updated 4/6/2007 11:28:42 AM ET 2007-04-06T15:28:42

Guests: Mary Ann Akers, Brett McGurk

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Nancy Pelosi‘s controversial trip to the Middle East, the return of 15 British hostages from Iran, President Bush‘s showdown with the Congress over funding for the troops, the Democratic candidates‘ history-making campaign cash, there are developments in each of these.  And we will bring them to you this hour.

But, first, notice what every one of those stories has in common: the war in Iraq.  That is the big story, not only of this moment, but of this age.  It‘s a fact that it will drive our domestic politics and our relations internationally in the foreseeable future, which is why we are starting a conversation about this day‘s news with our next guest. 

He‘s the director of Iraq for the National Security Council, Brett McGurk.

Mr. McGurk, welcome.

BRETT MCGURK, DIRECTOR FOR IRAQ, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL:  Tucker, how are you? 

CARLSON:  I‘m doing great. 

MCGURK:  Good.

CARLSON:  I would like to know what you think of the idea put forth by former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, now running for president, to let the Iraqi people decide whether or not U.S. troops ought to remain in Iraq, to put it up to a vote.  Wouldn‘t that be democratic? 

MCGURK:  Well, we‘re in Iraq, Tucker, at the invitation of the Iraqi government, under a U.N. Security Council resolution.

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCGURK:  That‘s a democratically elected government.  And that is the basis for our presence in Iraq right now. 

CARLSON:  OK.  But that‘s, of course, several years old.  Why not, if

and I‘m not just playing devil‘s advocate here.  I actually want to know the principle behind it.  If we are committed to self-determination for the Iraqis, letting the people choose and all that—one never stops hearing about that and how important it is—why not put it up to a referendum? 

MCGURK:  You know, Tucker, I haven‘t seen Thompson‘s recommendation.

But I will say, again, it‘s very clear.  And I think—don‘t think people understand this.  Our basis for being in Iraq is at the invitation of the Iraqi government.  It‘s not several years old.  The U.N. Security Council resolution was renewed, of course, at the end of last year. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCGURK:  This government has been in place for less than a year.  Remember that.  And we have—we‘re developing a strong partnership with this government.  It‘s answerable to the Iraqi people.  And this is a continuing conversation we have with the Iraqi elected representatives. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Fair enough. 

President Bush says that the troops in Iraq will suffer if the emergency funding bill is not passed, if neither side, Democrats or the White House, backs down on the troop withdrawal dates now in the legislation. 

How will—and I‘m willing to believe it—but how specifically will the troops now in Iraq suffer, if that supplemental is not passed? 

MCGURK:  Well, Tucker, look at—the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pace, the commandant of the Marine Corps, the Army chief of staff, have written a letter to the Congress.  They have been speaking out about what will happen.

And the consequences are significant.  General Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, has said increasingly draconian measures will have to be taken if this supplemental is not passed later this month.  And that will include training for reserve forces.  It will include fixing vehicles, Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  It will include quality-of-life measures for families of soldiers.

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCGURK:  And this will affect our soldiers on the front lines, as money has to be reallocated.  And...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But will they not get—I mean, I understand what the money is for, but does that mean that those Humvees, for instance, won‘t be fixed until this is—or won‘t be replaced—until this is passed? 

MCGURK:  No, Tucker, it—the ability of the Pentagon to reallocate funds is very limited. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

MCGURK:  And, again, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been explaining this.  And I think would, of course, defer to General Schoomaker. 

It is going to be increasingly draconian measures taken to shift funds around.  The president has been very clear on this.  Let‘s not get into this situation.

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCGURK:  He has said:  I sent up a bill 59 days ago.  It is a bill to support a very specific mission, which Congress—which the Senate approved General Petraeus unanimously to implement. 

What Congress is putting together is a withdrawal bill.

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCGURK:  It is not a funding bill.  And the president has been very clear on that.  He will not sign that.  He will veto it.  It‘s not just the president. 

The Baker-Hamilton commission has been very clear on the consequences of a timeline.  The unanimous judgment of the intelligence community and NIE has been very clear on the consequences of a timeline.  And our military commanders have been clear on the consequences of a timeline.  It also infringes upon the inherent powers of the commander in chief.  So, it‘s not just President Bush.  I think any president...

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCGURK:  ... would veto such a measure. 

CARLSON:  Now, Senator McCain and a couple other lawmakers, Lindsey Graham, the Senate from South Carolina, Mike Pence from Indiana, the representative, were in Baghdad, famously, last week, and had—did a photo-op opportunity at a market in downtown...

MCGURK:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ... in that city.  And the implication was:  This is a pretty safe city. 

They were attacked, obviously, as propagandists. 

What is the truth?  How safe is Baghdad?  Can you walk around the market without military escort?  Would you be killed if you tried that?  What do you think?

MCGURK:  The truth, that the situation in Iraq is complex.  It‘s a kaleidoscope.  You can look at it many different ways.

One thing, though, that is very clear is that we‘re at the input stage, the very early stage, of this strategy.  Our brigades are starting to flow in.  We are setting up joint security stations at 10 districts all throughout the city.  It‘s much, much different, in fundamental ways, than our prior strategy, both on the security side.

We‘re getting in neighborhoods with Iraqi forces, living there 24/7, securing the population.  General Petraeus has said that the level of information we are getting now, compared with before—we had an information deficit, not being able to crack down on car bomb networks.  We now have so much information, it‘s become an analytical challenge. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCGURK:  That‘s a better problem to have.  That is the population confidence, which is—which we‘re seeing an improvement much faster than we thought.  It‘s still very early, though.  It‘s still very early.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  OK.  I believe everything you said.  But it still doesn‘t answer the question.

