updated 4/10/2007 12:27:09 PM ET 2007-04-10T16:27:09

Guests: Richard Cohen, Jonathan Alter, Ed Schultz, Amy Argetsinger, Roxanne Roberts, Max Kellerman

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Unhappy anniversary, America.  It has been four years since the triumph that appeared to be the toppling of Saddam Hussein.  In Iraq, the fourth anniversary of the fall in Baghdad saw massive, though generally nonviolent, protests in Najaf against the U.S. occupation there.

Shiite extremist leader Muqtada al-Sadr, meanwhile, broke his silence to call America evil, and urged unity against coalition troops. 

At home, there has been a blink in the stare-down between the president and the Congress on war funding and a withdrawal date.  It wasn‘t Mr. Bush who wavered, but, rather, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Carl Levin, who said that Congress will not defund the troops currently in Iraq.

And there is other news as well, including John McCain‘s bid to revive his presidential campaign, President Bush‘s call for immigration reform, and the Don Imus controversy. 

We begin with the most important story on Earth, the Iraq war. 

Joining me now at world headquarters to discuss that, columnist for “The Washington Post” Richard Cohen and senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine Jonathan Alter.

Welcome to you both.

JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi, Tucker.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Welcome.

It seems to me—Richard, Muqtada al-Sadr issued this statement today, saying, America is bad.  But he did not call for the Shiites he commands to rise up and kill American troops.  And, more significant, he wasn‘t present.  He‘s afraid.  He‘s in hiding.

Does anybody doubt that, if we left tomorrow, he would be in charge?

RICHARD COHEN, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, I don‘t doubt that he would certainly be in charge of the areas where he is essentially in charge...

CARLSON:  Right. 

COHEN:  ... Sadr City and others.

I think he is doing something that sort of makes sense, is, why fight the Americans now? 

CARLSON:  Right. 

COHEN:  Why not save your ammunition, save your men for later, because, later, there will be a showdown between the Shiites and the Sunnis?  And he‘s waiting for that.

CARLSON:  But, if he is this evil guy—and I think it‘s probably fair to believe that he is—why don‘t we kill him or take him into custody?

JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, that was the big question, you know, in 2003...

CARLSON:  Right.  And we didn‘t, on purpose.

ALTER:  ... and 2004.  And there are lot of people who would look back and say, this was one of the biggest mistakes of the early part of the war.  It‘s a little late now. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Why? 

ALTER:  Well, because you have got a civil war under way.

And, if you kill him, you‘re not going to do much to tamp down the civil war.  Early on, there might have been an argument for it.  But I think most people agree that it wouldn‘t accomplish anything right now. 

The thing that I guess really annoys me is this notion that you hear -

and Rudy Giuliani just said it again a couple days ago—that we have got to beat them there, so they don‘t come over here and kill us. 

Who is he talking about?  Is he talking about Sunnis?  Is he talking about Shiites?  This is a complicated—very, very complicated civil war.  And the idea that‘s still in the heads of a lot of Americans, including presidential candidates and some members of Congress, is that there‘s an enemy, and that it‘s a whole bunch of them. 

Well, that‘s not the situation there. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER:  And victory—what is victory?  What does victory mean?  We haven‘t even defined that at this point. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t know.  It seems to me victory would mean creating a situation—or allowing a sort of level of stability to be achieved, where we could leave and people wouldn‘t eat each other. 

COHEN:  Well, you could—you might be able to attain that kind of victory if you broke up Iraq into its constituent parts...

CARLSON:  Right. 

COHEN:  ... in the north, the Kurdish area.  In the center, you would have a Shiite area.  And the rest of it would—I‘m sorry—Sunni area.  And the rest of it would be Shiite, essentially three different states. 

The administration doesn‘t want to do that.  That‘s Joe Biden‘s plan.  Some other people have suggested that.  You are going to have bloodshed either way.  There‘s going to be fights about oil.  There will be fights about territory.  There will fights about neighborhoods.

But this fight will continue.  It doesn‘t seem to me that us staying is going to do anything about that, except sort of delay it.  We could tamp it down for a while.  But, the minute we go, there is going to be a settling of scores.

So, it would be good, from my point of view, to start figuring out how to go, instead of saying how we‘re going to stay with more troops, which is essentially what the Bush administration...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, apparently, that day, the day you just described, is not coming any time soon. 

Harry Reid was out there saying just last week that he was in favor of legislation, with Russ Feingold, that would cut off funding for combat troops in Iraq next March.

Then you have Carl Levin saying yesterday on television:  We are not going to vote to cut funding, period.

Senate Schumer on FOX News yesterday said virtually the same thing. 

Is—this appears to be a pretty dramatic split in the Senate. 

ALTER:  No. 

CARLSON:  How is it not? 

ALTER:  No.  They are just saying that, right now, they are not going to get pulled into the briar patch by the Republicans.

CARLSON:  Well, then, wait.  But the leader—the leader of the Democrats in the Senate is not saying that.

ALTER:  They‘re not going to vote to cut off funding right now.  But they are all on—they are all on exactly on the same page, which is that...

CARLSON:  Reid is not on that page.

ALTER:  They‘re all on the same page, which a timetable for withdrawal, but don‘t cut off the funding right now. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

ALTER:  They‘re all agreed.

CARLSON:  So, they‘re—so, in other words...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... how can they bring about a withdrawal without cutting off funding?  They don‘t have the power to withdraw troops.  They only have the power to cut off funding.  So, they‘re one and the same.

ALTER:  They—you know, they see the process of bringing the country around, which is pretty far along now, and putting pressure on the Bush administration...

CARLSON:  Right. 

