updated 4/5/2007 11:14:27 AM ET 2007-04-05T15:14:27

Guests: Tom Andrews, Bill Press, Mike Allen

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Barack Obama hits Hillary Clinton where it hurts most: at the bank.  The Obama announced today that it raised 25 million bucks in the first quarter of this year.  That‘s a figure that almost matches and, in fact, will likely exceed by some measures Hillary Clinton‘s total.

In the end, Obama had twice the number of contributors than Hillary did.  Even more significant, virtually all of his money can be spent now, in the primaries.

And Hillary?  Well, she‘s delayed releasing those numbers, and not because her campaign doesn‘t have them.  That‘s not a good sign for the Clinton example.  It looks like Hillary Clinton may not be as inevitable after all.  Can Obama fill the void?  We will tell you in a minute.

We will also bring you the latest on the release of those 15 British sailors by Iran and what it means for the U.S.

Plus, more trouble for John McCain.  Nancy Pelosi does diplomacy in the Middle East.  And the ongoing battle between President Bush and almost everyone else. 

But we begin with Barack Obama‘s big day. 

And to discuss its importance, we welcome the national director for Win Without War and former Democratic Congressman from the state of Maine Tom Andrews, and nationally syndicated radio show host and author of “How the Republicans Stole Religion,” assuming they did, Bill Press. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Welcome to you both. 

TOM ANDREWS, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, WIN WITHOUT WAR COALITION:  Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:   Hey, Tucker.

CARLSON:  I don‘t think this is an inside-the-beltway story.  I think this is a real story.  Some of these money stories aren‘t real.  This is.  Here are the basic numbers, Bill.

Obama raised $25 million this quarter, with a total of 100,000 donations.  That‘s twice the number Mrs. Clinton said.  At least $23.5 million of that is eligible to be spent in the primaries.  It‘s money that is ready money.  And almost $7 million was raised on the Internet from 50,000 donors, most of it in small denominations.

This seems to me an indication of genuine grassroots support for Barack Obama. 

PRESS:  You know, it‘s hard impress those of us who work and live inside the beltway, because we get to be cynics after a while.  But I think this is huge.  I was blown away by Barack Obama‘s showing in the fund-raising. 

I also want to point out, he raised twice as much as John McCain did. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

PRESS:  Of course, that‘s on the other side, but impressive.

But to get—for a newcomer, a guy that nobody knew his name two years ago, right, to be able to go out there, without the machine that Hillary Clinton has got, without all that length of service and all those contributors, the Bill Clinton contributors, in the past, and be able to come that close to her, and beat her in most categories, I don‘t think you can over—I think you‘re right, Tucker. 

I think this is a huge story.  I don‘t think you can exaggerate its importance.  And I would also point out that she used Bill Clinton, her ace in the hole, early to raise that money.  He did it on his own. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s—I have to say, I do think the—I think Bill Clinton is a political genius.  There‘s no way around that.  I do think his effects on campaigns is wildly overrated. 

If you look at—this is my hobbyhorse going past—last six years -

but, if you look at all the former Clinton officials who have run for office, very, very few have been elected.  Bill Clinton‘s endorsement has meant nothing in the past two political—the presidential elections.  And his fund-raising prowess obviously not as significant as we thought.

ANDREWS:  Well, every election is different.  Every moment in an election is different, Tucker.

And I think you‘re absolutely right, Bill.  The fact that Barack Obama could come out of this thing basically from the starting gate with virtually nothing, and not only catch Hillary Clinton, but surpass her, is truly remarkable. 

And I think it points to the very strong grassroots base of support that he has, the numbers that you have just—seven million contributing over -- $7 million contributed over the Internet, 100,000 individual contributions.  That is not only significant in and of itself.  But it shows the great potential, that you can build on this, because most of those contributions were small contributions, $50, $100. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

PRESS:  Yes. 

ANDREWS:  Those people can double, triple, quadruple. 

(CROSSTALK)

ANDREWS:  And, so that—this could be just the beginning.

CARLSON:  Doesn‘t it point out weaknesses in the Hillary Clinton camp?  I mean, I think she‘s a very strong candidate.  I still think she‘s the favorite to get the nomination.

On the other hand, the thing she had going for her was the perception that she was unbeatable, that her candidacy was inevitable, and that she was this amazing fund-raiser.  Nobody could top her money.  That was a given from day one.  And it turns out that given is inaccurate.

PRESS:  Well, she is not inevitable.  She has not been.  Of course, they wanted to give the impression that she was.

But the other thing, I must say, Tucker, I‘m not only impressed with Barack Obama‘s totaled numbers, right.  I‘m impressed with his timing.  Let‘s appreciate the timing, because Hillary comes out on Sunday, right, and then Rudy and McCain come out on Monday and Tuesday.  And Barack Obama just—he knew he had three aces in his hand.  And he just sat there, like a smart poker player, and held them, until everybody else was out, and then goes, boom.  Lay them on the table.

CARLSON:  And his first—this afternoon, in Chicago, he said, we‘re still the underdog, which, of course, means—whenever you say you‘re the underdog, that means you‘re the front-runner.

ANDREWS:  Yes. 

But the other interesting thing about this is, is that Barack Obama was the candidate—and he tells us this all the time—consistently, from the very beginning, weeks before the vote on the Iraq war, he was against the Iraq war.  So, he has a lot of credibility among those voters who really are opposed to the Iraq war.

CARLSON:  Right. 

ANDREWS:  Senator McCain, on the other hand, of course, is the strongest supporter of the Iraq war.  And look at his numbers.  He trailed all the major candidates, Democrats and Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

ANDREWS:  He‘s in very big trouble. 

