updated 4/11/2007 11:30:04 AM ET 2007-04-11T15:30:04

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Eli Pariser, Ron Cass

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  The Don Imus controversy continued to boil unabated today, even in the wake of the radio show host‘s two-week suspension by MSNBC and CBS Radio.

Imus appeared on “The Today Show” this morning.  He continued to grovel and apologize for the slurs he made against the Rutgers women‘s basketball team last Wednesday on his show.  The conversation become contentious at times with host Matt Lauer.

Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”) 

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST:  Here‘s the problem, it seems, Don.  It‘s a little bit of—of here we go again.  This is not the first time you have crossed the line.  This isn‘t the first time that racially insensitive comments have been made by you or members of your staff.

There was an incident with Gwen Ifill, a highly regarded African-American journalist, who was referred to as a cleaning lady.  We heard about the...

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  No. 

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  You‘re not going to do that to me.

(CROSSTALK)

IMUS:  You are not going to cite that, Matt, and not give me an opportunity to respond to that.

LAUER:  Well, I will give you an opportunity in a second, but there have been other apologies in the past, and there have been pledges taken by you in the past to curb your behavior.  And, yet, here we are, different year, same problem. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Late this morning, the women of Rutgers basketball held an hour-long press conference.  Among the central themes echoed by head coach Vivian Stringer and her players, the pain of having their moment of athletic triumph obscured by the current controversy. 

Here are a few moments from that press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATHER ZURICH, RUTGERS BASKETBALL PLAYER:  But all of our accomplishments were lost.  Our moment was taken away, our moment to celebrate our success, our moment to realize how far we had come both on and off the court as young women.  We were stripped of this moment by the degrading comments made by Mr. Imus last Wednesday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  The team did agree to meet with Imus at some point in what they described as an undisclosed location.

Joining us now, columnist for “The Washington Post” Eugene Robinson and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

Welcome to you both.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Gene, did it strike you, as it struck me, that, before even meeting with the team, with whom Imus has not met yet, he goes and does this kind of ritual abasement before the throne of Al Sharpton?  Why is that? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  You know, I‘m not quite sure.  I think because Al Sharpton has a radio show now. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  And it‘s...

CARLSON:  But lots of people have radio shows.

ROBINSON:  Yes.  Yes, lots of people have radio shows.

CARLSON:  It‘s almost like a script you have to go...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  It is—it is odd. 

I did a column on it today.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  I do an Internet chat on Tuesdays.  And I—hundreds and hundreds of questions, and a number of people did ask, why Reverend Al?  Who appointed Reverend Sharpton as the kind of arbiter of what is offensive and what is not?

You know, that—so, that—that aside, though, it—I really did think the press conference by the—by the young woman was really quite striking. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it was. 

ROBINSON:  And, you know, to see these really talented, accomplished young women, and contrast that with what Imus said about them...

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  ... it was—it was really quite something.

CARLSON:  Especially since they didn‘t do anything. 

ROBINSON:  No.  They didn‘t do anything.  They just...

CARLSON:  I mean, it‘s not like—you know what I mean?  Of all the people you could beat up on, why them? 

CARLSON:  I‘m wondering, Pat, what you thought.  You know Imus.  You go on the show...

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ... and have for a while.

What did you make of the spectacle of Imus, looking much older than I have ever seen him look, yesterday going on Sharpton‘s show, and saying:  I have held the hand of a child who died of sickle-cell anemia?

Can you grovel too much? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, I think the—look, all of us have committed sins.

CARLSON:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  But I don‘t think any of us really needs go to Al Sharpton for apologies and for absolution, quite frankly.  So, I don‘t think I would have agreed with him going on Al Sharpton‘s program. 

But, look, let me say this.  Don Imus, I would consider a friend of mine.  He made a foolish comment, a nasty comment, an ugly comment.  He has apologized.  To me, enough is enough.

And I think far worse, I see, Tucker, than he and Bernie making this comment, offhanded comment, and moving on, is what you see as this mob atmosphere that is trying to impose capital punishment upon his career for, admittedly, a serious offense.

And this idea, frankly, is the one that I really find more offensive than anything else.  I think there‘s much more those of us in our profession have to fear from an inquisition which burns people, whether it‘s Marlon Brando or even—you know, or Andy Rooney, or people like that.  When they do something and apologize, it seems to me, there ought to be a measure of forgiveness and move on. 

But, for heaven‘s sakes, to continue this thing for a full week is, to me, beyond the pale.

CARLSON:  Boy, I see it just the opposite.  I mean, I agree that there are people who are clearly in the business of, you know, controversies like this.  And they profit from it, obviously.

But I see, actually, Imus having more defenders really than, I don‘t know, Howard Cosell, or name somebody who is viewed in the public making derogatory comments about a racial minority, insensitive, bigoted comments, and is just destroyed.

Imus has a lot of liberal defenders here.  And it seems to me a lot of them are defending him because they profit from their relationships with him.