Right now—and I think this is a significant question, because McCain is running for president, a very strong contender for the nomination.  He could be president.  And he has made this claim, or implied this claim, anyway.

Right now, would it be safe, do you think, to wander around the market outside in Baghdad without an escort?  Is it that safe yet?

MCGURK:  Tucker, you have to put this in context. 

CARLSON:  Yes?

MCGURK:  The market that they were in two months ago...

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCGURK:  ... was the scene of a devastating car bomb attack.  There are 600 markets and storefronts in that marketplace.  It‘s about a kilometer long.  It is truly enormous. 

CARLSON:  Mm-hmm. 

MCGURK:  It was devastated two months ago.  Since then, as part of this new strategy, we have hardened the market.  Those storefronts are coming back into place.  Merchants are coming back in.  About 130 to 600, I believe, are back now.  Tens of thousands of Iraqi shoppers every day are back in that marketplace. 

If we did not go forward with this strategy, that would not be happening.  That marketplace would still be devastated.  We‘re starting to see the trajectory, which, when we did our strategic view last fall, the trajectory was going downwards.  There‘s no question about it.  The trajectory is now, at the very least, stabilized. 

It is very early.  And I don‘t want to say that things are definitely turning into trends.  These are indicators.  It‘s early.  We‘re in the input stage.

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCGURK:  But, certainly, there is no question about it.  And there has been some reporting out of Baghdad.  It‘s not just General (sic) McCain.  I saw a report on another network about the markets in different neighborhoods and what is happening.  And there‘s a lot of positive signs.

But it‘s very, very early. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

Brett McGurk, from the National Security Council, director of Iraq, thanks very much. 

MCGURK:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Well, suddenly, Barack Obama has the money, and he appears to have the grassroots support to go toe to toe with Hillary Clinton for as long as they each want, at least until the primaries.  Will Obama‘s money mean more or less than this position on Iraq when the time comes to vote? 

And Nancy Pelosi wasn‘t the only politician top visit Syria this week, but she was the only one who seemed to make things up as she went along.  What she right to go?  What did she do when she got there?

We will tell you.  This is MSNBC, America‘s most impressive news network.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is vigorously patting herself on the back for a diplomatic job well done in the Mideast.  But did she really accomplish anything, or did she just embarrass herself?  We will tell you.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  We were very pleased with the reassurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process; he was ready to engage in negotiations with peace with Israel.

The meeting with the president enabled us to communicate a message from Prime Minister Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks as well. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  President Bush scolded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week for her freelance diplomatic trip to Syria.  But it didn‘t take Bush to make Pelosi look bad.  She did that herself.

Mrs. Pelosi appears to have misstated Israel‘s position on Syria so badly that the Israeli government had to correct officially and in public. 

Ooh, embarrassing.

Here to talk about Pelosi‘s adventure in Middle East diplomacy, we welcome MSNBC political analyst and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and writer of “The Sleuth” at WashingtonPost.com, Mary Ann Akers.

Welcome to you both.

Amazing.  Here—you know, here—I can‘t resist.  Here is “The Washington Post” editorial on Nancy Pelosi.  Now, “The Washington Post,” for those who don‘t live here, don‘t read it, it‘s a pretty liberal paper.  I think it‘s sensible.  It‘s not—you know, it‘s not a Daily Kos.  But it‘s liberal, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Here is what they say. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Jump right all over her. 

They say: “Any diplomat with any knowledge of the region could have told her Mrs. Pelosi that Mr. Assad,” the president of Syria, “is a corrupt thug, whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace with Israel, but heading off U.N. charges that he orchestrated the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting president.”

Now, one point at a time.  Hilary, doesn‘t this make her kind of look like a lightweight? 

HILARY ROSEN, NBC ANALYST:  It wasn‘t Nancy Pelosi‘s finest moment. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ROSEN:  And there is plenty to do the week where all the focus should be on keeping the showdown with the president on having accountability in Iraq. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s a good point.

ROSEN:  I think that there are a lot of Democrats who want to see Nancy Pelosi push back on the president, push back on this foreign policy. 

And it would have been a fine trip, had she not miscommunicated the Israeli message.  I think that would—I think that sort of was the problem. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  See, these trips typically are fact-finding trips, which I‘m completely in favor of.  I actually defended Nancy Pelosi the first day I read about this, because I thought they should go.  Congressional leaders should go around the world...

ROSEN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  ... and find out what is going on.  I mean, good for her. 

I didn‘t realize it sounds to me like she is trying to set up a shadow government, essentially, with its own foreign policy.

ROSEN:  Oh, no, no, that‘s not fair. 

MARY ANN AKERS, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Well, that is going maybe a little bit too far.  But that is the criticism.

And, as you read in the “Washington Post” editorial, they even say her trip was foolish, and her idea to go to the Syrian president and say, Israel is ready to engage in peace negotiations.  Now, of course, Israel has come and out said, well, we didn‘t exactly say that.  That‘s not what we meant.

It‘s an embarrassment for Nancy Pelosi.  And I think that, when she gets back, she will be hearing criticism not only from Republicans, but from some Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  The record has to be clear, Tucker, on a couple of things.

CARLSON:  Well, I want to quote Nancy Pelosi.  And then you can tell me if this is fair or not. 

Quote—this is a verbatim quote from the speaker herself.

ROSEN:  Yes. 

