updated 5/2/2007 11:57:37 AM ET 2007-05-02T15:57:37

Guests: Doug Schoen, Roger Stone, Bruce Bartlett, Dennis Hof, Brooke Taylor, Bunny Love

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  It‘s been four years to the day since President Bush‘s now infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech and one year since millions of protesters clogged America‘s city streets to protest U.S.  immigration policy.  And, on these anniversaries, both issues remain political quagmires. 

We will bring the day‘s immigration protests from across the country in a few minutes from now.

But we begin with the fourth anniversary of “Mission Accomplished.”  Since President Bush‘s declaration of success on May 1, 2003, 3,205 American servicemen have died in Iraq; 24,548 have been wounded. 

Congressional Democrats marked this ignominious occasion with a self-described signing ceremony this afternoon.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid formally submitted their emergency war funding bill for President Bush‘s almost certain veto.  That is expected shortly after 6:00 p.m. Eastern time today.

For all the talk of compromise and bipartisanship, the president has not budged.  And the Congress has spent weeks upon weeks devising a bill that, in the end, amounted to little more than a political statement.  In the meantime, more than 100 U.S. troops died in Iraq in the month of April.

So, where do we go from now?  Has either the president or the Congress won?  And do we all lose from this stalemate? 

Here to discuss the war bill and Mr. Bush‘s imminent veto, we welcome Republican strategist Roger Stone and Democratic strategist Doug Schoen, who is author of “The Power of the Vote: Electing Presidents, Overthrowing Dictators, Promoting Democracy Around the World.”

Welcome to you both.

ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Thank you. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  So, Roger, 104 American soldiers killed in Iraq in April, that‘s the highest body count so far in 2007.  Doesn‘t the president need some tangible sign of success to continue to justify the surge, or, politically, it‘s just untenable? 

STONE:  I think it‘s politically untenable.

The American people have looked at this war, and they have determined that they can‘t see our vital U.S. interests.  I think it‘s important to note that, at the same time we have spent this treasure and these lives in Iraq, that al Qaeda is completely resurging. 

Al Qaeda, who we had wiped out of Afghanistan, is back.  And they have a network nationally, internationally, which is capable of doing harm.  So, I think you have to look at the whole picture.  At the one time, we are not winning in Iraq.  At the same time, we are losing the war to the terrorists in al Qaeda.  It‘s a quagmire, indeed.

CARLSON:  But, Doug, why the pomp and circumstance around this bill?  The leaders, Democrat leaders in the House and Senate, had a signing ceremony just about an hour ago.  They finished this bill days ago, but they waited until today the anniversary of the “Mission Accomplished” speech, in order to bring it up to the president to a certain veto. 

That doesn‘t seem very serious.  I mean, if you really care about ending the war in Iraq and bringing us home with honor and peace in the region, why waste your time doing stuff like that? 

DOUG SCHOEN, AUTHOR, “THE POWER OF THE VOTE: ELECTING PRESIDENTS,

OVERTHROWING DICTATORS, AND PROMOTING DEMOCRACY AROUND THE WORLD”:  Well, I

don‘t think it‘s wasting time, Tucker. 

I think it is making it very clear that the symbolism of four years of a failed peace, a war that was only partially successfully prosecuted, as Roger suggested quite compellingly, terror is getting to be more of a problem.  al Qaeda is resurgent.  And Iraq has become a breeding ground for terror, when it wasn‘t before. 

I think to have a ceremony to symbolize that the war is a failure is the right and a reasonable thing to do.  So, I think it‘s the right thing to do, good politics, and probably, on the merits, not a bad thing as well. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  That train has already left the station.  I would just say -

I mean, just a couple quick poll numbers here that kind of say it all; 55 percent of the public, according to “The Wall Street Journal,” now believes that victory in Iraq is not even possible; 56 percent say they side with Democrats who want withdrawal.  Only 37 percent are on the president‘s side when he says there shouldn‘t be a deadline. 

Roger, as a political matter, all of the major Democratic candidates released statements today attacking the president and attacking the war.  I thought the most interesting, possibly, came from John Edwards, where he said this.

He said: “Under my plan, we would cap funding at 100,000 troops to stop the McCain doctrine of escalation.”

The McCain doctrine?  Is that the new name?  Is that...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Since when did it become the McCain doctrine?

STONE:  Actually, it‘s not actually the McCain doctrine, because the McCain doctrine is overwhelming force.  It‘s really the Powell doctrine, which John McCain has consistently advocated for this war, except for now, when he‘s—where he is basically betting on a surge of 20,000 to turn around both the war and his political fortunes.  Unlikely.

I think this signing ceremony yesterday was really about the leaders of the Democratic Party getting out ahead of their left-wing voter base and fund-raising base. 

After the election of the Democratic Congress, there was some discussion about a more moderate course in Iraq.  There was some discussion about the fact that we just can‘t cut and run and let the country collapse into chaos.

The Democratic primary voters, those who run the Democratic primary at the grassroots level, will not allow that.  The people who fund the Democratic Party will not allow that.  The Democratic Party must, therefore, be the party of cut and run. 

CARLSON:  Doug, I think the Democrats are telling the truth when they say Bush screwed this up.  He certainly did.  But I think they are lying when they say we can fix it. 