CARLSON:  Very unpopular.

ANDREWS:  And the Democrats raised $78 million, the Republicans, $51 million. 

CARLSON:  That is actually, for the first time in my lifetime, I think, or certainly since I have been paying attention, the Democrats are leading in the money race. 

Here is, I think, what is going to turn out to be Barack Obama‘s Achilles‘ heel.  And it‘s sanctimony.

This is a clip of Barack Obama.  He‘s asked at some sort of exchange with a constituent, or a potential voter, what about this money that you are raising?

And here‘s he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t want money to pick my next president.  I want to pick my next president.  Can you comment? 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I can.

The—first of all, I am very proud of the fact that, throughout my career, I have always tried to curb the influence of money in politics.  We have by far the most donors of any campaign.  So, the overwhelming number of our donors oftentimes come in—donations—come in small increments. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I have tried to curb the influence of money in politics. 

And, by the way, I just raised $25 million.

The question is, how hard you trying to curb the influence of money in politics, if you just raised $25 million?  You know what I mean?  That‘s B.S., basically.

ANDREWS:  Well, look, no, no, it‘s not B.S., because, obviously, you need to have money to compete.  We don‘t like it.  I don‘t like it.

But, listen...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  How much doesn‘t he like it?  He must kind of like it.  He raised $25 million. 

(CROSSTALK)

ANDREWS:  Welcome to reality.  But he has not taken money from...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  So, I hate myself.  I can‘t stop. 

ANDREWS:  But let‘s at least give him credit.  What is he doing?  He‘s not taking money from PACs.  He‘s not taking money from lobbyists.  As he said, he has 100,000 individual contributions, most of those in very small increments.

So, if you can raise money in that way, as opposed to peddling the big influence money, that‘s progress.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, wouldn‘t we stop him before he raises more money? 

Because raising money is...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  No, I‘m serious.

(CROSSTALK)

ANDREWS:  ... conservative, Tucker.  What are you talking about?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I don‘t think money is a problem in politics.  We spend more advertising toothpaste than we do running a presidential campaign.  There is nothing wrong with telling people about political ideas, which is what this money goes toward.  I am for money in politics.

But he gets up, after raising 25 million bucks, and says:  I feel so bad.  I hate myself. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Settle down, Jimmy Carter.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  No, no, no, you have got to appreciate—again, I think the guy is a brilliant actor. 

Look, he says, with a straight face, I really hate all this money in politics.  And, by the way, I beat everybody else, including Hillary Clinton. 

That is absolutely brilliant.  If you can pull that off, he deserves to be president of the United States. 

CARLSON:  And I‘m filled with self-loathing.

All right.  We will be back in mere moments. 

Iran let its British captives go without a shot fired.  What role did the U.S. play in that negotiation.  And, in the end, who came out ahead? 

And President Bush blasted Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria, just days after a Republican delegation made the same trip.  His conflict with Congress over war funding continues to worsen.  Is it time for Bush to change the way he thinks about foreign policy?  Would he ever consider that?

This is MSNBC, America‘s most impressive news network. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Iran‘s president announces the release of 15 British hostages.  And the sailors celebrated the news with the president himself.  It will be a heroes‘ homecoming when they arrive back in London, but should they actually be prosecuted for their behavior in Iran?

We will tell you.  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  To the Iranian people, I would simply say this.  We bear you no ill will.  On the contrary, we respect Iran as an ancient civilization, as a nation with a proud and dignified history.  And the disagreements that we have with your government, we wish to resolve peacefully through dialogue. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  British Prime Minister Tony Blair was not alone in his warm feeling today after Iran released 15 British sailors.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the hostage release was his Easter gift to the British people.  But the release does leave several important questions unanswered.  For one, what was the American role in the negotiation?  And what about Syria, which claims to have facilitated the peaceful resolution?  And, in the end, who won?

For answers, we turn now to MSNBC military analyst and retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs. 

Jack, thanks for coming on.

COLONEL JACK JACOBS (RET.), NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Good afternoon, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Now, I know that we never, ever, ever negotiate with terrorists.  Iran, of course, is a terrorist state.  So, we had no role in this, right? 

JACOBS:  Don‘t bet on it.  I think everybody was involved in negotiating this deal, including the Saudis, the Syrians, the Americans.

The only people not involved were you and I.  I‘m not so sure about you.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBS:  So, yes, we were involved.  I mean...

CARLSON:  What did we give, do you think?

JACOBS:  Well, I think we gave some assurances that the next round of restrictions, through the U.N. Security Council on Iran, which they really didn‘t want to have imposed, that we‘re probably going to give them a bye on that until the next time they mess up.  So, that‘s my guess.  That was our contribution.

We also may have said that we would consider doing some sort of arrangement, whereby some or all of the five Iranians who we collected in northeastern Iraq some months ago, who were out training the bad guys and teaching them how to use improved IEDs and giving them weapons and equipment and so on, that we might consider releasing some or all of them under separate negotiation.  I think that‘s what we contributed. 

CARLSON:  So, we—in other words, we traded people who may have been involved in the killings of American troops in order to get British sailors back? 

JACOBS:  Well, I‘m not sure of that.  I think we may have given them assurances that we would consider it under a separate negotiation, surely. 

But don‘t forget that we—there was pressure on us as well, with Tony Blair saying, hey, look, you have got to get me—I have got to get these guys released. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

JACOBS:  And you‘re going to have to do something that assists us in doing that.  And you can‘t be aloof from now on this subject.

And I think that is what happened.