CARLSON: “We expressed our interest in using our good offices,” the speaker‘s office, “in promoting peace between Israel and Syria.  We are part of the diplomatic process,” she said.

This is her foreign policy. 

ROSEN:  Yes. 

Well, in the broader context...

CARLSON:  Does hubris have one B or two?

(LAUGHTER)

ROSEN:  It‘s a mistake to suggest that there is going to be a process that Israel is going to engage in at this—in these days...

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ROSEN:  ... separate and apart from the Bush administration, who Israel sees as one of their greatest friends.

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROSEN:  I mean, regardless of whether we believe that the Bush administration has been successful in the Middle East, the truth is that Israel is actually fairly happy with...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROSEN:  ... what the Bush administration is doing, because they‘re making enemies everywhere but Israel.

And, so, I don‘t think that is in Israel‘s long-term interests.  I don‘t think Nancy Pelosi thinks that is in Israel‘s long-term interests.

So, it is wise to have another perspective.  But whether you can go in there and change the course of the talks, I think, is a mistake.  In fairness to the speaker, she did say, you have got to stop funding Hezbollah.  You have got to stop supporting Hamas.  You have got to do all of those things.  And, if you do, then there seems to be an interest on Israel‘s part to do some other things. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  So, she didn‘t actually change where Israel was, but I think Israel wasn‘t ready to have that message delivered. 

CARLSON:  Well, sure.  And I think she misread Syria.  I mean, it‘s a complicated neighborhood.  And she...

AKERS:  This is very serious, complicated stuff.

(CROSSTALK)

AKERS:  And one—just one thing.  Jim Wright made the same mistake when he was speaker of the House and he went to Nicaragua when Reagan was president.

ROSEN:  That‘s right. 

AKERS:  And some people have actually compared this misstep of Nancy Pelosi‘s to Jim Wright‘s.  And maybe history would have been a good lesson there.

CARLSON:  Well, the consequences are so much more profound.

And I think, by the way, I mean, to be blunt about it, Nancy Pelosi is a supporter, a staunch supporter, of Israel.  And I think—I don‘t think this helps her with her base or her supporters either, I mean, if they—this is very—this is a subject that a lot of people in America take very seriously. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  I mean, you know, supporters of Israel and supporters of the speaker don‘t believe that she‘s gone to Syria to undercut support for Israel.

CARLSON:  Of course not.  No, no, of course not.

ROSEN:  So, I think that criticism is going to wash.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I‘m not saying she‘s anti-Israel.

ROSEN:  I think that the valid criticism is that the president...

CARLSON:  She doesn‘t know what she‘s talking about?

ROSEN:  No, that the president was really on the defensive over the last two weeks about how he is going to show accountability, how he is going to respond to the congressional Democrats on this funding issue for the war.  And the speaker, unnecessarily, distracted... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, I must say, the Democratic Party itself is in disarray, it seems to be, on that question, this showdown between the president and the Congress about this war funding bill. 

Here, you had Charlie Rangel saying yesterday—quote—

“Politically, we have to give him the money.”

You have got Barack Obama saying, “I don‘t think you will see a majority of the Senate vote to cut off funding at this stage.”

On the other side, you have got Harry Reid and Russ Feingold pushing to end the war within the year.

There is no consensus on the Democratic side about what ought to be done, is there?

AKERS:  I think disarray is going a little bit too far.

CARLSON:  You do?

AKERS:  I think divided—absolutely.  I think, clearly, they‘re divided on whether to cut funding for Iraq.  You have got the left wing that absolutely wants to cut funding. 

Harry Reid has done something fairly peculiar, though.  Last month, 82 senators voted for this Judd Gregg amendment that said, we won‘t cut funding for Iraq. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

AKERS:  Now, all of a sudden, Harry Reid is joining with Feingold to say, let‘s cut funding. 

It‘s putting Democrats in a really difficult position..

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  See, that strikes me as disarray, because he‘s the leader of the Senate.  I mean, it seems to me, the leader of the Senate steps out on a limb like that—I‘m not even criticizing the substance.  The politics are weird.  He steps out on a limb when he has the votes.  But he doesn‘t have the votes.

So, what is he doing exactly? 

ROSEN:  Well, I think it‘s fair to say that there are a significant number of people who believe that cutting off funding is the only way this president is actually going to listen. 

But, that being said, there are other things in that legislation that are area for dare I say the word compromise between the president and the Democratic Congress.

CARLSON:  Right. 

AKERS:  There are accountability steps that the military can show, in terms of the relationship between Iraqi forces and the U.S. forces, whether they are demonstrating enough self-help, whether there is enough training before new units are deployed. 

So, there are a number of things that the president has refused to grant the Congress and refused to grant over the course of the last couple of years that are also in this bill.  It‘s not just, when are you going to pull out?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  They ought to stick to pork subsidies.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  I mean, these people, really, whenever they weigh into the details for foreign policy—not that Bush has done a great job.  He‘s done an abominable job.

But...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  So, how can you say that, then?

CARLSON:  I will tell you why.  Because Nancy Pelosi sauntering into Damascus, clearly having no idea what the key issues in the region are—even I know that.  She doesn‘t know.  These people are lightweights.  And they should stay away from foreign policy.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  You just said an out-of-character thing.  You just spewed a Republican talking point. 

CARLSON:  No, I didn‘t.  I said Bush‘s foreign policy has been a disaster.

ROSEN:  We were talking about the funding—the mishandling of the war.  And, instead, you went to the weak spot, which was Nancy Pelosi in Damascus. 

