updated 6/26/2007 10:56:20 AM ET 2007-06-26T14:56:20

Guests: Ron Christie, Peter Fenn

DAVID SHUSTER, GUEST HOST:  The most powerful vice president in U.S.  history.  New evidence that Dick Cheney wields more influence than the president himself.  Hello everybody, I‘m David Shuster, in for Tucker Carlson. 

This morning official Washington woke up to a stunning report in the “Washington Post,” that pulled back the curtain on the power that is wielded by Vice President Cheney.  Mr. Cheney is even more powerful, more feared, more secretive and more controversial than previously understood.  And the report comes amidst a fight that erupted again today over Vice President Cheney‘s handling of classified information. 

Plus, there are now indications that Cheney‘s man, Scooter Libby, will have to report to prison in three weeks in the CIA leak case, unless Libby gets a presidential pardon or gives up the vice president to prosecutors.  We will talk with a Cheney insider and debate Cheney‘s views. 

Also, it‘s been a another rough day for GOP presidential front runner, Rudy Giuliani.  Now he is facing criticism from a fellow Republican, the former EPA Administrator, Christy Todd Whitman says, Giuliani made a big mistake in how he reacted to 9/11. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR:  I believe that

those who are getting sick, who did not wear respirators, that is related to what happened on the pile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  We will have the latest on the Giuliani campaign, including a growing controversy over where his priorities were, two years ago.  Plus, there were indications this afternoon that the president‘s immigration plan is again in trouble in Capitol Hill.  Could rhetoric like this be part of the reason? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  This is not immigration, Tim,

this is not Ellis Island, this is an invasion of this country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  We will talk to the one and only Pat Buchanan about the verbal hand grenades he is now throwing.  And we will get the latest on where the reform is headed now. 

And the war in Iraq, the Bush administration is now referring referring to insurgents as al Qaeda, six months ago, President Bush himself declared that most Iraqi insurgents were not al Qaeda.  What is behind the verbal gymnastics?  And do they help explain a stunning new poll that found 40 percent of Americans believe was involved in 9/11.  Iraq, of course, was not involved in 9/11.  But you might not understand that listening to the last five years to the office of the vice president.  And today, readers of the “Washington Post” woke up to another spellbinding report of the vice president‘s penchant for secrecy, his strong arm tactics within the White House and his influence, which if you believe the “Post,” is often greater within the administration than thee president himself. 

And all of this comes as the vice president continues to maintain he does not need to cooperate with the agency that examines the handling of classified information because Cheney does not consider himself apart of the executive branch of government.  The White House defense of Cheney today made for quite an exchange at this afternoon‘s White House press briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  What is going on here? 

DANA PERINO:  The president, of course has had ...

QUESTION:  Any accountability to the American people? 

PERINO:  Absolutely. 

QUESTION:  Does the vice president see top secrets in this administration as a member of the executive branch?  Does he attend NSC meetings?

PERINO:  In his executive duties, as discharged by the president, he does see classified materials, yes.

QUESTION:  And he is allowed to?

PERINO:  Victoria, go ahead.

QUESTION:  We should get someone out here who can answer our questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Here to talk about the vice president is somebody who used to work for him, Ron Christie.  Ron also worked for Scooter Libby and is a leading advocate for a Libby pardon.

Ron, first, thanks for joining us.

RON CHRISTIE, FMR. ADVISER TO V.P. CHENEY:  Nice to see you, David.

SHUSTER:  Ron, if the president can comply with something called the Information Security Oversight office, why can‘t Vice President Cheney?

CHRISTIE:  I‘m not saying he can‘t, I think the vice president—many people do not seem to realize that the vice president of the United States is also the president of the Senate.  He is also a member of the legislative body.  And one of the things that the vice president‘s lawyers have been maintaining over the last several days, is that in his role as the president of the Senate, he does not have to comply with certain of the reporting requirements that folks in the executive branch have to do. 

SHUSTER:  In other words, you are saying that the vice president does not need to follow the same rules that a president follows?  Right?

CHRISTIE:  What I am saying, David, is the president of the Senate, the member of the legislative body is not in the same capacity as a member of the executive branch.  And there are distinctions between the two and I think will decide over the next couple of days but one of the things I would point out to your viewers is, he is the president of the Senate, he is a member of the legislative body, and some of those reporting requirements are a little bit different. 

SHUSTER:  Well let‘s get beyond the sort of legalisms here and get to the larger issue, what is it that the vice president is afraid of—of sharing with this agency how he is handled classified information? 

CHRISTIE:  Well, I don‘t think the vice president is afraid of disclosing anything, David.  I think the vice president is making sure to ensure the solvency of the office of the vice president for future administrations.  Again ...

SHUSTER:  Do you really believe that? 

CHRISTIE:  Of course I do.  David ...

SHUSTER:  You believe this is all about protecting office of the vice presidency for future generations? 

CHRISTIE:  Of course I do.  I had the opportunity, unlike a lot of

people who have been pontificating on air or spouting their opinions, I

worked for the man.  He feels very strongly about preserving the role of

the vice president of the United States, who is also the president of the

Senate.  But again, to get beyond the legal niceties of it all, it is about

the fact of the matter is, that the vice president of the United States is the one person who is in a position to give candid advice to the president of the United States.  He wants to ensure that there are certain barriers that are not overcome by those who just want to poke around and look for the sake of looking.  There needs to be a certain amount of candor that individual can have when advising the president.

