSON:  Yes, I remember it really well.

CILLIZZA:  General Wesley Clark. 

CARLSON:  That is exactly right.  And he manned—and he is still.

(CROSSTALK)    

CILLIZZA:  . former retired general Wesley Clark, not President Wesley Clark for a reason.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  He ran the single worst campaign I have ever witnessed in my life.  No offense to him.  But it was just shocking.  Thank you both very much. 

Fred Thompson was a good senator and he played a hell of lawyer on television.  New accounts from people close to Mr. Thompson suggest that he is seriously considering an audition for president in the reality show that is the United States.  One of those people joins us next.

And Prince William proves something about himself and British royals in general, they are human beings.  In case if you hadn‘t heard, the prince misbehaved, horrifying.  We will be right back with details. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Ronald Reagan did it.  Around Schwarzenegger wants it. 

Might Fred Thompson be the next actor to aim for the White House?  Thompson, a former Tennessee senator turned “Law & Order” star is saying that he is, quote, “leaving the door open” for a presidential run next year.  The new USA Today/Gallup poll lists Thompson in third place among Republicans with 12 percent.  Here to discuss whether or not Thompson will, in fact, run, and if he could actually win the party‘s nomination, we welcome Republican congressman from Tennessee, Zach Wamp. 

Congressman, thanks for coming on. 

REP. ZACH WAMP ®, TENNESSEE:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Now why would Fred Thompson—who has got a pretty great life by any measure, a TV star, former senator, that is pretty great, why would he want to leave that all behind to sit and have to take nasty questions from reporters for a year? 

WAMP:  Well, when I first talked to him in December, I don‘t think that that was on his mind.  But I think frankly the need is there.  He has the right stuff.  He has received a tremendous amount of encouragement across the country.  And right now, I‘m like drinking out of a fire hose because there is so much enthusiasm around his potential candidacy. 

He is coming to Capitol Hill April the 18th to meet with about 50 members of the House that are looking for a strong conservative to support.  He has what it takes.  He is a natural leader.  And frankly I think people that are looking at the field are looking for something else, and he has it. 

CARLSON:  Well, what does—I mean, it seems to me there are several thousand Republicans running for the nomination at least.  And a couple of pretty strong one who have raised a lot of money.  We will find out how much in a couple of days.  But what exactly does Thompson have that none of the major candidates have? 

WAMP:  I think when they are looking for a president, people are looking for strength and trust.  And those two things that come very natural for Fred Thompson.  He is comfortable in his own skin.  I think frankly he is a serious-minded leader but he doesn‘t take himself too seriously.  And in these difficult days, we need a soft touch, some light humor, a lot of confidence, and you have got to be tough.  And he has got those things. 

He has also had this extraordinary sense of timing.  I think he kind of knew when to step back, he knew when to enter.  The people want him right now.  The timing is great.  And so he has to look at his great life and say, wait a second, my country is calling, should I do this? 

I think that process is under way.  I think there is a very good chance that he becomes a candidate for president.  I think there is a very good chance that he just continues to climb, because so many people say, we are looking for something other than what we see.  And Fred Thompson has all of the right skill sets. 

CARLSON:  Well, see, there is no doubt you are right on the first part, many Republicans are dissatisfied with their options so far.  But you the country and Republicans specifically want a leader who is strong and tough, decisive, but with a sense of humor.  I mean, that sounds like John McCain, what is wrong with him? 

WAMP:  Well, you know, I don‘t want to dis any of the other candidates.

CARLSON:  Oh, go ahead, I don‘t mind. 

WAMP:  . but they are not getting traction.  I mean, you know, people are looking at all three of the other major candidates on the Republican side, and they are like, something turns them off about all three of them.  And I don‘t want to be too negative, but they are looking for somebody that they can get comfortable with, and they are looking for a consistent conservative and they are looking for somebody they can trust on our values. 

You can‘t grow up in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, and go through Fred Thompson‘s life experience without being a natural conservative.  And frankly, in this world, the world you live in, Tucker, being media-friendly is a big plus.  Fred Thompson is comfortable in front of a camera, in front of a press event, at a committee hearing, anywhere, he is comfortable.  And people know that. 

And so he is a natural leader.  During these difficult days, I think he would be a strong and decisive leader on the world stage.  And I believe he is the best thing Republicans can put forward right now.  And that is why I hope and believe that ultimately he will be a candidate with a lot of enthusiasm. 

CARLSON:  Well, it would be nice to have a president who can speak English, that would be... 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  That would be great.  Good luck!  Zach Wamp, congressman from Tennessee, I appreciate it, Congressman.

WAMP:  Thanks, Tuck.

CARLSON:  What do you do when you mix a British royal, a few adult beverages, a member of the opposite sex and a tabloid photographer?  Cable news is what you get!  And you are watching it on MSNBC.     

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Willie Geist is still trapped deep in the bowels of the American legal system on jury duty, so he claims.  Joining us instead is the vice president for programming of MSNBC.  We are proud to welcome Bill Wolff. 

BILL WOLFF, VICE PRESIDENT FOR PROGRAMMING, MSNBC:  Thank you, Tucker. 