ALTER:  ... as a continuum.  So—and that continuum is to get people on record as supporting withdrawal eventually, a timetable for withdrawal, but also not getting suckered into cutting funding right now, which doesn‘t accomplish anything.

CARLSON:  But, again, unless I am missing something, there‘s no way to effect a withdrawal.  There‘s no way for Congress...

ALTER:  Eventually.

CARLSON:  ... to force a withdrawal. 

OK, but...

ALTER:  Eventually.

CARLSON:  ... Reid, last week...

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER:  They‘re not trying to get a withdrawal right now.

CARLSON:  Reid said...

ALTER:  They‘re trying to get a timetable for withdrawal.

CARLSON:  Unless I‘m totally making this up in my mind, Reid was saying last week that, by the—by March 2008, right at the end of the primaries...

COHEN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ... we are going to have all American troops withdrawn from Iraq.

COHEN:  You‘re not making it up.

The Democrats had a strategy.  And Levin, and to an extent, Schumer, misspoke.  I mean, on the Hill today, there are lots of people who think that what they said was not helpful, that we‘re going to—they are going to go all the way down the line with Bush and see if he vetoes it—it‘s in his court—and then play it by ear, because this thing is very fluid.

And that has essentially been their strategy:  Let Bush make the decision here. 

And, instead, the Democrats are starting to come apart, which is not surprising.  Congress—it‘s very hard to keep Congress unified and the Democratic Party unified.  And, in fact, the Democratic Party itself, as everybody knows, is the definition of disunity. 

CARLSON:  It just seems to me, that is a—I agree.  And this is a super-complicated question.  However, do you force the troops to withdraw by March next year, or don‘t you?  Are you for it are or you not?  And I don‘t see—you know, maybe this will become clearer as the week progresses.

John McCain‘s presidential campaign, meanwhile, looks like it is circling the drain.  Can a four-day media blitz, the modified mea culpa on “60 Minutes” last night, the “Washington Post” op-ed this week, the big speeches coming Wednesday, save his aspirations to be president?  We will tell you.

And it was not straight talk, but offensive talk, that got Don Imus in trouble last week.  How utterly did Imus grovel before the throne of Al Sharpton this afternoon?  And was it enough?

You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  John McCain changes his assessment of the troop surge in Iraq.  Will that help him regain his status as the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination?  We will tell you.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  These are an important few days in the political life of Senator John McCain.  His recent trip to Iraq turned into a P.R. disaster when he bragged about the relative safety he and his military escorts enjoyed in a marketplace in Baghdad. 

At least partly in response to the response to those statements, McCain launched a media offensive, writing an op-ed in Sunday‘s “Washington Post” and appearing on last night‘s “60 Minutes.”  He will deliver what is being billed as an important speech on Wednesday on the war at Virginia Military Academy.

Will any of it work?  Or are these the last days of McCain‘s presidential campaign? 

Here to discuss it, two men who covered him extensively the last time he ran, senior editor of “Newsweek” Jonathan Alter, and “Washington Post” columnist Richard Cohen.

Welcome to you both.

Is this the end?  You hear in Washington all these Republican consultants, you know, all atwitter, those—the few who are not working for John McCain directly, saying it‘s over.

Is it over?

COHEN:  It‘s not over yet, but it‘s—it‘s getting close to over. 

He looked bad.  He looked silly.  He just silly in Iraq.  I felt sorry for him.  He is a better person than he came across.  But the “60 Minutes” last night show, you know, showed something that I don‘t think he wanted anybody to see.  He looked old.  He didn‘t look vigorous.  He is not the guy he was nearly eight years ago.  He‘s an older man.

And maybe it‘s because he had a very rough time recently.  Obviously, these body blows, these shots, you know, hurt.  He‘s a proud man.  And he looked foolish.  So, that is part of it.

But, given his performance in Baghdad, given his performance last night, given how he is doing, badly—not badly in the polls, but trailing Giuliani, who—in South Carolina, he trails Giuliani.  This is preposterous.  This is not about Giuliani being so popular.  It‘s also about McCain not being liked.  The South Carolina Republican primary is an important primary.

McCain somehow has managed to put himself in the position where—that George Bush is in.  I mean, he didn‘t like buy last time around.  Now is Bush‘s main spokesman, his surrogate.  He is a kind of super-Bush.  It hasn‘t paid for him. 

CARLSON:  The age thing is—that is a big issue.  I personally think it‘s unfair.  I don‘t care how old McCain is.   That was the one time, though, on “60 Minutes” when McCain seemed angry. 

Scott Pelley asked him, do you know the results of this poll we did?  When people were asked, would you like your president to be 70, what percentage do you think said yes?  The answer is zero.

McCain said—quote—“I don‘t like this line of questioning at all. 

I find it offensive.”

ALTER:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Is this a fair criterion to judge McCain on? 

ALTER:  I don‘t think it really is, as long as he doesn‘t have health problems.  I don‘t care about his age.

And it‘s interesting to me that a lot of Republicans, who elected Ronald Reagan, are now talking about his age.  I think they are just using it as an excuse for other things that they don‘t like about him. 

What would that be?  That he is out of synch.  He was trashing Bush when Bush was popular.  And, now that Bush is very unpopular, he‘s championing Bush.  And, so, you could say...

CARLSON:  Doesn‘t he get courage points for that?  This is the maverick.  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER:  That‘s what I—you know, I wrote about this, this week, and, you know, same headline as you have, “McCain Meltdown.”

But I said it would be admirable, if it wasn‘t so clumsy politically.  And Republicans do respect political skill.  And, recently, he hasn‘t been showing any.

However, he has made a big bet.  It probably won‘t come up for him, but it might.  And that is, he has bet on Petraeus and the surge—surge.