CARLSON:  No, I‘m just saying, I think Bush has done a bad...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  Stick to the bad management of the war.

CARLSON:  No, no.  I think Bush has done a bad...

ROSEN:  And let‘s have accountability from the president.

CARLSON:  Can the Democrats do any better?  They have indicated to me they have no idea what they are doing.  They‘re making me nervous.  My palms are sweating just thinking...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  They‘re creating accountability.

CARLSON:  We have got—I‘m being told we must take a commercial break.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  We will be right back.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, spent the month of March looking as if his campaign had lost momentum.  He starts the month of April looking like the Democratic front-runner.  The reason?  He raised a ton of money.  Will Hillary Clinton spend the rest of the year catching up?

And it has been 30 years since the Republican Party backed a pro-choice presidential candidate.  Rudy Giuliani thinks they‘re ready to do it again.  The front-runner reasserts his stance on abortion, and he does it on television.

You are watching MSNBC, America‘s most impressive news network.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There must be public funding for abortions for poor women.  We can not deny any woman the right to make her own decision about abortion because she lacks the resources. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is that also going to be your position? 

GIULIANI:  Probably, I mean, I have to reexamine all those issues and exactly what was at stake then.  It is a long time ago, but generally that is my view.  Abortion is wrong.  Abortion shouldn‘t happen.  Personally, you should counsel people to that extent.  When I was mayor adoptions went up.  Abortions went down.  But ultimately it‘s a constitutional right, and therefore, if it‘s a constitutional right, ultimately, even if you do it on a state by state basis, you have to make sure that the people are protected. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Rudy Giuliani does a lot of things Republicans like.  He is tough on crime for one.  He appears to be a strong leader for another.  But he‘s also decidedly liberal on many of the social issues close to the hearts of Republican voters.  Just yesterday, as you saw, Giuliani reiterated his support for publicly funded abortions.

Can the Republican party really nominate a guy like that?  To answer we welcome back MSNBC political analyst Hillary Rosen and the writer of “The Sleuth” for WashingtonPost.com Marry Ann Akers. 

I just don‘t see it, Mary Ann.  I think Giuliani has a lot going for him.  He‘s first in the polls, above all.  That is just too direct.  He‘s not even hedging.  I‘m for government funding of abortion.  I don‘t see that working in a Republican primary.  Do you? 

AKERS:  You don‘t see this flip flopping going for him?  I mean, come on, he had the fish net hose, the high heals.  He had to do something to get out of this.  He can‘t pander to the conservative vote.

CARLSON:  I‘m all for the dragging of the drag stuff—not my thing. 

AKERS:  Not that there‘s anything wrong with it.

CARLSON:  There‘s something a little wrong with it.  But this gets right to a core principle on the Republican side, and moreover, the idea not just that you are pro-choice.  We all know people who are pro-choice.  A lot of Republicans are pro-choice.  But the idea that you would force people who morally oppose abortion to pay for it with tax dollars.  That‘s a big step.  Why did he say this?

ROSEN:  It‘s a broader step for the party too, because I think it‘s pretty clear, and other Republicans have been saying this, that if the Republicans nominate Rudy Giuliani, they can never again make an anti-choice platform be a part of the Republican plank like that.  They have forever given away the issue as a presidential political issue.  And I just can‘t believe they are going to take that step. 

CARLSON:  And, of course, the deep irony, I often think, is they‘re taking this step, in the process of doing so, in response to John McCain, who the conservatives think is not conservative enough.  So we‘re mad he‘s not perfectly conservative.  Let‘s just go with the flaming liberal in the group, Rudy Giuliani.  But I don‘t know.  I wonder, is there a rhetorical way out of this. 

AKERS:  I just have to say:  I thought it was interesting, one of the more recent “Washington Post” polls posed this question to conservatives.  Conservatives said that they love Rudy Giuliani.  They like what he stands for.  He‘s tough on crime, Mr. Terror after 9/11.  They were willing to overlook a lot of his stances on social issues that absolutely cut against the core, the grain of the Republican party. 

But when you ask them isolated questions, you know, abortion, gay marriage, gun control that is when they say, not so much.  But when they look at him as the full package, they like what they get.  They don‘t like certain issues, like gun control and especially abortion.

CARLSON:  Listen to his rationale.  Ultimately, abortion, he said in

this interview with Dana Bash on CNN yesterday—abortion is a

constitutional right and therefore, if it is a constitutional right,

ultimately you have to make sure that people are protected.  So his

interpretation of a protection of that right is forcing people, against

their consciences, to pay for abortion for people who want it.  I mean,

that‘s

(CROSS TALK)

ROSEN:  No, excuse me.  Medicaid funded abortions says that if you get your health insurance through the government, then you can also avail yourself of a medical benefit of an abortion. 

CARLSON:  That‘s not what Giuliani—Giuliani said he is for public funding of abortion. 

ROSEN:  But that‘s what public funding is.  It‘s Medicaid supported abortion. 

CARLSON:  That can‘t happen on the federal level, because that‘s against the law.

ROSEN:  So, if you‘re morally—Well it is.  It‘s federal dollars, matched by state dollars in Medicaid.  So a state can change the law for what they will pay for, but it‘s federal funds.  So that is like saying, if you are morally against the war, you can de deduct the cost of the gun.  But we‘ve made the decision in this country that that‘s not going to happen.

CARLSON:  There is no constitutional right to war.  Nobody argues that.  He is saying, because there is a so called constitutional right to abortion, which is a total lie, by the way.  No serious person believes that.  But let‘s say you did.  That in order to protect that lie, you would have to use federal funds to pay for.  I mean, I‘m not a law professor.  I wish I were, so I could flunk him.  I mean, that‘s ridiculous.   

