updated 7/18/2007 12:09:39 PM ET 2007-07-18T16:09:39

Guests: A.B. Stoddard, Dick Armey, Ed Royce, Jim Moran, Ron Paul, Berkeley Wilson

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show.  One of the most frustrating things about the war on terror is the unpredictability of the enemy.  The U.S. government released it‘s most educated guess about the terror threat today.  The National Intelligence Estimate.

The screaming headline from last week‘s leaked portion of the NIE was that al Qaeda is as strong as it was in 2001.  Turns out that is not exactly accurate.  Among today‘s headlines that al Qaeda is intent on striking high-profile targets for mass casualties here in America.  It continues to try to send operatives here.  That al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in the tribal regions of northern Pakistan where they train and organize with near impunity.  That al Qaeda in Iraq could pose a threat here at home.  And that Lebanon based Hezbollah might strike the U.S. if that group perceives us as a threat to itself or to Iran. 

Still the report asserts that American efforts, to combat al Qaeda have made attacks on U.S. soil more difficult.  That the group is not as capable as it was before 9/11.  The National Intelligence Estimate is merely a measuring stick in the ongoing struggle.  So on it‘s face, the report offers little perspective.  Questions are, and they remain, are winning the war on terror?  Are we losing ground?  Is it possible to say? 

Joining me now with his well-informed perspective on those questions is someone who has been briefed on the NIE, he is ranking member of the sub-committee on terrorism, non-proliferation and trade.  He is Congressman from California, Republican, Ed Royce.   Congressman, thanks for joining us. 

REP. ED ROYCE, ® CALIFORNIA:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Every time a report comes out, it reminds me of Osama bin Laden and it raises again the question, why have we not caught him?  It is not a partisan attack, it‘s an honest question. 

Fran Townsend, who is assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Terrorism, was asked this question today and here is how she responded. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRAN TOWNSEND, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER:  It is not exactly easy.  If it were easy, he would be dead. 

QUESTION:  But it is not easy for him to travel around with medics and machinery if he is sick.  I mean, is he—do you know from your intelligence, is he still sick?  What do you know about him? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I like Fran Townsend, but that is not much of an answer. 

What is the answer?  Why haven‘t we caught Osama bin Laden?

ROYCE:  I believe the answer is this, Tucker.  I was in Waziristan, traveled to Waziristan not too long ago.  Which is in western Pakistan and the frontier area.  And I was asking individuals there why have we not caught him.  One of the questions I put, was what percentage of the people support our efforts there?  Only two percent that population are against the Taliban. 

And so he has widespread support in a area where the Pakistani military have pulled out of the country.  And frankly, in this tribal area, he has had the opportunity to do the training, get the money in from his friends in Saudi Arabia, get the communications up.  That is why he is a threat to us now. 

And that‘s why the assumption is that he is going to prepare to launch an attack from there into the United States.

CARLSON:  Pretty frustrating, considering of course, that he would have been able to launch that attack in the first place without the help of the government of Pakistan.  It‘s intelligence service, the ISI.  How hard can we push Musharraf to get that part of his country under control? 

ROYCE:  I met with President Musharraf on that very issue.  And I think that the developments in the Red Mosque, where now a Fatwa has been handed down by the extremist in Pakistan itself.  By the radical Islamists, that they are declaring war now on President Musharraf.  Hopefully, that will give him the wherewithal, the ability to summon the Pakistani military and go back into this tribal area.  If they do go back in and go house to house, they are going to lose a lot more Pakistani military but they might catch Osama bin Laden, they might put down the insurgency inside western Pakistan.  They need to do that because President Musharraf otherwise might lose his life.  They are also targeting him.  And that gives him a very real interest to take on this risky endeavor.

CARLSON:  Well, Musharraf is routinely described by the president, in fact just the other day, as a key ally in the war on terror.  Maybe he is.  But if he is, why has he not been doing this for the past four years?  Five or six years? 

