updated 5/17/2007 11:11:59 AM ET 2007-05-17T15:11:59

Guests: Mark Sanford, Steve McMahon, Lynn Sweet

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  The contenders for the Republican presidential nomination went at it last night in South Carolina during their second live debate, fielding questions about Iraq, torture, abortion, and a hypothetical series of terror attacks across the U.S. 

The 10 men who think they ought to be running this country spent most of the evening trying to out-conservative one another on everything from gay marriage to energy policy. 

Does anyone win these things?  And do voters even pay attention?  We will put our Monday morning quarterback helmets on and give you all the highlights and analysis on who scored and who dropped the ball last night when we are joined by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in just a moment. 

A little later, we will check the “Obameter.” Is the initial buzz fading because voters are finding Senator Obama is long on style and short on substance? 

And then why is Michael Moore challenging Senator Fred Thompson to a debate when Thompson is not even running for president yet.  And more to the point, why is Thompson responding?

All that plus a prominent Republican senator calls for attorney general Alberto Gonzales to step down.  But first, last night‘s debate was the second one held in the critical primary state of South Carolina.  Joining us now is the governor of that state, Mark Sanford. 

Governor, thanks, for coming on.

GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  A pleasure. 

CARLSON:  So I know you are supposed to be officially—or would like to be officially nonaligned in all this, but who won? 

SANFORD:  Well, that‘s for you experts to decide. 

CARLSON:  Well, who...

SANFORD:  The people of South Carolina won because it was here and the people of the country won because we got too see a little bit of a preview where each of the 10 were coming from, how about that?

CARLSON:  I think that‘s good enough.  It‘s interesting to watch people who represent the Republican Party.  Because you‘ve got I think a state of—a sense of where conservatism is.  There was a remarkable I thought exchange between Ron Paul and Tommy Thompson.  I want to play two soundbites next to each other.  I think says a lot about a lot. 

Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We let spending go out of control, spent money like a drunken sailor, although I never knew a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination as my colleagues, spending lurched completely out of control.

Ronald Reagan used to say, we spend money like a drunken sailor, I never knew a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination of the Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well, that was neither Ron Paul nor Tommy Thompson.  That was in fact Senator John McCain, telling the same—using the impact same line in the debate two weeks ago and the debate last night. 

You, of course, endorsed McCain last time.  Why aren‘t his numbers higher I wonder? 

SANFORD:  You know, I think among other things, you have got 10 folks in any race, and that is going to pull from everybody‘s numbers.  You certainly have the Giuliani factor at work.  And he has pulled a lot of air out of the room.  And you have got people like Romney or Huckabee who have executive branch experience that are pulling their respective spheres and go down the list from there. 

So I think the answer is, it‘s relatively early in what is a widely contested race with 10 whole candidates. 

CARLSON:  You get the impression watching Rudy Giuliani do much better than at least I expected in the South as a pretty liberal, at least on social issues, northerner, that national security is the overriding issue to the exclusion of almost everything in the Republican primaries this year.  Do you think that is right? 

SANFORD:  I don‘t think it is.  I think that it is as much as it is.  It certainly fuels his candidacy.  But I think that when I talk to rank and file Republicans across the state, overwhelmingly what I hear from them is a number of things that don‘t have to do with 9/11 or what is happening in the Middle East. 

Specifically they care about the price of health care for the little business they are trying to run.  They care about the theme of immigration.  They care about the way that Washington spends and taxes. 

I mean, this election that took place in November was in part a repudiation of the way that Republicans have acted once they went to Washington on spending.  So I think that there are a whole host of other issues.

CARLSON:  Well, speaking of the way they have responded to spending once they got to Washington.  I want to attempt again to throw to the soundbites I mentioned a minute ago in which Tommy Thompson and Ron Paul were asked the same question.

You become president, what‘s the first thing you would eliminate from the federal budget.  Here are their responses. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMMY THOMPSON ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, the first one I would eliminate is the program in the Department of Health and Human Services, in the CDC that deals with the stockpile. 

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘d start with the departments, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That is just very telling as far as I am concerned.  Tommy Thompson, conservative, smart, the first program he would eliminate is something I‘ve never heard of.  And I live here and cover this stuff.  It‘s so micro, it doesn‘t even register.

It takes Ron Paul, this far-out libertarian with no chance of being elected to anything other than a House seat to say what Republicans used to say in 1994.  I‘d eliminate whole departments.  Has that whole rhetoric—is that just gone forever?

SANFORD:  I don‘t know whether it has gone forever.  It has certainly been gone for a while.  And again, that‘s part of the problem of the Republicans brand right now.  I think that the Reagan coalition was in part formed because of real clarity of where Republicans stood on taxes and spending and at that time the war against communism. 

I think that if you look today, there‘s a real murkiness as to what the Republican brand or vision is all about.  As was articulated just a moment ago in the two soundbites that you cut. 

And so I think that what Ron Paul was getting at—and I think this is one of the values of having lesser known candidates in a race.  It causes some conversations to take place that otherwise would not take place.  What he is indeed reminding folks of is those were the things were talked about back in 1994 when a bunch of us went off to Congress.

And I think that there is a thirst with a lot of the rank and file voter out there for a little bit more in the way of conversation on that front. 

CARLSON:  Boy, when Ron Paul said that last night, it really was like opening up a time capsule.  I mean, you could just smell the mustiness of that rhetoric.  I mean, it turns me on still.  But most people could care less apparently.