Here is what Hillary Clinton said in her statement today.  We will put it up on the screen.  She spends the first part of her statement attacking the president.  Bush “took us to a preemptive war when so many Americans—based on this assessment of faulty evidence, trumped-up facts.  He ignored the warnings.  It will stand as one of the darkest blots in the leadership we have ever had in our nation‘s history.”

In other words, Bush acted on her vote, and that was wrong.

Here is the part that I find objectionable, particularly: “America is ready for a president who will respect our armed forces by properly planning for the missions we ask.  America is ready to end this war.  And, when I‘m president, that is exactly what I will do.

Now, how can Hillary Clinton end what she herself has described as somebody else‘s civil war?  That‘s a promise she can‘t keep.

SCHOEN:  I think what she has made clear is that, if the president doesn‘t get our troops out, she will.  And, by all accounts, President Bush isn‘t going to pull the troops out.

And I think Roger is right.  The left wing in the Democratic Party is very powerful.  But, at the same time, I think where this is going is, we are going to fund our troops.  And I think we should fund our troops. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHOEN:  I‘m a centrist Democrat.  I think we need to do it.  I think most Democrats recognize that. 

CARLSON:  OK.  But, wait, shouldn‘t we also concede that, whether we stay for another 20 years, whether we leave tomorrow morning, there will still be a war in progress in Iraq and possibly in the whole region, maybe enveloping the Gulf?  I mean, we should be honest about what is going to happen when we leave.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  We are leaving, and we shouldn‘t lie about the consequences, should we?  Why is she not just telling the truth?

(CROSSTALK)

SCHOEN:  Tucker, we shouldn‘t lie.  But there is a civil war going on. 

It‘s not our civil war. 

We need to pull out in a way that does as much as possible to prevent a wider war from occurring and to minimize the damage.  That‘s what she has talked about.  That‘s what most centrist Democrats have talked about.  That‘s what goals and timetables are all about.  That‘s what we have to do. 

That‘s what‘s right.  That is what the Democrats are negotiating for.

CARLSON:  OK. 

Well, Barack Obama comes out.  Unfortunately—we will be right back.

But I have just got to end off with this.

Barack Obama‘s statement had this line in it.  And I like Barack Obama, but less and less when he says thing likes this: “We are now one signature away from ending this war.” 

You know, if only that were true.

We will be back in just a minute. 

A year ago, millions turned out for immigration demonstrations, and it seemed unimaginable the government would have stood pat on its immigration policy, but it has.  When we come back, we will bring you details of today‘s demonstrations and the possibility that immigration fight is over without really happening.

And could the best candidate for the Republicans be Hillary Clinton?  At least one conservative thinks yes.  He will tell you that, if you can‘t beat them, join them.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  One year ago today, over a million people took to the streets to call for immigration reform.  One year later, smaller protests, but still no immigration reform.  Is the battle over the border over?

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  A year ago today, more than a million people took to the streets of the United States to demand a path to citizenship for the estimated at least 12 million illegal aliens currently living here. 

Today, the protesters were slightly fewer in number, in most places, a lot fewer, but their goal and the problem of illegal immigration remained largely the same as it was last year.

A new survey by the Mexican daily newspaper “El Universal” shows that 45 percent of the population of Mexico has at least one relative working here in the U.S.  And the 23 billion American dollars sent from this country to Mexico turns out to be that country‘s second largest revenue source, after oil.  Our policy remains the same, too. 

Is the immigration battle over before it really has a chance to be fought?

Here to discuss it, we welcome back Republican strategist Roger Stone and Democratic strategist Doug Schoen.

Welcome back.

STONE:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Roger, there‘s no movement at all over the past 12 months on this question, really.  It doesn‘t seem to me that anybody, either side, Democrats, Republicans, has a real motive for passing immigration reform. 

STONE:  Tucker, it‘s an election year.  And, therefore, nobody in the Congress, nobody really running for president wants to touch this hot potato.

So, you are going to get a lot of rhetoric through the end of the year and a lot of discussion.  But I don‘t think you are going to get legislation.  This is something the next president and the next Congress will have to tackle.  But I don‘t see the political courage to tackle it between now and November. 

CARLSON:  Well, the status quo works for everybody, it seems to me, Republicans and Democrats.

Doug, I‘m struck by the stupidity of the terms of the debate.  Why can‘t someone just come out and say, look, immigration is good when well-educated, ambitious people come to our country; you know, we welcome your doctors and lawyers; it‘s not so good when people with no education and limited ambition come here?  That‘s considered somehow bigoted to say that.

Why can‘t people say that?  That‘s not bigoted.  That‘s true.

SCHOEN:  Well, I also think it‘s—I think it‘s wrong, Tucker, because I think we need lower-income workers at the bottom of the chain to fill in jobs that Americans either won‘t or can‘t do. 

So, I think we need legal immigration.  And I would take some modest exception to what you and Roger have posited, because I think there‘s huge advantage for the Democrats in the immigration issue, given the rising Hispanic population, and the fact that the Republicans are so divided.