Yes.  They are putting “War and Peace” on trial apparently page by page.  The verdict, Vladimir Putin.  You know, I mean, that‘s how it turns out, quite frankly. 

CARLSON:  Don‘t spoil it!  Come on!

WOLFF:  Sorry, buddy. “American Idol,” the campaign, resumes tonight, tucker, on 7.9 billion TV sets across this country.  The nation‘s obsession with slender Sanjaya Malakar will surely be served by whatever he sings and however he wears his hair.  But the other emerging story line, let‘s talk about the “tartification” of Haley Scarnato, Tucker. 

After the bouncing of Internet softcore porn sensation Antonella Barba, that is B-A-R-B-A for you Google freaks, Ms. Scarnato either realized or was told that her advantage on the competition might be better exploited by wearing less.  We will bring you all of the fashion and performance highlights in this time slot tomorrow. 

Tucker, are you on the “American Idol” bandwagon yet? 

CARLSON:  I‘m not, but as an analyst of American culture, I don‘t think that is a bad strategy. 

WOLFF:  Oh, are you kidding? 

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFF:  She wore a doily on top and a dish rag on bottom and Simon Cowell was utterly taken, as was America. 

A cautionary tale now, Tucker, for all employed people.  Comedian Eddie Griffin, a very funny man, was reversing for his role in the upcoming movie “Redline” by taking that Ferrari for a spin at a racetrack in Irwindale, California, and he wrecked it.  Before the wreck, the car was worth about $1.5 million.  Before and after the wreck, it was owned by his boss, the movie‘s executive producer.  Afterwards, Griffin said, quote, “‘Undercover Brother‘ is good at karate and all of the rest of that, but the Brother can‘t drive,” end quote. 

A number of morals to this story, Tucker, one, don‘t drive your boss‘ million dollar car.  And two, less obvious, avoid Irwindale, California.  No offense, but nothing good happens in Irwindale. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  No, no offense!  No, no offense, just avoid the entire town. 

WOLFF:  Have you been to Irwindale?  You have.  You have been by it on the 10. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I think I was there yesterday, in fact. 

WOLFF:  Is that right?

CARLSON:  Yes. 

WOLFF:  Lovely people but not my favorite part of this country.  Speaking of country, I have breaking news, Tucker, from “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.” Our friend, Joe Scarborough, former congressman, publisher, lawyer, man about town and all-around genius, completed an interview for tonight‘s very special episode with former Miss USA Tara Conner, pictured here, and her successor whose name is less important because she hasn‘t been in any trouble yet. 

Just as the interview was achieving TV hall of fame status, Joe fielded a phone call from an old friend. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, OWNER, MISS USA PAGEANT:  Well, I didn‘t bring it up.  I mean, Rosie O‘Donnell made it a much bigger deal than it was.  I think that Tara is going to serve as a great example for a lot of people and that‘s why I did it.  And, Rosie, you know, who I think is a total degenerate, frankly, I know her very well, I think she is a—you know, a loser in almost every sense of the word. 

And I understood what she was doing.  And she didn‘t like it that I was giving her a second chance.  And I think she was—you are right, I think she has been proven to be wrong.  But there was a blowup.  It wasn‘t caused by me.  I didn‘t start it.  But I think I probably finished it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF:  I, personally, Tucker, am having audio difficulty.  But it was Donald Trump, he was talking about Rosie.  That means it was classy. 

CARLSON:  let me sum it up for you.  I know Rosie.  I have known her very well for a long time.  She is, quote, “a degenerate” and a loser in every sense of the word, says Donald. 

WOLFF:  That‘s what he said, degenerate and loser in every sense of the word? 

CARLSON:  You have got to love that.  I mean, he is a passionate man. 

WOLFF:  He is a man who means what he says, or at least he means to get TV ratings with what he says, and I admire that. 

Finally, Tucker, international politics of sorts.  Prince William, the heir to the British throne, either soiled or enhanced the appeal of the royal family‘s name in a U.K. nightclub.  Out for a night of partying with his military pals, William was photographed by The Sun newspaper with his hand in restricted international territory, namely the upper frontal region of 18-year-old Brazilian Ana Ferreira, who described the royal paw as, quote, “manly.” 

William was later seen dancing to 1980s pop music and leaving with a different woman.  No news on the condition of that woman at this hour.  Obviously, we will bring you the details as they become available to us here at MSNBC World Headquarters.  There it is, see, the right paw on the left side of your screen.  Hmm, unseemly. 

CARLSON:  You know what, Bill?  The moral of that story, it is good to be king or in fact even prince. 

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFF:  Yes.  It‘s pretty good to be prince as well, I think... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  And by the way, what does “wahey”—what does.

WOLFF:  Come on, 24?  Hmm?

CARLSON:  . “wahey” mean?  W-A-H-E-Y.

WOLFF:  It is Gaelic for “don‘t touch me there”? 

CARLSON:  Oh, I guess. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  British slang.  Bill Wolff, thanks a lot.

WOLFF:  My pleasure, Tucker.

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching. “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS” is next.  We‘ll be back soon.  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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