What happened exactly?  I know this is the subject of many books and we don‘t have enough time to really explain it.  But just tell me quickly.  You went in 1994 to Congress.  Why has that passion for cutting government disappeared? 

SANFORD:  We got trapped in the world of governance.  You know, I remember as a freshman when leadership would come to you and say, look, I know you talked about this, that, and whatever in the campaign trail, but we have got to govern now.

At that point, it was cover the wallet, run for the hills, because we knew whatever was coming next inevitably meant more in the way of claims on every one of the taxpayers that we represented. 

And so I think there is a temptation in any party when you have been in control to get away from some of the core values that brought you into control and to get mired down into the blocking and tackling, the trading back and forth that I think a lot of people are weary of. 

And I do think that when you look at David Walker, the comptroller general of the United States of America right now going on what he calls his fiscal wakeup tour, reminding Americans of the fact that we are on a clearly unsustainable track with regard to spending, that in fact you have got people both in Washington and people at the grass roots level reminding elected folks of hey, this is something we would like to hear a little bit more of. 

CARLSON:  Boy, it is nice to hear that.  I wish people had been reminding him more for the last 10 years.  I think they would be in better shape right now, the Republican Party, I would think.

Governor, thanks for coming on.  I appreciate it.

SANFORD:  A pleasure.  Good to hear your voice again.

CARLSON:  Thanks.  Next up, there is no debate between the two Democratic frontrunners, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  They see eye-to-eye on virtually everything, and does that help Obama?

Plus, Republican Fred Thompson isn‘t up for debates yet, at least with his fellow Republicans.  Instead, he is focused on filmmaker Michael Moore.  We have the tape next.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Ten Republican candidates for president covered a lot of ground in their second debate last night.  But did one of them emerge as the most presidential?  Or is the party still waiting, desperately hoping for some fresh blood in the form, say, of Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich, maybe even New York City Mayor and multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg?  Joining us now, Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times, and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. 

Welcome to you both.  I think the moment of the whole thing came when Rudy Giuliani confronted poor Ron Paul, my former choice for president back in 1988 over the question of who is responsible for 9/11?  For those of you who missed it, here‘s, I think the essence of the exchange, watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WENDELL GOLER, FOX CORRESPONDENT:  Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attacks, sir? 

PAUL:  I‘m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it.  And they are delighted that they are over there because Osama bin Laden has said, I‘m glad you‘re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.  They have already now since that time have killed 3,400 of our men and I don‘t think it was necessary. 

RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Wendell, may I make a comment on that?  That‘s really an extraordinary statement, that is an extraordinary statement.  As someone who lived through the attack of September 11th that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq.  I don‘t think I have ever heard that before.  And I‘ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Hard to know exactly—I think it‘s a much more complicated question than they had time to explore and I think Ron Paul was attempting in his inarticulate way to make some important points about the consequences of our foreign policy, which I think are fair points. 

On the other hand, Giuliani just—the most aggressive man in the room, moved right in there and he won that—I think he won the whole debate because of that. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, yes, but it‘s a little bit like the bully beating up the skinny kid with braces on the playground.  I mean, come on, he won what, Ron Paul?

The fact is that we all know why the terrorists attacked America, but the second part of it is... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I literally have no clue why they attacked us.

MCMAHON:  Well, they hate Americans and they want to destroy us.  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I actually don‘t know.  I don‘t know why.  And I have to say, the one great frustration for me in the five-and-a-half years since 9/11 is the lack of time anybody I know has spent thinking about why they do hate us.  I literally have no clue.  And I think about it all the time. 

MCMAHON:  Well, the other question, of course, is what can we do to prevent them from doing it again and what can we do to perhaps make them hate us a little bit less.  Having troops occupying Iraq is creating a both creating a target for the terrorists. 

It is creating a recruiting took for al Qaeda and it is letting our servicemen sit—and -women sit in harm‘s way.  You asked a little earlier who won the debate?  Well, the Democrats won the debate because every time the Republican candidates get up there and defend this president‘s Iraq policy, Democrats win and Republicans lose.

CARLSON:  Yes.  I‘m not exactly sure of that.  I think once they start talking about the consequences of withdrawal think Democrats will be on the defensive.  But to Giuliani specifically, when, as a presidential candidate, here is a guy with no foreign policy experience that I‘m aware of, of any kind, he was mayor of New York, that‘s it, and a federal prosecutor.

Moments like this help create the sense that he is the kind of steady hand on the tiller in that he is tough enough to stand up to our enemies abroad.  I mean, I don‘t see a downside for him acting like this? 

LYNN SWEET, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  No.  There is no downside.  It shows that there‘s a role to have in these lower tier candidates in the races because they can say things with abandon that trigger interesting outbursts like this one. 

It also shows that Giuliani recovered from that first performance in Simi Valley, California, where he—whatever he really meant to say about abortion, he certainly didn‘t make that clear at all.  And he had to spend time recovering from it. 

I thought in terms of the toughness factor or the testosterone factor last night, who was tougher?  I mean, look at Mitt Romney is saying I‘m more of whatever than Giuliani.  So I thought that was also something.  As the positioning goes, it is, who is more hard line?  Giuliani has his credentials in that way.  Mitt Romney last night tried to put his out there.

CARLSON:  Yes.  And then McCain comes out and tries to explain why torture is bad, and he certainly has...

SWEET:  Well, especially that line, he said, for those who have been in the military, which was a very good way of pointing out who was not...

CARLSON:  I thought it was but...