ROYCE:  Here is the situation in western Pakistan.  This is an area where the government has never really had control.  In these tribal areas, in these clannish areas, radical Islam has grown.  Groups like the Wahhabis out of Saudi Arabia have radicalized the region by sending their imams in there.  And, as a consequence, the Pakistani army have basically allowed radicals to take over the area. 

When they did go in, they lost a lot of soldiers.  As I told you earlier, they have very little support for the central government in this region.  The tough choice they have to make, in my view, they need to go in now, clean out this hornet‘s nest.  Otherwise, it is going to bring their own government down and certainly is going to continue to be a staging ground for Osama bin Laden. 

CARLSON:  Let‘s hope they get moving right away.  We are hearing again with the release of the NIE, that the United Sates is in peril, as it has been for the past six years.  But maybe that peril has increased.

Secretary Chertoff said the other day, of course, he has a gut feeling that something bad is coming.  A lot of people do not believe him and do not believe the administration, don‘t think they have any credibility left.  Are you sold on the idea that the threat has increased and that we are really in danger now? 

ROYCE:  Well, I am sold on the idea that the Department of Homeland Security had better listen to the 9/11 Commission.  And do the steps necessary in terms of passport security, Visa security, building the border fence, all the things to make certain, that it as hard as humanly possible for al Qaeda‘s agents to get into this country, because right now, they have got a pretty easy road.  It is not quite as easy as it when Saudi Express, Visa Express allowed those 19 hijackers to come into the country, two thirds of them with fraudulent documents.  And to stay in the country without apprehension.  We have closed some of the loopholes, but not enough, not enough to secure this homeland.  And, I think, part of that is in the lap of the Department of Homeland Security.  Certainly, getting the boarder fence up and tightening the visas.  I have my own amendment that‘s gone through, that would put us in contact with Interpol, in terms of being able to access all of the data on the Terrorist Watch List that the Europeans have on missing passports in their system.  We need to implement changes like this quickly. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Like, six years ago!  Congressman, thanks a lot for joining us, I appreciate it.

ROYCE:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Well, Democrats and some Republicans are calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq.  That may happen, what would happen if it did it?  Could it be worse than what‘s happening now in Iraq?  Plus, David Vitter returns to Capitol Hill just in time for an all-night session of the Senate.  At least his wife knows where he is.  Should Vitter resign or should his many sanctimonious critics, many in the press corps back off?  You are watching MSNBC, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The Democrats‘ push to get the U.S. troops out of Iraq continues tonight, all night, actually, with debate in the Senate.  Although the Democratic plan calls for leaving some troops in Iraq to deal with counter-terrorism efforts and to train Iraqi forces, a larger question does remain—what will happen without a large U.S. military presence in Iraq?  Well, “The Washington Post” reports on recent war games by the U.S.  military.  The results?  They predict Iraq may break apart into three separate nations, which, for what it‘s worth, is Senator Joe Biden‘s basic idea to make peace there.  Other analysts predict that the current level of violence will be rosy compared to the bloodshed that will be unleashed by an American departure.

No matter how you feel about the war, we are now in Iraq.  Do we have a responsibility to keep that country from falling into further chaos and bloodshed? 

Joining me now is a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus, Democratic congressman from Virginia, Jim Moran.  Congressman, welcome.

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Well, that really is the question, isn‘t it?  I mean, “The Washington Post” had another piece today in which people who pay attention to this stuff pretty closely, people stationed in Iraq, predict almost universally that when we leave, there is going to be increased bloodshed, ethnic violence.  Do we want to be responsible for that? 

MORAN:  You know, I went on Al Jazeera yesterday just to try something new, and a guy from Iraq called...

CARLSON:  I bet they loved you!

MORAN:  Listen to this.  A guy from Iraq called, who of course had exactly the same question you did.  I‘m sure you‘d enjoy spending more time with him, Tucker, but he said, “how can you live with yourself given the bloodbath that is going to occur after your troops pull out?” 