CARLSON:  I was really struck by the behavior of some of these 15 hostages while in captivity and some of the statements that they made.  Here‘s one, put one up.  This is Nathan Summers.  He‘s a British sailor. 

Here‘s a statement he made while being held by Iran.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATHAN THOMAS SUMMERS, BRITISH SAILOR:  I would like to apologize for entering your waters without any permission.  I know it happened back in 2004, and our government promised that it wouldn‘t happen again.  And, again, I deeply apologize for entering your waters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Now, it‘s not like these guys were being held in the Hanoi Hilton in tiger cages or something.  They were not there all that long, and it took them about a day to start denouncing their own country. 

I don‘t want to judge people in a situation I‘m not in. 

JACOBS:  No, judge away. 

CARLSON:  On the other hand...

JACOBS:  Judge away.

CARLSON:  ... I think it‘s appalling, actually.

JACOBS:  So do I.

CARLSON:  I don‘t know what to make of this.  What do you—tell me what you think.

JACOBS:  Well, they‘re idiots, he and the other 14 are, have to be, because there‘s no excuse for this kind of behavior. 

Don‘t forget that it was bad news from start to finish.  They boarded an Iranian ship, evidently without having planned air cover, being covered by the mother ship at the maximum effective range of their own weapons, let themselves get policed up without firing a shot.  I can tell you that they wouldn‘t take me without firing a shot.  I would take as many with me as I possibly could.

CARLSON:  I believe you, actually.

JACOBS:  Oh, believe it.  And, by the way, that‘s what we‘re all taught. 

And, on top of that, they weren‘t in captivity more than 28 microseconds before they started—you remember that shot—briefing, in front of a big map about where they were, and apologizing, and so on—absolutely despicable behavior, deplorable behavior. 

And I—they certainly should not have been taught to act like that.  My guess is, they were not taught to act like that.  And I think they are going to have—and they should have—a lot to answer for when they finally get back home. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I don‘t want to sound like Dick Cheney here, but it does seem likes Tony Blair‘s assiduous sucking-up to Iranian government—oh, you of previous ancient glory, and we respect your civilization and all that—and then these British soldiers doing the bidding of the Iranian government, I mean, that has got to embolden Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard and all the bad guys in that country.

JACOBS:  Well, it‘s very interesting you should say that.  There are two games taking place here.

The first is that the—it‘s not the British‘s finest hour, with respect to these marines and sailors.  And, like I said, they should have a lot to answer for when they get back home, because they acquitted themselves horribly and dishonorably.

But I have got to tell you this, also, that Ahmadinejad is not the big winner here.  It‘s the more moderate factions inside—I mean, to the extent—everything is relative—to the extent that there are any moderate factions inside Iran, it‘s the more moderate factions.

And I think that they have been convinced to rein Ahmadinejad in, because they were about ready to get slammed with yet more sanctions from the U.N. Security Council.  And, on top of everything else, you had all the Arab states going—including Syria, Saudi Arabia, and others, telling Iran, you guys, you guys have got to slack off, because you are making it bad for us.  You are making it bad for yourselves.  And the next thing to happen is, you guys are going to get blockaded.  So, just knock it off.

And I think the more moderate factions are the guys who really won.  Ahmadinejad, I think, lost.  He is a notch back.  And, therefore, Tony Blair, because he sort of won, has the luxury of being magnanimous in—in victory here. 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s not all bad news, then.

Jack Jacobs...

JACOBS:  It‘s bad news, but not all bad.

CARLSON:  Thank you very much, Jack Jacobs...

JACOBS:  My pleasure.

CARLSON:  ... winner of the Medal of Honor.

It appears to be a genuine three-way race for the Democratic nomination.  Barack Obama shared good news about his bankroll today.  John Edwards has seen an upward spike in his poll numbers and shared some good news about his wife‘s health.  So, where does that leave Hillary Clinton?  In a bad mood, I bet. 

And could Nancy Pelosi have done a useful thing by visiting Syria, against President Bush‘s wishes?  How bad does her trip to Damascus and the peaceful resolution of the Iran hostage situation make the Bush administration look? 

We will tell you—answers ahead on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Great Britain achieved the release of its 15 sailors held captive by Iran in part by talking, talking tough at times, other times sucking up, but talking directly and privately with Iranian officials.  Nancy Pelosi spent this holiday weekend part in Damascus, Syria.  There she met with leaders for whom President Bush has official disdain. 

Meanwhile, leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Joe Biden of Delaware, have urged the president to talk with Iranian leaders.  Does all of this constitute an argument against Mr.  Bush‘s use of the silent treatment as foreign policy? 

Joining us again national director for Win Without War and former Democratic Congressman from Maine, Tom Andrews, and nationally syndicated radio show host Bill Press.

Bill, I want to read you a quote from Nancy Pelosi in Syria today.  Now I defended yesterday on the show her right to go to Syria.  She is the speaker of the House.  I would love to go to Syria.  They wouldn‘t let me in last summer because I had an Israeli stamp on my passport, but I would love to go.  So good for her for going.

She said this today, quote, she determine that the road to Damascus is a road to peace.  Now there‘s really nothing more pernicious than a naive American lawmaker in a foreign land she doesn‘t understand.  And that seems like a pretty good description of Nancy Pelosi to me.

PRESS:  Nancy Pelosi is anything but naive, Tucker.  She is one tough, smart lady.  She knows exactly what she‘s doing.  She went to Israel first.  She came to Damascus.  It‘s a major player in the—

CARLSON:  How is the road to Damascus the road to peace? 

PRESS:  She would like to make the road to Damascus the road to peace. 