ROBINSON:  That‘s a whole ‘nother side of the story, as...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, what a bunch of hypocrites.

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, look, I‘m not a fan of Imus.  I have never been on his show.  And I don‘t know the man.

But I—you know, this is—this comes in a context.  This is not the first, you know, racially insensitive, I guess would be the nice way to say it—but racist would be the way...

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  ... I would say it—remark...

CARLSON:  I would, too.

ROBINSON:  .. he has made...

CARLSON:  I would say it, too.

ROBINSON:  ... over—you know, over the years.  And he says he‘s not going to do it, and he does it again.  And he says he‘s not going to do it, and he does it again. 

So, it‘s—it‘s not as if this came out of the blue.  Now, I wrote about him this morning unflatteringly.  I did not call for him to be—to be fired, for two reasons, one, because I have been a journalist for 30 years.  And I believe objectionable speech should be refuted and shouted down and—and...

CARLSON:  I agree, yes.

ROBINSON:  ... and contested, but not squelched.  I don‘t like squelching.

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  It would kind of suicidal for a columnist who writes things that would be...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  But that is one reason.

The other reason is that I don‘t—I don‘t want Don Imus to come out of this a martyr, you know, to come out of this as—as some sort of...

BUCHANAN:  But, you know...

ROBINSON:  ... a symbol of a—you know, some poor victim who was destroyed by political correctness. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But he can‘t, though, because he has already admitted—I mean, nobody has attacked Don Imus...

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ... more than he has attacked himself. 

And I wonder, Pat.  I mean, you have written controversial things. 

And, every time...

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ... I have noticed, you have stood up and said, this is what I believe, like it or not.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  You have never, that I have witnessed, groveled in front of everybody.  And I wonder, if you are as rich as Don Imus is and as old as he is, like, what‘s the point?  Is it really—is your job really that important?

BUCHANAN:  Well, look—I mean, look, he obviously feels badly about this.

CARLSON:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  I think the guy—I mean, he‘s genuinely—it sounds very genuine to me.

BUCHANAN:  But let me take Gene‘s word there, racist. 

To me, a racist is someone who hates black people.  Now, these—they do the Nagin thing, the Ray Nagin thing.  They do the Cardinal Egan thing.  They do the Jerry Falwell thing on there.  I don‘t see hatred here.

And, besides that, let me say this.  There‘s nobody on radio, Tucker, who has done more for good causes, whether it‘s raising the death penalty, for guys killed in Vietnam, or that hospital he‘s building down there in Texas, or the Imus ranch, or all these things.  He raises hundreds of millions of dollars.  I mean, the fellow...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But he never stops talking about it, though. 

BUCHANAN:  But—OK.

CARLSON:  Are you supposed to—I mean...

BUCHANAN:  Well, that‘s—well, the lord says—yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Does charity mean something if you are constantly using it as a cudgel to beat your enemies with it?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: “I‘m better than you.  I give money to charity.”

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, now—see, I don‘t think—he—do you know any other radio show host who raises more? 

Look, I mean, he—the fellow he raised—he supported down there in Tennessee for the United States Senate, would a racist do that?  Harold Ford, he was working as hard for that guy as he was for Santorum, as he was for Lieberman. 

To me, see, this is—maybe we disagree.  I do believe an individual who is a racist is someone who hates black folks.  And I don‘t, for a second, believe that about him.  I don‘t believe it about any of those folks on the Imus program. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  You know, I think—I think you are making an absolute out of something that‘s more of a continuum, number one.

And, number two, you don‘t have to have on a sheet...

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  ... a Klan sheet to be a... 

BUCHANAN:  But you have to hate, don‘t you?

ROBINSON:  ... to be a racist.

BUCHANAN:  You have to hate.

ROBINSON:  Well, where do you draw the line between hatred and insensitivity?

I think it‘s pretty hateful..

BUCHANAN:  Well, it was insensitive.  I will go along with that.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  No, no, no, but I think it‘s pretty hateful to look at—you know, a bunch of accomplished, you know, attractive, talented young women, and the first thing that comes out of your mouth is nappy-headed hos. 

And where does that association come from?  Why do you feel you can say that about that team...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Let me ask you...

ROBINSON:  ... as opposed to the Tennessee team, for example?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Let me ask you...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Let me ask you.

Look, that term hos, I have never heard in the music on Imus‘ show.  But it is a constant in this hip-hop, rap stuff, and it is used about black women.  It is used in the ugliest, most derogatory, sexual way.  And I have never heard Reverend Jackson—maybe I missed it—or Sharpton say, shut those radio programs down that use that term constantly.  Get them off the air.

CARLSON:  Well, actually...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  The people who profit from those should be shut down. 

CARLSON:  Not to defend Sharpton, but I will say, because I happen to know this...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... Sharpton actually has come out and said that quite a bit. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  And as has Reverend Jackson.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Why is there not a campaign to get this stuff off the air, if we are trying to get Imus off the air for using it once at 6:30 in the morning in a foolish comment that just went...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, I think—personally, I think Imus has a whole history of saying things like this.