SHUSTER:  Well, speaking of the role of the vice president, one of the things that has come out of this “Washington Post” series has been that the vice president, or his office, wrote this memo essentially endorsing the use of torture.  And that it was a memo that was kept away from the Secretary of State Colin Powell, from the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice for two years.  Were you a part of writing that memo or keeping it way from them? 

CHRISTIE:  No, of course not.  I was his deputy domestic policy adviser and did not have anything to do with his national security apparatus.  But I would say this to you:  so much of this article, I looked at it,  there are all these unnamed quotes and these people who will not speak on the record.  The fact of the matter is, that from the first day that we came into office in January of 2001, the vice president made it very clear to all of us who were on his staff, that our sole mission, David, the one thing we were supposed to do, is to help the president and his staff in any way possible. 

SHUSTER:  But how did it help them to cut out the CIA director, the national security adviser, secretary of state?  How does it help the Bush administration when the vice-president is doing end around other—over other cabinet officials? 

CHRISTIE:  Well, first of all, that makes the assumption that everything that was in that “Post” article is true, which I do not necessarily subscribe to that.  When you have unnamed sources, when you have people who are unwilling to have the courage to put their name behind some of the statements, who said that the Vice President Cheney did this.  The vice president did that, let them come. 

SHUSTER:  Let‘s go forward with somebody.  Scooter Libby, during his trial, evidence came out that he was asked by the vice president to leak classified information, part of the national intelligence estimate, to Judy Miller that nobody knew about that, not the CIA director, not the national security adviser, not her deputy.  Let‘s run this—this shot of Scooter Libby. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOOTER LIBBY, FORMER AIDE TO VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY:  I had talked to

Judith Miller about the NIE at the president‘s, you know, at the president‘s approval relayed to me through the vice president.  And I did not tell Mr. Hadley at that time. 

QUESTION:  And was there any reason why you didn‘t tell Mr. Hadley that you had told Ms. Miller about the NIE?

LIBBY:  I was sitting with the vice president.  The vice president knew it and chose not to tell Mr. Hadley and so I didn‘t change what he had done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  So there you have Scooter Libby saying that the vice president felt no need to tell the national security adviser or her deputy about a decision by the vice president to leak classified information.

CHRISTIE:  Well, again, David, this assumes only one part of the story.  What else is there?  Did the vice president and the president have that conversation?  Did the vice president say, Mr. President, here is what we intend to do, and the president could have said something that he would to intend to take to his national security team. 

SHUSTER:  But doesn‘t ...

CHRISTIE:  Again, there is one—the problem with this sort of gotcha politics that is going with this “Post” story, it seems to me, is that there is one side of the story.  What else is there?  What is it that we don‘t know?  I would just hope that some of the folks who have come forward with these anonymous quotes, and these leaked materials would put their name to it so they can actually give this a little bit more color. 

SHUSTER:  You advocate a Libby pardon in the CIA leak case.  The reason is because you say that he is not the leaker?

CHRISTIE:  The reason is very simple.  As a lawyer, I can look to you

the first thing that we learned in the first semester of law school is: have all of the elements of a crime have been met?  In this particular case, you are looking for the disclosure of a CIA operative.  At the time, the Special Counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, knew that in fact, Mr. Libby was not the leaker. 

SHUSTER:  You are wrong, Ron.  He was ...

CHRISTIE:  No.

SHUSTER:  ... a leaker.  When you say that he was not the leaker ...

CHRISTIE:  No.

SHUSTER:  ... that assumes that ...

CHRISTIE:  No.

SHUSTER:  ... there was just one leaker. 

CHRISTIE:  No, no, no.

SHUSTER:  And the fact of the matter is, I know where you are going with this.  You are going to say Richard Armitage was the leaker, but did you know that Richard Armitage would not have even known about Scooter Libby, would not even have known about Valerie Wilson, had it not been for Scooter Libby‘s own request to the State Department for this information? 

CHRISTIE:  Yes, and David, I would come right back at you and say, this whole case, remember the CIA thought that there was an improper disclosure of a CIA operative.  They referred that to the Justice Department.  That, in fact, was leaked.  When the special counsel first looked into this, he looked at Richard Armitage, you are absolutely right, but what he also knew, what Fitzgerald also knew, that one of the elements to disclose a CIA operative is knowledge.  If in fact that Armitage had known that she was a CIA operative, Fitzgerald would have charged Armitage.  So what I‘m saying to you is, he proceeded with a litigation that he knew was bogus from the outset. 

SHUSTER:  No, but he also knew, Ron, that there was information that the vice president—there were suggestions that the vice president had ordered his top guy, Scooter Libby to also leak this information on a deliberate basis, to—to Judy Miller, to Matt Cooper, to a whole host of other administration officials.

CHRISTIE:  Well.

SHUSTER:  The fact of the matter is, a jury found that there was beyond reasonable doubt that in fact Scooter Libby lied about his actions on behalf of the vice president.  But in any case.

CHRISTIE:  Well, wait a second. 

SHUSTER:  That was the case!

CHRISTIE:  But the fact of the matter is David, if you want to go back to what Scooter had actually did or who he had conversations with, let‘s look at one thing.  If you look at Walter Pincus, Walter Pincus was reporter for the “Washington Post,” Pincus claims, you know what?  I got the name of Valerie Plame from Ari Fleischer.  Ari Fleischer went on the stand and said, no, in fact.