And I said, “well, I have got a solution for that, to avoid a bloodbath.”  He says, “what‘s that?”  I said, “stop killing each other!” 

Why is that our responsibility if they decide they want to kill each other?  We should not have been there in the first place.  We should not have made it such a dysfunctional state. 

CARLSON:  Well, there you go!  You‘re making the argument yourself...

MORAN:  ... by firing all the military—by firing all the military and the police.  But I...

CARLSON:  I agree with you, but you‘re making the argument...

MORAN:  Now they are going to have to determine their own future. 

CARLSON:  But wait a second, Congressman.  You just made the argument yourself, and your argument, and you‘ve articulated it...

MORAN:  I wish you had, incidentally...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  We are responsible for, partly, for the dysfunction of Iraq.  And when we leave, that dysfunction will become more profound and there will be a lot of killing.  My question is, do you care? 

MORAN:  I actually do care, but I think we are making it worse.  And look, particularly with regard to our own security. 

We are giving al Qaeda or the cause, if you will—that‘s what it means—around the world reason to gather together in opposition to the United States, because they see this as a long-term Western occupation of an Arab country.  And they throw in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the whole -- the whole pile of stuff that we have done, which has been misguided over the last five years and say, see, this is the enemy. 

Well, we‘re the enemy as long as we stay in Iraq.  Even Maliki acknowledges that.  The majority of the Iraqis say it‘s OK to kill Americans if it would get them out of our country.

CARLSON:  Well, why are Democrats arguing that we ought to stay in Iraq?  As far as I know, the plans on the table in the Senate tonight, sponsored by Democrats, Hillary Clinton‘s plan, all include leading troops in Iraq.  Fewer troops, but troops to protect American interests and to fight terror and to train Iraqi soldiers. 

Two questions:  Won‘t those troops be at greater risk since there will be fewer of them, and shouldn‘t you be honest with the public and say, actually, we are not pulling all the troops out? 

MORAN:  I think they will be at greater risk, but at least some of the Iraqis will realize that this is not for the purposes of a long-term occupation to control their country.  That we were there as liberators, we did not intend to be occupiers, and that is why we need to withdraw the substantial numbers of our troops. 

I think we ought to withdraw all of them, frankly, and leave what advisers they want.  We ought to have a force that is ready to go after any foreign influences, like al Qaeda in Iraq, when they can be identified.  We ought to give them air support.  We have given them more training than we give our own troops.  We have given them more weapons that we—we spent more on weapons than we have our own troops.  I don‘t know what more we can do for the majority Shia government, and the Sunnis seem to be more than capable of protecting themselves.

I think what‘s going to happen is what happened—similar to what happened when the British withdrew.  They first turned on everybody that collaborated with the British, and then they turned on every foreign influence, and it was pretty bloody, yes.  But they went after the people who were not there for the purposes of making a better Iraq.  And I think that is probably what is going to happen. 

You see today, the Sunnis are now finally cooperating with the American troops, because they believe that they are not going to be there forever, so they are helping our troops go after the al Qaeda in Iraq group.

CARLSON:  But what if there is a larger problem after we leave?  And people are predicting this, smart people, that with the increased Iranian influence among the Shiites, the Saudis will get their back up, get involved in Iraq to a greater degree, and then there will be some kind of conflict between those two countries that could draw in countries from around the region.  That is a possibility. 

I think what people want is acknowledgement from the Democrats that that could happen.  There is no perfect solution.  This stuff is scary.  This is not a panacea.  Will you acknowledge that? 

MORAN:  Tucker, clearly, that could happen.  We can‘t predict what is going to happen.  Although I wish the administration might have looked at some of these possible outcomes before going into Iraq in the first place. 

CARLSON:  Well, obvious.

MORAN:  But the alternative is a satellite of Iran.  A majority Shiite state that controls the whole thing. 