SWEET:  ... he made the point...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But the matter of the merits of the debate, then Giuliani comes out and says, you know what, I‘m not against—essentially I‘m not against—yes, whatever it takes.  You know what I mean?

SWEET:  Right. 

CARLSON:  I‘ll do whatever it takes.  I don‘t know, I thought that was kind of compelling even though it didn‘t win me over.  You said Democrats won.  Let me suggest—let me give you one example of how at least one Democrat is not winning. 

This is Mike Huckabee asked, does Congress spend too much money.  Here is his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have had a Congress that has spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop.  And it is high time...

(LAUGHTER)

HUCKABEE:  ... that we have a different kind of tax structure and a fair tax would get us there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  John Edwards basically is the butt—you know, he‘s like a punch line at this point. 

SWEET:  Oh no he‘s not...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  I didn‘t say all Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

SWEET:  But it was biting how he said it.  You know, he was able to, in that wisecrack, not only got a laugh, but when you say a man has gone to a beauty shop to get you hair done, that is really a kick in the gut, isn‘t it, guys?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... exactly what he was talking about.  True or not, it almost doesn‘t—I mean, OK. 

MCMAHON:  True or not.  But I mean, that‘s pretty much the way the administration has been running the country for the last several years, true or not, we‘ll just say it. 

CARLSON:  But wait a minute, it is true that he paid $400 for a haircut. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  But the whole beauty salon comment was designed to imply something else. 

CARLSON:  Well, it is not a bunch of old Italian guys in Playboy magazine charging you $400 for a haircut.  He went to some beauty salon.  I mean, where else do you get a $400 haircut, I mean, honestly.

MCMAHON:  A beautician, no, seriously, the beautician came to him.  He didn‘t go to a beauty salon. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Well, that is even worse. 

MCMAHON:  I‘m not here to defend John Edwards.  I think it was goofy thing to do.  But if you are going to...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  ... have some fun at his expense, you might as well at least get your facts right. 

CARLSON:  Did Romney seem presidential or is it—and I say this again as someone who has made a hobby of criticizing Mitt Romney.  But he actually struck me as much more pulled together and presidential than I have seen him.

SWEET:  Well, that is part of it, is he looks like he is from Central Casting to begin with.  So he has that advantage.  And he is distinctive looking.  I think in the next debate, some of these Republican candidates need to wear different color jackets, one wear green, one wear orange just so you—the audience can be clearly...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  This is the Republican Party?  Unless it‘s Lilly Pulitzer (ph), I think they are not going to be wearing anything very bright. 

SWEET:  But you don‘t know...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  They would never—they would never wear that tie.  They would never wear Tucker‘s tie.  They should.

(CROSSTALK)

SWEET:  The point is, they are trying to distinguish themselves.  A lot of people don‘t know who these people are.  It‘s not like the Democrats where the people are more well-known, except for the three frontrunners.  So every time that there is a Republican debate, it does help the frontrunners if for no other reason that it reinforces that there‘s a lot of people that probably the public doesn‘t know. 

CARLSON:  Wear the green tie, right?

SWEET:  And so do something that...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I tend to agree with that, bow tie. 

Next up, Hillary Clinton is widening her lead over the other Democratic frontrunner, is it all over for Barack Obama?  We‘ll check the “Obameter.”

And then there is also Paul Wolfowitz, will he be making his final withdrawal from the World Bank?  We‘ll tell you, you are watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Time again for the “Obameter,” and time again to check Democratic traffic conditions on the road to the White House.  And that means a look at one of our favorite gauges on the dashboard in the very latest Gallup poll.  Senator Barack Obama trails Senator Hillary Clinton by 9 points but the two have come together in calling for an end to combat for U.S. troops in Iraq by March 31st of 2008, next year. 

Campaign ploy or an honest plan for dealing with the situation on the grounds?  That is the question.  Joining us once again to answer it, Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times, and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.

Macro question first, Lynn, since you cover, maybe more intensively than anybody, and have for longer than anyone, Barack Obama.  Hillary Clinton 35 percent in the latest Gallup poll, Barack Obama 26, Al Gore 16, poor John Edwards down there at 12 percent. 

I must say, I have expected week after week Barack Obama to break out in these national polls.  I know they may not be significant, et cetera.  But you would expect to see more movement than there has been.  What is the theory? 

SWEET:  I don‘t expect more movement.  I disagree respectfully with your thesis.  As long as you put Al Gore is in there, you don‘t have an accurate test of what is happening right now because he is not a candidate.  I don‘t know why Gallup bothers, you know, or put out another poll without Al Gore...

CARLSON:  No, that‘s a good point.

SWEET: ... in it.

CARLSON:  Do you think those Gore—do the Gore voters go to Obama rather than Hillary?

SWEET:  Well, I think it confuses people.  I think that if you are—and probably, yes, if you are looking for the new, fresh thing, that‘s a lot of what the Obama appeal is, is the new generation, new ideas, you know, campaigning against Washington type of campaign, so Gore would probably do it. 

I don‘t know why you would want to even have a discussion on what the reality is out in the campaign trail when you have a candidate in there who for the moment is not running.  So the—and I can‘t say this enough, these national polls really don‘t reflect what might be happening in the key primary states. 

So to get back to your question of would I have expected Obama to be moving up, yes.  The answer is, with all of the money, the attention, and the press...

CARLSON:  You would kind of think.

SWEET::  ... I would think there would be a few more points on the chart, yes. 