CARLSON:  Right. 

ALTER:  If that comes through, if the surge works, then he is back in a big, big way, because, you know, you get benefits from having supported something when it was unpopular if it pays off. 

If the surge fails, as most people outside the Bush administration believe that it will, he is in big trouble. 

CARLSON:  It seems to me, people aren‘t—reporters aren‘t cutting him slack.  You remember, in 2000, when he told that famous joke about, what‘s the great thing about Alzheimer‘s?  You get to hide your own Easter eggs.  And that was not a headline in “The New York Times.”

Now, if McCain said that, he would probably be—he would go to prison.

COHEN:  Well, you know, first of all, I hate to speak for the press corps, but this—I think some felt burned by Paul Tsongas.  That‘s a kind of cruel way to talk about somebody who died, but Tsongas, every day, would start the day, when he was campaigning, going for a swim.  We would all go watch him take a swim.

CARLSON:  Didn‘t he wear speedos?

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN:  Yes, with speedos.

CARLSON:  That‘s bad.

COHEN:  And to show that he was in good health. 

And then—and then he—but he wasn‘t.  And then he died.

So, I think there are questions about McCain.  McCain has had cancer. 

Jon has had cancer. 

You know, cancer is not necessarily a death sentence.  A lot of people have had it.  But he‘s also at a certain age.

I really admire the guy.  I‘m not saying this out of glee.  I‘m just saying, what I saw the other night on “60 Minutes” was a man who has slowed up a step.  It just seemed that way to me.

So, when you look at his positions and you look where he is health wise and you look at his age, it‘s all a combination.  And I think, if McCain really wants to say something in favor of the war, go back to where he was a couple of years ago on the war, and say 20,000 troops, 25,000 troops is not enough. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

ALTER:  That‘s what he believes.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN:  We have got to go all out here. 

ALTER:  That‘s what he believes.  And...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  And, yet, he said yesterday on “60 Minutes”—I mean, Scott Pelley had him saying:  I think this is the right number of troops. 

I was amazed that he said that.  The Bush plan, he endorsed it...

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Entirely.

ALTER:  He doesn‘t want to undercut the president.  But he obviously believes we need more troops.

CARLSON:  Yes, I think he probably does.

While McCain‘s Straight Talk Express sputters, Mitt Romney‘s phony train rolls right along.  Stick around for the latest amazing details of his lifetime as a gun-toting hunter.  That‘s right. 

And Don Imus asked for and received a broadcast audience with the Reverend Al Sharpton today.  What did Mr. Imus say?  What did the Reverend Sharpton say back?  And what does it all mean? 

We will tell you in mere moments.  This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “IMUS IN THE MORNING”)

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I mean, they pick the paper up, and they don‘t know.  They—they don‘t know whether I‘m some right-wing, racist nut, whether I was angry, whether it was some kind of diatribe, whether I was drunk.

They don‘t know whether—whether I just came on the radio and said, hey, the young women of Rutgers are yadda, yadda.  Well, why would I think then it‘s OK to go the radio last Wednesday and make fun of these kids, who just played for the national championship?  I can‘t answer that.  I‘m sorry I did that.  I am embarrassed that I did that.  I did a bad thing, but I‘m a good person and that will change. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Last Wednesday in his radio show, which is simulcast in the morning here on MSNBC, Don Imus described black members of the Rutgers basketball team, as, quote, nappy headed hoes.  On Friday he apologized on the air for his slur, but neither that apology or his other apology this morning, part of which you just heard, stopped black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson from continuing to call for his resignation.

Imus asked for and was granted an audience with Mr. Sharpton on the Rev‘s radio show today.  Here‘s a bit of that program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMUS:  Don‘t come on this and assault me, because I‘m not assaulting you. 

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST:  I will not let you question—

IMUS:  I‘m not going to sit here and let you insult me.  Sir, I will not let you—can keep talking all you want.  You‘re are not going to insult me.  Don‘t insult me.  I have not insulted you.  Don‘t talk about me doing used car commercials. 

I bet you I‘ve slept in a house with more black children who were not related to me than you have. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  A colloquy with the head of the Black Journalists Association.  As of right now our company, NBC News, has publicly condemned Imus‘ remarks and says the matter remains under review. 

Joining us now the host of the nationally syndicated radio show “The Ed Schultz Show,” Ed Schultz himself.  Ed, thanks for coming on.   

ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SCHULTZ SHOW”:  You bet Tucker, good to be with you.

CARLSON:  So Imus went on to say in his almost two hour long conversation with Al Sharpton this afternoon that he has personally held the hand of a child dying of Sickle Cell Anemia.  So, everything is OK? 

SCHULTZ:  No, I don‘t think so.  There‘s a couple of different ways of looking at this.  First of all, past deeds—there‘s going to be a crowd of people out there that are going to say, because Imus has done things for people that he ought to be forgiven for this.  No, but I think he should be held to a certain standard, and I think the broadcast company ought to as well. 

This is either going be a defining moment in decency or it‘s going to turn out to be a big promo for Don Imus.  Now which is it?  Personally, I don‘t think the guy should be fired.  I think he has sounded very sincere in his apology.  By the way, who‘s got the sincerity meter out there to judge whether he‘s sincere or not.  You‘re entering into a lot of gray areas.

CARLSON:  Hold on, he‘s obviously sincere.  I‘m not defending him. 

When you look at him, he‘s a scared old man trying to hold on to his job.  I mean, he means it.  And he understands that he hurt people.  I think his sincerity, in my view, is beyond question.  But I‘m struck—So I‘m not calling for him to be fired  either.  I am just struck by the quickness with which the very liberals who attacked George Allen, say, for using the word macaca, are willing to al but forgive Don Imus.  Why is that? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think that‘s an interesting point.  The fact is that Senator Allen lost in the arena of public opinion.  He lost his election.  I think he‘d probably like to have that macaca comment back.  Now the question is, in the free market, is Don Imus going to pay a price? 