SHUSTER:  And the jury considered this. 

CHRISTIE:  Yes, they considered it.

SHUSTER:  The jury considered this a contradiction and they still found Scooter Libby guilty.

CHRISTIE:  And here‘s the difference.

SHUSTER:  Ron we have got to run. 

CHRISTIE:  Sure.

SHUSTER:  You are a great guest, you are a great guy, but on the politics and the law in the Libby case, you are wrong. 

CHRISTIE:  We‘ll find out another day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Amid the hue and cry of opposition, President Bush‘s controversial immigration bill gets what will likely be its last chance for life this week in the Senate.  And we will be joined by one of the leading critics with his forecast. 

And Rudy Giuliani has led the race for the 2008 Republican nomination for months, in large part, thanks to his performance in September 11th.  How will a sharp critique today by a former Bush administration official affect Giuliani‘s standing?  This is MSNBC, the place for politics. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Dick Cheney has been pretty damn good at accumulating power, extraordinarily effective and adept at exercising power.  That description comes courtesy, not of a partisan enemy of the vice president, but from former Secretary of State James Baker who worked with Cheney in three different presidential administrations.  The “Washington Post” is shining a critical light on Mr. Cheney in a series this week called, “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.”  The series is already a Washington sensation. 

Cheney critics are pointing to the series and declaring the vice president‘s consolidation of power has defined constitutional limits and hurt the country.  Loyalists have already pointed to the absence of another terror attack in this country after 9/11 as evidence that Cheney‘s actions, as detailed in the “Post,” helped protect America.  

Here with their views are Pat Buchanan, an MSNBC political analyst and former President Candidate. And Peter Fenn, Democratic Strategist and contributor to the “Hills” pundits blog. 

Pat, I want to start with you.  Picking up there with the Scooter Libby—there is no way that I can see, both legally or on the politics for the vice president‘s supporters to get their way and ask President Bush to give Scooter Libby a pardon. 

BUCHANAN:  I think they are pushing the president of the United States, I don‘t think the president is going to give it, at this time.  I really don‘t think there is a reason or rationale for giving it at this time.  The real question about whether Fitzgerald should have gone ahead. 

But I do believe this, David, and I‘ve said it before, I think that if Scooter Libby is in prison, at the end of the president‘s term, after Christmas 2008.  I think Dick Cheney would walk in and say sir, I‘ve worked for you eight years and this guy has suffered enough in my judgment.  He was a good man, maybe he made a mistake.  I think he needs a pardon.  I think the president would give it to him at that point.  I don‘t see it happening before then, I may be wrong.

SHUSTER:  Well, Peter, the difficulty that I have with that scenario is, that if you believe the “Washington Post” series this week, you believe that the vice president, at some point in the next three weeks, before Scooter Libby goes to prison, is going to sit down in those wing chairs next to the president and basically snooker the president into giving Scooter Libby a pardon.  Right?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Listen, I think they are going to be in that lovely little lunch room being served lunch and he is going to hold back the plate with the president‘s lunch unless he does it.  But no, I think Pat is right on this.  But it does cause a lot of problems for the Republican party.  Because the pressure is building from the candidates in 2008 and the conservative wing of the party to pardon this guy.  And the president, the longer he waits, and if he has to go to prison, which it looks like he is going to, that could be a real problem for conservative. 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think—I‘ll be honest.  Look, I am in the conservative wing.  There‘s no doubt the neo-conservatives who are very close to Libby who, they respect him and like him.  They are driving hard. 

I was on vacation, I got a call from folks down there explaining to me why I was wrong on Scooter, why he ought to get the pardon and things.  And they were very determined, but this is not a burning in—this is not an Iraq issue, it is not an immigration issue, which has the country and the conservatives on fire. 

It is a narrow elite and they are adamant that Scooter deserves a pardon and they are trying to get it, but I don‘t think they are going to be successful. 

SHUSTER:  What are we to make of the “Washington Post” detailing the number of incidences, the number of the times where there was the vice president essentially coming up with ideas, or coming up with proposals and keeping the secretary of state, the national security adviser out of the loop for two years. 

BUCHANAN:  Look, Dick Cheney is one of the most capable people in this city has been for years, before he came vice president.  He is enormously respected in the House by the moderates and the conservatives.  When I was in Regan‘s White House, he was respected.  He did a great job for Ford.  He knows his onions.  He came in here to be a powerful, influential vice president with a determined agenda and he‘s succeeding.

SHUSTER:  How is he succeeding though, if he‘s got a president ...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t agree with the policies, but I‘m saying ... 

FENN:  His power is grown as his popularity has dropped here.  I mean, here is a vice president that has had more authority, more access, more ability to shut other people out than any vice president in the history of this country.  And look what it‘s done.  The problem is that it is the problem.  He has too much power and the wrong kind of power. 

SHUSTER:  What is wrong then with the Republicans holding the vice president responsible with a lot of the problems in the administration? 

BUCHANAN:  You can‘t do that.  I think that Cheney‘s advice has been mistaken.  But the president took it!  We elected George W. Bush, he invaded Iraq.  I mean, Cheney might have said we ought to do, we didn‘t do it last time, he took the advice, he followed the advice.  Cheney does not win them all, but in the ultimate analysis, the president of the United States is responsible for his own rating. 

FENN:  But you know, he‘s—the trouble with this vice president, as Ron Christie, really basically said, well, he‘s the president of the Senate, we are going to abide by the executive rules because he is in the Senate.  And then when he‘s in the Senate, I mean, he is not going to abide by anybody‘s rules other than his own! 