CARLSON:  I would think that.  And I agree with every critique you just offered of this poll and it‘s obvious silliness with Al Gore in there.  But I still think, I don‘t know, given how popular Obama is with every single Democrat I know—obviously my world is smaller than I realize.

Steve, maybe you can explain to me the position of the frontrunner in the race so far, Hillary Clinton, with respect to Iraq.  She says she wants to leave some very large number of troops in Iraq to fight terror, but she also wants all the troops out of Iraq by March 31st of 2008.  Those are mutually exclusive positions.  What is her real position?  Do you have any clue?

MCMAHON:  I think most Democrats want to redeploy the troops and get them out of the combat zone to the extent possible and get them into neighboring countries and then have them operation like strike forces when necessary to go in and take out terrorists and not to fight a civil war ever single day and have targets on their backs. 

CARLSON:  Have we chosen those countries yet that we are going to destabilize with our military presence or are we just hoping...

(CROSSTALK)    

MCMAHON:  You would have to ask for the details.

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t know!  I mean, the Democrats—the whole idea of being a Democrat right now in May of 2007 is to oppose the war.  So you would think that the talking points would be right off the top off of your head.

MCMAHON:  But, Tucker, what everybody—there are different people who have different plans and they have timelines and they have different objectives.  Everybody wants to get the troops out of Iraq.  Everybody wants to get the targets off the backs of the men and women who are there.

But everybody wants to continue the fight against al Qaeda.  Some of that fight, frankly, should be occurring in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden has been hiding out for five years.  Some of that fight is going to continue in Iraq.  But the point is, every Democratic candidate wants to take American troops out of the civil war and continue to fight the terrorists where we have to.

Every Republican candidate wants to—with the exception of Ron Paul, wants to leave the troops there, support the president‘s policy and pretend like this thing is going well. 

CARLSON:  In one sentence, do you really believe the Democratic nominee, whoever that person is, will call for a removal of all combat troops from Iraq—U.S. combat troops? 

MCMAHON:  Yes, I do.

CARLSON:  You and I both know that can‘t be done.  Nobody is going to call for it.  That‘s ridiculous.  We know al Qaeda is there.

MCMAHON:  Everyone is calling for it, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Right, but...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... and they can say whatever they want because nobody is listening.  But when the actual nominee becomes the nominee at the convention in August of 2008...

MCMAHON:  Yes.  I think they are going to say...

CARLSON:  ... do you really think he is going to continue to....

MCMAHON:  I think they are going to say that when I am president of the United States, I am going to move the troops out of there as quickly as is humanly possible. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  And they are going to do it.  No, it is—well, it is different than what the Republicans are saying.  What they are saying is we need to see the president‘s war out.

CARLSON:  You‘re right.  I agree, it is different.  But it is...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  They won‘t live up to their own rhetoric.  I bet you my car. 

SWEET:  But that‘s why Obama uses the term “phrased withdrawal” so much.  But the significance I must say of what has happened this week is that the Senate Democrats themselves have forced Obama and Clinton to take a position that they had not had previously, which is that they had to vote on this preliminary motion that was before the—you know, in the sense, a vote for the vote, on a measure that had a date certain for withdrawal.

And even though they are against that, they voted for it.  Everyone knew that the bill would go nowhere and there was never a vote on the underlying bill.  But the fact that because so much of the Democratic base primary constituency is the strong anti-war vote—you know, the electorate out there, they signed on and they voted for this.  And I think that...

CARLSON:  Yes, why don‘t they want to vote for it?  Because they think it should be thrown back in their faces during the general?

SWEET:  Well, right.  You have to think of the general as soon as they doing the primary.  What‘s the good of coming out damaged in the primary that you can‘t win a general?  So they have a little—you know, they had to make a decision...

MCMAHON:  The riskier vote though is not the troop deadline.  Because everybody supports that.  The riskier vote—and Lynn‘s exactly right about why it is happened, it is the Democratic presidential primary voters that are taken in there.  And frankly, it‘s John Edwards applying a lot of pressure...

CARLSON:  Yes, I agree...

(CROSSTALK)

SWEET:  On this one, Chris Dodd.  On this one Chris Dodd which is interesting...

MCMAHON:  And Chris Dodd as well.

SWEET:  ... give him some credit...

CARLSON:  But it‘s people who are not going to be the nominee who are left of Hillary Clinton, certainly, who are pushing her and Barack Obama to the left.  And I think everyone hates the war, bipartisan support for the idea the war was a bad idea.  I think it‘s much murkier what people want to do next. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I don‘t think there is clear support for immediate withdrawal at all.

SWEET:  But you will know sooner—the supplemental, which is being negotiated right now with the White House, I don‘t know how they can get a compromise, I can‘t imagine what the element will be, but that‘s why these negotiations that is happening now between Reid, Pelosi just joined on today, and with Josh Bolten over in the White House. 

They have got to figure out something that they can sell to the Democrats, get some Republicans onboard to make Bush sign. 

CARLSON:  It‘s hard to believe they can come up with common ground on that question.  But we will find out just ahead. 

Conservative Republicans and filmmaker Michael Moore both had their eyes focused on Fred Thompson.  Both would like to see him debate, but Thompson‘s response to Michael Moore is likely much different.  We have it.  Wait until you hear it.  It‘s a little weird, honestly.