CARLSON:  Wait, hold on, Ed, with all do respect, you‘re better than that.  That‘s a dodge.  We‘re not talking about public opinion here.  I‘m asking, what the gut reaction --  I saw people beat the crap out of George Allen every day; “He‘s a racist.”  He was sincere in his apologies too, and yet, those same people are awfully easy on Don Imus.  And it seems to me there are two different standards here.  I have suspicions about why, but I would like to know your theory.

SCHULTZ:  The public rendered judgment on Senator Allen.  The public is going to render judgment on Don Imus.  We‘ll find out over time whether this is just going to be another incident, or if the public is really going to push back and ignore the guy, and not listen to him or watch him anymore.  I mean, he is an arena now where he‘s under a microscope.  Is this really what Don Imus thinks about college women basketball players? 

CARLSON:  Wait a second, so you‘re coming out and, you know, you‘re not being easy on Don Imus.  But you‘re saying, look, he is sincere.  Is this really what he thinks?  He‘s probably not a racist.  And yet when George Allen said macaca, I believe, in fact I‘m certain, that you were one of the first to say, you know, he is basically a member of the Klan and he shouldn‘t hold state-wide office, federal office as a result. 

SCHULTZ:  I didn‘t say that, but I did point out the fact that he had a noose in his office. 

CARLSON:  OK, well I could point to 15 statements has made over the past 30 years that are just appalling.

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely, but the market played out.  The people decided they didn‘t want George Allen.  Now the people and the listeners are going to decide whether they want Don Imus. 

CARLSON:  OK, we can take a poll of the people.  I want to know what you think, Ed.  That‘s why you‘re on the show.  I want to why you are applying—not the people out there, who we can‘t see.  You specifically are holding Don Imus to a different standard.  And I believe it‘s because he‘s rich and famous.

SCHULTZ:  I am not holding Don Imus to a different standard.  I think it‘s a sad day in America when a guy can‘t apologize for making a mistake.  That‘s what I think.  And I think that George Allen was sincere that he would like to have that comment back, and maybe he didn‘t mean it, but the free market took place.  He lost that election.  Personally, I don‘t see a real parallel here. 

But I do believe that he offended a lot of people.  Nobody in America is out there defending Don Imus.  The question is, is it a fireable offense. 

CARLSON:  Well, actually lots of people are defending Don Imus, in effect, by going on his show.  And I‘m not questioning their right to do that.  But when people go on his show immediately after something like this, that is, in effect, showing support for him.  They have a right to do it. 

Again, I‘m not attacking them for doing it, but they‘re essentially defending Don Imus.  Yes they are.  And they were not defending Trent Lott.  They were not defending, as I said, George Allen, or a bunch of other people who clearly misspoke, who‘s words didn‘t represent their hearts, as Bush would say. 

SCHULTZ:  I think there were a lot of people that defended Trent Lott and that‘s why he didn‘t get fired right away. 

CARLSON:  Yes, but all these pious liberals didn‘t.  They jumped on him like he was the Grand Kleagle. 

SCHULTZ:  You know, Tucker, this is not a left, right, Republican, Democrat issue with Don Imus.  This is about decency and what is acceptable on the air.  And every broadcaster in this country is watching to see how this thing is going to play out.  Nobody would want his problems right now.  But I do think that he has been sincere in his apology.  And I also find it very interesting that Al Sharpton is not going after the rappers the same way he is going after Don Imus.  I think there‘s a double standard there.

CARLSON:  I don‘t think anybody—anybody believes that Al Sharpton is burdened with consistency.  We do hold him to different standards.  Thanks a lot, Ed.  I appreciate your coming on.

SCHULTZ:  You bet.

CARLSON:  Well nobody burned good old fashioned fossil fuels quite like Arnold Schwarzenegger did back in the good old days.  Can the one time conspicuous consumer really be the front man in the fight against global warming?  “Newsweek” says so.

And you may or may not think there‘s anything funny about Al Franken, but his ability to raise money for his run for Senate is deadly serious.  How much does he have?  What does that mean he could raise?  Can he win? 

We‘ll tell you.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

CARLSON:  Arnold Schwarzenegger became something more than a muscle-bound action hero with a thick Austrian accent by personifying the ass kicking, high living, consumption without conscience America of the 1980s and 1990‘s.  Governor Schwarzenegger is nothing if not a master of self-reinvention.  This week we appears on the cover of “Newsweek” as the face of the movement to save the Earth‘s environment.  Imagine a “Newsweek” cover with Keith Richards as the face of drug prevention; or Hugh Hefner leaving an abstinence campaign.  And yet, here we are.

Here to discuss Schwarzenegger‘s amazing transformation and its effect and its meaning, welcome back senior editor of “Newsweek,” Jonathan Alter, and “Washington Post” columnist Richard Cohen.  Welcome to you both.  First, Don Imus, I mean, am I—I can‘t—you know, I actually felt sorry for Don Imus listening to him on Sharpton‘s show, having to get up there, “some of my best friends are black,” and “I‘m an advocate for sickle cell anemia.” 

It was pathetic actually.  But I just can‘t get over the hypocrisy—or the apparent hypocrisy of the response to this.  There is a double standard.  And Imus gets away with it because he can give people something. 

COHEN:  I don‘t know if there‘s a double standard, I do agree with you that the people who have gone on the show, who go on the show, are showing support.  I mean, this is inevitably the conclusion that you make.  What Imus said was not a mistake, in my book.  It was not something that it was a joke that went astray.  It was raw racist. 