And, given the importance of the Hispanic vote, if this remains an issue, as I suspect it will be, it will be in the Democrats‘ interests to keep it alive through November ‘08. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Oh, of course.  No, of course.  I mean, they demagogue the hell out of it. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But wait.  You are saying that, if you‘re Hispanic, if you have a Hispanic surname, then you‘re more likely to approve of illegal immigration?  I mean, that strikes me—is that true?

SCHOEN:  No, you‘re—you—you‘re likely to approve of a path to citizenship and a guest-worker program.  And Democrats will push legislation aggressively in that direction, because it‘s good politics.  It‘s good government. 

The Republicans are the ones who are most divided.  And Roger is right.  They‘re just unable, given their base on the right, which wants no immigration at all, to come to a reasonable compromise, which would be a guest-worker program, path to citizenship, and certifying that the borders are safe and secure. 

CARLSON:  Well, I mean, compromise is in the eye of the beholder.  I‘m not sure it‘s that people on the right don‘t want any immigration at all, Roger. 

My sense is, people feel like they want some control over their own country and their own country‘s borders, and they want the right, without being called names—nativist, bigot, racist—to say, wait a second.  Some immigrants help the country more than others.  It‘s not a matter of race or ethnicity at all.  It‘s a matter of skill and ambition.  And people who come here and go on public aid are not as good for America as people who come here and make things. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I mean, I don‘t know.  Isn‘t that what most people think? 

Or maybe it‘s just me.

STONE:  Well, the Republicans clearly are going to have to—and the Democrats, for that matter—are going to have to compromise, ultimately, on this issue. 

I mean, there‘s great danger here.  I would point out to you, Tucker, the example we saw in California, where Pete Wilson, the Republican governor prior to Gray Davis, ran on the immigration issue, ran against immigrants, permanently damaged his party.  The Republican Party of California, which used to get about a third to half of the Hispanic vote, has had real trouble recovering that ground, although Schwarzenegger has certainly helped, although I would argue that he‘s a unique individual.

So, there‘s real political danger here.  And everybody in the body politic knows it. 

CARLSON:  But how outrageous is that? 

But hold on.  Wait a second.  Pete Wilson—I‘m from California.  I remember very well.  Pete Wilson argued that illegal immigrants should not get public services.  Now, since when is that a bigoted position? 

I would think most Hispanics would be in favor of that.  I would think most Americans would be in favor of that.  I think it‘s pretty—I‘m not defending Pete Wilson.  I just think it‘s so unfair that he go down in history as an anti-immigrant candidate, when he‘s making a really reasonable, totally defensible argument.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I would like to hear someone argue for why illegals should get public service.

STONE:  First of all, Tucker, I think that the tone of Wilson‘s argument hurt him perhaps more than the substance of it did.

But, that said, he—he continually promulgated anti-immigrant ballot measures for the California electorate, which were designed to get him reelected, and, which, by the way, did get reelected. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

STONE:  Other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, though, I don‘t know that any Republican could carry California today. 

CARLSON:  Well, I think you‘re exactly right.

Quickly, Doug, very simple question:  Should illegal aliens get public services?

SCHOEN:  I think, yes, they should get public services.  Yes, they have to get public services, but as part of comprehensive immigration reform that gives them a path to citizenship, makes them pay fines, makes them become legal.  If we do that, no problem. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  So, an illegal immigrant can just show up—he‘s breaking the law by his very presence—and get food stamps?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I mean, how the hell does that work?

SCHOEN:  I don‘t think we can let people starve in America.  That‘s not our country, not our values, not our heritage.

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s clearly not our country.  I think you‘re absolutely right on that score.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  All right, we will be right back.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Lacking a candidate of their own to love, should Republicans jump on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon?  That‘s right, Republicans for Hillary.  Next up, we‘re joined by a conservative who says, oh, yeah.

And the results of a new presidential show that Hillary can use all the help she can, Republican or otherwise.  The rise of Barack Obama continues, apparently.  We have got the evidence.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  President Bush‘s approval ratings hovering near freezing in the absence of a galvanizing Republican candidate for the 2008 race, should conservatives look way outside the box for a leader?   And could that leader be—drum roll please—Hillary Clinton?  Our next guest is a Republican who thinks possibly.  He is Bruce Bartlett, nationally syndicated columnist, Republican economist and author of “Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.”  Mr.  Bartlett also worked for the Treasury Department under Reagan and the first President Bush.  Bruce, thanks for coming on.

BRUCE BARTLETT, AUTHOR, “IMPOSTOR”:  Happy to be here.

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton?  This was like the April Fool‘s column a month late or what? 

BARTLETT:  No, The way I look at it is the Republicans are not going to win next year.  That‘s just my personal opinion.  Obviously people can disagree with it.  But it just seems to me that the Republicans just barely one in 2000, 2004 against weak Democrats and the Republicans were very united.  I just don‘t see that happening next year.  I don‘t see any of these Republican candidates uniting the party. 

