updated 6/27/2007 11:43:26 AM ET 2007-06-27T15:43:26

Guests: Jonah Goldberg, A.B. Stoddard, Mort Zuckerman, Michael Chertoff

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  The shaky political ground around President Bush continues to shift as he loses a key ally on the war in Iraq, gives an old ally a new job, and sees his vice president under withering scrutiny from “The Washington Post.” 

Senator Dick Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee has broken ranks with the administration‘s Iraq policy.  Speaking on the Senate floor late Monday night, Lugar delivered a proverbial body blow to the president‘s case. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, ® INDIANA:  My judgment, the costs and risks in continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved.  Persisting and definitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interest over the long term. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Is this defection the tipping point for the president‘s war? 

We‘ll discuss it in this hour. 

Plus, Tony Blair essentially cost himself a career in England by remaining loyal to President Bush.  On his last full day as prime minister, it is reported that Blair will be become a special envoy to the Middle East.  Will he make the difference in the world‘s most perilous region? 

Plus, the most perilous region in Washington, D.C. this week is the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.  Today‘s “Washington Post” featured the third in a series of four articles bent on exposing Mr. Cheney‘s sinister and alleged skirting of the Constitution, and reputedly dangerous influence on the rest of the Bush administration. 

In today‘s episode, the vice president dictates economic policy and tax cuts, among many other things.  The “Post‘s” scathing series has spawned editorials across the country, suggesting that Dick Cheney ought to be impeached, or otherwise forced out of office for the good of the nation.  

Well, joining me now, one of Dick Cheney‘s very few remaining defenders and only a part-time defender at that, is nationally-syndicated columnist and editor-at-large at “The National Review Online,” Jonah Goldberg. 

Jonah, welcome.

JONAH GOLDBERG, THE NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE:  Hey, thanks for having me, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So, you are one of the very few people with the courage, the moxie to go into print, and say, you know, there is something good about Dick Cheney.  Was this a parody or do you feel this way and if you do, defend it.  Why are you defending Cheney?

GOLDBERG:  No, I, I—well, first of all, I have—I just simply, I have always liked Dick Cheney.  I think that he‘s, you know, as I put it in the piece, you know, everyone—everyone on both sides of the aisle, there‘s a lot of this you know, sort of talk about how we don‘t want politicians to go by the polls, who don‘t put their finger in the wind and go with just whatever the prevailing conventional wisdom is. 

And yet, Dick Cheney is really the only guy who doesn‘t bother talking the talk, he just walks the walk.  He does not care, and I think it‘s a sign of character and integrity on his part that he just doesn‘t care.  There are a lot of people out there who worship the masses and Dick Cheney doesn‘t.  He cares about history, he cares about the merits of the argument.  He probably cares about power quite a bit, too.

But he‘s a serious guy, and the flip side to that is that I‘m not sure that‘s the best thing to have in a vice president.  It turns out that there‘s something to be said for having the only other nationally elected candidate, other than the president themselves, be a politician, as it were.  Care about winning the Oval Office for himself.

CARLSON:  Right.

GOLDBERG:  Have some ambition, because that—that changes the way you operate in that office, and maybe Bush loses a chief of staff in some ways, but having the political part of Cheney‘s brain more engaged might have helped him a lot. 

CARLSON:  I think you make a really smart point, and get to the root of why Cheney is different from many other—most other vice presidents.  He—from day one, never wanted to replace the man he works for, George W.  Bush.  Does it seem odd to you, does it seem a sign of Bush‘s weakness that Cheney is so strong? 

GOLDBERG:  I don‘t know if it‘s a sign of Bush‘s weakness.  I mean, I think it‘s probably a weakness that Bush had from the beginning that‘s become more apparent as his poll numbers have gone down in that Bush has— no one has ever gone wrong—no one has ever accused Bush of being overly policy-oriented.  You know, I mean, he‘s not a man for the weeds, and that‘s allowed Dick Cheney to sort of prosper as a bureaucratic infighter. 

And I think that‘s—you know, sort of, that is sort of one of Bush‘s problems is that he does not care that much about details.  He‘s a moralist, and he sees things through a sort of moral narrative, good guys versus bad guys kind of thing.  And that‘s the kind of thing you can pull off after something like 9/11.  But it becomes increasingly difficult when you‘re in sub-freezing approval rating.

CARLSON:  That‘s right, and I agree with you completely that whenever people say, we need a politician who doesn‘t look at the polls, we need another Harry Truman, they don‘t know what they‘re talking about or they‘re lying.  People want to be pandered to, they want someone to suck up to them, they want a very democratic president—small D democratic, I agree completely. 

GOLDBERG:  That is what Michael Bloomberg is, right? 

CARLSON:  I am bothered though—that‘s right, that‘s exactly right.

GOLDBERG:  I mean, he‘s sucking up to the vanity (ph) of the independents.