I‘m not defending Imus.  But I will say, I did think it was interesting that, here you have, you know, ACORN and Rainbow/PUSH, National Action Network, NAACP, you have all these civil rights organizations...

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ... making much more noise about this than about the fact that seven out of 10 kids are born out of wedlock, which, seems to me, an actual crisis that really does hurt people.  I wonder if this...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I‘m not defending this in any way.  It turned my stomach.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But is that a misallocation of energy?  I guess that‘s what my question is.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Tucker, you‘re right.  But, if they use that term—those

all of those organizations, they could shut these rappers down. 

That is where that word comes from, isn‘t it?  I mean, these guys—you didn‘t invent this on country and western.  It came off this hip-hop, rap stuff. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I was about to say, I don‘t...

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  I must say, I think that...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... the music sells, and it‘s not just to black people. 

I mean, white kids buy this crap.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Yes, exactly.

BUCHANAN:  Well, I mean, then you say it sells, and then...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... how do you condemn...

CARLSON:  Sorry.  I‘m being told we got to...

BUCHANAN:  OK.

CARLSON:  ... take a commercial break.

ROBINSON:  OK.  Mm-hmm. 

CARLSON:  We will be right back, though.  Have no fear. 

Barack Obama met David Letterman on TV last night and actually made some news.  Stay tuned for Senator Obama on being number one and on the idea of being number two.

President Bush addresses the war in Iraq and its funding by invoking 9/11.  How did the Congress respond to that?  And will we soon have a date certain withdrawal from Iraq?

The latest details are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  President Bush offers to meet with congressional Democrats about the showdown over Iraq and the spending bill.  The Democrats want a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.  The president says no dice.  Can they compromise? 

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  President Bush spoke to the issue of war funding and war financing today before the American Legion in Fairfax, Virginia.  Some of what he said was familiar.  He began the speech by talking about 9/11, this despite a recent Pentagon confirmation that Saddam was not, in fact, responsible for those attacks.

There were a couple of new items in the text, though.  First, the president says the Pentagon will have to borrow $1.6 billion from its other accounts to fund the troops if the Congress doesn‘t approve a new spending measure.  Then the president invited senators and congressmen of both parties to the White House next week for talks on the stalemate.

Where do today‘s speech and the opposition response leave the country?

Joining us once again, columnist for “The Washington Post” Eugene Robinson and MSNBC political analyst and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. 

Gene, here‘s the most interesting poll I have seen a while, AP/Ipsos: 

How do you feel about the Democrats‘ handling of Iraq?  Approve, 40 percent; disapprove, 57 percent.

Now, if you are the party that opposes the president, whose foreign policy has been a disaster...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... by everybody‘s account—I mean, nobody is in favor of it—and you‘re still only at 40 percent approval.  You‘re doing something wrong. 

ROBINSON:  Yes, I‘m not sure they know exactly what it is they are doing wrong.  I assume part of that is people who want them to be stronger in opposition to the war.  And the Democrats are kind of inching their way to that point, I guess.

CARLSON:  Do you think there are more people who want them, not just partisan Democrats, but more people in the country who want them to take a tougher stand on withdrawal or want them to ease up? 

ROBINSON:  I don‘t think people in the country know exactly what they want the Democrats to do, because people in the country are against the war.  They are for the troops.  And so the issue that this battle is being fought on, do you approve money for the troops, if it‘s framed that way, it‘s a very difficult issue for the Democrats. 

CARLSON:  I think most are where I am, which is opposed to the war, angry at Bush for starting it, but really afraid of defeat.  Here‘s the president‘s line today, Pat.  He said this the other day.  I think this is an amazing argument: “if Congress doesn‘t fund the troops,” he says, doesn‘t get this bill passed, this emergence supplemental, “it will cause the troops to stay in Iraq longer.” 

That‘s a pretty brassy thing for the president, who sent them there in the first place, to argue?  Don‘t you think, even if it‘s true?

BUCHANAN:  Well, what he is saying is we can‘t rotate them and move new troops in.  But let me say, look, I agree with you all that—look, the country wants to get out of the war.  It wants to support the troops.  And it doesn‘t want to lose the war.  It wants things that are contradictory.  The president is going to win this battle hands down and you can sense it, and he knows it. 

I mean, Carl Levin said on Sunday, Barack Obama has said, Schumer has said the president is going get his money, his 100 billion dollars, no strings attached.  And so the president is rubbing their noses in it now.  Tucker, if the Democrats were smart, they would do what Levin and some of the others guys say, get it over with and get the money out there, because they are going to have to approve it.  They can‘t defund the troops.

CARLSON:  I think you‘re absolutely right, and then just stand back and let what happens happen, and the political consequences -- 

BUCHANAN:  They made their point.

CARLSON:  Rudy Giuliani cuts a swathe through the south and appears to make friends everywhere he goes.  Stick around for the latest indication that America‘s mayor may be Dixie‘s Republican nominee for president?  Wouldn‘t that be amazing.