That‘s what she‘s saying.  She is not saying it is today.  I mean that would be foolish.  And that‘s not what she meant.  But in your outline there of the people who have urged talks with Syria and Iran, you didn‘t mention the Iraqi Study Group, co-chaired by Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton.  So she‘s doing the right thing. 

CARLSON:  No, I‘m in favor of that.  I‘m not attacking the idea of talking to Iran or Syria, or to any evil people around the world.  I think that‘s a good idea.  My point is, is the speaker of the House best situated to do it?  It seems to me the executive is best situated to do it.

PRESS:  There will be no peace in the Middle East unless Syria and Iran are involved in bringing that peace about, and that‘s why she had to go there. 

ANDREWS:  And the truth is that when you have an executive, Tucker, that won‘t do it, that obviously has a foreign policy that has failed, this isolationism.  We‘re going to draw a line in the sand.  We‘re going to be bellicose. 

CARLSON:  Isolationism?  Holy smokes, it would be great if it was isolation.  They‘re running around invading other countries.

ANDREWS:  I stand corrected.  Trying to isolate Syria, trying to isolate Iran.  We see how well that has worked in the world.  It‘s failed.  And so if the president says we‘re going to continue to follow a policy that is obviously getting us into deeper and deeper trouble, I‘m very happy that Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House.  And it‘s a co-equal branch of government.  They have a role to play and a voice to be heard.  They reflect the voices of the American people. 

CARLSON:  It‘s co-equal, but they don‘t have a State Department and the president does.  I can‘t think—and maybe you can correct me—I can‘t think of a single occasion where a member of Congress, acting outside the policy of the executive branch, has achieved something on behalf of America worth achieving.  They always show in these foreign capitals, these stupid lawmakers, make these dumb, airy statements that amount to nothing.  It‘s a propaganda coup for the evil dictator they‘re visiting and nothing more. 

PRESS:  I think we‘re making much too much—I think the White House is making much too much of this.  You pointed out—

CARLSON:  Yes, they are.  I agree.

PRESS:  -- earlier that there was a delegation of Republican members Saturday in Damascus.  Nobody said beans.  Nancy Pelosi goes with a bipartisan delegation and suddenly the White House is all upset.  You now why?  Because she showed Bush up for being a very small man.  That‘s why.

ANDREWS:  And they don‘t have a State Department, that‘s true.  But they have vast majority of the American people behind them, who are demanding that they right this ship. 

CARLSON:  The vast majority of Americans can‘t find Syria, don‘t know what continent it‘s on.  I mean, I know we‘re supposed to suck up to the vast majority of the American people, but they don‘t know anything about this.   

OK, I want to ask you something, Tom, that I think you know a lot about.  You may even be involved in this.  Ten minutes before I got on air tonight I got an e-mail from Jon Soltz, former Army veteran, VoteVets.org.  We‘ve had him on the show.  I like him personally.  StopIranWar.com, and it‘s an appeal to sign a petition.  They want 100,000 petition signatures to prevent the Bush administration from declaring war in Iran. 

Here‘s my question to you:  shouldn‘t the U.S. government, run by Bush, or Hillary, or whoever, you, have the freedom to decide which countries pose a threat and which countries we ought to go to war with?  I mean, why should the Congress be telling the president you can‘t go to war with a country ahead of time?  

ANDREWS:  Because of who the president is and what he did in Iraq, and how he got us into the mess in Iraq.

CARLSON:  But what if we‘re threatened by Iran? 

ANDREWS:  Listen, Iraq never threatened us.  They weren‘t even an imminent threat.

CARLSON:  We‘re talking about Iran though.

ANDREWS:  That‘s the problem.  We see what he did in Iraq.  We see where it got us.  Now we see what he is doing in Iran.  The carrier ships that he has deployed there; the saber rattling that he is doing.  And we know.  And we also know that this is having the effect of actually strengthening Ahmadinejad, by taking that nationalist fervor in Iran and saying gather around me and support me, because we have this big evil guy that‘s going to attack us. 

CARLSON:  Democrats act as if because Bush has mishandled Iraq, and he has, that Iran is no threat.  But Iran is a threat.  They act like it‘s all made up, like it‘s Karl Rove‘s imagination creating this.

PRESS:  Tucker, two quick points.  Number one, I am glad that Tony Blair was in charge of these negotiations, and not George Bush, or we would be in the middle World War Three right now.  They got home.  That‘s important. 

George bush apologized to the Chinese six years ago to bring our men and women home. 

CARLSON:  I know.  I hated that.  It was a moment which will live in infamy.

PRESS:  I want to answer your question, one word answer to the question: the constitution.  It‘s their job to decide what wars we get into, not the president of the United States.  And it‘s about time we obeyed the constitution of the United States. 

CARLSON:  Congress can‘t fix the potholes in front of my house and now they‘re going to --  

PRESS:  He can‘t go to war unless Congress says OK, and they‘ve got to demand that.

CARLSON:  John McCain took a verbal beating in the media for his sunny observations about Iraq two days ago.  Then his campaign reported weak money numbers.  Now he‘s rethinking how he‘ll run for president.  Can he do it?  Is it too little too late?  We‘ll tell you.

Plus, Barack Obama‘s good news on the financial front is announced just as the anti-war movement begins to complain about his position on Iraq.  Not only that, his poll in New Hampshire just got measurably worse.  How will Obama use all that money to defend his position and move up the ladder?  You‘re watching MSNBC, America‘s most impressive news network. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  The conflict between President Bush and the Congress over war funding continues to deepen.  Having heard the president‘s repeated vow to veto any measure that includes a withdrawal date from Iraq—and he seems to mean it—Senate Democratic leadership, specifically Harry Reid and Russ Feingold, have counter-attacked and said they will defund the whole war if Bush vetoes their current proposal. 