ROSEN:  No, it‘s not ridiculous to say from a policy perspective, if some people has this right and the government funds your health insurance, you have that right too. 

CARLSON:  Good luck telling that to conservatives.

ROSEN:  By the way, it‘s irrelevant for Rudy Giuliani to try to make a distinction anyway.  Because conservatives won‘t care.  They are just going to care whether he‘s pro choice or not pro choice. 

CARLSON:  If it‘s not a pro-life party, then why exactly are you voting Republican again?  There must be a reason, because they‘re for small government.  Oh sorry, they‘re not for small—You know what I mean?  It‘s like that is it, man, not even pretending at that point. 

Well the Congress is away.  The president has his say.  And President Bush used the Easter recess to appoint a Swift Boat financier to a European ambassadors post.  Cue scary music.  John Kerry is mad about it.  Is there anything he can do?  

And forget for a moment your own position on gun laws.  Mitt Romney sure has.  Why the former Massachusetts governor‘s NRA lifetime membership may says less about his interpretation of the constitution than it does about his fundamental ability to tell the truth.  And mine to speak.  This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  President Bush yesterday appointed St. Louis businessman Sam Fox to be U.S. ambassador to Belgium.  It has been decades since Belgium was a key player on the international scene.  That‘s not counting, of course, that country‘s excellent waffles, beers and particularly French Fries. 

The rub is that Mr. Fox gave a lot of money to see Mr. Bush reelected in 2004 and some of that money helped finance the so-called Swift Boat ads, aimed at Democratic nominee John Kerry.  Well Congress was prepared to reject Mr. Fox‘s appointment on those grounds.  So President Bush waited for a recess and sneaked Fox into the key position of ambassador to Belgium.  Will there be any price to pay for that move?

Back to discuss it, MSNBC political analyst Hillary Rosen and writer of “The Sleuth” on WashingtonPost.com, Mary Ann Akers.  Mary Ann, tell me if I‘m missing something.  I don‘t think anybody has shown that Fox is somehow not equipped to be ambassador to Belgium, whatever qualifies you for that job, apart from giving money.  The opposition to Fox seems to be based entirely upon his contributions to the Swift Boat ads.  

AKERS:  Absolutely.  That was the initial opposition, because he give 50,000 dollars to the Swift Boat ads to the campaign that helped doom Kerry‘s presidential ambitions in 2004.  So democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee rallied around John Kerry.  They all decided they would vote against him.  Bush withdrew his nomination just about 45 minutes before the committee sat down to vote on him. 

So the nomination was withdrawn.  The reason Democrats are so upset right now: one, they would be upset if Bush were going to use a recess appointment, no matter what.  They are doubly upset, and they say it is illegal what Bush is doing because the nomination was withdrawn.  In other words, it wasn‘t pending.  And they are citing law that says it is illegal for the president to do a recess appointment when the nomination is not pending.   

CARLSON:  Let‘s get back to the core of this.  And that debate will continue, there‘s no doubt, Hillary.  But it turns out, I guess, and this is the part of the constitution that I‘m not that familiar with, but it‘s unconstitutional to appoint someone ambassador to Belgium if he‘s hurt John Kerry‘s feelings.  That is the single criterion here, have you hurt John Kerry‘s feelings.

ROSEN:  This is sort of a silly fight for Democrats.  You know, Bill Clinton made several recess appointments for people that the Senate wouldn‘t approve for these kinds of important posts.  My friend, Jim Hormel, was recess appointed as ambassador to Luxembourg.  It‘s a prerogative of the presidency to do these thing things for people.  I think it‘s a little disingenuous for them to object. 

CARLSON:  But can you just say, I don‘t like how you voted in the last campaign?  I don‘t like who you supported, and that‘s you‘re not fit because you were my enemy in the last campaign to represent our nation in the all important nation state of Belgium? 

ROSEN:  Well, I think John Kerry and his colleagues on the committee are perfectly entitled to vote against this guy. 

CARLSON:  Of course they are.  But they usually dress it up.  They‘re like, you know, he‘s just unfit.  Now they are just like, you know what, he contributed to ads that made us mad. 

ROSEN:  Well, they didn‘t say that‘s the reason.  They said they thought that Belgium was potentially a hot bed of some future—

CARLSON:  Belgium deserves better. 

AKERS:  But they didn‘t hide the fact that they were upset about his role. 

(CROSS TALK)

AKERS:  The bigger issue is 527 groups, in general, 527 groups, such as Swift Boat Veterans, that don‘t have to disclose their donors, their funding, anything, and that became the big debate in the Foreign Relations Committee.  You know, look, you were part of something that was destructive government and politics.  Sam Fox said he thought 527s were destructive. 

CARLSON:  Destructive?  It‘s destructive to air your political views on television?  It‘s destructive to have political views that the majority doesn‘t agree with.  I mean, what the hell does that mean?  The Swift Boats were a bunch of Vietnam veterans who had a view about John Kerry that was totally legitimate, and some how it‘s destructive.  I know that‘s not your argument.  That‘s theirs. 

ROSEN:  Regardless of—we don‘t have to redebate—

(CROSS TALK)

ROSEN:  But they are just ridiculously untrue.  But John Kerry would be wise to stick with the folklore that the Swift Votes was an unfair attack on him, and the more he brings up this issue this week, the more people are going to say, you know what guys, stop wining.   