BUCHANAN:  You know, why not impeach him? 

FENN:  Well, they should, to be honest with you.  He‘s the first guy, but the trouble is ...

(CROSS TALK)

FENN:  I mean, I think we ought to do a two for here. 

SHUSTER:  Well, the numbers are growing, I think we are now to nine members ...

(CROSS TALK)

FENN:  To effectively impeach in one sense, the American people doesn‘t even give him double digits. 

SHUSTER:  Alright, Pat and Peter, stay with us.  We will come back with you guys in just a second. 

Coming up, key Republicans think they are close to securing the votes that would resurrect the president‘s stalled immigration reform plan.  But conservatives are ratcheting up the criticism and the fight is getting particularly harsh.  Thanks, in part, to this guy sitting next to us.

Plus, Rudy Giuliani‘s became a household name after September 11th, but his presidential campaign is now taking fire on several fronts, including from a former Bush administration official.  We‘ll talk about the controversy today, is just ahead.  You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  A showdown over illegal immigration is likely this week in the U.S. Senate.  The immigration reform bill is back with President Bush joining most Democrats and a few Republicans in fighting to get it passed.  Supporters of the measure call it the best way to provide for border security and a legal and orderly path to citizenship for the roughly 12 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.  Opponents of the bill call it amnesty.  Back with their insights are Pat Buchanan, an MSNBC political analyst, former presidential adviser, former presidential candidate, and author of, “State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.”  And Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist and contributor to “The Hill‘s” Pundits Blog. 

Pat, you describe this, in your book, as an invasion.  You said yesterday on “Meet the Press,” a couple of times that this was an invasion.  What are you talking about? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, the president of the United States said he stopped 6 million people on the border.  In his first five years, one in 12, 500,000 had a criminal record.  Those one in 12, those 500,000, that‘s equal to the size of the entire United States Army.  Twelve million people in the country is more than all the Irish and Jewish and English folks who ever came.  And more than that, every 20 months, we add a New Mexico in the third world.  You‘re going to add 30 New Mexicos by 2050, and they all know the door is open.  If you grant amnesty, and there is nothing in this bill that stops the invasion, I think we will lose the American Southwest. 

SHUSTER:  Pat, how do you get the money, though, to go after 600,000 illegal immigrants and essentially deport them?

BUCHANAN:  Well, 600,000, those are absconders.  Those are people that have been ordered deported.  They are felons in the United States.  How can you talk about national security if you don‘t do it?

SHUSTER:  But obviously, what we‘re doing now isn‘t working.

BUCHANAN:  Look, we won World War II against Germany and Japan in three years, and these guys can‘t find a bunch of felons wandering around our cities?  What is the matter with this government?

SHUSTER:  That‘s right.  They can‘t.  It isn‘t (inaudible) part of the problem.

BUCHANAN:  Well, then Chertoff is the problem and President Bush is the problem.

FENN:  But the bigger problem is that we have got in effect de facto amnesty right now.  We have got a system where people don‘t know what the heck the rules are. 

So you know, if you are going to have a comprehensive solution, if you‘re going to have a bill that basically says, OK, here is the path to citizenship, and if you are a felon, if you have a record, you are out, you know...

BUCHANAN:  You mean to tell me...

FENN:  Pat, I mean, I think what—if we do nothing over the next dozen years, the problem is just going to get worse. 

BUCHANAN:  But look, you are talking about the greatest—what—everybody when I was young considered citizenship a tremendous honor.  What have these guys done to get it?  They‘ve broken the law, they broke into the country, and they‘re breaking the law by being here.  And they are colliding with (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

FENN:  You shouldn‘t reward it, and no one is arguing—no, no, no... 

(CROSSTALK)

FENN:  But citizenship—look, the path to citizenship in this country should not be amnesty.  They should be required to pay fines.  They should be required to earn it. 

BUCHANAN:  (inaudible).

FENN:  Are you going to send 12 million people back? 

BUCHANAN:  You‘re going to...

FENN:  This is what I‘m worried about.  Let me tell you what I‘m worried about.  If we do nothing and don‘t figure this out, there are going to be places in this country that if you run an apartment building, they are going to require you to find out whether someone is an illegal alien or not before you rent to them.  Wait a minute, my job—then they may say, hey, you know, you shouldn‘t...

(CROSSTALK)  

SHUSTER:  The reason that we‘re talking about this today is because, of course, the Republicans are bringing this up, and they seem to think that they do have the votes. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHUSTER:  Well, Reid is depending on the Republicans, though, if he‘s going to bring it up. 

The question here, Pat, is do they have the votes, to defeat your idea?  And that is do they have the votes to pass this thing?

BUCHANAN:  Well, the only had seven at the last cloture vote, but they got a lot more than that in the bank. 

My guess is they are getting close to it, David.  I don‘t think Reid would walk up to the well again and go down to defeat by 15 votes.  My guess is, they are getting close.  My guess is, they got people who have told them, OK, please don‘t call on me, only if you have to—if you need me.  My guess is they‘re very close.

But looking at a couple of them, the two Georgia senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, had bailed.  The senator from Texas has bailed.  Trent Lott‘s getting hammered.

SHUSTER:  And given that it‘s this close, given all the horse trading that‘s going into this, Peter, I still for the life of me can‘t figure out why is there nothing yet in this bill that allows employers to essentially tell the difference between workers who are legal and illegal? 