There is no end in sight to that fight in Washington.  Here to discuss where it may wind up, national director for Win Without War, Tom Andrews, and nationally syndicated radio show host Bill Press. 

Amazing.  I was amazed, Tom,

ANDREWS:  You were amazed!

CARLSON:  Even I was amazed to see Hillary Clinton‘s response, described on the A.P. wire today.  She was asked, what do you think of Russ Feingold and Harry Reid‘s plan to defund the war, this legislation they‘re putting together to just cut off funding by next March?  What do you think of that.  And she said, you know what?  I don‘t know anything about it.  Quote, I don‘t know. 

ANDREWS:  I don‘t know anything about it.  Well, she should go to www.StandUpCongress.org, my website, and she‘ll learn all about it, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  First of all, that‘s demonstrably untrue.  But she‘s going to have to take a position on this very soon, I would think.  What position is she going to take? 

ANDREWS:  Well, it remains to be seen, but obviously, if you have an American population broadly, well over 60 percent, believe that the Congress should set down a date certain, should absolutely lay down the law to the president and say we‘re going to bring our troops after that date—the Democratic party, of course, those numbers are much higher.  And then when you look at the Democratic activists and contributors and people that make these campaigns work, those numbers are off the charts. 

So we want our Democratic candidates to be leaders in this and to be standing up clearly and strongly and saying, we want to get these troops out of harm‘s way, safely, securely, redeploy them and invest that money in doing that.  If you‘re not willing to say that, the you‘re going to have trouble. 

CARLSON:  Well I bet you do want that.  So one Democratic leader, still really the front runner in the polls, Hillary Clinton, has said she doesn‘t even know what that hell they are talking about.  Now the second one, Barack Obama, made essentially the Bush administration‘s case against defunding the war. 

Let me read you, Bill, just to make you uncomfortable and wreck your afternoon, a quote from Barack Obama.  This is not Dick Cheney.  This is Barack Obama, quote, “I think that nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground.  I don‘t think we can muster at this point a majority of Senate Democrats or Republicans to vote for a cut off of funding.”

Play chicken with our troops on the ground.  Now I think he makes a very good point.  You can‘t defend a war that‘s being fought, that‘s in progress, but that is literally Dick Cheney‘s line.  Why is it emerging from the mouth of Barack Obama? 

PRESS:  I don‘t know.  And I think it‘s a big mistake.  Look, having hailed Barack Obama as the new champion of fund raising and political genius, I think this is a big mistake.  Because the one thing that he had going from—Tom alluded to this earlier—was from the beginning, as a state senator, he was on the streets of Chicago making speeches against this war.  He‘s authentic in his opposition to this war.  He‘s not a Johnny come lately. 

He hasn‘t had to apologize for any vote in the Senate, and to the extent, I think, that he weakens his opposition to the war, and to funding for the war, if necessary, I think Barack Obama hurts himself with his base support. 

CARLSON:  Well, everyone keeps saying that.  I see the showdown—I mean, the obvious showdown, the one that is playing out on television every day, is between the president, who I don‘t believe, I bet my car, is going to veto anything with a withdrawal date, a certain withdrawal date.  On the other hand you have the left in Congress who is equally adamant about defunding the war. 

But the real conflict is between the leading presidential candidates, Hillary and Obama, and the left wing of their party.  I mean, they are mad at both of them, aren‘t they? 

ANDREWS:  Listen, Tucker, first of all, where I think Barack Obama was wrong is that yes, there is somebody who wants to play chicken with the troops in Iraq and that‘s President George W. Bush.  And you look at the treatment that they‘ve got, the lack of support—you know, we have really got to focus this on Republicans. 

And listen, this proposal, whatever is going to emerge from that conference committee is a result of protracted negotiations, discussions, a very long process of coming up with a very responsible position.  Speaker Pelosi is saying look, Mr. President, calm down.  Let‘s talk about this.  Let‘s have a discussion.  The president, he‘s going to draw that line and say, over my dead body. 

Now who‘s playing chicken here?  The president of the United States has an obligation to sit down and talk.  The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the American people are opposed to what he is doing.  They support the Congress standing up to the president.  And so the Congress is basically doing what they were elected to do. 

CARLSON:  And that may be absolutely right and the president is doing what he is elected to do.  It just seems to me though that the people who are not doing what they were elected to do are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who‘s public statements do not reflect the core beliefs of their core supporters.  And I think that is going to be a big problem real soon. 

PRESS:  Look, Tucker, they are all trying to work this out, but I would not take George W. Bush at his word either.  I remember when George Bush said there‘s no way, no how, I‘m against campaign finance.  And there‘s no way, no how I‘ll sign that McCain/Feingold legislation.  And he signed it. 

So when this bill comes out of the Congress with the will of the American people and I think more Republicans will vote for that bill—we‘ve discussed this before—and it gets on the president‘s desk, don‘t bet that he‘ll veto the bill. 

CARLSON:  I would literally bet my car.  In fact, I would bet my house.  Mitt Romney, the other greater winner of this week‘s money race, he raised far more than any other Republican.  I have not, I will concede, taken him very seriously up until now, but I want to put up this new ad that he‘s got out today, which I think is worth taking seriously.  This is Mitt Romney‘s new spot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If I‘m elected president, I will cap non-defense discretionary spending at inflation minus one percent.  That would save 300 billion dollars in 10 years.  And if Congress sends me a budget that exceeds that cap, I will veto that budget.  And I know how to veto.  I like vetoes.  I vetoed hundreds of spending appropriations as governor.  And frankly, I can‘t wait to get my hands on Washington.  I‘m Mitt Romney and I approved this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Now, Tom, all successful political advertising is an attack on someone, often veiled.  Who is this an attack on?  It‘s an attack on George W. Bush.  He‘s exercised one veto in more than six years as president, one, on a stem cell bill, and here is Mitt Romney getting out there.  Good for Mitt Romney.  I love to veto things.  I‘m Dr. No.  This is an attack on Bush.