And for that he has to account.  I‘m with you.  I don‘t think he should be fired, and I‘m not calling for his firing.  But just years ago I used to not buy certain products if they were produced—there was a guy who owned a company that was also in the John Birch Society.  I didn‘t buy the product.  I wouldn‘t go on Imus.  I mean, I‘m not going to say it‘s OK to talk that way. 

If somebody else wants to watch, somebody else wants to go on, that‘s fine.  But that would be my personal boycott, and I think that the people who go on in my business and your business are giving him support.  I think he has to come to terms with what he said.  He has to explain it.  In a way, he has to understand that what he said was racist, not just in bad taste, but racist, I mean, raw. 

It made me gasp when I read it.  Until he comes to terms with that, the people who come on the show have to understand that they are supporting this guy, who said something really awful. 

CARLSON:  Do you go on the show?

ALTER:  I do go on the show.  I will continue to go on the show.  I think what he said was racist, not to mention being unfunny and stupid, but if you don‘t believe he should be fired, then you can‘t call for a boycott, because a boycott would amount to the same thing as his being fired.  If all of his guests, all of those senators in both parties, all the journalists all stopped going on, that would be the end of Imus.  It would be.

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  He could do a sports show. 

ALTER:  Come on, that‘s his show.  So if you favor boycotting him, you favor the end of “Imus in the Morning.” 

CARLSON:  How about a middle ground? 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  -- your our own personal conscience doesn‘t allow you to participate in a racist enterprise. 

ALTER:  That is a boycott.  That‘s saying—also, it buys into the idea that I am responsible for every stupid thing that you have said. 

CARLSON:  So what does going on say? 

ALTER:  You‘ve said some pretty stupid things.  You haven‘t said any racist things that I know of.  But you‘ve said some pretty appalling things. 

CARLSON:  On today‘s show.

ALTER:  I don‘t want to have the responsibility to endorse or not endorse things that you said. 

CARLSON:  I understand.  So, what is the message of—you say the message of not going on would be to boycott the show, and that‘s some how wrong.  What‘s the message of going on the show? 

ALTER:  I think the message of going on the show, and if the subject comes up, what I will say the next time I go on the show, is that he does have to be called to account for this.  And he has work to do.  And he started that today, and he needs to continue it.  I think it would—

CARLSON:  What kind of work? 

ALTER:  Well, He needs to go and apologize to those young women directly. 

CARLSON:  That‘s enough?

ALTER:  I don‘t know what‘s enough.  I would we could argue about the work that he has to do.  But what he said to them was just wrong and racist, and he needs to be called to account for that.  The question is whether he deserves the professional death penalty for it and I don‘t believe he does. 

CARLSON:  Well, he is an older man who is extremely rich, so nobody‘s dying here. 

ALTER:  Again, the question is, is it the end of his career.  Other people, they have seen—

CARLSON:  It was the end of George Allen‘s career and nobody cared. 

You know what I mean?  Nobody cared.

(CROSS TALK)

ALTER:  The George Allen comparison is facetious. 

(CROSS TALK)

ALTER:  I just said what Imus said is racist.  You said that there was a double standard.

(CROSS TALK)

ALTER:  Voting for them is not the same thing.  That‘s a complicated judgment.  The question is, should people have had to have boycott appearing with George Allen if they were politicians.  I didn‘t call for that.  I didn‘t say any Republican should be ashamed of going down and campaigning for George Allen.  You didn‘t hear me say that or anybody else.

CARLSON:  I did hear people say that, but OK—Richard, do you want to jump in here?

COHEN:  I don‘t see it as saying—I‘m not asking Jonathan to organize a boycott, I mean just saying that if he is asked to go on the show, he has to decide for himself whether or not he is going to support Don Imus or not support Don Imus.  It‘s as simple as that.  I don‘t want Don Imus fired. 

ALTER:  It‘s the same thing.  None of us go on, Richard, the show dies. 

COHEN:  It‘s not none of us.

ALTER:  It‘s NBC, “Newsweek,” all of the senators—

(CROSS TALK)

COHEN:  As an individual, no.  Don‘t ask anybody to follow you.  As an individual, would you or would you not go on the show?  Will you say, I can‘t be associated with it?

ALTER:  I will go on the show, because I do not believe that even though I think what he said was disgusting and racist that I am responsible for everything that comes out of his mouth.  And I don‘t think it‘s a moral issue, as it applies to me.

COHEN:  Aren‘t you responsible for your own behavior.   

ALTER:  Yes, but I don‘t think it‘s a moral issue for me, as to whether I go on the show. 

COHEN:  Why isn‘t racism a moral issue for you? 

ALTER:  Racism is a moral issue, but what you‘re saying is that therefore that every purchase you make, everything you do, you are responsible for all the behavior of that other person. 

CARLSON:  I think we can all agree, in the words of Al Sharpton, what Imus said was ab-horrible.  And we can just leave it right at that.  Now the over of your magazine, “Newsweek,” has a long piece about Arnold Schwarzenegger, holding him up as this kind of leader of the new environmentalism, the carbon cutter.  Meanwhile, the “Washington Post,” in this morning‘s edition, front page story about the costs of cutting carbon in Europe.

And one of the many points it makes, factories closing, people out of work, the average German homeowner now pays an electricity bill that‘s 25 percent higher since these new curbs have come into play.  That may be worth it; it may not be.  But would you agree that the proponents of fighting global warming have undersold the economic costs of it, that it‘s going to be expensive, and we should be honest about that? 

ALTER:  Well, I think you have to look at it in a short term/long term basis.  Obviously, short term, there will be more costs.  But long term you‘ve got the creation of a lot of new green industries, and there‘s a lot of profit potential, not to mention what good is it to save money if your home is flooded because the sea levels are rising, to the extent they are. 