CARLSON:  But I‘m bothered by Cheney ‘s—but does—Cheney‘s secrecy, his penchant for secrecy.  I mean, this is a cliche, a stereotype, but it‘s rooted, apparently, in truth.  The guy really is secretive to a degree we haven‘t seen in a while.  That is—I mean, we do have a right to know what our government is doing, don‘t we? 

GOLDBERG:  Yes, sure, although I think you would concede, even though you and I disagree about some foreign policy stuff, you and I would agree that there are some things that should be kept secret.  We might disagree about what they are. 

CARLSON:  Right.

GOLDBERG:  And you know, but I do think that what Cheney has learned after a lifetime in Washington as a power player, is that the person who holds the secrets has power.  And he is using that for what I would say, or probably what he believes to be certainly good ends.  A lot of people disagree on that, but he‘s trying to do best as he can and he sees holding onto power as a tool to do that. 

I think it‘s got a real counter-productive side to it because it creates this kind of antibody reaction of such visceral dislike of the guy that it makes his policies that much less effective because he can‘t really get everything that he wants that way. 

CARLSON:  I think you‘re absolutely right. 

Why is he so disliked?  When you talk to—when you talk to liberals or just even garden-variety Democrats and Dick Cheney‘s name comes up, you‘re apt to see hyperventilation.  People hate Cheney on this visceral level.  What is so hateable about Dick Cheney?

GOLDBERG:  I have no—I really, I truly have no idea.  I like Dick Cheney, love to have a beer with the guy.  I think he is a smart, serious man in American life.  I think one of the things that bothers them is that he doesn‘t care.  You know, there‘s nothing—you know, the opposite of love isn‘t hate, it‘s indifference.  It drives stalkers and some hard-core lefties crazy.  He just doesn‘t care what they think about him. 

CARLSON:  Have you ever seen Dick Cheney give a speech?  I mean, the contempt for the audience is palpable.  He doesn‘t, he doesn‘t—he tells a joke that‘s written into his speech, he doesn‘t wait for them to laugh, he just blows right through it. 

GOLDBERG:  I know, I—see, I love that.  He looks like he should be eating a sandwich while he‘s doing it, you know.  I mean, it‘s just this sort of like matter-of-fact, eating lunch over the sink.  Oh yes, and by the way, here is my view of the world.  I love that. 

CARLSON:  Every time he speaks, I have the same thought.  I can just see him yelling, hey you kids, get off my lawn.  I love it.  And I‘m glad to find someone else who will stand up for Dick Cheney.  You are almost—you‘re almost alone in this nation of 300 million.

Jonah, I really appreciate you coming on, thank you.

GOLDBERG:  You should come to our fan club meetings.  There‘s lots of empty chairs.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Jonah Goldberg, thanks a lot.

GOLDBERG:  Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON:  One of the president‘s strongest Iraq supporters is breaking ranks.  Indiana Senator Richard Lugar says the surge is not working and it‘s time for plan B.  Will more Republicans join his call? 

Plus, the Senate agrees to restart debate on the president‘s immigration bill, but with bitter opposition from both parties.  What are the chances it‘ll actually become law? 

This is MSNBC, the place for politics. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  President Bush is losing more Republican support for the war in Iraq.  The top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee now says the strategy is not working.  The White House says it‘s not concerned about more defectors, but should they be?  We‘ll tell you, we‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  In a blunt rebuke of President Bush‘s so-called surge strategy in Iraq, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana became the latest Republican to break with the president on the war.  Lugar says the strategy there is not working.  He has been a strong Bush supporter in the past, although he did vote against the surge. 

Lugar claims the risks and the costs are greater than whatever benefit may come from securing Baghdad.  The White House says they have heard all this before from Lugar, but with the administration trying to buy more time before getting a report card from General David Petraeus in September, the timing of Lugar‘s remarks is raising eyebrows in the hall‘s of power in Washington. 

Joining me now with their insights, we welcome A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of the “Hill” newspaper, and Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of “U.S. News and World Report” and publisher of the “New York Daily News.”  Welcome to you both. 

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF THE “HILL” NEWSPAPER:  Thank you.

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF “U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT”:  Good to be here.

CARLSON:  Mort, this sounds devastating but then you read the fine print, and it turns out that Senator Lugar is not calling for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.  But is essentially saying a common sense thing to the president, hurry up and change course before you are forced to do it in September.  Is—I mean, is this the rebuke that it appears to be?

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I think it is an extremely important statement by a perhaps the single most important Republican in the Senate.  He was the chairman of the foreign relations committee, and back in the 1980s, I remember going off with a delegation that was headed up by him to monitor the election between Marcos and Cory Aquino in the Philippines.  And boy, when he changed his mind on Marcos, the government even back then, really paid attention. 