ANDREWS:  It is an attack on President Bush, and for good reason.  Look at the poll numbers with George W. Bush.  You know, people are running from him.  George Bush has a big problem.  As those Republicans, particularly in the Senate, and some in the House, who get closer to 2008, who are facing states like Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, they are going to be running just as fast from George W. Bush on the issues like Iraq, as Mr. Romney is on vetoing. 

CARLSON:  Can I say one thing that we are going to begin talking about more when we talk about Romney, I suspect.  It‘s his religion.  Now up until now, it‘s been sort of the thing you didn‘t talk about.  It‘s considered wrong to talk about it.  Here is why it‘s relevant.  His religions—He‘s a member of the LDS church, a Mormon—is at the core, clearly, of his funds raising success. 

Here is the most interesting of the week so far, the “Washington Post” reported this morning that last fall Romney sent out a direct mail pitch to Republicans across the country.  In return for that pitch, he got 319 checks from the state of Utah.  From Massachusetts, where he had lived for more than 30 years, he got a total of seven checks.  So clearly, it is relevant to the discussion of his political future what his religion is.  Isn‘t it? 

PRESS:  You know what?  It makes me very, very uncomfortable. 

CARLSON:  Me too. 

PRESS:  I don‘t think we‘ve seen this with—You certainly didn‘t see it with Jack Kennedy when he was running as the first Catholic.  And when Mitt Romney says don‘t vote against me just because I‘m a Mormon, he‘s absolutely correct.  That‘s what everybody ought to believe.  But I don‘t want him to say give me money just because I‘m Mormon, and to go out to fellow Mormons, and leaders of the Mormon church, who are part of his fund raising operation, who are appealing just to Mormons, who are saying, write Mitt a check, because he will be the first Mormon president.  I think they better cut that off, and I think it‘s going to backfire.

CARLSON:  Is it worse than Barack Obama or Jesse Jackson makes open appeals to race?  I mean, Jesse Jackson, I believe, is a racist, and he would go out and just say, I‘m black, you are black, give me money.  I mean, I didn‘t hear any liberals complaining about that. 

PRESS:  I have never heard Jesse Jackson say that. 

CARLSON:  Oh, come on!  That is.

PRESS:  Oh, come on, Tucker.

CARLSON:  . his whole appeal.  I mean, let‘s be real.  I mean, come on, you know as well as I.  I mean, is that different than this?

ANDREWS:  Well, you know, it is one thing to pander to people of your own religion.  You know, people do that, they raise money from their base of support, their family, their friends, people in the same religion.  But when you pander to people that—your base, your political base in the Republican Party really don‘t like. 

When you are running against Ted Kennedy, for example, and you try to out-left Senator Kennedy, that is going to—all of those—I‘m just thinking about all of those YouTube little clips of him saying that he is more pro-gay rights than Ted Kennedy. 

Now I think that is good, I think that is really good.  But if you are on the Republican base, that may be not so good.  So you are going to see more of these ads where he is, you know, pounding the desk and talking about vetoing this ridiculous spending and distancing himself from George Bush.

But you know, you are going to raise the money from the people who you think you are going to be able to raise the money from.  And that is exactly what he did.

PRESS:  What I find interesting is that the first ad that we have seen

Republican ad nationwide on television.

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  . from a Republican is an ad running against George Bush‘s out of control spending. 

CARLSON:  Right.

PRESS:  That shows the kind of campaign.

CARLSON:  Good for him.  I find it—I find it.

PRESS:  The campaign they are going to have to run if they want to win in 2008 is run against Bush.

CARLSON:  And they should run that campaign.  Because that is the honest campaign.  After six years of being told that Bush is some kind of conservative when he is clearly not, good for Mitt Romney for telling the truth.  Thank you both very much. 

PRESS:  Hey, Tucker, thank you.

ANDREWS:  Thank you.  Thanks a lot. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  There are mounting problems in John McCain‘s world.  His trip to Iraq turned into a bad press moment.  He hasn‘t raised a lot of money.  Now he is reconsidering his whole campaign operation.  What is the future of McCain for president? 

And how are Las Vegas and the old Soviet empire pretty much the same?  It is not the showgirls, it is not the gentlemen‘s clubs.  Wait until you hear the election results from Sin City, we have got them.  This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  On the heels of his disappointing campaign finance numbers and his trip to Iraq that turned into a P.R. downer, Senator John McCain announced that he will restructure his fundraising operation to make it more like President Bush‘s 2000 and 2004 operations. 

He also announced that he will delay the official announcement of his candidacy.  Is the Arizona senator trending toward irrelevance in the 2008 run for the White House?  Or can he rebound and compete?  Here to tell us, chief political writer for The Politico, Mike Allen, who wrote about McCain‘s campaign in this morning‘s edition. 

Mike, thanks for coming on. 

MIKE ALLEN, THE POLITICO:  Good afternoon, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So they recognize at the McCain campaign that this is a problem? 

ALLEN:  Yes.  They said, we get it.  And they are trying to convince their donors and supporters that they do.  But, Tucker, as you know, bad news begets bad news. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it does.