In other words, this is not a small issue.  Yes, might it cost us more, even significantly more?  Yes, sure, but you have to weigh that against the downside potential. 

CARLSON:  There‘s a religious quality here though. 

COHEN:  Tucker, it‘s costing us plenty now; the virtual epidemic in asthma, pollution, all the costs that are associated with global warming.  That‘s a real cost now.  There are going to be transition costs.  There‘s no question about it.  But, in the long run, I think we are all going to be better off. 

CARLSON:  OK, we‘ll see how high those are.  It will be interesting.  Mitt Romney got out the other day and declared, I have been a life-long hunter.  I have shot a lot of things.  In fact, you know what, let‘s juts put it up on the screen.  Here‘s what Mitt Romney said the other day about his hunting career: “The report that I only hunted twice is incorrect.  I‘ve hunted small game numerous times, as a young man and as an adult.  I‘m by no means a big game hunter.  I‘m more Jed Clampett than Teddy Roosevelt.”

Pretty good line.  However, the A.P. went and checked.  It turns out Mitt Romney has never had a hunting license in any of the four states in which he has lived.  Is this a big deal? 

ALTER:  I actually think it is a big deal.  Because it is one of those issues that it is not going to dominate the news this week, but you are going to hear about it over the course of this campaign, particularly in Republican primaries this will hurt him.  Will it be fatal to his campaign?  No.  But it is the kind of thing that people remember.  And it is not going to help. 

CARLSON:  Is this a problem in your neighborhood in Manhattan? 

COHEN:  Well, that is what I have in common with Mitt Romney.  I don‘t have a hunting license.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN:  . in any of the states where I have lived.  But I want to say, this is becoming a problem for him because he is starting to become stereotyped.  This is what happened to Al Gore when he became stereotyped as the exaggerator.  And it didn‘t matter after that he had reasons for saying what he did.  It was too late.

Mitt Romney is becoming the guy who just makes it up on the spot, who doesn‘t necessarily telling the literal truth, who is changing his positions and it is going to be—slowly, it is going to erode his credibility. 

CARLSON:  To Al Franken, $1.3 million, he is running for Senate against Norm Coleman in Minnesota, $1.3 million he has raised to Coleman, sitting senator‘s  $1.5 million more money in the first quarter of this year.  Interesting, he has raised more money in his campaign than Mary Landrieu, a sitting U.S. senator who is in trouble, a Democrat from Louisiana. 

He has raised that money, though, from a lot of Hollywood actors, a lot of famous liberals that people love to hate, Barbra Streisand among them, Meryl Streep, et cetera.  Is he real and does his Hollywood—the taint of Hollywood hurt Al Franken? 

ALTER:  No and no.  He is—yes and no.  He is very real.  He is going to be a very serious candidate.  I will say he will be the favorite to win that Senate seat.  He is quite popular in Minnesota.  They have done polls.  He obviously has great name recognition.  And he has a lot of serious things to say. 

They also have a tradition in that state of electing non-politicians like Jesse Ventura.

CARLSON:  Yes.  How did that work out?

ALTER:  Guy got elected governor of Minnesota. 

CARLSON:  Right.  I mean, how hated is Bush that Al Franken looks as -

if Jonathan is right, and I believe he is actually, is the favorite to beat the sitting U.S. senator.

COHEN:  Bush is really hated, especially in Minnesota.  But Al—you know, I said to him once, are you serious about this?  I mean, to me, to give up your privacy, to give up a life.

CARLSON:  Yes.

COHEN:  . and all the money he is making and to move back to Minnesota and spend the winter there, that is a serious, serious commitment. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

COHEN:  This guy cares passionately about what he is doing.  He wants to be a United States senator.  I take him very seriously.

CARLSON:  And he is deadly—I have talked to him about it at great lengths.  He is deadly serious about it and very, very unfunny. 

ALTER:  And Coleman—Norm Coleman is out of step if you look—again, if you just look at polls, with where a lot of Minnesota voters are. 

CARLSON:  I believe that. 

ALTER:  He is vulnerable.

CARLSON:  I believe that.  A lot of them are.  Thank you both, very much.  Appreciate it. 

ALTER:  Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON:  The British sailors released by Iran got their parting gifts from their Iranian captors and a hero‘s welcome back to the United Kingdom.  Should they be allowed to sell their personal stories to newspapers? 

Before you say, hell, no, we have got both sides of that issue.

And the talk continues about Don Imus‘ attack on the Rutgers women‘s basketball team.  Up next, a very special guest, a man unafraid of everything but silence.  The great Max Kellerman weighs in.  This is MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Should the British troops held hostage in Iran be allowed to sell their story to the press?  The British government first said yes, but has since changed its mind and now says no.  We will get an outside opinion on that.  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  There are marketable job skills that can be quantified.  The board certification to perform surgery, for instance, or the ability to type 60 words a minute or a degree in cosmetology.  And then there‘s the man whose job, whose skill, whose life-affirming avocation is to argue, to defend the indefensible, to take the counterpoint no matter what that point is.  Some call his skills annoying, obnoxious even.  We call them priceless.  We call him “The Outsider.” Making his triumphant return to Secaucus, New Jersey, ESPN Radio and HBO Boxing host Max Kellerman.

Max, welcome.

MAX KELLERMAN, “THE OUTSIDER”:  By the way, what you said is true but only after I failed out of cosmetology school.  Before that I was on my way to a marketable.