Also many Democrats believe President Bush knew about 9/11, those attacks, before they happened.  Do they really believe that or do they just distrust him that much?  We‘ll tell you.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  If the definition of potpourri is any mixture of unrelated objects or subjects, then today‘s version pollpouri qualifies as a spicy brew.  Here it is.  Film maker Michael Moore now challenging Fred Thompson to a debate about health care, and Thompson‘s Cuban cigars. 

In a letter to the former Tennessee senator, Moore writes, quote, “In light of your comments regarding Cuba and Castro, do you think the ‘box upon box‘ of Montecristos from Havana that you have in your office have contributed to Castro‘s reported wealth?  While I will leave it up to the conservatives to debate your hypocrisy, and the Treasury Department to determine whether the box upon box of cigars violates the trade embargo, I hearby challenge you to a health care debate.” 

Well Thompson responded swiftly.  Here‘s what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED THOMPSON ®, FORMER SENATOR:  You know I‘ve been looking at my schedule, Michael, and I don‘t think I have time for you.  But I may be the least of your problems.  You know the next time you‘re down in Cuba visiting your buddy Castro, you might ask him about another documentary film maker.  His name is Nicholas Guillame (ph).  He did something Castro didn‘t like, and they put him in a mental institution for several years, giving him devastating electro-shock treatments. 

Mental institution, Michael.  Might be something you ought to think about. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  So what does this mean?  Is it a sign that Fred Thompson is about to get in the race for real?  Joining us now Lynn Sweet of the “Chicago Sun Times”, and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.  Lynn, I‘m certainly not on Michael Moore‘s side.  I think Michael Moore hates America.  It‘s pretty clear.  And I don‘t care for Michael Moore at all. 

But is this a good idea for Fred Thompson to respond this way.  What does this mean?  Have you seen anything like this before? 

SWEET:  I haven‘t seen anything like this before, but it means that Fred Thompson is a great communicator, Tucker.  What we just saw in that snippet shows how potently—just how potent he could be if he got in the race.  Also, it‘s original and he had a little fun doing it to.  Usually people put out press releases or statements just saying whatever.  That he was able to put pull that together and say that shows, in a sense, what a threat he is in the Republican field if he gets in, just because he had something to say and he said it well. 

CARLSON:  He certainly is willing to take a risk.  I mean, it‘s not your average press release.  How embarrassing is it that Michael Moore works on behalf of Democrats.  I mean, here‘s a guy who seriously goes there and sucks up to Fidel Castro.  He ought to be drummed out of the party like the clan was or John Berchside (ph) was drummed out of the Republican party. 

MCMAHON:  He didn‘t suck up to Fidel Castro. 

CARLSON:  Are you kidding? 

MCMAHON:  Listen, Michael Moore doesn‘t speak for the Democratic party.  Michael Moore is an independent film maker.  He happened to take—to shoot something in Cuba.  I don‘t know all the details.  But I do know that it seems like an overreaction for somebody who might want to be president of the United States to react this way to what was essentially a tweak by an independent film maker.  I mean, imagine—

CARLSON:  There‘s nothing independent about him.  He‘s a partisan Democrat.  He sat in Jimmy Carter‘s box in the Democratic convention. 

MCMAHON:  Who cares?  This guy wants to be president of the United States and Michael Moore challenges him to a debate.  And instead of replying to the challenge or ignoring it, which is probably what he should have done, he puts out this little thing.  What‘s he going to do when Osama bin Laden tweaks him?  What‘s he going to do when the president of Iran tweak?  Is the way he reacts?

SWEET:  I don‘t think he reacted out of peak, I think he realized how good and clever he could be in a response and get a point across.  He made an important point about Castro‘s Cuba when he referenced the film maker who was put in a mental institution.  I think he accomplished a lot in a short time.  And he was able to communicate it. 

MCMAHON:  He made a point about Castro‘s Cuba, but it‘s not a point that has escaped anyone.  It‘s not a point that—

CARLSON:  I‘m sure it has.  The American left has apologized for Castro for almost 50 years. 

MCMAHON:  The cigar thing on one level is a distraction.  But on another level is some sign of the hypocrisy of some on the right, who want to beat up on Fidel Castro‘s Cuba.  But they want to buy Cuban cigars and smoke them.  Now, I don‘t know if Michael Moore‘s was right in his characterization that Fred Thompson‘s shelves are filled with Cuban cigars, But if they are, Fred Thompson has some explaining to do. 

CARLSON:  Well, Fred Thompson mentioned mental hospitals, and that puts me in the mind of this next poll.  It‘s from Rasmussen.  I think it‘s the most interesting thing I‘ve seen in a long time.  It asks a pretty simple question: did President Bush know about the attacks of 9/11 before they took place?  Was this part of a conspiracy?  This question was asked of Democrats.  Here are the answers, 35 percent of Democrats believe yes, Bush was part of the conspiracy behind 9/11; 39, a minority, say no; 26 percent not sure. 

That means, in other words, more than 60 percent of Democrats, Steve, believe that Bush is responsible for 9/11 or could have been. 

MCMAHON:  No, there‘s a big difference between is responsible, was part of the conspiracy, and was there information that suggested there might be an attack.  There‘s been a lot—

CARLSON:  That wasn‘t the question.  The question is: Did he know about 9/11 beforehand?  Not did he miss signals that we might be attacked?  Did he know and do nothing about it.  I mean that‘s sick. 

MCMAHON:  You know what?  I‘m a pretty partisan Democrat, and I don‘t believe that.  And don‘t—

CARLSON:  But there are a lot of mental patients in your party, according to this.