ALLEN:  And so you could you believe it today that Senator McCain—who is continuing his Mideast for the rest of this week, today there were pictures of Senator McCain with a spot.  And people are like, oh, is this a health problem?  He didn‘t have it when he left.  What does this mean?

Well, the campaign says he hit his head getting out of a helicopter. 

But.

CARLSON:  Good answer!

ALLEN:  Right.  Well, that is the sort of environment that Senator McCain is in.

CARLSON:  But why were his numbers so low, $12.5 million?  I mean, was it that they didn‘t try hard enough or that people didn‘t want to give them money? 

ALLEN:  I think it was that they didn‘t focus on doing it fast enough.  They have amazing commitments.  They have people who have committed to raise 100, people who have committed to raise a million dollars, a bunch of them.  So they have these commitments out there but they just didn‘t push the people. 

And so now they have a very organized system in place.  Daily, weekly, monthly benchmarks that shows the sort of Ken Mehlman approach that was very, very successful for President Bush. 

So all of that machinery is coming over.  So instead of rangers, pioneers, mavericks, this time you are going to have your McCain 100s, your McCain 200s, your McCain 50s.  There is still time to sign up, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Is this the kind of Bush campaign in exile?  Is this the Republican establishment campaign?  I have been trying to figure that out since day one.

ALLEN:  Tucker, there is no question that the supporters of Senator McCain outside the Beltway tend to be the establishment people.  He mostly got establishment endorsements. 

And now yesterday, this new fundraising team has conference calls with the big donors around the country that said, look, we have been jogging, we need to run.  And there is nothing like political mortality to really make you work.

Governor Romney has been taking a victory lap and he deserves it.  He got much better numbers than anybody expected.  And, Tucker, I think you will agree with me that none of these top three guys on either side are going to lose because they don‘t have enough money.  But what this money tells you is organization and enthusiasm.  That is the important barometer.  And that was the bad news for Senator McCain.

CARLSON:  Yes.  Plus they are spending a lot.  I mean, they—I think almost every single person in the District of Columbia now works for John McCain.  I mean, that campaign is massive.

ALLEN:  We are told from inside the campaign, Senator McCain is very concerned about what they call the burn rate.  There is—they are going to show very little money left on hand.  And so he has his rescue operation, includes both former Congressman Tom Loeffler, who you know, who is in to put more excitement, enthusiasm, money-raising side. 

But Senator Phil Gramm of Texas—former senator, is brought in to put in a curb on the spending.  He is going to be watching the spending side.

CARLSON:  He will do it!  And there is no doubt about that. 

ALLEN:  Tight with a buck.

CARLSON:  What about—tell me finally, what did you make of his—

the senator‘s walk through the market in Baghdad?  I like McCain.  I take

him seriously.  I respect his bravery in coming out for the surge at a time

when it is very unpopular.  That is a kind of maverick thing to do.  And I

he gets credit from me for that. 

But that struck me as disconnected from reality.  What was that about? 

And did it hurt him? 

ALLEN:  Well, it certainly hurt him.  Talking Points Memo calls it his “Dukakis in the tank moment” from this campaign because the senator came out, talked about how things were better in the market.  Then we see the picture with the vest.  We see that he had Apache helicopters guarding him.  We have local people telling The New York Times that it was sealed off. 

The campaign points out, and this is correct, that that was not Senator McCain‘s total case for things being better in Iraq. 

CARLSON:  Right.

ALLEN:  That was just one piece of it.  And he went there because the generals asked him to or suggested him to.  (INAUDIBLE) he enthusiastic about Iraq, he did a conference call with bloggers.  It was supposed to be 15 minutes.  He cut the staff off.  He went on and on just as if you were riding with him in New Hampshire.

And as you know, Tucker, next week, he is going to give a speech that his campaign could turn on next week at Virginia Military Institute about Iraq.  President Bush has not really been able to make the case, make the sale, maybe Senator McCain will. 

He is going to talk about what it would mean to lose, what it would mean to win and make the case on the war in terror, which the president has done.  How many times have you and I come in on and talked about a new series of speeches the president has—is giving to convince people about the war on terror.  Senator McCain is going to do it again, and this time it really matters to his political health. 

CARLSON:  Plus, he speaks English, so that is really helpful.  Just give me the 20-second yes or no answer.  Does his campaign—McCain‘s campaign see their low polls numbers as the result his position on Iraq or do they think it is—age is his problem, or is there some other reason? 

ALLEN:  No, I don‘t think either one.  Tucker, I think in the end his problem is going to be is the conservatives do not like him, as you know. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ALLEN:  There are still—and there are people that are going to vote

like that is going to be what the big problem is.  It is not going to be money, it is not going to be age.  And in the primary, the Iraq position could help him.  Republican primary voters appreciate the fact that he got the president‘s back on this.  The only people who support that policy are the people who are going to be voting in Republican primaries.

CARLSON:  It is just amazing.  They think—they don‘t like McCain, conservatives, so they are going nominate someone who is far more liberal than McCain?  The truth is a lot of Republicans are not very smart.  I hate to break that news here at MSNBC, but it is true.  Mike Allen, thank you very much.

ALLEN:  Have a great week, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  You too. 

Well, a slicked back Sanjaya tried to charm his way to the next round of “American Idol” last night.  Is there any stopping this runaway train?  And what happens when he wins?  Ooh, the apocalypse.  Willie Geist has the answers when we come back.  You are watching, needless to say, MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  For 54 minutes, we have waited, almost like when you have to go to the bathroom on a long car trip and you are stuck in traffic.  But now deliverance, the time has come.  From headquarters, ladies and gentleman, Willie Geist.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  What a flattering introduction, having to go to the bathroom.  I really appreciate that, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Comparing you to a men‘s room, Willie.  Relief at last.