CARLSON:  And you did wonders with eyebrows too, that‘s what I—I‘m just—you know, I‘m totally up in the air about Don Imus.  I always have a lot of sympathy for people who misspeak or say something ugly but it doesn‘t reflect how they really feel.  It doesn‘t reflect their life‘s work.  I had a lot of sympathy for Howard Cosell.  I have—you know what I mean?   I—Robert—Senator Robert Byrd used the N-word on TV a couple of years ago.  I felt sorry for him.  He is an old man who misspoke.  And I think Imus is an old man who misspoke. 

But other people didn‘t.  And they pounded on them and they him them no quarter at all.  And they are extending all sorts of benefits of every doubt to Don Imus.  Why is that? 

KELLERMAN:  Why they are extending benefits of the doubt? 

CARLSON:  Yes.

KELLERMAN:  Well, he can label himself a comedian.  In this country, if you label yourself a comedian, you can say—fact, I‘m a comedian from now on.  Because now I can say anything I want. 

If you are not a comedian, you can‘t.  But there is rule you cannot violate.  You can offend in this country if you are funny and/or there is a deeper, socially redeeming point that you are making.  Either/or.  And when Don Imus says that he is sorry for going too far, he means it. 

But what he—but, you know, he is genuine in that apology.  But it is because he was neither funny nor had a deeper, you know, sociological point to make. 

CARLSON:  Well, no, he certainly—I agree with that, but if you are a pompous self-righteous liberal, and sadly there are many in the media who regularly goes on Don Imus, and you are one of the people who just pounded on George Allen for using “macaca,” a word even George Allen didn‘t understand when he used it, I don‘t think you ought to be allowed to go on Imus again. 

KELLERMAN:  Well, I don‘t know if people are really sure what they are offended about in terms of what Imus said.  He said “nappy-headed hoes,” was the term.  Now obviously “hoes” is colloquial—I mean, whether people like it or not, in the street it is slang for—and Imus is not from the street and therefore he is doing with quotes around it. 

You know, for female, you know, and there are various words that are slang for male that are even more offensive.  But “nappy-headed” is really, I think—I don‘t think it is the sexism so much as the implied racism.  So the fact that “nappy-headed” is some—it is an African characteristic and considered therefore ugly.  It is not European.

And the fact is, we live in a, you know, white Anglo-Saxon plurality.  You know, my people, Tucker, are a hairy people, it seems to me.  And if I were to walk around without my shirt on, and I had hair on my back, in the Ukraine—and I don‘t yet, it is coming, but not yet. 

But you know, in the Ukraine, maybe once that was considered attractive, but I could expect ridicule about that now.  That is just the way it is.  Now if the issue is that people are offended because black is beautiful and his comment disparages all kind of aesthetic other than the European white Anglo-Saxon Protestant aesthetic, OK. 

But I don‘t even—I‘m not sure that people even really.

CARLSON:  No, it is just an ugly comment.

KELLERMAN:  . are thinking that deeply about it.

CARLSON:  And I‘m—again, I‘m with Al Sharpton.  It was “ab-horrible.” And quickly, tell me, British sailors who collaborated with the Iranians the day they got there who were complete cowards, sniveling cowards, now trying to cash in. 

They are not going to be allowed to, says the British government.  I agree with that.  They should not be allowed to cash in on their 13-day.

KELLERMAN:  What is the most underpaid profession?  It is not teachers.  I think we—teachers are not the most underpaid.

CARLSON:  I agree.

KELLERMAN:  It is non-mercenary soldiers, I would say, are probably the most underpaid profession in the world.  So let‘s see what happened here.  The hostages are alive.  The British government is able to spin a P.R. disaster, perhaps, if the Ministry Defense would let them.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Right. 

KELLERMAN:  And the soldiers get paid.  Boy, that‘s terrible.  And for all of this?

CARLSON:  Because you are rewarding dishonorable behavior. 

KELLERMAN:  Well, I don‘t know.  You know, were the Americans in Vietnam who stood up to torture heroes?

CARLSON:  Yes.  After having their arms broken and spending years in tiger cages, these guys were held for 13 days.

KELLERMAN:  Well, aren‘t you diminishing their heroism if you turn it into a zero-sum game and say either you are heroes or you are cowards? 

CARLSON:  No.  I‘m saying.

KELLERMAN:  If you make the standard that the British soldiers were behaving as normal people would behave under those circumstances, then the American behavior was truly heroic. 

CARLSON:  I think it was.  I think it was.  John.

KELLERMAN:  But that necessarily doesn‘t mean that they were cowards. 

CARLSON:  Does—John McCain has based an entire political life on his heroism.  I‘m just. 

KELLERMAN:  Pro-America, why aren‘t you more pro-America?

CARLSON:  Max Kellerman, I am pro-you.  I hope you will come back.

KELLERMAN:  I would love to. 

CARLSON:  Elizabeth Edwards says she won‘t let her kids go near a man she calls, quote, “a rabid Republican.” Which foaming-at-the-mouth member of the Republican Party is she talking about?  Willie Geist, who is L.A.  today, will be back in a second to tell us.  You are watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  As temperatures across the Eastern Seaboard dipped into a winter-like levels this week, the smartest members of our staff split for L.A. from where he joins us now, Willie Geist.  

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Tucker, I heard you were coming to town, so I caught the first flight out to L.A.  Good to see you, on remote.  Did I just see Max Kellerman on our show?

CARLSON:  Yes, you did. 

GEIST:  Do my eyes deceive me?  Boy, I think he shaped up the beard just for the comeback.  It looks really good.

CARLSON:  He is looking even more complex. 

GEIST:  Yes.  Exactly.  Looking very complex.  Tucker, it is an important day.  It is April 9th, and as you know, two really of the great Americans were born on this date.  Hugh Hefner and Congressman Joe Scarborough.  Hugh Hefner is 81 and Joe Scarborough is—well, he doesn‘t age.  He is just Joe Scarborough, that is all.