And Barack Obama looked right at home on David Letterman‘s show last night.  He got some laughs and made at least one significant political statement.  The highlights ahead.  This is MSNBC, America‘s most impressive cable news network.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST:  Maybe he‘ll be the presidential candidate and Hillary might the vice president, maybe the reverse of that.  Does any of that occur at this point? 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS:  You don‘t run for second.  I don‘t believe in that.

LETTERMAN:  But this would be a powerful ticket.  Undeniably, that would be a powerful ticket.

OBAMA:  Which order are we talking about? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  We know for certain two things about Barack Obama that we have suspected for a while now: he‘s a great late night talk show guest and he doesn‘t currently have any desire to run as anybody‘s vice president.  Breaking News! 

He indicated all of this on David Letterman last night.  We also learned late Monday that Obama has chosen not to participate in Democratic presidential debate to be aired on Fox News.  He joins Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in that snub, and effectively wiping out that debate.  Here to help us read today‘s Obameter, we welcome back Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post,” and Pat Buchanan of MSNBC. 

Gene, it seems to me there decision not to participate in the Fox debate, I‘m not sure what the Democrats get out of that? 

ROBINSON:  They get to skip a debate. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

ROBINSON:  Beyond that, I can see how a lot of people would have issues with Fox News.  I have some issues with Fox News.  On the other hand, a debate is just a debate. 

CARLSON:  And the Congressional Black Caucus is backing those debates. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly, the CBC is in there.  So, you know, that kind of leaves them hanging out there without the major candidates there. 

CARLSON:  So it seems to me the lesson is --  I know I‘m probably reading too much into this, but maybe not.  It seems to me a power shift.  All of a sudden, you have the blogger community, online people, more powerful than the Congressional Black Caucus, which is big and full of a lot of committee chairman, and it‘s a big deal in the Democratic party, but it‘s not as powerful as MoveOn.org. 

BUCHANAN:  Barack Obama‘s move makes sense to me.  Edwards dropped out earlier, didn‘t he?  He dropped out.  He doesn‘t want to debate, given his position.  He is right behind the front runner.  He is gaining.  He‘s getting enormous attention.  A debate is a risk.  It‘s not a big risk for him, but it‘s a risk.  It brings him with Dodd and all these other guys.  He wants to stay up there.  It‘s him versus Hillary.  Strictly strategy, I think he did the right thing.

CARLSON:  Gene, very quickly, which ticket do you think, hypothetically, would do better, Hillary/Obama or Obama/Hillary? 

ROBINSON:  No idea, Obama/Hillary, I would think. 

BUCHANAN:  I would say the opposite. 

CARLSON:  And she would work from day one to undermine him.

BUCHANAN:  I would say the opposite.  I think the opposite because I just don‘t know if Obama might be too far left for the country, frankly.  And I think Hillary has still got a foot somewhere in the center, and somewhere with Bill.  And Obama would give the energy and excitement at the bottom of the ticket.  I think we are going to have to wait down the road to see Obama in these heads-to-heads against some of these Republicans like Rudy.  But I would guess, if I had to say, I would say Hillary/Obama. 

ROBINSON:  I think likability.  You know, he connects with people in a way she doesn‘t.

CARLSON:  I think so at this point.  As I heard someone say the other day, she needs more spice; he needs more seasoning.  Pretty good line.  Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards will all be in the same place tonight.  The Democratic race turns to the Internet.  We‘ll be joined by the moderator of that.  This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Things look bad for the Republican party in the race for the 2008 presidency.  Democrats have raised more campaign cash than Republicans for the first time in recorded history, at least in my lifetime.  And polls indicate that Republican voters aren‘t all that impressed by their choices so far, that is with the possible exception of Rudy Giuliani.

The latest Gallup poll shows Mr. Giuliani with a whopping lead over everyone else, 22 points over his closest rival, John McCain.  That‘s a bump of seven points over the last month.  Those of you holding your breath, waiting for the Giuliani balloon to deflate, probably blue in the face at this point.  Will you die before he drops?  That‘s the question. 

Joining us now to answer Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and Pat Buchanan of MSNBC.  Pat, here are the actual numbers.  Here‘s the Gallup poll.  This is Republican likely voters, who do you prefer, Giuliani 38, McCain 16, Gingrich 10, Thompson 10, poor Mitt Romney, America‘s favorite duck hunter, at six. 

BUCHANAN:  The rifleman.

CARLSON:  The rifleman, exactly.  But the real numbers—now, again, this is a national poll and it‘s of questionable relevance.  But I think it‘s dramatic enough that it says something; 38-16 Giuliani.  When are Republican primary voters going to realize Giuliani is liberal and desert him, like we keep hearing? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think down the road they are, but the key point in there is the continuing decline of John McCain, despite the fact that some of the Rudy stuff has come out.  The “New York Post” has been all over his case on the personal stuff.  But the continuing decline down to 16 percent for McCain, I think. is very, very serious.  On Wednesday, Tucker, he‘s going to come out, apparently he‘s going to go very hardcore on the war in Vietnam—excuse me, we did it again. 