MCMAHON: No, no Tucker.  There may be people who misunderstood the question.  There may be people who interpreted the question as I just did just a minute ago; was there evidence that there was going be an attack that the Bush administration ignored.  There are a lot of people, there are a lot of journalists, there are a lot of Republicans and independents who think that perhaps there was.  So, if the question, you know, went by as a bigger poll, and that‘s the way people were interpreting it, I‘m not at all surprised at the results.

CARLSON:  Boy, I don‘t even know what that evidence is that they ignored.  Did he have knowledge of it beforehand?  Did they ignore?  Did they willfully ignore?  What does that mean?  This appears to be suggesting pretty clearly that Bush was behind 9/11 in some way.  And there are a lot of people who do believe that. 

SWEET:  I would say to everyone who‘s listening that this is a (INAUDIBLE) question.  There‘s nothing we can say that is right, because we don‘t what‘s in the minds of people doing it.  I don‘t like these kinds of poll questions because it‘s confusing.  People don‘t know what you mean.  And I don‘t know.  I haven‘t seen the whole poll, what the questions were before that that might influence this answer. 

But when you ask people a question like that, I think a vague question that has some implication in it—Right?  The question has an implication built in—then you kind of get out of it what you put in it.  Therefore, I would say don‘t hold a lot of stock in it. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  This comports with what I‘ve certainly noticed in the talking—

MCMAHON:  But Tucker, You know any Democrats—

CARLSON:  Yes, I have run into on the road, a lot of people—People send me stuff all the time.  I‘m not saying you‘re—What‘s amazing about this poll is that it suggests that mainstream Democrats believe, quote, Bush knew about 9/11 beforehand.  That‘s what this poll suggests.  But I know that in on the fringe there are many, many, many people who send me letters every day saying, yes, Bush was part of the conspiracy behind 9/11. 

MCMAHON:  There are people on the fringe.  But again, I‘m a pretty partisan Democrat.  I don‘t believe for one second that George Bush knew there were going be attacks on September 11 and did nothing, don‘t believe it for one second.  I don‘t know anybody that believes that. 

Now there are people on the fringe.  I‘m actually surprised by that poll number, but I think it‘s confusion and it‘s not -- 

CARLSON:  I want to believe you.  Absolutely. 

SWEET:  Do you have a Republican number for that same question? 

CARLSON:  I don‘t.  This is what we have.  I assume it would be—

MCMAHON:  But what‘s the overall number?  Because if half the people are Republicans—

CARLSON:  Hard to believe this was just of Democrats.  Now speaking of Republicans, Paul Wolfowitz still, as we are on the air right now, is the head of the World Bank.  He‘s awaiting a decision by the World Bank.  The White House, for the first time, Lynn, apparently come to its sense and said it‘s as decision up to the World Bank.  They have left open wiggle room for Wolfowitz to resign.  Why did the president change his mind? 

SWEET:  Well, maybe he saw which way—The story has legs.  It‘s not ending.  Wolfowitz could not mount at convincing case that what he did was something that is worth just giving him a second chance on.  And, frankly, I would like to hear from the mysterious woman who is always called the girlfriend, which I think is kind of a weird word to use in this.  I mean it‘s just so demeaning to her.  That‘s an aside.  I just think that they gave him time to see if he could get over it.  He couldn‘t.  And they‘re just trying to cut their loss now.

CARLSON:  The tragedy about this story is, you know, giving his girlfriend a job and giving her higher pay—that‘s literally the least bad thing that‘s ever happened at the World Bank, this useless appendage that really does nothing, in my view.  And also good for the man who helps his girlfriend.  You should be nice to people you love. 

That‘s not the problem with Paul Wolfowitz.  The problem is that he‘s the architect of this disastrous war.  He shouldn‘t be running the World Bank or the student body government. 

MCMAHON:  Exactly, he shouldn‘t be running anything.  But the point is, leaving aside your feelings of the World Bank, this is the man who was in charge of the World Bank.  This is the person who engineered a huge pay raise for his girlfriend.  Technically whether she‘s his girlfriend or his mistress is a question, because he‘s still married. 

SWEET:  I was not inferring that.

MCMAHON:  But for his girlfriend he arranged this huge pay raise.  And then he blames the girlfriend.  He doesn‘t take responsible for himself.  And now we hear that he‘s trying to negotiate a package with the World Bank where they accept part of responsibility.  This has been the problem with Paul Wolfowitz and with this administration from the beginning.  They don‘t play by the rules.  They don‘t think the rules apply to them.

CARLSON:  But unfortunately they are playing by the rules.  They are playing by the liberal rules, by playing along with this ridiculous charade at the World Bank.  If the World Bank is effective at all, then why are the average life expectations in almost every sub Saharan country down from what they were 40 years ago, if it‘s such a good thing?  Why are people dying younger in Africa?   

SWEET:  I think Wolfowitz is in trouble more because he‘s an unpopular figure with an unpopular war, more than using this as a referendum on should the World Bank exist. 

(CROSS TALK)

SWEET:  You really see this as a referendum on whether the World Bank—

CARLSON:  I just don‘t know why the Bush administration is going along with the idea the World Bank is doing good in the world.  I mean where‘s the evidence of that.  Why are we—I think it‘s the key matter. 

MCMAHON:  This is a question about the appropriateness of a CEO or a president of an organization doing something like this for somebody he‘s personally involved in. 

CARLSON:  Oh, who cares.  Come on, who cares?  What do you mean?  As a Democrat you‘re going to tell me it‘s bad to help your girlfriend out?