I think the Democrats are going to be very united.  I think it‘s a Democratic year.  So, if you accept that premise, it stands to reason that conservatives should support the most conservative Democrat running for the nomination, so that the most conservative Democrat is the one who wins.  And I think that‘s Hillary.  And I don‘t see—

CARLSON:  I agree with you there.  I think you‘re absolutely right.  She is the most conservative, amazingly—says a lot about a lot—most conservative Democrat running.  But look, Barry Goldwater ran in 1964 and got destroyed, creamed by Lyndon Johnson.  But his candidacy still laid the groundwork for the Reagan administration, in which you served.  In other words, sometimes doomed candidacies are important, even though they result in defeat.  Aren‘t they?

BARTLETT:  That‘s quite possible.  I‘m not talk about the general election.  We have a very abbreviated primary situation.  You know, a year from today, we will know who the candidates are for both parties.  By then, it will be too late to influence the decision of who the Democrats will nominate from a conservative point of view.  And there are still some conservatives in the Democratic party who have to make a decision about who to support.

So you have to make the decision today; are you going to get in, in some way, shape or form, into Democratic pool and a lot of people are.  As you know, there are a number of Republican high dollar contributors, Republican Rangers, people of this sort, who have thrown money at least to Hillary.  People like Rupert Murdoch have said nice things about her.  I think some people, you know, the opinion leaders in the Republican party, have already made that decision.

CARLSON:  Right, I mean, look, isn‘t it important to put it into context.  I mean, yes, she may be the most Democratic running.  But, I mean, you know the hottest girl in Uzbekistan, the most sober guy in Moscow.  You know what I mean?  You have to put it in context.  She is still pretty darn liberal, isn‘t she? 

BARTLETT:  Of course, by comparison to the nation as a whole, and certainly by comparison to any Republicans.  But by comparison to John Edwards and Barack Obama, I think she‘s clearly on the right side of the Democratic spectrum and on some issues that I personally care about, on economics and finance, she has given indications that she will continue her husband‘s policies, which were mostly pretty good, on free trade.  He was good on the budget, good on regulatory policy.  Frankly, he was better than this president on a lot of those issues. 

CARLSON:  I wonder why it is then that Hillary Clinton, once you take a look at the records and what they say, clearly the most conservative, why is it that she is the most disliked, more dislike, I would say, by Republicans than anybody, including Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel? 

BARTLETT:  I think she is the most disliked by Democrats. 

CARLSON:  That‘s true actually.  Why is that?

BARTLETT:  Something about her personality.  It grates on people.  I don‘t think—She doesn‘t have her husband‘s winning personality.  Let‘s face it, she has to work at it a lot harder, but, you know, we have elected presidents who have had a lot of worse personalities than her; Richard Nixon, for example.  I think if she can position herself as the candidate of competence, she will have a very good chance.  I think Republicans and conversation are wrong to underestimate her. 

CARLSON:  Would you personally vote for her? 

BARTLETT:  I would vote for her against some people.  I don‘t know.

CARLSON:  Like who? 

BARTLETT:  Well, I‘m just not very happy about any of the Republicans running.  I think Giuliani seems like—has an authoritarian personality.   

CARLSON:  Wait, wait, and Hillary Clinton doesn‘t?  You‘re saying that he has a more authoritarian personality than Hillary Clinton.  If both of them had absolute power, let‘s just say, a mind experiment, if they had absolute power, who would kill more? 

BARTLETT:  That‘s a tough question.  I think Giuliani would kill more.  I think he‘s a tougher guy.  And I don‘t mean that in a positive way, really.  I mean probably the guy who looks the best to me right now is the guy who‘s, you know, in the wings, Fred Thompson, but that‘s only because I don‘t really know exactly where he stands on the issues.  He‘s just a potentially better candidate than the guys they have running. 

CARLSON:  That‘s a very appealing quality these days.  Bruce Bartlett, I appreciate your coming on and revealing all you‘ve revealed.  Thank you very much. 

Well, a new Rasmussen poll suggests that Hillary Clinton could use the help of Republicans.  Striking numbers show Barack Obama ahead of Mrs.  Clinton for the very first time.  Is it an aberration, or is it reality? 

And the Republican party may turn its lonely eyes to Fred Thompson.  What‘s the ex senator and TV actor up to that makes so many believe he‘ll throw his hat into the 2008 ring sooner rather than later?  We‘ll let you know.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  There‘s a long way to go before either party chooses its presidential nominee for 2008, but things could be trending decidedly against Democrat Hillary Clinton.  The latest Rasmussen poll shows that Mrs. Clinton lost seven points in the last month.  More troubling to her camp is that those seven points may have gone directly into Barack Obama‘s column.  Obama now leads Clinton 32 to 30 percent.  That‘s the first national poll in which she has been topped by anyone. 

How significant is this result?  Here to tell us, Republican strategist Roger Stone and Democratic strategist Doug Schoen.  Now Doug, obviously, this is within the margin of error.  So, statistically speaking, it‘s not significant.  But it‘s the first time anyone has come out, at least officially, on top over Hillary Clinton.  What does this tell you? 

SCHOEN:  Well, there have been some polls that have shown it close.  There are other polls, Tucker, that suggest that the margin is still 10 or 15 points.  What I typically do is look at the real clear politics average, which has Hillary about 10, 12 points ahead.  And if you look at the key primary states—Quinnipiac came out last week in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, had Hillary up 15 or 20 points. 