He‘s going to go all out for victory, you know.  I still think this thing is astonishing.  I mean, what‘s astonishing to me is the way first Barack Obama is holding up and the way Rudy is holding up.  I understand Barack, because I think he is in the mainstream of the Democratic party.  So is Rudy in the mainstream of the Democratic party.  I don‘t know why he‘s holding up.

CARLSON:  Actually, he is more liberal than Howard Dean.  Dean‘s against gun control.  I wonder if this actually isn‘t pretty good news John McCain.  This is an incredibly long process.  The public, certainly the press, are fickle.  For McCain to be riding there in a comfortable second, looking a little less comfortable lately though.  But still waiting for Giuliani to implode, is that a terrible place to be a year out? 

ROBINSON:  You know, I don‘t think anybody should be comfortable in the Republican field at this point, because whenever anyone new is mentioned, they immediately get 10 percent.  You know, Tucker Carlson, 10 percent.

CARLSON:  I‘m trying.  I‘m working on it.

ROBINSON:  Pat would get 30 if he announced tomorrow. 

BUCHANAN:  That was a rarity in those—

CARLSON:  I was going to say, he actually came pretty close, as I remember.

ROBINSON:  It seems to me the Republicans, you know, are looking for the candidate of their dreams.  They haven‘t found him yet, probably, but, you know, Rudy is doing better than anybody else so far. 

CARLSON:  It‘s unbelievable.  What is New York State—has just moved February 5th, moved its primary up to February 5th

BUCHANAN:  It‘s a good move for Hillary.  This reason, she‘s going to sweep New York.  I think she will win that, in case she loses some other sate.  On the big February 5th, she comes in with a big block.

CARLSON:  And that‘s presumably why the state moved it up.

BUCHANAN:  And you have California in there.  Is California winner take all? 

ROBINSON:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  They used to be winner take all.  I don‘t know if they are. 

I don‘t know if they changed it.  But that‘s a smart move for Hillary. 

Hillary‘s team, they knows what they are doing, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  It is just going to be over so early, it seems to me, Gene, that you could have—I mean, should it be over this early?  Isn‘t the whole idea you have time to watch each of the candidates under fire, in an election, and then make your decision?  There‘s not time for that.

BUCHANAN:  It‘s a weird election cycle, because, you know, we think of this as being a year and a half ahead of when we should get serious about who is going to be president.  The time is now, and it is all going to happen before that first bunch of primaries. 

BUCHANAN:  You know, Tucker, it‘s not that much earlier.  It really is not.  I mean, OK, it‘s February 5th, instead of March 15th.  I mean, it‘s six weeks, but six weeks—Even in six days, Nixon—we knew we were going to win it in February.  You know, he wins New Hampshire, and Bob Dole, frankly, had won in 1996 by March 15th and stuff. 

So what you have got here is you‘ve got that long spring and the long summer and the fall to work on these guys for eight months.  That‘s why, by election time, all their negatives are up around in the 40‘s. 

CARLSON:  Tonight, a number of the candidates, I would say all of the significant candidates on the Democrats side are appearing on an online town hall meeting, MoveOn.org.  We‘re going to speak to Eli Pariser, the executive director of it in just a minute. 

But it‘s just another example, for good or bad, of the remarkable power of the bloggers, basically.  And I wonder if you think, Gene, as a political watcher, if this is a good thing for the Democratic party or not? 

ROBINSON:  On balance, I think it probably is.  I mean, it brings negatives with it, but if it motivates people and gets them involved in the process, that‘s a good thing for the party.  The problem, of course, is does it push the party too far to the left, to take positions that then will ill serve the party in the general election.  But if you get more people involved, I think that‘s good. 

BUCHANAN:  It‘s like the direct mail.  Remember after the Goldwater campaign and those huge mailing lists and things.  And Barack Obama‘s got 100,000 names.  These true believers out there, they tend to pull candidates into 100 percent purity, which is where you want to be in the primary, or close to there.  When you get to the general, as Nixon said, you start running to the center. 

So they‘re pulling—but they also, they deliver votes.  You‘re talking about numbers of people, energetic workers.  You‘re talking about enthusiasm and fire in the campaign, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire, volunteers going in.  Those early state in North, South Carolina are going to be even more important than they were. 

CARLSON:  God, I just have to say, Howard Dean would be president if that were decisive though.  In other words, if small groups of incredibly involved, intense political activists got to make the choice, wouldn‘t Dean be in the White House? 

ROBINSON:  No, but that‘s in addition to whatever sort of mainstream support you get.  I mean, I think it‘s good to have, in addition to the rest of it.  If you are sitting on 25 million dollars and you‘re doing pretty well in the polls, and you have that too.  That‘s good.   

BUCHANAN:  Tucker, he got into a gunfight with Gephardt and they killed each other, right out there in Iowa, three weeks before the caucus. 