MCMAHON:  The World Bank cares.  The world community cares. 

CARLSON:  The world community is—

MCMAHON:  The people who support the World Bank all over the world—

CARLSON:  They‘re shocked.  Do you know the amount of corruption that goes on at the U.N.  Democrats are like no problem at all.  And then this guy helps his girlfriend out? 

MCMAHON:  This is about personal responsibility.  That‘s all it‘s about.

CARLSON:  That‘s ridiculous.  I think helping his girlfriend is the best thing Paul Wolfowitz has ever done.  Destroying America‘s credibility in the world by planning this dumb war in Iraq, that‘s his sin. 

MCMAHON:  That is his sin.  And he was drummed out of the administration.  Now he‘s been drummed out of the World Bank.

SWEET:  This is the loophole that his—he had no base of support, no residual good will.  He didn‘t do anything in the World Bank addressing those dire problems in those undeveloped countries. 

CARLSON:  At least he helped somebody, his girlfriend. 

MCMAHON:  But blaming the girlfriend, that‘s courageous. 

CARLSON:  Thank you both very much.  Up next remembering the Reverend Jerry Falwell.  He will leave behind a lasting legacy.  But is that legacy all good or is it more complicated?  We‘ll tell you.

Plus, it‘s down to the wire on “American Idol,” with the field now narrowed to the final two.  Tonight, our resident Idol expert Willie Geist gives us a preview you can take to the bank and Vegas.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  His moral majority was a political force for decades.  But his sometimes controversial statements made him a lightning rod for both the religious right and the liberal left.  How will historians judge the affect and the legacy of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who died suddenly at the age, yesterday, of 73? 

Joining me now is the Washington editor of BeliefNet.com, David Kuo.  David, welcome. 

DAVID KUO, BELIEFNET.COM:  Good to be here.

CARLSON:  So what is—We spent a fair amount of time on yesterday‘s show, most of the show, talking about the political legacy of Jerry Falwell.  What‘s the social legacy? 

KUO:  There‘s also the social legacy and the spiritual legacy.  You know, I got a call yesterday from a friend of mine who said—works out in L.A., very successful in the entertainment industry, and said, you know, the reason I can‘t call myself a Christian in Hollywood is because of Jerry Falwell.  He said Jerry Falwell is what people think of more and more when they think of the word Christian.  I think that‘s part of the troubling legacy of his political and spiritual engagement.

CARLSON:  Is that because of what Jerry Falwell did or because some of the positions he took were so profoundly unpopular with the secular left that they attacked him and associated those positions with every Christian? 

KUO:  I think it‘s both.  A lot of people look at Jerry Falwell and say, listen, all he did was bad.  But at the end of the day, he did a civil rights movement of his own by bringing evangelicals to the table, who had been marginalized, who had no place in the political process.  And that‘s good and that‘s important. 

But at the same time, if you look what he did, he violated his own rules.  You know, he violated his own rules by saying a preacher is most powerful and most effective when he preaches Jesus from the pulpit, not when he brings the pulpit to politics.  And in bringing the pulpit to politics in the very strident, narrow and, frankly, angry way that he did, he very much damaged the name of Jesus.  He made Jesus synonymous with Jerry Falwell‘s politics, and not spiritually.  Speaking from a spiritual perspective, that‘s a troubling thing. 

CARLSON:  So you think he brought more people to the faith or repelled more from the faith? 

KUO:  You know, I‘ve got to think that when he said AIDS was god‘s condemnation on homosexuals he drove probably more people from the faith that might fill all of America‘s mega-churches today.  

CARLSON:  Interesting.  What then—Is it possible for a preacher to get involved in politics and stay true to his faith if he‘s a Christian? 

KUO:  That‘s the great questions of Christians and politics.  I mean, how do you do that?  How do you—It‘s city of man, city of god.  How do you balance the politics?  How do you balance the power and still love god and serve god first and foremost. 

CARLSON:  Is there any model in the new testament for doing that?  Or is the instruction basically to withdraw yourself?

KUO:  It‘s hard.  I mean, Christians need to be involved in politics.  If you look at the great involvement just in American history.  You look at abolition.  You look at the civil right‘s movement.  These are Christian movements at their core.  That‘s what happened.  And to not have Christians involved in politics is wrong from that perspective. 

They need to be involved.  But they also need to look at this from a spiritual perspective, maybe more from a spiritual perspective than from a political perspective.  And say, what is the message that I‘m sending about Jesus through my politics.  And maybe that would temper a lot of the language and some of the policies. 

CARLSON:  Yes, when Falwell died yesterday and Al Sharpton and Larry Flint and Jesse Jackson all said nice things about him, you really got the feeling, something I thought before about him, this is a man who did want the approval of liberals too. 

KUO:  It‘s an interesting thing.  It‘s also interesting, because, you know, you, if you look at the social statistics in 1979 when he started Moral Majority, and compare them to today; out of wedlock births are up, divorces are up, drug use is up, teen sexuality is up, family formation is down, and church attendance is down.  It‘s an interesting—what was the trade that was made? 

CARLSON:  I thought that yesterday.  In the end it wasn‘t that effective. 

KUO:  And happy birthday. 

CARLSON:  Well, thank you David.  I appreciate that.  Nice to see you.

KUO:  Good to see you.