FENN;  I think you are going to have to have that, ultimately.  I mean, I don‘t know how you do a bill like this and make it work if you don‘t—the problem right now is you have got a 380-page bill.  There is plenty of stuff in there for folks to disagree with.  The question is, will they put their disagreements aside on some specifics and vote for it? 

I think it is very tough right now.  You know, they may have the votes tomorrow, but you know, then they have got to go to the House, then they have got to get the votes there.  Then they‘ve got to come back to conference and they have to agree on a conference report, which is a final bill.  Whoa.

BUCHANAN:  Let me tell you what the core of it really is.  It is amnesty.  Not just amnesty for the 12 million.  Every business that‘s hired illegal aliens gets an amnesty.  In the previous bill, you know what they had in there?  They had amnesty from civil and criminal penalties for every business that (inaudible).  No wonder the Chamber of Commerce is going wild.

SHUSTER:  And I agree that this is really—this is really a fight...

BUCHANAN:  That‘s the driving force.

SHUSTER:  And this is really a fight—I agree with you.  This really is a fight between the corporate side of the Republican Party and the bedrock conservatives like yourself.  And the politics of this is fascinating, and we are going to talk about that on the other side of this break.  And we‘re also going to talk about Fred Thompson, who may have a little to show—who may have little to show for his service in the U.S.  Senate and he may not want to work very hard at anything, but Republicans in Nevada could care less.  The astounding poll numbers from Nevada are just ahead. 

And Rudy Giuliani tries to weather another storm, this one courtesy of a Republican who served as a cabinet secretary for President Bush.  We will explain coming up.  You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

SHUSTER:  Conventional political wisdom is at that the American Southwest will be crucial in the 2008 presidential election, which makes the most recent Mason Dixon poll in Nevada so remarkable, and potentially upsetting for Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.  Of 400 likely Republican voters, fully 25 percent support still undeclared Fred Thompson.  Giuliani runs third, behind Mitt Romney and John McCain from neighboring Arizona.  McCain manage a paltry eight percent. 

How significant an indication of the future is this Nevada survey?  To answer Pat Buchanan, an MSNBC political analyst, former presidential candidate and author of “State of Emergency, The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America,” and Democratic strategist and contributor to “The Hill‘s” pundits blog, Peter Fenn. 

Peter, I have this theory that one of the reasons that Fred Thompson is doing so well is because he does not have this immigration issue hanging over his neck. 

FENN:  Well, he may have to deal with that pretty soon.  He‘s going to have to deal with a lot of issues.  It does seem that the longer you wait, the better you do in the polls.  But I think this is a tough one for McCain right now.  They‘re coming up on the June 30th deadline for financial reporting, and all rumors out there are that he‘s not going to do well.  He may have to cut more staff. 

The immigration bill is going to be really hard for him. 

BUCHANAN:  Thompson handled the immigration perfectly when he came and he said forget the bill and secure the border.  He did not say anything about it, which is right.  It is killing McCain.  McCain had to pull out of the Iowa straw poll.  He is as seven percent in South Carolina.  Now, Nevada is more like a national poll, because they haven‘t been out there campaigning, but that is bad news.  And Thompson is at 25.  I think McCain is in serious trouble.  I think he will pull out of the Iowa caucus. 

SHUSTER:  Really?

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t see how he can go on.  David, you don‘t go to the Iowa straw poll, you demoralize your people.  He is then going to put all of his resources in a place where Romney is enormously strong.  If he gets wiped out there—he could run third or fourth there.

SHUSTER:  But that is the same strategy McCain had in 2000.  He didn‘t compete in Iowa.  He put everything in New Hampshire.  He beat Bush by 18 and that catapulted his campaign.  That seems like a reasonable strategy for McCain.

BUCHANAN:  I was in Iowa in that straw poll.  And McCain didn‘t go to it.  He stayed out completely so there was nothing to risk.  Now he has been out there for a year working this thing.  He has an organization which is completely demoralized.  He is dropping in the polls to fifth in Iowa right now.  I don‘t think he can go to the Iowa caucus.  I think the wheels are coming off. 

I don‘t want to make a prediction, but it would not surprise me if McCain does not make it into the first primaries. 

FENN:  It worked great for Joe Lieberman in 2004.  He dropped out of Iowa.  He dropped like a rock.  I think the hardest thing right now for these candidates is they are fatally flawed.  I mean, Giuliani is dropping.  The more the power on the microscope is turned up on him, the worst he does.  Romney has the flip-flop problem.  He now has the pardon problem.  He supports the pardon of Libby, but didn‘t support the pardon of an Iraq war veteran, who happened to hit a guy with a BB gun and didn‘t even burst the skin.  It is like, wow, what are you thinking? 

BUCHANAN:  If you ask me, I think is between Thompson and Romney.  I don‘t think Rudy—I have never felt Rudy could make it all the way through. 

SHUSTER:  Well, we‘re going to talk about Rudy in the next block.  But I want to switch and talk about the Democrats first.  There is a little bit of a split now between John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth Edwards.  She spoke out at a rally in San Francisco this weekend.  Her husband is opposed to gay marriage, but listen to what Elizabeth Edwards told the crowd this weekend. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS:  I do not know why somebody

else‘s marriage has anything to do with me.  I‘m completely comfortable with gay marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Completely comfortable with gay marriage?  That‘s a little bit of a problem for John Edwards?