So I don‘t think this is all that significant.  I think we always knew, as your prior segment suggested, that there‘s opposition in the Democratic party to Hillary, but I think the Rasmussen poll overstates it. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I mean, I wonder Roger—my question is, why is she so far ahead?  I too look at the real clear politics average every day.  That‘s the one that‘s most significant to me.  And she is way out ahead in that, after month, after month of promotion of Barack Obama, who is clearly a more appealing person than she is.  Why is she so far out ahead in the average of most polls? 

STONE:  Actually, I don‘t think she is that far ahead.  There is troubling signs in these numbers for a couple of reasons.  First of all, her unfavorable rating, her negative rating has continued to grow.  That suggests that there‘s a ceiling for her, beyond which she cannot grow.  She is universally known.  There is no subset of voters who don‘t know her and don‘t yet have an opinion, which can not be said to be true for Barack Obama. 

Here is a guy who has got enormous upward potential, because he‘s still not known by a majority of the American people.  She could be in a real squeeze play here, where she reaches her ceiling, where he has more room to grow.  Assuming that their money is about equal, which I think it‘s going to be—I suspect that he will match her in the next quarter, as he did in the previous quarter, actually narrowly beat her.  Hers is a candidacy that I think is plagued with some real problems. 

I am still scratching my head about your interview with Bruce Bartlett, because clearly Bill Richardson is the most conservative Democratic candidate, solid record of tax cutting, opposed to gun control.  If you were a conservative, a Democrat, that‘s where you would have to go. 

But more importantly --  

CARLSON:  But wait a minute, I think the argument was—look, you are not going to see me voting for Hillary Clinton.  And if you do, you can look behind me; there will be a gun pressed to the back of my head.  I think the point is, the arguments is that of the Democratic candidates who have a real shot at becoming the nominee, and those three you would have to think are Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, she‘s, of those three, the most conservative. 

STONE:  Well, I‘m not sure I even agree with the theory.  The way these primaries are lined up, frankly, if you can fund the first four states, don‘t worry about February 5th.  It will take care of itself.  Bill Richardson goes to New Hampshire and talks about tax cutting, he will be the only Democrat talking about tax cutting in a state where tax cutting is deeply important. 

What‘s his upside potential?  If he‘s got enough money to compete in New Hampshire, let‘s see.  I‘m not convinced, first of all, that the field is full, because Al Gore could beat all of these candidate you just mentioned, in my opinion, and get in in September to do so.

CARLSON:  He‘d have to wait a long time.  And speaking of waiting a long time, Doug, there are two pieces today, one in “The Politico” by Mike Allen, one in “The New York Times” that explore the possibility of former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee running.  It sounds real to me.  He is already going around and telling his former colleagues on the Hill that there‘s nothing in his background that would disqualify him, that yes he dated a lot when he was single, et cetera.  He talked about his illness. 

I mean, this guy sounds like he‘s ready to mount a campaign.  Do you think, objectively, that August is too late for Fred Thompson to get in? 

SCHOEN:  No, I don‘t think it‘s too late.  I think with two-thirds of the Republican primary voters saying they are dissatisfied with the Republican crop, with Giuliani and McCain having problems, Romney having problems, there is an opening for a southern conservative like Fred Thompson, who‘s got an appealing personal story, has clearly overcome some adversity in terms of health, for him to get in the race. 

I think he would be a very attractive candidate.  I think he can get in late, Tucker.  And think that we have the prospect of the Republican race being turned really upside down by his entry into the race sometime this summer. 

CARLSON:  Well here‘s, Roger, the line that gave me pause.  He‘s obviously a very appealing guy.  I have nothing against Fred Thompson.  Here is what one of his advisors told “The Politico”: he said basically, Thompson can get in late.  He can kind of rise above the fray, you know, above the sweaty nitty gritty of retail politics, quote, because of his name I.D.  He doesn‘t have to go dinner to dinner, church-to-church.  Yes he does, doesn‘t he?  Do you think he can run a campaign that‘s above the normal flesh pressing?

STONE:  No, I don‘t, but Fred Thompson proved in Tennessee that he is prepared to do that.  Look, people say the big rap against Fred Thompson is that he is lazy, that he‘s not energetic.  He disproved that in Tennessee by grabbing Al Gore‘s seat in a special election.  And he broke his back to do it.  Clearly, he is capable of working hard when it matters, and clearly he can raise enough money to do this. 

I disagree with my friend and colleague Charlie Black, who‘s quoted in today‘s “New York Times” as saying it‘s too late to form an organization in all the sates; it‘s too late to raise the money.  I don‘t agree with that.  There is a vacuum in the Republican party.  There is great excitement about Fred Thompson, the first candidate who I think has some of the skills and some of the stature of a Ronald Reagan, somebody who really understands how to communicate.  I think it has the potential to turn the Republican raise upside down. 

CARLSON:  Well then, Doug, with all these people—you‘ve got just the most amazing array of characters ever arrayed against one another in a presidential race, where is the room for Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York?  Why are his friends putting it out there, week after week, that he may be running for president?  Where is the opening for him?  Which part of America is clamoring for a short left wing rich guy from New York to run for president?  I guess I haven‘t heard that clamor.