CARLSON:  Yes, and you have a right to say questionable things TV.  My god, if they take that right a way, I‘m out of a job like that.  Marry Ann, you broke a story I thought was really interesting, and it was about the response to Elizabeth Edward‘s announcement that she has cancer, that her cancer has taken a more dramatic turn. 

The sympathy, I think, that was extended to the Edwards family was profound.  A lot of people wrote in and they wrote messages, condolence messages to the Edwards, and a lot of them received messages back saying, you know, while you are at it, can you give us money?  Is that a fair characterization? 

AKERS:  It wasn‘t quite that direct.  When you go to the John Edwards for president website, you were able—a lot of people went there immediately after the news conference, which they announced her cancer had returned.  So a lot of people immediately went to John Edwards‘ website, maybe by Googling his name, and on the website there was a letter from Edwards saying thank you so much for your consideration, for your thoughts and your prayers.  We appreciate it.  It talked a little bit more about her cancer returning, her illness, and if you would like to send a note to John and Elizabeth, click here. 

When you do that, you give your email address and write then you write your note.  Apparently all of those email addresses of the people who went to the website and sent the sympathy note to Elizabeth Edwards had their email addresses memorized and used as part of the Edwards campaign fund raising. 

So, in other words, if you, Joe Citizen, who had never received anything from the Edwards campaign, sent Elizabeth Edwards a sympathy note via that website, a couple of days later you would have received a solicitation for money. 

CARLSON:  I must say, I think it‘s vulgar on the one hand, and on the hand, it makes sense.  These are people who are self identified fans, or at least sympathetic to Edwards.  What do you think, I wonder, we have not heard yet, Hillary, the exact break down of Senator Clinton‘s fund raising.  We don‘t know how much of it she can use, as far as I know, in the general, how much in the primary.  Is it because she doesn‘t want, do you think, to reveal that she has raised less for the primary than Barack Obama, or do you think she‘s still really tallying the numbers? 

ROSEN:  That is a good question.  I don‘t know the answer. 

CARLSON:  Is this scene—this story—it seems likely—I mean, we are just completely and I don‘t know the answer either, it seems likely though that Obama has raised more than Hillary has for the primary.  Is this a problem with Democratic donors?  Are they—is Obama going to suddenly be seen as the frontrunner here or is—do you Mrs. Clinton has a lock on that description? 

ROSEN:  Well, the polls still clearly show Hillary as the front runner.  And in the early primary states, she is still clearly.

CARLSON:  But the money people who kind of run—what do they think?

ROSEN:  You know, I think a lot of money people are giving to both. 

And I think that people believe these two are going to be really well-funded through, you know, the first half of the campaign.  I think, you know, the second-quarter numbers will mean more and the third-quarter numbers will mean the most.  Whether John Edwards can sustain any energy through those. 

CARLSON:  Do you buy.

ROSEN:  But these campaigns are going to be well-funded.  And I don‘t think that ultimately the next six months of success is going to hinge on who has got the most money. 

CARLSON:  But it is a little—it just strikes me as a little bit like when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay got to the top of Everest, they were just there for about two minutes, right?  Just quick enough to snap a picture, then they scurried on back down. 

So in that way, it wasn‘t such a great accomplishment.  But of course, it was a world-changing accomplishment because it showed you could do it.  Doesn‘t this show it can be done, Mount Hillary can be defeated, scaled? 

AKERS:  I think that they are scrambling right now to put the best face on this.  And they are going to have to show, well, we actually exceeded our goal.  And you know, I think that we will find out soon enough how they are actually going to be able to spin this in terms of having done a great job at fundraising, because clearly Obama is like right on her heels and he has done an amazing, phenomenal job of fundraising. 

CARLSON:  God!  We just—I love a real race.  It is so exciting. 

ROSEN:  And by the way, this is going to make Hillary Clinton a better candidate. 

CARLSON:  That is right.

ROSEN:  And make Barack Obama a better candidate.  It is going to make John Edwards a better candidate.  The best thing I think Democrats have going for them is that all of this energy in the race is on the Democrats‘ side. 

CARLSON:  No doubt.

ROSEN:  They are—you know, they raised a third more money in the Democratic primary this quarter than the Republicans raised. 

CARLSON:  Which is something I have never seen before.  Well, speaking of the Republicans, Mitt Romney supports the Second Amendment, that is the right of Americans to keep and bear arms.  In fact, he bought a lifetime membership in the NRA.  In fact, he has been a hunter all of his life, that is, if you define “all of his life” as a total of two hunting trips 40 years apart.  Will the real Romney please stand up? 

And there is one famous candidate who knows who is he, he is Sanjaya from “American Idol.”  He is a singer and an entertainer and a hair model, and his campaign threatens the very foundation of everything commercial television stands.  Willie Geist has the latest details on that.  You are watching MSNBC, America‘s most impressive news network.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Mitt Romney claims he is a life-long hunter.  But according to his own campaign, he has only gone hunting twice in his whole life.  What does that mean for his chances in ‘08?  Has he shot himself in the foot?  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I support the Second Amendment.  I purchased a gun when I was a young man.  I have been hunter pretty much all of my life.  Never really shot anything terribly big. I used to hunt rabbits    . 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well, I am a hunter.  Some of my best friends are hunters.  I work with hunters.  Mitt Romney, you are no hunter.  Romney is, however, the richest Republican candidate for president.  He plays fast and loose with the history of his own life sometimes. 