CARLSON:  I think his support obscured the fact, at least to the press traveling with him—

BUCHANAN:  Well, everybody started piling on him too.

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  You could sort of overlook the fact that, you know, he‘s not a genius and he‘s not a great candidate.  I mean, I could think of 20 Democrats, off the top of my head, who are better.  Thank you both very much.  I appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Thank you again, thank you.

Well, as promised, joining me now, the executive direct or of moveon.org, the political action committee, Eli Pariser. 

Eli, thanks for coming on. 

ELI PARISER, EXECUTIVE MOVEON.ORG:  Good afternoon.  Thanks for having me on. 

CARLSON:  Well, you just heard Eugene Robinson‘s concern, which I think is one shared by many people, and many Democrats for that matter, that the online community, such as it is, drags the candidates to a place so far left they can‘t not compete in a general election. 

PARISER:  Yes, I mean, honestly, I don‘t know what they are talking about.  Because when you look at the issues.  When you look at Iraq and wanting to get out of the war Iraq, that is not a far left issue at this point.  That is a majoritarian issue, Republicans, Independents, and Democrats agree, you know, want to get out of the war in Iraq. 

You know, when you look at health care for everybody or you look at doing something about our energy problems, energy independence, you know, these are not fringe issues, these are majority issues, and, you know, the only place that people think they are out of touch with America is Washington because Washington is in this weird bubble, so. 

CARLSON:  Well, but, wait second, I mean, you are right, of course. 

And everyone wants to get out of the Iraq.  The president says he wants to

bring the troops home from Iraq too.  So leaving Iraq is not the point or

not the question.  The question is when and how.  Your group and many on

the left have pushed Democrats to get behind a withdrawal date, a hard and

fast out by this date, and yet the leadership in the Democratic Party in

Congress has said no, bowing, presumably, to political reality.  So aren‘t

you are trying to push the party further left than it wants to go.

PARISER:  Well, I mean, to be clear.  What we want is an exit by the end of 2007.  That is more than what the Democratic Party has done.  And actually more in sync with where voters—you know, even if you look at the conservative top House districts that are going to be up in 2008, most voters, you know, they want a swift and responsible end to the war. 

And actually, while we are on that topic, let‘s talk about terminology for a second.  Because, you know, I call it a war but really it is an occupation.  And this is one of the key points that I think people obscure.  You know, this is an occupation and the question—you don‘t win or lose an occupation, you just—it is a question of how quickly you remove your troops. 

CARLSON:  Right.  I guess—I mean, occupation is of course a loaded term itself because it implies the presence is illegitimate or part of a colonial move... 

PARISER:  Well, no, it is just—it is saying that our troops are in someone else‘s country and they don‘t want us there and that is a fact.  I mean, if you ask most Iraqis, they, at this point—you know, they don‘t think that we are helping, they think that we are hurting.  And if you ask most Americans, they think the same thing, that President Bush is not listening. 

CARLSON:  Do you think there‘s any group, speaking of loaded questions, in Democratic politics right now more powerful than yours?  I mean, I noticed that you all were able to get the Democratic candidates in one place, FOX News, one of the highest-rated news networks, is not. 

PARISER:  Well, that is because FOX News is a right-wing smear operation.  Democrats shouldn‘t be legitimizing it as a neutral news source.  We don‘t pretend to be neutral.  We have a progressive point of view. 

But, you know, look, there are lots of groups on the progressive side of things, you know, that are more powerful than we are.  You know, what we are doing tonight is we are trying to say, OK, there is all of the candidates are focused on the money, they are focused on the pundits.  We want to make sure that real people get a chance to weigh in on this debate too, and especially on this critical issue of Iraq. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Well, good.  I‘m actually going to—I‘m going to tune in online.  Let me ask you quickly though a question that has been bothering me for the past couple of weeks.

PARISER:  All right.

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton announces in public in The New York Times that she plans, if elected president, to leave large numbers of troops in Iraq to protect, as she put it, our strategic interest there, including oil.  This is not even close to your program, that is I think what you would ordinarily describe as right-wing or Bush-like even.  And yet I haven‘t seen you all land on her.  Why?

PARISER:  Well, I think you will—I mean, you should watch tonight. 

It should be pretty interesting. 

CARLSON:  Yes—but has moveon.org issued statement after statement attacking her for deviating from your position so dramatically on Iraq? 

PARISER:  If you talk to her office, Tucker, you will hear that they have gotten thousands and thousands and thousands of phone calls from New Yorkers who are fed up about—you know, about her position on Iraq.  And that is true of lots of Democrats.  I mean, we have been pushing and pushing on behalf of, you know, most Americans who want a quick to the war. 

And so I don‘t think it is—you know, we have been pushing Democrats and Republicans and whoever.  We are an independent group.  And Hillary Clinton too. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Eli Pariser, moveon.org, thanks a lot for coming on. 

PARISER:  All right.  Thanks for having me. 

CARLSON:  Our long television nightmare appears to be nearing its end.  The results in and the father of Anna Nicole Smith‘s baby is going to be revealed and discussed in mere moments.  So stay tuned.  And you can barely wait. 