BUCHANAN:  Edwards said I‘m not very comfortable with those people, according to our brother Shrum.  That was made at the gay Alice B. Toklas, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered Democratic club. 

FENN:  You remember that?  You have that down. 

(CROSS TALK)

FENN:  I do not think it is a big problem.  I think the fact is that he has his position. Other family members there, the oldest daughter, feel the same way.  You know, George Bush thinks we should have civil unions.  So come on, how far are we going to go? 

BUCHANAN:  But I think what it means politically is Edwards is going left.  And he is not going to let anybody get to his left.  And he feels that is the driving engine of the Democratic party.  He is correct.  His problems are not this, frankly.  His problems are the big house and the hedge funds, you know, 55,000 dollars for a speech to the poor, and 400 dollars at the beauty parlor to get the hair fixed.  Those are the things that damage him as a populist leftist. 

I think he basically has got to win Iowa, because he is running third or something in South Carolina.  I think he‘s got to win Iowa or it is all over for him.  Don‘t you?

FENN:  I think it‘s really hard if he doesn‘t.  He is ahead in the polls now.  He has a got a lot of support there.  He has done a good job on the populist theme though.  A does a lot of your stuff, on NAFTA and on labor issues.  I think that has helped him.  But the question is, there‘s a long time—they have to think he can win the whole thing. 

SHUSTER:  It‘s a free swing for Democrats to hit Republicans on Iraq.  I want to circle back to something we started the show with, and that is Vice President Cheney and the way this war was sold and the way it was defended.  There is a poll that just came out, a “Newsweek” poll, in which Americans were asked, do you believe that Iraq was involved in 9/11?  And something like 40 percent of Americans say that yes Iraq was involved. 

What is going on with the electorate? 

BUCHANAN:  And they say Iraqis were most of the crew of the 9/11 murderers and there wasn‘t one there. 

SHUSTER:  Isn‘t there a threat to a democracy when you have an electorate that is that misinformed? 

BUCHANAN:  You know, you are exactly right with that statement.  that is appalling that that perception is out there after we‘ve gone through it again and again and again.  They had nothing to do with it.  And not a single one was an Iraqi.  There has not been an Iraqi caught in any terrorist attack against the United States before our invasion. 

FENN:  You are absolutely right and I think this is devastating.  The fact though is that this was the strategy of Cheney and Bush from the start.  Mark Twain had the great line, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts on its shoes.  We still haven‘t gotten the shoes put on right on this one.

BUCHANAN:  This is all that stuff, you know, the Prague connection junk.  All that stuff was driven through the media, driven through the media.  You would argue against it and they would argue for it.  And I think the perception is out there that we had to go in there because these guys came and killed our people. 

SHUSTER:  Now the strategy has been that the White House is referring to virtually all insurgents in Iraq as al Qaeda.  And yet the president, six months ago in his Iraq speech, talked about the Sunnis and the Shiites and said that al Qaeda only counts for a small percentage of the insurgents in Iraq.  So there you have the White House contradicting President Bush from six months ago. 

BUCHANAN:  Our generals have been dealing with some of the Sunni insurgents, to pull them away and things like that.  But that perception, that‘s appalling.

SHUSTER:  But isn‘t that a sign perhaps of just how desperate the White House feels now, given that the country is going south on them on the Iraq war, given that they‘ve got to do something to try to hold on to this troop surge, and to stem the tide of Republicans who are opposed to it, to make the argument that we are battling only al Qaeda in Iraq.  Is that where the strategy is now?

FENN:  If that‘s the strategy, it‘s absurd.  Look, they don‘t have much credibility left on Iraq.  And if they‘re going to use what they do have left—again, I‘ll call this—to lie about what‘s on the ground, that‘s a scary thing.

BUCHANAN:  They do have this truth: it is the central front right now because al Qaeda has poured in there.  Al Qaeda bombed the Golden Mosque in Samarra.  Al Qaeda is doing a lot of this murdering of Iraqi civilians.  And they may be 10 percent or five percent out there, but they are doing an awful lot of the murdering, and there are a lot of them in there now. 

There is no doubt about that now, but they were not in there before we went in ourselves.  They came in because we went in. 

SHUSTER:  Now for the Democrats who are looking up at this White House and seeing the sort of rhetoric that is coming out, is this an issue where pounding away on, as they have?  Or should the Democrats just stand back and let the problems continue? 

FENN:  I think you don‘t want to get involved.  Part of the problem right now is do you deal with the al Qaeda threat?  Hillary Clinton is talking a bit now about making sure that there are some troops in there to fight, that we are doing what we need to do.  I think right now—look, by September, it‘s already out.  These guys are writing their reports.  They‘re forming their conclusions. 

BUCHANAN:  That would be a Harry Reid moment, you know, there are no al Qaeda in Iraq.  And I think it would be a disaster for Democrats to go down that road.  Let them go argue it.  The truth is some al Qaeda are in there.  And I think you just stay with that.  And some of them are not. 

SHUSTER:  Well, the Republican who has been most in line, other than John McCain, with the Bush administration on Iraq is Rudy Giuliani.  And there are some great stories that are coming out now, some controversies that he is having to deal with, including the thousands of Ground Zero workers and Manhattan residents who say they were sickened by the toxins after 9/11, and that Rudy Giuliani is to blame.  One of those offering some blame is a former Bush administration official, who is pointing the finger at Rudy Giuliani.  We will talk about that coming up. 