Mr. Romney, it turns out, has hunted exactly twice, once as a teenager and once decades later as a governor on a political retreat.  That didn‘t stop him from posing as a sportsman before members of the NRA.  Will American voters forgive him for being something far less than straight up about his core positions on issues that drive votes?

We welcome back to discuss that MSNBC political analyst Hilary Rosen and the writer of “The Sleuth” for washingtonpost.com, Mary Ann Akers. 

Now, Hilary, you are probably not voting for Mitt Romney anyway for a bunch of different reasons. 

ROSEN:  Yes.  But I feel sorry for my friend Barbara Comstock and other communications strategists in the Romney campaign because this guy does not know who he is.  He can‘t tell the truth.  He can‘t get his stories straight.  It is just a nightmare. 

CARLSON:  Well, actually, I know who he is.

ROSEN:  How do you run a guy like that?

CARLSON:  He is B.S. artist, actually.  When I saw that—now I know this is a small thing, but I have been a hunter all of my—I actually have been a hunter all of my life.  I‘m not bragging about it.  I would never brag about it.  But to watch—I mean, the falseness of that was so stomach-churning, that I just think that is—you can‘t do that kind of thing too many times before people just aren‘t going to vote for you.

ROSEN:  Yes.

AKERS:  See, I see Giuliani having a much tougher time on the abortion issue with Republicans than I do with this NRA blip.  I mean, it is silly, it is goofy, clearly he is not a hunter if he has hunted twice in his life.  I guess I have been a hunter all of my life then if he has.  So I just think the Giuliani thing as being more of a problem for him than this is for Romney. 

CARLSON:  It is interesting though, this issue gets very little attention, guns, because basically the anti-gun side—the gun control side has ceded the argument. 

ROSEN:  Yes, that is right.

CARLSON:  It is—Democrats have decided, and it has been part of the strategy—I‘m not attacking them, I agree with the strategy, actually, but you can‘t win on guns.  And you have people who are for gun rights like me who will actually vote on the issue and the other side won‘t vote on the issue. 

If you do alienate gun owners, people like me, you know, it is a big, big problem, don‘t you think, on both sides? 

ROSEN:  Well, I think the issue is who is he being compared against?  And, you know, right now, if you look at McCain, you look at Giuliani, you look at Romney, you have got sort three kind of flawed candidates out there.  And Republicans are looking at, you know, some of the lesser of three evils.  And that is how they are being calculated right now in the Republican primary. 

I think that the party has got to figure out how they are going to start building up their candidates.  You know, regardless of who you are for on the Democratic side, at least the Democrats are saying, we have got a bunch of good candidates who are going to have this sort of healthy competition.  The Republicans, I think, end up being dissatisfied with all of their candidates for one reason or another.  That is not going to last for 10 months  . 

CARLSON:  What also—you have a couple of Democratic candidates who match Democratic values.  I mean, when John Edwards gets up and says, I‘m going to nationalize the railroads, or whatever the hell his left—stupid left-wing position on this, that or the other thing is, at least, you know, he is reciting the Democratic platform.  He is pro-labor.  He is and pro-choice, right?  I mean, he is—you know, whatever he is, he is a liberal. 

The Republicans just don‘t have someone who embodies their platform. 

And it seems to me they ought to?

AKERS:  Yes, what about Sam Brownback? 

CARLSON:  I like Sam Brownback very, very much.  But he is far too sweet to be president.

ROSEN:  Well, actually, on paper John McCain does embody Republican values.

CARLSON:  Well, actually, John McCain is much more conservative than people, I think, realize. 

ROSEN:  I think that is exactly.  And so, you know, just because the conservatives don‘t trust him doesn‘t mean that he is not the most closely adhered to the Republican Party platform. 

CARLSON:  Why—and I think people will.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  And maybe they will come around to that.

CARLSON:  Sure.  OK.  In fact, he may be smart to reach his nadir—and I think you would have to say that was the low-point of his campaign, when he stood in the Baghdad market and said, you know, this is great.

He has reached it early, we are, you know, almost a year out.  I mean, do you—among the smart people you know who write about politics, do they think McCain is going to move from where he is now or it is over? 

AKERS:  Well, you know, I mean, look, if you look at the latest fundraising numbers and where he is in the polls, it doesn‘t look good at all for him.  And the problem is he lost the moderates.  Obviously he lost the conservatives because they don‘t trust him. 

But then he lost the moderates and the mavericks and the independents by being so close to the Bush administration.  So he is in a very difficult spot.  Maybe he.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  . be over for John McCain because you have got Mitt Romney who nobody believes.

AKERS:  Exactly.

ROSEN:  . and you have Rudy Giuliani who is a liberal.  So it can‘t be over for John McCain. 

CARLSON:  Someone I ate with today at lunch said to me, you know what, the truth about the Republican primary is someone actually has to win in the end. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  There will be a winner.  Thank you both very much.  You are both winners, by the way, as far as I‘m concerned. 

ROSEN:  You too, Tucker.

AKERS:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thank you.  A volunteer fireman is caught doing a little undercover work in a public park.  Willie Geist explains the story behind the first ballot entry in the mug shot hall of fame.  That is all when we come back. You are watching MSNBC.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Just when you thought it couldn‘t get any better, at the very point when you say stop, it is so good it hurts!  We bring Willie Geist out to make it even better—Willie.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  The show comes to a screeching halt.  Thank you, Tucker, for that special intro.  Quick quiz for you, Tucker, how do you get a suspected murderer off a ledge in China?  Answer, fire hose.  Check out this video right here. 