And Governor Green himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, appears on MTV to pimp his ride.  Of course, it was all environmentally conscious pimping of course.  If not, Willie Geist will be along to expose automotive hypocrisy.  This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Anna Nicole Smith died more than two months ago, leaving behind her infant child, Dannielynn.  The question has lingered though as to the child‘s father.  In a circus like few others in tabloid news history, and there have been a few, America heard paternity claims from her ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead; her lawyer and quasi-husband, Howard K.  Stern; and even Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s ninth husband, quote, “Prinz” Frederic von Anhalt. 

This afternoon the results of that inquiry were revealed in the Bahamas and the answer is Larry Birkhead.  He received an ovation from the assembled gawkers when he emerged from the courthouse to say, I told you so, about an hour ago.  Joining me now to discuss the result is the dean emeritus of Boston University Law School and chairman of the Center for the Rule of Law, Ron Cass.  Dean Cass recently filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Marshall family.

Mr. Cass, thanks for coming on. 

RON CASS, BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW:  Well, I‘m delighted to be here. 

CARLSON:  Now Larry Birkhead looked like he won the lotto when he came out there.  And I have to believe it was out of fatherly love from his child, but does he get money from this?

CASS:  He doesn‘t get money until he sells the story.  There is no money in the case for him.  This case really was decided in the courts in Texas.  They heard evidence for six months.  They heard every witness.  They took their time.  They unanimously said J. Howard Marshall, when he wrote his will, knew what he was doing.  He didn‘t want to give the money to Anna Nicole Smith.  He didn‘t do it.  She doesn‘t get anything.  Her estate doesn‘t get anything.  The child doesn‘t get anything.  And Larry Birkhead doesn‘t get anything.

CARLSON:  So there is no way they can get their hands on this money? 

How much are we talking about?  How much money is there?

CASS:  Well, the judgment in California, one court said she could get $80 million.  And that was over turned over by the 9th Circuit, said she gets nothing.  That is where it is going to wind up, it is going to wind up at nothing.  But it has been dragging a long time to get there. 

CARLSON:  So there are all of these lawyers, presumably, and I would imagine lots of creditors.  I mean, one assumes Anna Nicole Smith was living on the promise of this great payoff.  So who pays—where does all of this money come from?  Who pays the lawyers and.

CASS:  Well, the child is going to wind up with a lot of debt out of this.  And there will be a lot of fighting over who pays the debt.  Ultimately the lawyers on Anna Nicole‘s Side really aren‘t going to get out of this what they hoped they would. 

The good news on that is that one of the primary lawyers is the putative father, for a while, so he has got.

CARLSON:  Howard K. Stern.

CASS:  Yes.  Howard Stern.  So he has got a direct interest in this besides his interest in the child. 

CARLSON:  OK.  So he could actually try to get legal fees? 

CASS:  He could, I don‘t think it is going to go there.  At the end of the day, hopefully, Larry Birkhead is happy because he knows he has a child who he can love and raise.  That should be why he is happy.

CARLSON:  Does Howard K. Stern sort of sink beneath the waves of notoriety now? 

CASS:  Well, he has had a hard time going away.  This case has had a hard time going away.  We will have to see what happens. 

CARLSON:  But him specifically, I mean, I guess I want you to pledge here and now and before America that we will never see or hear of him again.

CASS:  I would love to make that pledge.  I don‘t think I can.

CARLSON:  That is not possible?  And is he an actual lawyer? 

CASS:  He is an actual lawyer.  He is not the lawyer who is doing the work in this case.  The hard work was being done by others.  But he had the hard work of standing up in front of the camera and looking sad at the appropriate moments. 

CARLSON:  So just to recap, Larry Birkhead has his daughter, and that is news to celebrate for him, but he does not have the promise of $80 million. 

CASS:  The daughter is not an heiress.  She is not a lottery ticket.  She is a little girl who lost her mother tragically.  And now hopefully she will be raised by somebody who loves her.  And hopefully that is why he has been pursuing this with the sort of interest he has. 

CARLSON:  Can you imagine this story with a normal ending?  What a blessing that would be. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  I can hardly believe it. 

CASS:  It would be the first normal thing this case has had. 

CARLSON:  It would be—it certainly would.  Ron Cass, thank you very much.  I appreciate that.

CASS:  My pleasure. 

CARLSON:  You are the first person to explain it in terms I could understand. 

What about the “prinz” in all of this?  While everyone else seemed to ignore the paternity claim made by Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s ninth husband, “Prinz” Frederic von Anhalt, Willie Geist boldly took up his case and he is not done fighting.  Willie joins us from L.A. next.  You are watching MSNBC, the preferred network of ersatz princes everywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The Anna Nicole Smith paternity test results were announced today in the Bahamas, but the fallout was felt primarily on the Left Coast of this country, Los Angeles.  And that is where we find our Anna Nicole correspondent, “Prinz” Willie Geist.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Tucker, it is days like this when you are grateful to be in this business.  You have a front row seat to history.  I will never forget where I was when I heard the words, “I told you so.” The iconic moment.  It was like Nixon getting on the helicopter with the arms raised.  I will never forget it.