So I think this is extremely important in political terms and really does put a fairly strong deadline as to how much time the Bush administration has in order to demonstrate real progress or they will lose the Republicans.  I think, in fact, at this point, with he and Senator Warner both expressing serious doubts, that it will be very difficult for the president to retain the number of Republican senators he needs in order to sustain funding for this war, past—at the very latest, the late fall. 

CARLSON:  I think you may be right.  And, Alexandra, Senator Voinovich

Senator George Voinovich sent a letter today to the White House essentially echoing what Dick Lugar said.  The surge is not working.  I mean, is this the beginning of what is going to be an exodus of Republicans from the president‘s strategy? 

STODDARD:  I thought the Voinovich letter was significant because he‘s expressed himself on this issue before, kind of like Lugar, not necessarily voting against the president, but expressing his concerns.  But why today does he release this letter?  You know, it is lengthy, and it is detailed, he has clearly worked on it, you know, before last night. 

But I do think that Senator Lugar opens the floodgates a bit.  Senator Lugar might have made these views known to the White House in January, but if I just really believe that if he felt that he had been heard, he would not choose to do this surprised speech on the floor of the Senate. 

And Mort is right, it would be—you would be hard-pressed to find a more credible voice on the Republican side on foreign policy in the Senate or anywhere than Richard Lugar.  He doesn‘t lower himself to partisan skirmishes.  When he says it is time to get going, it‘s time to get going.

CARLSON:  Yes, and this is just another example of the White House blowing it diplomatically with the Congress.  I mean, they have alienated their own potential allies again and again over the past six years by not listening to them.

STODDARD:  It really is ...

CARLSON:  Or not appearing ...

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I am not sure I agree with that, Tucker.  Look, this president is deeply committed and it is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of conviction ...

CARLSON:  Right.

ZUCKERMAN:  ... to his program in Iraq.  And it does not matter who is opposed to him, he believes it is in the national interest of the United States, and especially to our security interests in that part of the world, to continue with this effort.  Otherwise, he believes it will open the floodgates to attacks to attacks of terrorists all around that region and to the detriment of the United States national security interests.  And there is a legitimate case for that.  A lot of these Republican senators, not necessarily Lugar, are also responding to what they realized is an eroding political base for them back home, wherever their state is because support ...

CARLSON:  Of course.

ZUCKERMAN:  ... for the president‘s policy is so low.

STODDARD:  But that is what Lugar is saying.

CARLSON:  But don‘t you think Mort, hold on, don‘t you think if the president got out there and made the case to Congress, but also to the public that look, you may not have agreed with going into Iraq, but now that we are there, withdrawal would be a catastrophe.  That‘s a compelling case—I think, that‘s right, it would be a catastrophe. 

But time and again, you talk to people on the Hill and they say the White House has not come to me—it‘s not, sort of, massaged my ego and made the effort to make me feel included and there is a kind of personal element in some of this.

ZUCKERMAN:  Yes.  I think that may be true but I also think that we all understand that the president has lost enormous credibility with the public.  His opinion polls and approval rating is so low as to be virtually minuscule and really limited to the hard core of the Republican party.  And I do not see that he is going to get this kind of support, except within the absolute Republican base.  So it is very different for him to go to the country and change the view of the country on these issues.  That—I think that battle has been lost.  And the people who are going to be up for election, in the next two years, are very much aware that the Republicans lost the Congress the last time around.  They think they will lose a lot of additional seats if they are too tied into this war, come 2008. 

CARLSON:  All right, we are going to be back in just a second.  The debate will go on and on and on.  The Senate voted today to revive the ever divisive immigration legislation.  Are they getting any closer to enacting an actual bill?  Or will they keep debating? 

And, no rest for the weary.  Tomorrow is Tony Blair‘s last day as Britain‘s prime minister, but don‘t expect him to run off on a long vacation in Mallorca.  Instead, expect an official announcement on the peace making role he will play in the Middle East.  We will tell you more, we will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Will President Bush get the immigration reform bill he has been campaigning for so vigorously?  Well, he is a step closer today than he was yesterday, the Senate voted earlier to restart debating that bill, which still faces stiff opposition in both Houses of Congress, though.  Why does it?  Well, because Republicans, in large numbers, say they oppose any bill that provides a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already here.  In what amounts to a slap at the president, they say it is amnesty.  Is there any chance this the bill will become law and will it make this country safer? 

Well, joining us now, he‘s the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.  Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us. 

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  Tucker, good to be on the show.

CARLSON:  Thank you.

I guess the—the kind of macro question is, why post 9/11 didn‘t we take much more dramatic steps to seal the border with Mexico? 

CHERTOFF:  Well, I think we actually have taken steps, although they have accelerated in the last couple of years.  Part of it is, we had to take the old INS, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and split it apart.  Take the service element and put it in once place, and then focus on the enforcement.  That got done when this department was created, and since then we‘ve built a unified strategy and begun the process of doubling the boarder patrol, putting up fencing, putting up high technology.  And building, for the first time, a real boarder enforcement strategy. 