The guy, hanging on a ledge, they have a nice cushion waiting for him down below.  Eventually, there he goes, down, but he lands safely.  He was a suspected murderer holed up in a hospital room.  And they flushed him out.  And, Tucker, they do not mess around in China, do they? 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  No, he will be executed by this afternoon. 

GEIST:  Exactly.  He probably already has been. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  His organs have already been sold to rich Malaysians. 

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  All right.  Let‘s get down to business.  At this point it doesn‘t even qualify as news, but yes, Sanjaya made it through another round of “American Idol” last night, as if it was ever news, and he was not even in the group of bottom three vote-getters. 

Sanjaya apparently dazzled or perhaps amused the nation with his slicked back white-suited judge pandering rendition of “Cheek to Cheek” on Tuesday night.  The 17-year-old is now one of eight remaining contestants on show. 

So how far is America willing to take the joke?  Can this guy really win “American Idol”?  Have we all become hopelessly lost in the universe of Sanjaya?  Tucker, I have to admit I‘m not going to his camp completely yet, and I might be called a flip-flopper, because we have been pretty tough on him.

CARLSON:  Yes.

GEIST:  But I‘m starting to sympathize with him a little bit.  He has taken a lot of shots.  He is 17, maybe it is time to start rooting for him or no? 

CARLSON:  I‘m there.  I am totally there.  I watched actually the show for the first time last night.  And I have decided—a friend mine said to me, you know, this guy has every smart person, not just in the America but the world rooting against him, and he doesn‘t care at all. 

So actually he is a great performer, a great entertainer.  Of course, he is not a good singer, but he is a tougher man than most.  I‘m on his side. 

GEIST:  He is.  That is right.  And it is also the obvious thing to do to root against him, like, oh, we make fun of him.  So now it is time to turn the corner.  It is kind of like, if you ever pay attention to sports, which I know you do, if a team has lost like 20 games in a row, you just want them to lose every game the rest of the season and set the record. 

So let‘s just let him win the thing now, why not, at this point, right?

CARLSON:  I‘m totally—I‘m complete—actually, he may be the most impressive guy in the contest or race or whatever they call it. 

GEIST:  I think I was just converted.  We are there.  I‘m there. 

CARLSON:  Go Sanjaya! 

GEIST:  I‘m on Team Sanjaya.

All right.  Tucker, well, it turns out callous people at Disney have a problem with people paying tribute to their deceased loved ones, specifically when the tribute involves snorting those loved ones.  A Disney executive says that Keith Richards now will not be doing much publicity for the upcoming “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie in which he plays the father of the Johnny Depp‘s pirate character. 

Apparently Richards‘ story about snorting his dad‘s ashes mixed with cocaine was not consistent with the Disney mission.  I guess it is not appropriate for the Mickey Mouse corporation to have Keith Richards, but was he really going to be out there anyway?  Like Keith Richards on “Regis and Kelly”?  The guy hasn‘t been up before noon since 1958, I don‘t think it was going to happen anyway, you know?

CARLSON:  Could I just say, at the risk of saying something very unpopular, I thought it was kind of touching and sweet. 

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  The snorting the ashes story? 

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t know, it is Keith Richards, I mean, that is what he does.  That is his interest.  He is incorporating the memory of his farther into his one true passion. 

GEIST:  We all pay tribute in our own little ways, don‘t we? 

CARLSON:  Exactly.  That is exactly right.

GEIST:  Well, we do not have to say much about this next story.  Just sit back and enjoy these mug shots of a volunteer firefighter who was arrested for drunk driving while wearing a bikini and a woman‘s wig.  The man was stopped by police after someone reported that a strange man swearing wearing a bikini had just gotten behind the wheel of his pick-up truck after behaving indecently in a public park in Mason, Ohio. 

All of those things are true.  When police pulled the man over, they found a half empty 40 ounce bottle of beer and a gym bag full of women‘s wigs, bathing suits and silver go-go boots.  The man told police he was headed to a bar in Dayton to perform as a woman for a $10,000 prize. 

You just hope as your life goes on, Tucker, that your rock bottom doesn‘t look like that, you know, you don‘t want to show up on TV in a woman‘s bikini. 

CARLSON:  I agree.  And also, so what exactly was he arrested for and they put his—I mean, I‘m not, you know.

GEIST:  He was drunk. 

CARLSON:  Oh, he was drunk driving, oh, sorry, OK. 

GEIST:  Yes, he was drunk driving. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I guess you forfeit your right to keep your dark side secret at that point. 

GEIST:  Yes.  He has been put on administrative leave for the time being.  Well, Tucker, you remember yesterday, we showed you the dark side of the ceremonial first pitch.  Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory threw the worst first pitch in recorded history to kick off the Reds‘ season on Monday. 

You actually have to try to throw a ball that badly.  Last night, Jimmy Kimmel took pity and invited the mayor on his show for another chance.  What followed was the second worst pitch in recorded history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”:  All right.  So right here whenever you are ready.  All right.  And here we go.  The wind-up.  And the pitch!

(PITCH THROWN RATHER WIDE)

KIMMEL:  Whoa!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Kurt Russell calling the signs back there, by the way.  So the first one wasn‘t even close.  He hit members of the studio audience who were wearing batting helmets for safety.  And thank goodness.  And then the second one he finally sort of respectively bounced up there, so I guess he gets a pass. 

CARLSON:  I would vote for him.  CARLSON:  Willie Geist!. 

GEIST:  All right.  Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Willie. 

That does it for us.  Thanks for watching. “HARDBALL” is next.  We will back tomorrow.  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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