CARLSON:  It really is.  It is the end of irony.  When will we laugh again, Willie?

GEIST:  Well, we can laugh again right now, because while Larry Birkhead celebrates that DNA victory, Prinz Frederic von Anhalt weeps quietly.  Yes, even royalty cries sometimes.  Prinz von Anhalt, who is Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s ninth husband, came out of the woodwork in February to claim that is the father of Anna Nicole Smith‘s baby. 

He says that he was Anna Nicole had a long affair that resulted in the birth of Dannielynn.  His royal highness appeared on MSNBC today before the announcement of the test results.  He said he would accept it if Birkhead turned out to be the father, but he was adamant that Howard K. Stern couldn‘t possibly be. 

Here is why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINZ FREDERIC VON ANHALT, CLAIMED PATERNITY OF ANNA NICOLE BABY:  She called me and said, look, you have a lover.  You know, what do you need me for?  She said, I never saw Howard naked.  She never went to bed with him.  So Howard Stern could not be the father of the girl. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Ew, that is gross.  But the bad news is she has seen that guy naked.  So that is kind of creepshow.

CARLSON:  I don‘t know, I mean, for—it makes me think more of her.  I have never seen Howard K. Stern naked, either.  And that is something I‘m pretty proud of.  Actually.

GEIST:  You don‘t want to.

CARLSON:  Actually, if she wouldn‘t sleep with Howard K. Stern, it honestly makes me like her more. 

GEIST:  Yes, you know, you know, I gave her credit for that.  Do you know, by the way, the prinz will be back on MSNBC tomorrow to react.  Did you know that the prinz title.

CARLSON:  Of course he will.

GEIST:  Of course he will.  The prinz title, it has nothing to do with being a prinz, it‘s P-R-I-N-Z, which was actually part of his name.  He switched the order, put the prinz at the front and made himself a prinz.  So boy, he has got guts.

CARLSON:  I have got to try that. 

GEIST:  I admire it.  Well, Tucker, it was not just the birthday of Hugh Hefner and Joe Scarborough, as we mentioned yesterday, it was the big 7-5 for Cheeta the chimp.  Cheeta is best known for his role in the early Tarzan movies.  His career would of course later crumble, thanks to a combination of booze, drugs, and fast women. 

Cheeta now lives in Palm Springs with his trainer.  The Guinness Book of Records says Cheeta is the oldest living chimp in the world.  And now we know why, Tucker.  He drinks caffeine-free and Diet Coke by the gallon.  We wouldn‘t advise smashing your face into a cake, but the Coke works, I think. 

CARLSON:  I drink it.  It is good for you.  Good and good for you.

GEIST:  Yes.  I can‘t out my finger on it, Tucker, but Hugh Hefner, Joe Scarborough, and Cheeta the chimp have something in common, but I don‘t know exactly what it is. 

CARLSON:  There is a nexus there.  I‘m going to have to sleep on that. 

GEIST:  There is something there.  Looks like a fun party, though.

Well, Tucker, California news for you, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man who single-handedly made the Hummer popular, is turning himself into an Al Gore level tree-hugger.  His latest attempt to make saving the environment cool is an unlikely appearance on the MTV show “Pimp My Ride.” 

The show takes people‘s crappy cars and tricks them out with expensive engines, interiors, and sound systems.  That, Tucker, is called pimping a ride.  The “governator” taped an episode of the show that will air on Earth Day, April 22nd.  Schwarzenegger on that show helps to outfit a 1965 Chevy Impala with an engine that uses biodiesel fuel. 

Now Arnold is doing the right thing here, Tucker, but I still—I can‘t get past the idea of him chomping a cigar, driving a Hummer, killing androids as the face of the green movement.  It just doesn‘t quite work for me.

CARLSON:  Yes, there is something about being governor of California that is bad for your head I have noticed.  You know, Jerry Brown was a perfectly normal person before he became governor of that state. 

GEIST:  Yes, yes.  Well, he—Arnold did get rid of all of his Hummers, but I‘m not sure I‘m totally convinced in his position.

CARLSON:  Can I just say—not to brag here.  But I was in the room in Los Angeles when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor.  I remember turning to a friend of mine who works for The New York Times who had had a little too much to drink, and I remember saying, you know, this is not going to end well. 

I just knew from day one, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to be a less predictable governor that he appeared to be at the outset. 

GEIST:  Worse than Jesse Ventura, or no, that level? 

CARLSON:  Come on, come on.  He will be approaching MSNBC for a show before long. 

GEIST:  Absolutely.  We will be there.

CARLSON:  Willie Geist, from Los Angeles, thanks a lot, Willie. 

GEIST:  All right.  Tucker. 

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with David Gregory.  We will see you tomorrow.  Have a great night.

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

END   

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