SCHOEN:  I guess, Tucker, you‘ve missed the fact that the American people are really pissed off with both parties, and it‘s not such so much a clamor for Mike Bloomberg, the individual; it‘s a sense that both parties are really failing, it‘s a sense that they‘re not cooperating, as we discussed before, about Iraq.  There‘s a sense that we‘re not making progress about immigration.   

And I think what we‘re seeing, what “The Wall Street Journal” suggested today is that, given that dissatisfaction, there‘s an opening in the center for a candidate, whether it be someone like Bloomberg, who has said he is not interested, or someone like Chuck Hagel, who‘s an opponent of the war, but is a fiscal conservative, to emerge as a consensus builder, as Ross Perot did in 1992. 

CARLSON:  I totally get that, but with Hagel and Perot, you could say that they were these kind of interesting amalgams, right on some things, left on others.  Bloomberg strikes me just as a doctrinaire liberal Democrat.  I don‘t really see how he becomes a centrist by any calculation.

SCHOEN:  Bloomberg is a fiscal conservative.  He has governed from the center.  He said results, not ideology.  He has made it very clear that he believes in a strong national defense.  He has rejected a timetable on Iraq.  He‘s not really, at this point, a candidate.  And he says he is not going to be.  But I think there‘s clearly room for someone of his philosophy, of Hagel‘s philosophy, or as Unity08 has proposed, a Democrat and a Republican getting together on a bipartisan basis to offer a real centrist approach in American politics.  Given all the candidates, given the dissatisfaction, there‘s a real opening, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  God, that would just make this race so much more amazing.  Roger, the one thing he has going for him is his willingness, documented willingness to spend tens and tens of millions of his own dollars to get this.  I mean, let‘s say he put a billion dollars in the race, Mike Bloomberg, what do you think it‘s realistic to expect he would get in return for that? 

STONE:  Well, I mean, first of all, until the major parties select their nominees, it‘s impossible to know yet whether there‘s a vacuum for Mike Bloomberg to step into.  If we have an all-Tennessee race when the Democrats nominate Al Gore and the Republicans nominate Fred Thompson, as opposed to say, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, two New York candidates, I think it might enhance the chances of a Bloomberg running.  The vacuum may then exist.  It‘s just too early to say whether there is room for an independent in this race until the major parties kick—choose their candidates. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Just quickly, Doug, I‘m so interested and this is kind of off the topic, but I just can‘t resist.  Jon Corzine injured very badly, governor of New Jersey, recently.  He was in the back of—in the passenger seat of a car, 91 miles an hour, they crashed, he is really injured, was not wearing a seat belt.  He just got out of the hospital.  Here was a statement that he made today upon leaving the hospital.  This is the governor of Jersey, Jon Corzine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY:  I certainly hope the state will forgive me and I will work very hard to try to set the right kind of example to make a difference in peoples‘ lives as we go forward. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  So that was yesterday.  This poor guy was grievously injured, on a ventilator.  And here he is, apologizing, to whom, I‘m not sure, for not wearing a seat belt.  That is stomach-turning to me.  Why should he have to apologize?  Why would he apologize to anyone?  He is the one who was injured? 

SCHOEN:  I‘m pleased that he did apologize.  He has gone through a life-threatening experience and God knows we wish him the best.  But he should have worn his seat belt.  He knows that.  He probably encouraged the trooper to drive faster than he should have.  What happened will be determined in the state police investigation.

And it shows that Jon Corzine is the kind of man who can acknowledge even in a life-threatening circumstance that he has made a mistake.  I think it shows that he is the kind of guy who willing to acknowledge his errors.  I think he deserves kudos for doing it.  He is a good man.  He deserves to give the people a chance to continue to govern. 

CARLSON:  God, I feel sorry for him because he was so badly hurt, but I just—I missed it when not wearing a seat belt became a moral crime.  It is just amazing to me.

SCHOEN:  Well, you know, he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of the state‘s resources that he is going to reimburse.  He set a bad example for New Jersey and indeed, American residents.  And some good will come out of it if people put their seat belt on.  It will save lives and make this a better—a safer country.

CARLSON:  No.  He set a good example.  He set a good example.  He was grievously injured because he was not wearing a seat belt.  He is a poster boy for seat belt wearing.  I just wish he hadn‘t apologized.  But I‘m glad he is OK. 

Thank you both for joining us.  I appreciate it. 

Well, the notorious “D.C. Madam” prepares to drop the dime on some of her famous clientele.  Up next, a protest from her counterpart in Nevada.  If kissing and telling, arranging kissing and telling is worse for everyone, that is next.

Plus, Miss America played crime-fighter a week ago.  Now she is embroiled in a legal mess over her sex predator sting.  Will her highness show up to testify against the she helped bust.  We have got the latest.  This is MSNBC, America‘s most impressive cable news. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The so-called “D.C. Madam” is hoping her powerful clients will testify in her defense.  But surprise, none have willingly stepped forward yet.  Should she continue to out her clients?  No way, says the owner of Vegas‘ Moonlite BunnyRanch, who joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The so-called “D.C. Madam,” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, is preparing to defend herself against money-laundering charges by calling to her defense some of her highway-profile clients.  The threat of exposure has already forced one State Department officials, Randall Tobias, to resign in embarrassment from his post. 