Maybe it is better to split it up.  Let the Kurds have what they consider to be Kurdistan, back with the Balfour agreement.  Let the Sunnis figure out what they can protect. 

Certainly, Iraq‘s neighbors are going to want to help the Sunni population in Iraq secure a Sunni area, and the Iranians are helping the Shia, but the Iranians don‘t want al Qaeda in Iraq.  Iran, if we left, it‘s the Iranians that are going to go after al Qaeda in Iraq, because they are totally opposed to each other.

CARLSON:  Unless it‘s true that they are actually training in Iran, but I have a feeling that we‘re going to find out either way.

Congressman, thanks for coming on.  I appreciate it.  Jim Moran of Virginia.

First Ann Coulter, now Hillary Clinton.  Elizabeth Edwards takes aim at the Democratic front runner.  She says Mrs. Clinton is not the best choice for women.  Her husband John is.  Is she right?  We‘ll tell you.

Plus, David Vitter‘s wife is standing by her man despite his transgressions with an escort service.  If his wife forgives him, shouldn‘t his constituents and the frothing media horde?  That‘s us.  This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  While John Edwards continues to present himself as a courtly southern gentleman, his wife, Elizabeth, continues to serve as the teeth of his flagging presidential campaign.  Last month was a call to HARDBALL to take on Ann Coulter.  Now Elizabeth Edwards takes a bite at Senator Hillary Clinton.  Mrs. Edwards told salon.com she doesn‘t think Hillary is a strong enough advocate for women on issues like health care and abortion.  Edwards said she understands why sometimes Hillary has to campaign like a man in order to make up for the fact that she is not.  Two questions, is Hillary Clinton‘s sex and her femininity still an issue in the presidential race and will John Edwards be well served to get as publicly tough as his wife is?

Here to answer those questions, Associate Editor of “The Hill,” A.B.  Stoddard, and former House majority leader, Dick Armey.  Welcome to you both. 

A.B. Stoddard, is, I mean, let‘s take this critique seriously, is Hillary Clinton too manly to be president?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, “THE HILL”:  Well, Hillary Clinton has vast experience and she is, as Elizabeth Edwards points out, trying to become the commander and chief.  And so, she is going to straddle this as she is straddling the war.  She is working these single, lower-income less educated younger women very hard.  As we know, we‘ve talked about that many times.  And, you look at this, this is sort of one of the, I think it is a cheap shot.  It is like Barack Obama is too afraid to become the black candidate, so he seeds the role to Hillary Clinton, who wins the Howard Debate and is more the black candidate than Barack Obama.  And now Hillary is getting criticized by Elizabeth Edwards as not, you know, playing to the women, not being enough of a woman‘s candidate so John Edwards, I guess now gets to take on the role.  It‘s really not, I don‘t think it‘s fair.

CARLSON:  I agree with you completely.  I mean I really defend Hillary Clinton, Congressman Army, but this does seem to me unfair—I mean what is she supposed to do be more the female candidate.  And what are women‘s issues anyway?  I don‘t really understand what that means, do you?

DICK ARMEY, ® FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  I‘m watching the campaign and it looks to me like Senator - former Senator from North Carolina has gone so far to the left that he is kind of losing touch with reality.  But I think America is going to find it preposterous to have a quick translation be that his doesn‘t‘ believe that Hillary is a good enough feminist.  You know, give me a break.  We‘ve got a place in American where Hillary is not sufficiently enough of a feminist to shoot the political correctness needs of anybody, especially a housewife from North Carolina, we are in desperate trouble in this country. 

CARLSON:  I think—actually, you‘ve hit right on it because Mrs.  Edwards did complain specifically about Hillary Clinton‘s speech, a couple of years ago, about abortion.  In which she did not recommend limiting access to abortion in any way.  I don‘t think she has ever come out for limiting access to abortion under any circumstances.  She just pointed out, that it is a sad thing.  And this, according to Mrs. Edwards, was just a bridge too far.  That made her quote, “uncomfortable” to hear Mrs. Clinton may not be great.  That‘s not where the country is on the subject, is it?