CARLSON:   But how many -- 9/11 was almost six years ago.  How many millions of people do think have snuck into this country since then?  I mean, by everyone‘s account, millions upon millions have come into this country and not been accounted for.  That‘s a pretty big failure, isn‘t it?

CHERTOFF:  I think the best estimate is that probably since 2001, we have had several million, maybe four million or so, coming in. 

CARLSON:  OK.

CHERTOFF:  Obviously, we had millions coming in since the 1990‘s. 

Some of it is driven by the economy, but clearly what we needed to do was, reconfigure our immigration system.  We‘ve done just about everything we can, with the existing laws.  And now we need some additional legal tools so we can finish the job. 

CARLSON:  Here—I guess the reason I am asking this question is, my understanding of it is, a lot of Republicans in Congress probably would be happy to support some kind of bill that provided a path to citizenship.  But they so concerned about our inability to control the borders, that they can‘t vote for it. 

I wonder why the president doesn‘t propose legislation that would first, before anything else, essentially seal the borders or allow us to keep track of every person coming in and then we could talk about a path to citizenship.  Why didn‘t he do that? 

CHERTOFF:  Well, Tucker, first, of course.  This problem has been around for about 20 years.  And so people have been kicking ...

CARLSON:  Right.

CHERTOFF:  ... this can down the road for 20 years.  I think what we‘ve done is we have taken all of the enforcement tools we now have and we have put them out there.  We‘ve done—we put national guard on the border.  We are doubling the boarder patrol.  For the first time we have seen significant decreases in the flow coming across the border.  We ended catch and release, which was a pernicious system of releasing aliens into the county, which was going on for 20 years.  We ended that a year ago.  So we have slowly built, building blocks and it does take a little bit of time to build those building blocks, to get to a level of enforcement like we have never seen.  But now we‘re at the point that if we are going to take it to the next level, we need to have some legal tools.  And we are not get that if we don‘t address the problem holistically. 

CARLSON:  It sounds to me like 15 years from now, every American citizen will have to carry on his person, when he goes out into the world, some kind of ID with a biometric measure on it.  And essentially papers like they have in Europe, that is the direction we are moving, isn‘t it?

CHERTOFF:  Well, I don‘t think we are moving in the direction of what some European countries require.  Which is that to walk down the street, you have to carry your papers or you could be stopped by the police. 

I do think that even as we speak today, identification is increasingly required for a whole lot of things.  The law requires you to have identification to get a job.  I had to use identification to get my job, even though I was a federal judge when the president nominated me.  You need identification to get into buildings and to get on airplanes and that makes sense because we need to know who you are, so we can determine that you are not a terrorist or a criminal. 

The question is, is that identification going to be secure or is it going to be easily falsified?  And a lot of the measures Congress has been taking over the last couple years, are designed to make sure that when we have identification, its reliable and tamper proof.

CARLSON:  Right.  But do you take seriously the concerns of civil libertarians, libertarians and others, that the federal government will now have a way to track where every citizen is at all times.  I mean, that is a valid concern, don‘t you think? 

CHERTOFF:  Well, I think that is absolutely nonsense.  I don‘t think there is any suggestion anybody has ever made that we are somehow going to track people or embed identification or tracking devices.  What we are saying is this, if I want to come and get on an airplane or I want to cross a border, people have a right to know, officials have a right to know that I am who I say I am. 

I do not really understand the civil liberties argument, Tucker, that says that there is a right to forge drivers licenses or that the 9/11 hijackers had a right to be able to get phony licenses at the Seven Eleven so that they could get on an airplane.  That strikes me as a simple matter of common sense. 

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t think that anybody is arguing that the 9/11 hijackers had a ride to a phony driver‘s license.  I think merely the idea is, you have a right to not identify yourself. 

CHERTOFF:  You do, but you cannot cross a border and come into the United States and say I want to come into the U.S., but I am not going to tell you who I am.  You don‘t have a right to get on an airplane and say, I want to fly, I‘m not going to tell you who I am, so you can‘t check to see whether I am on a watch list.  I think we learned that lesson on 9/11, Tucker, I think we learned that not knowing who gets on airplanes and not knowing who is coming into the country is very, very costly in terms of human lives and I don‘t think we want to learn that lesson again. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Secretary Michael Chertoff, thanks a lot, Mr.

Secretary.  I appreciate it.

CHERTOFF:  All right, good to be on, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Could Tony Blair, Britain‘s outgoing prime minister be the answer to the problems in the Middle East?  That‘s the hope and exactly why he is going to be named the Mid East peace envoy tomorrow.