And Bob Barker may have retired, but his message still lives on.  You won‘t believe what California has in mind for its pet population.  That is ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Did former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani block an effort by former EPA administrator Christie Whitman to get rescue workers at Ground Zero to wear protective clothing and respirators?  Whitman says he did and Giuliani has called those accusations baseless and revisionist.  Whitman testified on Capital Hill today, and tried to explain why, just two days after the attack, she claims, quote, there appears to be no significant levels of Asbestos dust.

Just five days after the towers fell, Whitman said, quote, there is no reason for any concern.  Many of us those who worked on what is commonly called the pile are now facing a variety of health problems and today Whitman staunchly defended her actions. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR:  I think it is

important for people to understand that these were not whims.  These were not decisions by a politicians.  Everything I said was based on what I was hearing from professionals.  My son was in Building Seven on that day Congressman, and I almost lost him. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Governor, excuse me 

(CROSS TALK) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  At what a hearing it was today.  Back with us, Pat Buchanan, MSNBC political analyst and former presidential candidate, and Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist and contributor to “The Hill‘s” pundits blog.  Peter, how damaging is it to Rudy Giuliani when Christine Todd Whitman tells an interviewer I told Rudy Giuliani to get those people respirators and he did not pay any attention to me? 

FENN:  I‘ll tell you, for a guy who is running on 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, and basically nothing else, it is very damaging.  You‘ve got now firefighters concerned about him.  They are rising up, police officers.  You know, the problem he is going to face is he is going to get into a shouting match with her about this and that is not good for him. 

BUCHANAN:  I did not think it is good either.  I think this 9/11 I mean, we just talked about how embedded Iraq—responsible for the war.  9/11 and Rudy are so deeply embedded in the national consciousness, I think it is going to be very, very  difficult to damage him on that.  I know about the firemen and the complaints and things.  But I do think this: if Rudy moves out and is in the lead, then I think the press really will start picking up and going at this stuff. 

I do not know if they are going to do it that deeply or intensively.  A book was written, you know, very critical of Rudy‘s handling of this thing.  But I think—I don‘t know that thus far it‘s had that great an impact.

SHUSTER:  One of the things the Giuliani campaign has going, at least on this particular story, is there was Christine Todd Whitman, as we just said, a couple of days afterwards saying nobody had anything to worry about.  Well, if she was telling Rudy Giuliani at the time, get these people respirators, and he was saying no thank you; you would think that, at the time, she would cause a big stink about it.  Right?

FENN:  I think obviously what everybody was trying to do there was take care of the panic that was going all over the city.  And there is no question that the EPA had said to folks, look, you have to clean those apartments.  When you‘re coming back to your places, you have to have professional cleaners.  They put out guidelines on that. 

But I think, if she is right and if there is a record of this that ever single day they were in touch with Giuliani‘s office about this and about the dangers, and especially with OSHA about wearing those respirators, that‘s a problem.

BUCHANAN:  I‘ll tell you what they would have to do though—again, I think Rudy trump‘s everybody on 9/11.  Unless you had some sort of TV show, national TV show with firefighter after firefighter after firefighter, and those things—I don‘t think Christie Todd Whitman does it. 

FENN:  The thing about it Pat—you know this in politics as well as any of us—if you go after somebody‘s strength—and this is all he has got.  I mean, this really is all he has got as a candidate. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think he has got another thing.  There is no doubt that Rudy Giuliani, as mayor of that city, turned that city from what was a mess into a very livable—I am saying, it was very tough in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  And now you go up there, it is a different city you‘re in. 

SHUSTER:  The other issue that has been dogging the Giuliani campaign for the last couple of days now is a story that came out of “Newsday,” in which Giuliani allegedly was invited to be on the Iraq Study Group, the Baker/Hamilton Commission, and he was busy giving speeches, making a lot of money.

(CROSS TALK)

SHUSTER:  Giuliani came back and said, look, no the issue was that I was running for president.  But then there was a little bit of a twist that was added to the Giuliani story from our own Tim Russert, host of “Meet the Press.”  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RUSSERT, “MEET THE PRESS”:  The Giuliani campaign said part of the question was he was considering running for president at that time and his presence on the group may pose a potential conflict.  Several commission members have said to me that presidential politics never entered the discussion.  It was all about Giuliani‘s schedule and commitments versus showing up for the Iraq Study Group. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  In other words, you have James Baker and Lee Hamilton saying Giuliani never told us anything about a conflict causing him not to be on this commission.  The only conflicts they had was that Giuliani had scheduling problems. 

BUCHANAN:  I think that is a real problem for Rudy.  Look, the Iraq Study Group is—you‘re studying the most important thing and the central thing of Rudy‘s campaign.  That is hurtful.  There‘s no doubt about it. 

FENN:  I think it is unbelievably hurtful.  And his scheduling conflicts, by the way, were making 1.7 million dollars in one month giving speeches out there.  That is why he was not at these meetings. 

SHUSTER:  The other thing that would have helped him with this is that if he had been on the Iraq Study Group, he would have been to Iraq, something that apparently he has not done yet.  But we‘ll see how that plays out in the presidential campaign.

Pat Buchanan, Peter Fenn, you guys are great.  Thanks, as always, for coming in today with me.  I appreciate it. 

For more of the showdown between Christie Todd Whitman and Rudy Giuliani, be sure to stay with MSNBC and watch “HARDBALL” and “COUNTDOWN” tonight. 