ARMEY:  You know, you can be as pro-abortion as you want to and if you fail to recognize the heartbreak in a poor young woman who has to endure this, and the guilt and the hurt and pain that‘s goes following all the rest of her life, then you are not much of a person.  Let alone a feminist, male, female, whatever.  But for Hillary Clinton to acknowledge that abortion is a sad thing is the most fundamental, little itty-bitty ruminant of humanity.  And for somebody to find herself disappointed in that, I think would require a little self examination on the part of her critic. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it‘s actually one of the sickest things I‘ve heard in a long time.   A.B., I wonder, though, at the core of this critique isn‘t something kind of true?  If Hillary Clinton did come across a little bit more feminine, I know I would not criticize her for it.  I wonder, if this is a subject of great debate within the campaign?  I suspect it is.  Is it?

STODDARD:  No.  I think that Hillary Clinton‘s—I think the great debate is to make her so that—is to get her to reveal more of herself.  To be more open, to be—let it all hang out a little bit more, so that the public can feel that they know her.  The public always wants to know the real candidate, or at least you have to present something that seems real about yourself.  Her husband is very talented at this.  Barack Obama and John Edwards seem very capable of doing this.  So, I think that‘s the big struggle is to get to just be open.  She is so close, people need to think that she has blood in her veins and her, you know, her detractors do not think that she is human enough.  I do not think that it‘s—I think that when a woman runs in a field of all men—an all male field for president for a job a woman has never held.  I do not think that she can talk about just mushy women‘s stuff all the time.  I don‘t know, just as you said, what these issues are.  But if she spent all her time talking about motherhood and child care, she‘d be in real trouble. 

CARLSON:  Well, that is a good point.  My theory is and ...

ARMEY:  If I may, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Yes, Congressman.

ARMEY:  I cannot help but recollect how silly we all thought it was that we‘ve fiddled around with Al Gore‘s image after the fashion of trying to create something called an alpha male.  I mean, most of us in the country thought this is nonsense.  And I would say the same is true of Mrs.  Clinton, Senator Clinton.  The question is where does she stand on the critical issues of our time?  Is she for a national health care system that is all-inclusive, like the Canadian system?  That is an important matter.  And quite frankly, it is far more important matter of concern, than whether or not she is woman enough to be the woman that America might elect president when there is a question about whether or not America wants a woman for president. 

CARLSON:  Well that‘s why ...

ARMEY:  Hogwash is all of that.

CARLSON:  It is becoming pretty clear that the Edwards are actually on Hillary Clinton‘s payroll and their job is to make her look mainstream.  I mean, they have gone—they are in Hugo Chavez land they have gone so far out.

ARMEY:  Yes, they are.

CARLSON:  All right.  We‘re going to be right back.  A newspaper in New Orleans says the real problem with David Vitter is that he may have broken the law.  Is that a good point?  Or would David Vitter‘s ouster lead to booting half the Senate.  Plus, you might not even know who he is, but right now he reportedly has more money on hand than John McCain.  He is Ron Paul from Texas, he wants to be president, he might be one of the most interesting candidates to run in a long time.  He joins us in a minute, you are watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Louisiana Senator David Vitter is back in Washington tonight after facing cameras with his wife 24 hours ago to apologize once more for patronizing the so-called DC madam.  Vitter has made no indication that he‘s even considered resigning from office, but this morning‘s “New Orleans Times Picayune” editorialized that Senator Vitter has not wiped clean the public slate.  Quote, by admitting that his phone number is in the records of an alleged prostitution ring that is under federal investigation, Senator Vitter has raised the specter of illegality.  Louisianians have a right to be concerned that a lawmaker may have broken the law.  So far he hasn‘t answer the fundamental question whether he broke the law by hiring prostitutes.”