So which other names will be exposed?  Our next guests are in a similar line of work.  They say she should keep her mouth shut.  We are joined now by the owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch, Dennis Hof, and by two of the women who work with him and are both stars on HBO‘s “Cathouse: The Series,” Bunny Love and Brooke Taylor.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Welcome. 

DENNIS HOF, OWNER, MOONLITE BUNNYRANCH:  How are you?

CARLSON:  Now, Dennis, I am great.  But I am agitated about this story.  This seems like a violation of the code for this woman, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, to give up the names of her customers.  Is that as wrong as I think it is? 

HOF:  Absolutely.  I look at this as the axis of awful.  ABC, “20/20,” Disney, you should be ashamed, putting people‘s names out there, ruining families, embarrassing children.  This woman is terrible.  The Washington business license people and police department gave her a business license when she‘s on probation, just got out of prison for running a prostitution ring.  They should be ashamed.

And this lady, this madam dirtbag, you are giving up your clients?  There‘s an oath.  When you take on this business there is an oath of privacy.  And you have broke it.  You should be ashamed.

CARLSON:  Yes.  It seems like if you‘re in a business like yours, almost by definition, you are seeing things that people want kept secret.  And you are seeing a part of people that they don‘t reveal in public very often.  You see a lot of weird stuff, don‘t you?  Let‘s be honest. 

HOF:  Well, absolutely.  I mean, Brooke came from another profession and there was privacy there.  Right, Brooke? 

BROOKE TAYLOR, HBO‘S “CATHOUSE”:  Yes, I used to work as a case manager for adults with developmental disabilities, and I was bound by (INAUDIBLE) laws.  There are just certain jobs that have a confidentiality amongst them and you understand that going into it. 

BUNNY LOVE, HBO‘S “CATHOUSE”:  But that‘s one thing you have to understand though when you partake in illegal prostitution is that there is a risk not only for the female but also for the male involved in the situation. 

HOF:  You are right.  And what we say is crime breeds crime.  She is a criminal and look what they get from it.  These poor people‘s lives are going to be ruined.  It is terrible, terrible.  This whole thing is terrible. 

CARLSON:  Well, she is claiming, Dennis, as you know, that in fact, she did nothing illegal, and that she was actually running a real escort service where she would hire out women to, I guess, escort men places or give them non-sexual massages—or massages that didn‘t qualify as intercourse.  Does that something like that exist in this country?  Is that plausible or is every escort service really a bordello? 

HOF:  Escort is synonymous for prostitution, bordello.  It is absolutely nonsense.  That‘s her way to keep from going to prison.  But she is going to prison.  And when she is in prison, she is not going to have a fun time.  And like—unlike Heidi Fleiss, when she got out of prison, had a lot of friends, this lady will not have one friend, I promise you.

CARLSON:  Well, I‘m amazed on your show—on your HBO show, “Cathouse,” there are people on that show, customers, who go in to your place, who allow themselves—I guess they sign waivers, to be filmed on television. 

Is that common?  Are people who go are not embarrassed of going?  Or how do you get them to appear on camera?  Well, these girls are very persuasive.

TAYLOR:  Many guys want to be on film.  You know, every customer has their own situation.  Some can be forthcoming about their visits with us, and others can‘t.  And we respect whatever fits their situation. 

LOVE:  And everybody wants their 15 seconds of fame, so... 

(CROSSTALK)

HOF:  And we give that to them on “Cathouse.” These girls, Bunny and Brooke, can make $1 million next month selling photographs or stories to The National Enquirer of celebrities that have parties with them and came into the ranch.  But they will never do that.  It‘s just something that—it‘s privacy and everybody has to respect that privacy.  ABC is not doing it.  This lady is not doing it.  It‘s awful. 

CARLSON:  Are you—is that, Dennis, something you worry about when you hire women to work for you?  Do you have them sign any kind of document pledging that they won‘t give up information they learn while working for you? 

HOF:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I think Charlie Sheen said it best.  You don‘t working girls to have sex, you pay them not call National Enquirer, don‘t break up my marriage, and don‘t talk about how kinky I am.  That is what they pay them for. 

And these girls sign contracts.  Plus they are just not that type of people.  This lady is no good.  She is a criminal.  And she deserves everything she is going to get.  And I feel so sorry for these customers.  A lot of these customers are our customers also, except that the BunnyRanch is a private entrance and nobody knows they are there. 

CARLSON:  Boy, I couldn‘t agree with you more.  Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch, star of “Cathouse: The Series,” along with Bunny Love and Brooke Taylor.  Thanks a lot for joining us.  I appreciate it.

HOF:  Thank you.

LOVE:  I love you, Tucker, and I miss your bowties. 

CARLSON:  You must be the only one, but I appreciate it.  Thanks a lot.

LOVE:  You are welcome.

CARLSON:  Well, Miss America—thank you.  Miss America volunteered to be used as bait for online predators on “America‘s Most Wanted” the other night.  Now something has gone wrong with the sting.  Did the crown give her away?  Willie Geist will be here to tell us.  You are watching MSNBC, the most impressive name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Just when you thought we could not top Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch, Willie Geist arrives. 