CARLSON:  On second thought, Prince Harry is not going to Iraq.  And he finally did wake up and realized that Fox hunting is more fun than insurgent hunting.  Good for him.  British military analyst Willie Geist is telling us why Harry is staying home.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  If you tuned into the show yesterday, you may have noticed something was missing.  His name was Willie Geist, but he is back.  Contract negotiations are done.  The strike is over.  He joins us now from headquarters. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  You thought you were surprised, Tucker, I was sitting here at 4:55 and then they didn‘t come to me.  It was very upsetting. 

CARLSON:  That‘s touching.  It‘s sad. 

GEIST:  You know, Tucker, David Kuo beat me to the punch, but I want to be the second to wish you a very happy birthday.  And we got you what we get you everywhere, Tucker, Fudgie the Whale.  Fudgie the Whale from Carville Ice Cream, here in the tri-state area, the world‘s greatest birthday cake.  Happy birthday Tucker. 

CARLSON:  It gives me chills.  There is something faintly obscene about Fudgie the Whale. 

GEIST:  You and the staff give me one last year, live on the air, an actual cake.  So this is about as good as I could do.

CARLSON:  Thank you Willie.

GEIST:  Happy birthday Tucker.  Well, you remember that dramatic story about Prince Harry going to fight in Iraq, you know, the one about a young man traveling to a far away land to risk a life of privilege for the chance to fight alongside his brothers?  Yes, that‘s not happening.  The British army‘s chief of staff today announced today that the military has received specific threats to Harry‘s life and that sending him to Iraq would put the prince and those around him at great risk.

Harry would have been the first member of the royal family to serve since his uncle Prince Andrew flew helicopters in the Falklands war of 1982, not much of a war actually.  Harry is said to be very disappointed.  Now, Tucker, we joke around, but you have to applaud Harry for actually wanting to go over there.  But he kind of gets the perfect outcome here.  He shows.  He gets credit for wanting to go.  But now he can just kind of hang out with super models and go to polo matches.

CARLSON:  No, ti‘s like when your friends hold you back from the fist fight.  I would have killed him!

GEIST:  Exactly.  It‘s a win, win for Harry.  But good for him for trying anyway.  Well, if Prince Harry thinks he‘s upset, what about us?  We have to say goodbye to one of the three remaining contestants on “American Idol” tonight.  Either Jordan, Melinda or Blake will get an awkward hug from Ryan Seacrest and some crocodile tears from Paula Abdul at the end of tonight‘s show. 

The bigger news though are that Idol‘s ratings are dropping pretty dramatically week by week, down eight percent from last week.  That means now only half the English-speaking world watches the show.  Now here‘s the deal, Tucker, I haven‘t been keeping terribly close tabs on this, I must confess.  But I caught it last night.  I was a victim of circumstance.  Melinda is by far the most talented of the singers.  How to put this—she is not Beyonce, that is her problem, looks-wise.  And don‘t underestimate the shallowness of the American people.  So she should win on merits, but I‘m not sure she‘s going to. 

CARLSON:  Well, first of all, I‘ve never underestimated the shallowness.  I told you from the very beginning, people were all caught up in Sanjaya; he is not a good singer.  That is so not the point. 

GEIST:  Exactly.  Exactly.  But I think Blake might be in some trouble tonight, just my guess.  By the way, other reality show news, Tucker, Ian Zering (ph) kicked off “Dancing With The Star‘s” last night.  Sad day.

CARLSON:  That‘s sad.  I always thought it was Ian.

GEIST:  No, Ian, Ian Zering.  All right, I‘m going to give you three guesses as to what started these violent riots in Argentina last night.  Human rights violations by the government?  Irresponsible environmental policy?  Religious tensions?  Nope, a couple of trains were late. 

Rioters trashed a commuter train station in Buenos Aires and looted nearby shops because of during rush hour, seriously, that‘s why they‘re setting things on fire and throwing rocks at the police.  The trains were late.  I would hate to see these people in an airport.  Boy, short fuses down there.  They need to put in a TGI Friday‘s at the train station.  They just go have a beer, wait out the delay like the rest of us do. 

CARLSON:  Krispy Kreme.  That‘s the answer.  Nothing soothes like a donut.   

GEIST:  Exactly, or some jalapeno poppers at Fridays.  Finally, Tucker, before she was first lady to the governator, Maria Shriver was, of course, a well-known journalist here at NBC.  She got out of the news business when Arnold became governor because she wanted to avoid any conflict of interest.  Now she says she‘s never coming back.  Why?  Because of Anna Nicole Smith. 

Shriver says the frenzied coverage of Anna Nicole‘s death and the of the custody fight that followed, that involved Judge Larry Seidlin, Larry Birkhead, Howard K. Stern, Virgie Arthur and the rest of the gang, convinced her to stay away from TV altogether.  She told a group in California yesterday, quote, I was just flabbergasted.  I said, you know what, this ship had sailed.  It is not for me.”

Now Tucker, the irony her is that, for me, the Anna Nicole Smith coverage convinced me to get into television.  It was very exciting.  When I saw Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s husband claim that he was the father, I said, you know what, I want a piece of this action.  And that‘s how I got into TV.

CARLSON:  So Maria Shriver is claiming that television has, just during the last three years, turned shallow and ratings obsessed?  It just happened?  It‘s like she had no idea. 

GEIST:  No, it was much different in her heyday in 2004. 

CARLSON:  During O.J.   

GEIST:  Exactly.

CARLSON:  All right, Willie Geist.

GEIST:  Happy birthday Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thank you Willie.  I appreciate it.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, HARDBALL with Chris Matthews.  We‘re back tomorrow.  See you then.

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

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