Well, the sanctimony with which much of the press has vilified David Vitter is largely nonsensical grand standing, of course.  It‘s very annoying.  What about the “Times Picayune‘s” essential point?  Should Vitter face formal consequences or even resign if he did, in fact, brake the law? 

Back to tell us, associate editor of the “Hill,” A.B. Stoddard, and former House majority leader Dick Armey.  Congressman, is this a factor?  I mean, there is embarrassment and the sin, as the senator himself has described it.  But the fact that he may have broken the law, or presumably did break the law in going to a prostitute; should that disqualify him from serving in the Senate? 

DICK ARMEY, FREEDOMWORKS.ORG:  If there is a question of whether or not he has broken the law, there is a due process.  My guess is, from what I understand, there would be statute of limitations issues as well in this case.  The thing is, you have to understand that David Vitter is in a difficult situation because a very large part of his voting constituency, those people who voted for him enthusiastically in the past, are evangelical Christians who have very little tolerance for this sort of thing.

And then a very large part of the opposition is the militant Democrat party that opposes him.  They are going to seize on the opportunity to vilify him.  My guess is, if you check the voting record of the editors that wrote the editorial that are so dang sanctimonious about this, they are one, very aggressive liberals, and two, the same editors that a few years ago were making all kind of excuses about why we ought to stay out of the private business of President Clinton. 

CARLSON:  Yes, and I bet they got some pretty far out bedroom habits.  I mean, look, they are in the press.  Alexandra, you have been in the press your whole life.  You tell me, as you sit and watch people in the press wag their fingers at David Vitter and say, you hypocrite, you sinner, how disgusting; can you believe it?  Can you believe the gall of journalists mocking another person‘s sex life, of all groups, journalist, famously creepy in the sack?  It‘s pretty overwhelming, don‘t you think? 

STODDARD:  It really should come as no surprise to either of you that journalists who get tired of covering immigration reform jump all over any sex scandal that comes rippling through this town.  I don‘t know why that surprises you.  If you recall the Mark Foley scandal, it almost lit the building on fire. 

CARLSON:  But at least with Mark Foley you could say these were underage kids. 

STODDARD:  Yes, this is true, but look, there is a question about whether or not he did something illegal.  Then there is a question, which I will not answer, because I am not a constituent of David Vitter‘s, about whether or not you should be allowed to break the law when you are a member of the U.S. Senate.  That is, as I said, a question for his constituents to answer. 

ARMEY: Let me go back to another point, and let me say this, in all seriousness, democracy requires a free press.  But it also requires a fair and objective press.  I will tell you—and I see it time and time again in the press corps of this country with such matters as this, that they have a double standard.  Unless they are prepared to apply the same standard across the board, irrespective of party delineation, they are not fulfilling their required and necessary role in a democracy and they ought to be ashamed of themselves. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that.  I am not sure about required, but definitely necessary. 

ARMEY:  If they want democracy and they want and understand that I should respect the need for a free press, they should respect my need for a responsible press. 

CARLSON:  Yes, don‘t hold your breath on that.  A.B. Stoddard, the fund-raising numbers are out and we have the details.  Some of them are kind of interesting.  Here is one that jumped out at me.  Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, endorsed the Hillary for president effort and shortly thereafter was granted access to Clinton fund-raisers, who came up with 90,000 dollars so he could retire his own campaign debt.  There‘s no proof that that was a quid pro quo, but you‘ve got to kind of wonder.  The Clinton campaign denies it.

STODDARD:  But this whole business is about mutual back scratching.  It was very important to get the governor of Iowa out of the game fast, so that that territory could be permeated by the Clinton machine.  That is a huge objective from the start.  She had not been to Iowa.  She was weaker than her rivals there.  Getting Tom Vilsack out of that race was a huge goal. 

It is no surprise that the Clinton team got very excited and all of the donors just saw fit to help retire his debt. 