There was high drama in a Washington court room today when a verdict was handed down in the 54 million dollar dry cleaning law suit.  Is a lost pair of pants really worth the GNP of a small island nation?  Willie Geist is back, and he has been all over this story.  And he‘s got the verdict when we come back.  You are watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  This is a very important day in the history of MSNBC, largely because our own Willie Geist is back and now he is a father.  Willie Geist, the father of Lucy Joy Geist.  Willie, congratulations.  We are all proud of you and your wife and Lucy Joy, and the Free Paris Hilton baby bib is on its way. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Thank you David.  She is—I hate

to brag—the greatest human being on the face of the Earth, better than like Mandela, Mother Teresa, Lucy Joy Geist, the greatest person on Earth. 

I‘m a humble man.  Well, let‘s get down to some serious legal business here, David.  The American justice system emerged from a Washington court room today with its integrity intact and with its slacks pressed perfectly.  Roy Pearson, the D.C. Judge who sued his dry cleaner for 54 million dollars because he says they lost a pair of his beloved pants, was sent home empty-handed this afternoon. 

A judge ruled that Pearson was entitled to absolutely nothing in his suit against Custom cleaners.  In fact, Pearson was ordered to pay the defense costs for the Korean immigrant couple he sued.  He wanted the big pay off because he said the dry cleaner‘s satisfaction guaranteed sign was misleading.  Now, I think I speak for all of us here at MSNBC when I say, we wish you all the worst in your future endeavors, Mr. Pearson, you horrible, horrible human being. 

I think there is a special ring in hell, David, reserved for people who sue mom and pop dry cleaners for 54 million dollars. 

SHUSTER:  I agree, but I will say that if they were Zania (ph) pants, indeed, maybe there was something to his anger.  But the law suit was insane. 

GEIST:  I don‘t think they were.  You know what the solution to this is this? 

SHUSTER:  What?

GEIST:  You put up the figure, and if you lose, you have to pay them that figure.  It‘s like playing black jack.  So, really, you really want to sue them for 54 million dollars?  You better be pretty sure you‘ve got a good case.

SHUSTER:  I‘m with you, Willie.  Willie Geist for attorney general. 

GEIST:  I didn‘t go to law school.  I have common sense.  We could use a little more of it.

Well, the German Defense Ministry, David, has told the producers of a new movie about the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler that they cannot shoot in Germany as long as Tom Cruise is in the film.  Why?  Because he is a Scientologist.  In a statement, the German government called Scientology a cult, saying it masquerades as a religion only to make money for itself. 

Ouch.  The ultimatum from Berlin to the studio is lose Tom Cruise or lose your movie location.  Pretty harsh, David.  I would like to know, where was the German Defense Ministry when he was making “Jerry Maguire?”  If we could have stopped that atrocity, the world would have been a safer place I think for everybody. 

When did the Germans get to take the moral high ground?  Has the statute of limitations exceeded over the last few years? 

SHUSTER:  I guess ever since they started those wacky movie reviews.

GEIST:  I guess so.  I do not know.  I guess it will just go to a sound stage in Hollywood and the movie will be fine.  But true story.  Good historical story.  But Tom Cruise is in it, so no dice in Germany. 

Well, just days after his final broadcast of “The Price is Right,” one could not imagine a greater tribute to Bob Barker than a law mandating statewide spaying and neutering of pets in California.  A bill has passed in the state assembly there that would require pets to be fixed within the first four months of birth.  PETA likes the idea.  Some dog groups do not.

Exhibit A in the case for spaying and neutering, the world‘s ugliest dog.  Here he is.  This hideous beast, a Chinese Crested named Elwood, two year old; he was crowned World‘s Ugliest in Petaluma, California the other day.  One can only hope that hairless Mohawk thing has been neutered.  Did you see the tongue hanging out of Elwood‘s mouth?  What is the problem there?  Get the tongue in the mouth.

SHUSTER:  I want to know what Jake is looking like these days.  Sorry, to all of you who are not following the “Blues Brothers.” 

GEIST:  Now, two years ago, the ugliest dog was a guy by the name of Sam.  And we hold him near and dear to us.  We had him on the show.  He died shortly after.  That is the most hideous beast of all time.  The one this year is not even close. 

Real quickly now David, I need you to help me figure something out.  President Bush and the first lady got all dolled up and went to a Christmas gala at Ford‘s Theater in Washington last night.  Yes, Christmas was in the air on June 24th.  There were holiday garlands, Christmas lights.  There was even caroling.  So what on Earth was going on?  They were taping the holiday gala to air in December.  Don‘t ask me why.

The president even had to play along when he was asked what he got the firstly for Christmas.  He said, quote, whenever she wants.  Nothing like a little staged holiday spirit, is there, David?  I work in television and I actually don‘t understand that.  Did you have to shoot it six months in advance?  Maybe it‘s the only time they could get everybody in one place.

SHUSTER:  Maybe it is part of this overall surge mentality. 

GEIST:  Exactly, get out early.  That is right. 

SHUSTER:  Willie Geist, you are the best.  Welcome back.  And again, congratulations on being a new dad.  And for more of Willie Geist news you can use, check out ZeitGeist at TUCKER.MSNBC.com.  That does it for us.  “HARDBALL” is up next.  Great interview with Rahm Emanuel coming up.  Chris Matthews and “HARDBALL” starts right now.

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