Willie, we are glad to have you.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Hello, Tucker.  So is that how you pay off your tab at the BunnyRanch, by inviting the Hof and his gals over on the show?  Is that how that works?

CARLSON:  Honestly, I have had an e-mail correspondence going on with Dennis Hof for quite some time about politics.

GEIST:  I‘m aware.

CARLSON:  And he is a very smart guy. 

GEIST:  No.  He is a smart guy.  He is a very smart guy, and he disapproves.  And we are going to have more on that story from another huge madam in just a moment, Tucker. 

But we want to start with a big story here.  While some glazed over looking beauty pageant contestants claim they will work hard to, you know, achieve world peace if they win, Miss America 2007, Lauren Nelson apparently meant it when she said she was going to track down and fight online sexual predators. 

She went undercover on the show “America‘s Most Wanted” the other night to basically serve as bait for creeps on the Internet.  She posed online as a teenager and helped in a sting that caught 11 men. 

But a district attorney in New York now says his office can‘t go through with the prosecution of the predators because Miss America told him she will not testify.  Well, today, a spokesman for Miss America said that is complete nonsense and that Lauren Nelson will in fact cooperate however she can. 

Now, Tucker, I can just tell you, Miss America would never fail to hold up her end of the bargain.  I know this, you might ask why, what do I know?  Oh, I don‘t know, oh, is that me and Miss America shopping for jewelry together in New York City just a few short months ago?  I know her soul, I know her heart.  She will do the right thing.  We are close.  We do not talk as often as I would like to.  But I feel like we are still connected in some way. 

She will do the right thing in this case, mark my words, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I know her heart.  I think the last time I heard that, it was Bush on Vladimir Putin.  I know his heart.  Well, I had lunch with Lauren Nelson in Washington at The Palm.  And I too can vouch for her good character.  I know her heart as well.

GEIST:  Back off, by the way.

CARLSON:  Yes.  I agree.

GEIST:  Back off—you back off her.  Do you understand?  She‘s mine.

CARLSON:  Oh, I thought that was my point to you. 

GEIST:  No.

CARLSON:  We can fight for her later. 

GEIST:  We‘ll talk offline.  Tucker, much to the dismay of journalists stationed in the sun-soaked Bahamas to cover the never-ending custody dispute over Anna Nicole‘s baby girl, Larry Birkhead closed the tropical chapter of the story today when he flew home to the United States with his daughter, Dannielynn. 

Birkhead and the 7-month-old baby took a private plane from the Bahamas to Birkhead‘s home of Louisville, Kentucky, where he will now introduce Dannielynn to his family.  Anna Nicole‘s mother, Virgie Arthur, still though not giving up on getting some shared custody of that baby. 

Now, Tucker, you know the media as well as I do.  And I do not want to be a pessimist or a skeptic, but it was going pretty well—that hearing was going for a while, and just today, there was a new development in the Natalee Holloway case—now where is that case?  In Aruba. 

The very same day they left the Bahamas, a new story opens in Aruba. 

I am not saying anything.  It is just something to think about. 

CARLSON:  Wait, speaking of somebody to think about, so Larry Birkhead, who is like an unemployed pool boy or massage therapist or something.

GEIST:  Photographer, yes.

CARLSON:  . gets a private plane home. 

GEIST:  Yes.

CARLSON:  When he—you and I who have paying jobs could never do that.  I fly commercial.  How does that work? 

GEIST:  I think he had a little help with that.  He also had a camera crew on board with him who may have chipped in a little bit.  I don‘t know though.  So I won‘t say for sure.  He is a dad, Tucker.  He is doing the right thing.

CARLSON:  OK.

GEIST:  You know, Tucker, guys in the end just cannot win.  A Florida man was trying to do something nice when he set up a romantic candlelight dinner to surprise his wife.  Well, long story, short, he burned the house down. 

William Mitchell (ph) sent the kids to grandma‘s place, lit some candles and then jumped in the shower.  That is when the place went up in flames.  Mitchell‘s wife got home to find firefighters hosing down her home.  But she says she is not mad at their husband.  I guess it is the thought that counts, Tucker. 

Lesson here, if you are a guy, always go for take-out.  And number two, if you have to cook in, the last thing you do is light the candles, after you get out of the shower, right?

CARLSON:  Good point. 

GEIST:  Tucker, one more thing.  As we—you just mentioned with Dennis Hof and the gals, the “D.C. Madam” about to reveal all of these names of high profile people in D.C.  Deborah Palfrey says there are going to be some big names on that list.  Well, America‘s most famous madam also says Palfrey is violating the code.  Heidi Fleiss says, quote: “Palfrey is naming names, and that goes against my principles.  I realize I had sunk my ship, but I wasn‘t taking anyone with me.” 

So Dennis Hof and Heidi Fleiss coming out.  The “D.C. Madam” must be wrong, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Actually, I completely with Heidi Fleiss.  I don‘t care.  Good for Heidi Fleiss (INAUDIBLE) someone will ever say that.  Willie, thank you.

GEIST:  All right.  Take me to the ranch some time, Tucker.

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.  We are back tomorrow.  Have a great night.

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

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