Plus, the Bloomberg effect, New York‘s mayor left the Republican Party he still has not declared his run for the White House but people cannot stop talking the power he has to shakeup the race in ‘08.  Does he kill the Hillary campaign?  Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Not all last days on the jobs are created equal.  Today was the end of the line for Tony Blair as British prime minister after ten years.  It was marked by a surreal meeting with Arnold Schwarzenegger at 10 Downing Street to discuss global warming and less bizarrely by the report that the Quartet for Peace—that‘s the U.S., the U.N., the E.U. and Russia will tomorrow name Blair special envoy to the Middle East to focus on the tense Israeli/Palestinian situation. 

To assess his chances for success in that role, we welcome once again A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper, and Mort Zuckerman, editor in chief of “U.S. News and World Report,” and publisher of the “New York Daily News.”

Welcome to you both.  Mort, maybe I am being naive and giving Tony Blair credit he is not due, but I cannot think of a better person for this role.  I know many people have—Mr. Wolfensohn recently resigned in frustration from this job.  But I think he has got a shot.  What do you think? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I think you have to understand that Tony Blair and indeed the British come from the left wing view of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.  Whereas George Bush probably has a much more conservative or tougher minded view of what is going on there.  So I think he comes to this issue with a very different philosophy.  And I can say that from a direct personal experience of dealing with Tony Blair, who I think is a wonderful man.

And I think, in particular now, when you think of the possibility that Fatah, which is very week in the West Bank—Hamas got a plurality of the vote there.  In all the major cities and towns Hamas got 40 seats in the legislature, compared to 12 for Fatah.  You have the risk that whatever they negotiate now with Abbas will ultimately be turned over to the hands of Hamas. It is going to be a very, very difficult hill to climb for anybody, be it Tony Blair, whatever his views are, never mind the United States. 

Just remember, if we had our way, that is General Dayton, the American representative, who was trying to force Israel to agree to a unencumbered access from Gaza to the West Bank, you would have Hamas people going to the West Bank now, even now, and putting the West Bank in even greater jeopardy.  And I think you have a corrupt government of Fatah in the West Bank, very unstable, very unable to deliver.  And therefore, we have a real problem before any progress can be made with Fatah in the West Bank. 

CARLSON:  And yet, as you point out, the president has a harder line, more conservative view on the subject.  I would say the most pro-Israel president this country has ever had, by a lot.  He is also the president who presided over these—or endorsed these ludicrous elections in the Palestinian territories.  They brought to power extremists.  And we said that was a good thing.  So maybe it is time for a new view. 

ZUCKERMAN:  This admission was the one that forced Hamas into the electoral process, against the wishes of Fatah and Abu Mazen, and against the issues of Israel.  Then they forced the Philadelphia corridor, which is the border between Gaza and Egypt, to be turned over to the Palestinians, at a time when the Israelis totally opposed it, because they knew exactly what would happen, which is that weapons would be smuggled in through that Philadelphia corridor into Gaza to the hands of Hamas, which, in fact, is what happened. 

Egypt was supposed to stop this and did nothing.  And this gave Hamas the arms with which to throw at Fatah.  So we are now—we should be a little bit more humble about what we think can be done in that part of the world.  I think Fatah is very week in the West Bank, and this is a tremendous risk now for the United States that Hamas will take over the West Bank in the next election. 

CARLSON:  A.B., speaking a tense standoffs in faraway lands, I want to show you the latest polling out of Nevada on the Republican side.  This is the new Mason Dixon Poll, and it asks the question which of the Republican contenders do you favor?  And the results are remarkable.  Here it is.  I‘ll put it up on the screen.

Fred Thompson, 25 percent; Mitt Romney 20; Rudy Giuliani 17; John McCain 8, John McCain from Arizona, represented Arizona since 1982, eight percent.  Arizona is, of course, right next door to Nevada.  What does this tell you?  Fred Thompson, not even in the race yet, leading in a state that this year actually matters.  Is this a reflection of his strength or the weakness of the rest of the field?

STODDARD:  Both.  I mean, Fred Thompson is having a honeymoon, a pre-wedding engagement period, if you will.  And once he jumps in, he is going to be scrutinized like the rest of them and those numbers will change.  I imagine he will have a really nice summer.  Things are very rough for John McCain and continue to be.  Mitt Romney has some good showing in some of those early states, but it does not seem to be something that really translates nationally and does not seem like he is going to become a real threat to the top two contenders. 

I think Fred Thompson—he has a long road ahead of him.  He is very exciting.  The base of the party—the deciding voters in this primary process are really thirsting for somebody else and Fred Thompson is it.  But we know that he is going to come under a lot of scrutiny.  Just today, he was asked today about his lobbying and he told the Associated Press that it is an important part of life, because, quote, government has got their hands in everything. 

So he is going to be pressed against the wall on a lot of issues.  He is being tagged by Democrats as the insider outsider.  As soon as he is officially in, he is going to have the same challenges that the rest of them have. 