GEIST:  Hey, thanks.  You are good like that.  I want to update you, Tucker, on our top story.  Keith Richards, you will remember yesterday, he claimed in a newspaper interview that he had snorted his dad‘s ashes along with some cocaine.

Well, he just moments ago posted a statement on the Rolling Stones Web site denying the story.  No!  Say it is not so!  He said the truth of the matter is he planted an English oak tree, took the lid off of the box of ashes, scattered them around the tree, and now dad‘s ashes, instead of being ingested, inhaled into his brain, are now helping that tree to grow. 

And I guest I‘m a little disappointed.  Why do damage control at this point, Tucker?  You are Keith Richards.  What, are you worried about your reputation?  Are you going to get kicked out of your book club?  Just go with it.  Let the legend grow.  You are Keith Richards.

CARLSON:  I agree.  I have been doing some thinking about this story for the last 24 hours since you brought it to us yesterday.  It makes me a little concerned about cremation.  They can basically do anything to you once you are merely ashes.  You can be vacuumed up.  You can be spilled on the carpet.  You can be snorted.  You could be sprinkled around an English oak tree.  I‘m against it.

GEIST:  Especially if your son is Keith Richards, especially dangerous, if that is the case.

CARLSON:  Exactly, exactly.

GEIST:  But anyway, he says it is not true, so I guess we have to move on.  Well, Tucker, on the other end of the rock star spectrum, we find Sanjaya.  We went with a slightly disappointing slicked back hairstyle to accompany that white suit on “American Idol” last night. 

This week‘s cheap gimmick was to pull judge Paula Abdul from her seat and take her for a twirl as he butchered the song “Cheek to Cheek.” Simon, once again, could only throw up his hands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM “AMERICAN IDOL”)

SIMON COWELL, “AMERICAN IDOL” JUDGE:  Let‘s try a different tactic this week.  Incredible.  We will leave it at that.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

RYAN SEACREST, “AMERICAN IDOL” HOST:  You do a great job staying under the radar, Sanjaya.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Yes, he did just to say to Simon, welcome to the universe of Sanjaya.  This is getting very, very strange, isn‘t it?  A little too cultish for my taste. 

CARLSON:  I meant to watch last night, but I.

GEIST:  What happened? 

CARLSON:  . had pressing business.

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  You know what the problem is?  If he gets kicked off the show, as we have all been demanding, what are we supposed to talk about?  What do I say to my loved ones.

CARLSON:  Right.  Well, that is exactly.

GEIST:  . when I go home at night?  I don‘t know what to talk about.

CARLSON:  That is exactly right.  No, I can think of many, many similar situations where you have wanted something only to get it and be disappointed by it. 

GEIST:  So true.  He does not deserve a white suit, either, by the way.  Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize are the only two who can pull that look off.  It is not Sanjaya. 

Let‘s move on to the holidays, Tucker.  The people of El Salvador celebrate Easter a little differently than we do here.  Instead of the bunny that hide eggs, they opt for the devil who whips people for their sins. To illustrate the final battle between Jesus Christ and Satan, Salvadoran men dress up in devil costumes and just start beating the tar out of innocent passersby. 

The legend is that each lash of the whip takes a sin away.  Now, Tucker, I do not know about you, maybe I grew up in a traditional household, but around Easter time, there was absolutely no dominatrix activity whatsoever. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  There is—essentially, there was no flagellation of any kind in the Episcopal Church.  So I‘m totally.

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  No, I‘m dumbfounded.  It was mainly church and Pez were the two things that we had on Easter. 

CARLSON:  Exactly.  That is right.  And marshmallow Peeps, right. 

GEIST:  I was never whipped once by a stranger in a devil costume. 

And I‘m proud to say that.

Well, the way a politician throws a ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game can really tell you a lot.  It can convey strength and precision or it can convey this.  Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory would like to have that one back. 

Did you see that?  It was shockingly off target on his opening day effort from the hometown Reds.  Look at that.  Not even in the ballpark.  They could not even find the ball for a while, probably not the most auspicious way to kick off the season. 

Mallory says he practiced the pitch at city hall and even got some help from a pitching coach before making that historically lame toss.  Now we don‘t ask our politicians to be Nolan Ryan, Tucker, but if you can‘t throw a ball 60 feet to another man, I question you, I question you. 

CARLSON:  No, but all—but consider the performance anxiety.  I mean, all of those people watching, Willie Geist looming in the shadows, waiting to make fun of you.  That is a lot of pressure. 

GEIST:  It is crazy.  But that was as bad as they come right there.  Real quick now, Tucker, I want to remind you, your friend Oscar Goodman is the only man who wins big in Vegas.  He won a third term last night with a razor-thin 84 percent of the vote. 

To give you an idea how concerned he was, he ran TV ads where he said, I do not care if people vote for me, as long as they vote.  Goodman, the colorful man who defended mobsters in previous life and now travels with showgirls and endorses Bombay Sapphire gin, on his last election, it was 86 percent of the vote.  Those numbers put him in a rare class of democratically-elected officials, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il were the only ones who edged him at 100 percent, Tucker.

CARLSON:  He is a great man.  We are going to do our show from his living room some day.

GEIST:  Absolutely.

CARLSON:  Willie Geist, thanks, Willie.

GEIST:  All right. Tucker.

CARLSON:  That is it for us.  “HARDBALL” is next.  We will see you tomorrow.  Have a great night.   

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

END   

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