They share the same birthday and a lot of other things, but we cannot repeat them on television, sadly. 

CARLSON:  He was—I think that Joe was in the same high school class actually.

GEIST:  As Hugh Hefner? 

CARLSON:  As Hugh Hefner, much better preserved.

GEIST:  Yes.  He has been to the mansion a few times.  And that is one thing I know about him.

Well, Tucker, in the true spirit of Los Angeles, let us start with some shallow meaningless celebrity news.  Tomorrow is the day, after months of legal wrangling, we will finally learn the identity of the father of the baby born last year to Anna Nicole Smith.

The results of a DNA test will be revealed in a Bahamian courtroom tomorrow afternoon.  Larry Birkhead is the odds-on favorite to be the dad.  And Howard K. Stern is still holding out his slim hope.  But keep your eye on the dark horse and self-proclaimed prince, Frederic von Anhalt.  He is Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s ninth husband and the man who claims little Dannielynn is his child.

Reports say the prince took a lie detector test which—the results of which will be revealed on one of the entertainment shows tomorrow. 

Now, Tucker, this guy is good.  I wouldn‘t count him out.  He was a masseur in his old life.  He is a prince, a self-proclaimed prince.  And if you remember Judge Larry Seidlin, that teary, teary ruling, he said, let‘s just give this kid a normal life, that is all I ask.

And what could be more normal than a life in Beverly Hills with Prince von Anhalt and Zsa Zsa Gabor?  Really, I think that is what is best for the child in this case, don‘t you?

CARLSON:  The whole thing, and the fact that it is going to be revealed on an entertainment show, you just—you could not make it up. 

GEIST:  Yes.  Well, his—the results will be—they are meaningless.  The polygraph test on “Entertainment Tonight,” I think it is.  But.

CARLSON:  But it is a fitting tribute for the life of Anna Nicole. 

GEIST:  It is.  It really is. 

Tucker, you will remember that last week, Kentucky Fried Chicken made Sanjaya an offer of a lifetime worth of the restaurant‘s “Famous Bowls” if he wore a bowl haircut on “American Idol.”  Sanjaya passed on that offer, but KFC is now raising the stakes.  In addition to the bottomless “Famous Bowls,” which are so gross I won‘t describe them on TV, KFC now says it will give Sanjaya $5,000 and a role in the next “Famous Bowls” commercial if he goes for the bowl cut this time around on “Idol.” 

Now, Tucker, you remember, it was the formal recommendation of this program that Sanjaya take the deal.  And I can‘t say it strongly enough this week, he has got to do it.  You do not know when you are going to capitalize on something like this because when you are, you know, singing at the opening of a batting cage in Fresno or something like that in a few years, you are going to wish you had the lifetime supply of the “Famous Bowls.” 

CARLSON:  Yes.  When you and I are doing commentary at the opening of the batting cage in Fresno, we will look up on the screen and there will be Sanjaya hosting “The Tonight Show.”

GEIST:  Yes, I know.

CARLSON:  This guy is the one star on “American Idol.” I‘m totally sold on that idea.  And I know that I‘m right.  He is 17.  Of course he can‘t sing, but neither can I.  I mean, you don‘t have to sing in order to succeed. 

GEIST:  You are right.  He is bulletproof.  And actually, I want to find that guy while I‘m out here, maybe that is what I could do.

CARLSON:  Yes.

GEIST:  I will hunt down Sanjaya.  I will let you know how he is.

Well, Tucker, I don‘t know what you did over the weekend, but this guy finished a 3,272-mile swim of the Amazon River.  Slovenian Martin Strel successfully avoided crocodiles, piranhas, sharks, and a mild heart attack to swim the length of the Amazon in just 66 days. 

He is the first person to ever do so.  The 52-year-old Strel has also completed swims of Yangtze, Danube and Mississippi rivers.  And, Tucker, I owe somebody 20 bucks because I said on this show a couple of months ago, I predicted death for him.  There is no other way to say it.  I predicted he was not going to make it.  And he made it with room to spare, apparently, so I‘m wrong. 

CARLSON:  And those little needle fish that.

GEIST:  Yes.

CARLSON:  The barbs that go into different body orifi? 

GEIST:  Yes.  We talked about those.  I guess he avoided those. 

CARLSON:  Apparently

GEIST:  He is not going to swim the Nile.  The Nile he will not swim, he calls it, quote, “a little creek.” So he is not going for the Nile.

Finally, Tucker, we all know Elizabeth Edwards is a pretty tough woman, but there is one person she apparently fears.  The man in her family‘s North Carolina neighborhood who she calls a quote, “rabid, rabid Republican.” Mrs. Edwards says she won‘t let her children near the man across the street because, among other things, he once chased people off of his property with a gun. 

The neighbor, named Monty Johnson, admits to being an active Republican.  He has posted a “go Rudy in 2008” poster on a fence just outside the Edwards‘ home.  He also has been openly critical of the Edwards 28,000 square foot home.  Of John Edwards, Johnson says, quote, “I thought he was supposed to be for the poor people, but does ever socialize with any poor people?  He doesn‘t speak to me.”

Now, Tucker, she has got it all wrong.  Good lady, but that is Neighborhood Watch, you want this guy in your neighborhood with the gun. 

CARLSON:  Well, of course, plus, it is North Carolina.  You ought to have guns.

GEIST:  Right.

CARLSON:  Willie Geist, in L.A.

GEIST:  All right.  Tucker.

CARLSON:  Good luck finding Sanjaya.

GEIST:  Thanks, I will look.

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  “HARDBALL” is next.  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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