CARLSON:  It is interesting to me, Mort, that the DNC has already spent money and a fair amount of time thinking about and attacking Fred Thompson.  They sent out a document recently.  It was something like Fred Thompson‘s legislative accomplishments as a United States senator and it was a blank page.  It struck me as pretty interesting attack from a party whose two front runners, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, can‘t point to very many legislative victories in their relatively short legislative careers.  Is that the attack now?  He is not enough of an insider?  And do they really think he is the guy?  Is that why they are focusing on him?

ZUCKERMAN:  They certainly would like to find some way to diminish him.  Fred Thompson, obviously, has a very appealing personality.  He has sort of a little bit of the background of Ronald Reagan, in the sense that both had experience in government.  But he is very comfortable in the world of popular culture.  He is very comfortable within himself and he is a very appealing guy. 

So, in part, I think that is what explains his surge, if you want to use that phrase.  But it is also, as you imply, I think a general dissatisfaction with the base of the Republican party with any of the candidates they have.  They are unhappy with John McCain because of his position on immigration and because he is seen as too independent and was opposed to the tax cuts back five years ago. 

They are opposed to Rudy Giuliani for his position on the social issues.  Fred Thompson comes along and sort of captures a big part of the votes.  They‘re comfortable with him.  As to whether he can last, as I think was the question that was raised earlier, that is going to be interesting question.  I suspect he will.  I don‘t know that he will be the nominee.

I don‘t think those personal attacks are really going to hurt him.  He is just too easy going in the way that he rebuts these things for it to have must traction, in my judgment.  But this is all TK.  This is all going to be something we‘re going to find out when we have real primaries. 

CARLSON:  Well, as if we don‘t have enough options, it looks to me like Michael Bloomberg is doing the obvious thing.  I mean, it looks like he is running for president.  In these situations, someone who looks like he is running for president often is.  Alexandra, Pat Buchanan made one of the smartest points I‘ve seen in a while on this question. 

Let‘s put up what he said.  He said, “while it‘s impossible to see how Mayor Bloomberg can win the presidency, even if he spent two billion dollars doing it, it is easy to see how he sinks Hillary Rodham Clinton.  For the more popular he makes himself with his media buys, the more votes his candidacy attracts, the more certain it is that he does to the Democratic Party what Ross Perot did for the Republicans in 1992.”

I don‘t think there is any debating that.  Bloomberg getting in sinks Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy.  How much pressure is there on Bloomberg at this point from leading Democrats not to run.  There has got to be. 

STODDARD:  I would think so.  I don‘t know if President Bush remembers this, but he owes his presidency to Ralph Nader, who got 90,000 votes in Florida that would have gone to Al Gore.  So the spoiler factor is really a huge threat.  Right now I guess polls are showing he is a bigger threat to Rudy Giuliani.  But I imagine that he is a huge threat to Hillary Clinton.

They‘re going to have to do something about it.  Will they be successful in stopping him?  I doubt it.  I think he enjoys this game.  I think he loves the attention.  I do not think he‘s going to win the presidency.  I think is going to enter the race.  I think he will be a spoiler. 

I think it is going to be very hard for the two nominees.  But I think he is a man with a two ton checkbook.  And it‘s infinitely fascinating, but he is also just a liberal Democrat without a message and without really a big dominant issue.  I don‘t see him ultimately becoming president. 

CARLSON:  He could definitely hurt Hillary and you know him Mort.  Is it going to run? 

ZUCKERMAN:   I could not disagree with Pat‘s point more strongly.  In the first place, Ross Perot, even if he hadn‘t been in that particular campaign in 1992, the polls all show that Clinton would have beaten George Bush 41, without Perot.  So I do not think that is a fair analogy. 

Number two, if you think of where the Republican party is, the Republican part has a whole group of what we used to call Rockefeller Republicans, moderates, who are very unhappy with the hard right of the Republican party.  Sixty percent plus of the Republican women support abortion.  A huge proportion of them support stem research.  There are lot of issues, social issues, in which Republican women will move away, as will suburban moderates, from the Republican party, if they have an alternative in the form of somebody like Mike Bloomberg. 

So he will do great.  He will take a lot of votes away from the Republican party.  The reason why I think he‘s got a chance—I‘m not saying it‘s a real chance—but the reason why I think he‘s got a chance is that the country is disgusted with both parties.  Look at the support for the Congress today, 14 percent approval rating.  And this is with Harry Reid as the leader of the Senate and Nancy Pelosi. 

So the Democrats are in no greater shape than the Republicans are.  Both parties are in disrepair and disrepute.  And this gives an opening for an independent with the extraordinary record that Michael Bloomberg has. 

CARLSON:  Now that will be a race. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  Bush‘s dismal approval ratings are hurting the Republican party and their chances at winning in 2008.  But is a Democratic victory really inevitable? 

Plus, think we‘re done talking about Tony Blair?  Think again.  MSNBC‘s expert on all things prime minister related, Willie Geist, will give us news on Blair that is even more exciting than his appointment as Mideast peace maker.  That is all coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  I do not think I have talked to a single person in Washington in the past three months who thinks Republicans have a shot at winning the White House in 2008.  It looks bad.  And it looks bad mostly because the president‘s approval ratings are low, Richard Nixon low, Harry Truman low.  But there are some out there, believe it or not, smart people, people who think about this stuff for a living, who believe Democrats could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  They could blow it again.  Can they?

A.B. Stoddard joins us again.  She is associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper.  We‘re also welcomed by Mort Zuckerman, editor of the “U.S. News and World Report,” and publisher of the “New York Daily News.”  Welcome to you both.

Alexandra, you probably saw the Richard Cohen piece today in the “Washington Post,” in which he argues they can blow it.  Is this another example of the syndrome I see every four years from Democrats, no matter how strong their candidate is, they assume that person is going to lose, just because that‘s what Democrats assume, that‘s their default assumption?  Or do you think it‘s real?  Could the Republican actually when? 

STODDARD:  What Cohen—He is making a case about Democrats embracing the anti-war left too much and Republicans having an opportunity next year with the politics of fear, once again, the politics of defense and national security, and painting the Democratic party as the part of withdrawal and retreat, the party that cannot keep us safe. 

I actually think he has a salient point here, what you had mentioned earlier about Americans who feel that the war in Iraq was started for the wrong reasons and executed poorly, but they have a little bit of a stomach ache about what to do next.  They‘re not comfortable with us withdrawing amidst the chaos and leaving the Middle East in this state, and the fact that you were saying, that President Bush has really failed to articulate this well. 

Now, if a Republican presidential contender can do so—ultimately, obviously, the nominee can do so—and if a few other factors—what is happening on the ground in Iraq, if we have another terrorist really bad threat or an incident, et cetera; there is a scenario where you can see that the nominee on the Republican side is able to paint the Democrats as soft on defense, soft on terror, and really scare the pants off of everybody again. 

CARLSON:  I think that is fair though.  That is fair.  Mort, I get this every week.  I will interview a member of Congress, a Democrat, calling for withdrawal from Iraq.  I‘m sympathetic to that. I think the war has really hurt America and I‘m upset about it.  On the other hand, every time you ask one of these guys, what happens when we withdraw?  Won‘t al Qaeda just fester and multiply and won‘t the threat to us increase?  They say, no everything will be fine when we leave.  They clearly haven‘t thought about it.  So maybe the Democratic party is kind of irresponsible on questions of national security.

ZUCKERMAN:  I do think that the politics of the Democratic base are such that virtually every candidate who is running for the Democratic nomination has to take that position.  Even Hillary Clinton, who didn‘t take that position originally, has now moved to the point where she says the first thing she‘s going to do after she‘s elected, if she‘s elected, is to remove American troops from Iraq. 

Now, I do think that is a dangerous position.  Getting out of that war is a whole different issue from getting into the war, never mind how we executed it.  I think the American people, as we begin to approach that moment, will realize that. 

But the Democrats have another way to lose it, and this is not just on the basis of the war, it is because, for example, they have at least one candidate who while she will consolidate—that is Hillary—the Democratic base, will also consolidate the Republican base.  And while she will raise a lot of money for the Democrats, will also raise a lot of money for the Republicans.  If you saw the polls, she is 10 points behind Rudy Giuliani in a national campaign.

So there is going to be a real issue as to how Hillary emerges, now taking the position of the left wing of the Democratic party, and then tries to run to the center in the campaign.  She probably can do it.  But it is going to be a very tough road for her to hoe. 

STODDARD:  It is an interesting straddle, what she‘s trying, because she is saying publicly that she wants to take troops out.  It‘s the first that she will do.  But she also has said—I mean, there have been reports about her conversation with military advisers within the Pentagon, et cetera, about how she intends, as the “New York Times” reported several months ago, to keep some troops there for 10 years. 

So she is trying to do this balancing act, this straddle.  It‘s very difficult.  She is trying to run this general election campaign and be a hawk while she assuages the anti-war left.  It is the balancing on the edge of a pin.  And time will tell how it works out.  But if she succeeds at it, she‘s quite brilliant. 

CARLSON:  I bet you they will nominate her anyway.  A.B. Stoddard, Mort Zuckerman, thank you both very much.

ZUCKERMAN:  You‘re very welcome.

CARLSON:  Well, we have made it 51 minutes on this show so far without mentioning the name Paris Hilton.  That is, in fact, a cable news best today, and we‘re proud of it.  Unfortunately, Willie Geist cannot help himself.  He joins us next with all the excruciating details of an historic day in America.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  You‘ve waited the whole show for him.  We‘re not going to make you wait any longer.  Here he is with the latest news, Willie Geist.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s the story, Tucker, that everyone pretends they don‘t want to know about.  But secretly they do.  And that‘s why I‘m here.  A little desert for you.

Tucker, where were you when Paris Hilton was set free?  That is the question your children, my children, all children will be asking us about this historic day for years and, indeed, for generations to come.  Paris strutted out of the Lynnwood Detention Facility just outside of Los Angeles at about 12:15 in the morning. 

She was greeted by a disconcertingly massive collection of paparazzi.  Do these people have families by any chance?  Paris walked past the cameras and then ran into the arms of her mother, who, it should be noted, did not bother to get out of the car.  She just kind of leans out the window.

Paris spent 23 days in jail.  Now, it goes without saying that she found God while behind bars, and also that she now intends to use her fame to do good in the community.  She said she wants to build a halfway house for the kind of troubled women she met during her sentence. 

Now, if the whole being-a-decent-human being idea does not work out for Paris, and it may not, she has several other options.  One of them is to be a teacher.  No joke.  The Learning Annex has offered Paris a million bucks to teach a one hour class called “How to Build a Brand.”  The president of the Learning Annex says, quote, she is a brilliant entrepreneur. 

Tucker, would you take a class from Paris Hilton?  Would you sit and be lectured by Paris Hilton?  

CARLSON:  Are you kidding?  I do not even know what to make of the whole thing.  I‘ll tell you, this morning, I‘m listening to public radio, and on comes the tease.  It says when we come back, Anna Nicole Smith gets out of prison today.  We‘ll have more on that.  I just thought, that‘s perfect.

GEIST:  Exactly.  It is perfect, because it‘s all the same.  Just fill in the name.  It is the same story, the same narrative, all the way.

CARLSON:  Fast food; it‘s all the same substance.

GEIST:  Paris‘s triumphant walk out of prison reminded me of another famous one, the great Nelson Mandela, right there, walking out of jail.  I think he was in a little bit longer.  I think it was also a DUI or driving with his lights off, kind of the same crime.  Something along those lines.  I can‘t remember. 

CARLSON:  They send you to Robin Island for that.

GEIST:  Exactly.  Now, we have to point out, Harvey Levin at TMZ.com, the guy should be working for “60 Minutes” of “Dateline.”  The information he gets—he just put up on TMZ.com everything Paris Hilton ate while she was in prison.  It‘s a running list.  It‘s a prison log.  He says she lost seven pounds while in jail. 

So that is the kind of fascinating information about Paris Hilton I can bring you. 

CARLSON:  She must be transparent by now. 

GEIST:  She was 115 when she entered, according to the log.  So, she‘s survived on French Vanilla coffee and cotton swabs, it says here.  Who know?  Well Tucker, there comes a time when even the greatest of champions must admit that the end has come.  Remember Michael Jordan with the Wizards?

Well, Kobayashi, the most dominant force in history of speed eating has suffered a jaw injury that puts his streak of six consecutive world hot dog eating titles in grave danger.  The Japanese legend injured his jaw while training for this year‘s fourth of July event.  He says his mouth barely open. 

Now, Kobayashi says he will compete at the Coney Island contest, even if he is injured.  Now that, folks, is the heart of a champion.  Tucker, the guy cannot even open his mouth and he is going to make a run at his seventh straight title.  What more do you want from the guy?  Unbelievable. 

CARLSON:  Give that man the medal of freedom.  That really is the soul of an athlete right there. 

GEIST:  It really is.  Now, he has a young whippersnapper hot on his tail, a guy by the name of Joey Jaws Chestnut, an American kid who broke Kobayashi‘s record earlier this year, and is sure to run away with it this year.  So, Kobayashi, I fear the run is over. 

Quickly, Tucker, you mentioned Tony Blair leaving 10 Downing Street for good tomorrow.  The prime minister says publicly he will be a Mideast envoy, but from the look of things today, he and Schwarzenegger may have a cop movie up their sleeves.  Blair and the governator met in London on Blair‘s last full day in office.  Schwarzenegger praised Blair for addressing climate change.  And, we hear, floated the idea of playing his comic foil in “Jingle All the Way II.”

I think Tony Blair could play the dastardly British villain if he had to.  Don‘t you think? 

CARLSON:  The whole thing, it‘s like, I would not be surprised if Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton showed up.  

GEIST:  Yes, he‘s going to meet with Paris Hilton on his very last day, Schwarzenegger on the day before.

CARLSON:  Unbelievable.  Willie Geist from headquarters, thanks Willie.  For more Willie Geist, check out ZeitGeist at Tucker.MSNBC.com.  You‘ll be glad you did.  That does it for us.  We‘ll be back tomorrow.  See you then.  In the meantime, here is Chris with “HARDBALL.”

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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