CARLSON:  Does that make you—you have run a lot of campaigns, congressman.  I see this every cycle.  I remember Carol Mosely Braun had an enormous campaign debt retired last time, I believe by the Howard Dean campaign.  It always looks like a payoff to me.  Do you think it is?

ARMEY:  It‘s a deal, and politicians at their worst make deals.  The deal is along those ways.  Look, the governor of Iowa, his responsibility is to what is best for Iowa, not what is the most efficient, effective way for me to have my campaign debt retired.  The fact of the matter is, he said, my priorities are getting my campaign debt retired and I have got somebody who is ready to make a deal. 

So Iowa can take a second seat to my need to retire my campaign. 

That‘s why you call such people politicians and not statesmen. 

CARLSON:  That‘s a good point.  I wonder, A.B., 58,100 dollars on furniture; that‘s what the John McCain for president campaign spent, according to these last quarter numbers.  That‘s a lot.  What kind of furniture do you think it was? 

STODDARD:  As someone who has a furniture fetish, it‘s a little weird.  But look, all of this stuff—When we find out how much each person spent on what, it is always ugly.  It is legal, but it is not proper.  It‘s not pretty.  I don‘t want to know what they spend on anything.  You can imagine these numbers, more than some of us spend on a food a year going to these really strange expenditures.  But it is like a funeral parlor.  I do not want to see a dead body made up and I don‘t want to know what they spend their money on. 

CARLSON:  Speaking of made up, Mitt Romney 300 dollars for a make up company called Hidden Beauty.  I would mock him, but I wear make up for a living, so that would be hypocritical.  I‘m not going to.  I wonder, congressman, what you make of the latest poll numbers on the Republican side, that show the winner of the Republican field—This is the AP-Ipsos poll; Giuliani 21, Thompson 19; McCain 15; Mitt Romney 11.  But the winner, none of the above at 23 percent.

Are you surprised?  It is a little late in the game.

ARMEY:  No, I don‘t think so.  But I think we ought to run none of the above right now.  I think he is making a better case for why we ought to elect him than the others are doing.  Until these candidates decide to say we‘re going to talk to America about the big issues that face this country, rather than the silly trivial stuff they‘re entertaining themselves with, like whether or not one candidate‘s wife the other candidate is woman enough for the job. 

What is it, you ain‘t woman enough to beat my man?  I mean, give me a break.  Let‘s get off the trivial stuff and I will say that for the Republicans and Democrats alike.  America wants people seeking the most important elected office in the world to have serious discussions about the issues that are critical in their lives. 

CARLSON:  John Edwards, to his credit, I have to say, whether you disagree or agree, does get pretty heavy pretty fast when he gets out on the campaign trail.  Here is what he says about public schools in this country, quote, “we still have two public school systems.  If you live in a wealthy suburban area, the odds are very high that your child will get a good education.  If you live in the inner city or a poor rural area, the odds of that go down dramatically.  I think there are very specific things we can do to improve the quality of education in those areas, but also to improve the quality of schools of large.” 

One of those plans is to diversify the schools by income.  Presumably, A.B., to suggest some sort of busing schemes.  That did not go over well last time it was tried.  But it is not small.  It‘s not school uniforms and midnight basketball.  This is kind of big thinking John Edwards.  Is anybody paying attention to John Edwards? 

STODDARD:  No, and that is what I was going to say.  I really think the guy is—I think he is authentic and I think—I do not think this party tour is a joke.  I think he really does care passionately about this.  I think he cares passionately about the public school system in this country.  And to some extent, he is right.  But people are not listening.  You can see it in the debate. 

At the Howard debate, he was talking about this very thing.  It was the day of the court decision.  He is not being heard.  The stories about everything he does are always written from the perspective of his tanking poll numbers and his lack of money and how he‘s being overshadowed by the top two. 

CARLSON:  Congressman, it seems to me, a major presidential candidate comes out and proposes, as John Edwards did the other day in Cedar Rapids, on July 15th, proposed educating the children of Africa.  Nobody noticed.  A candidate saying we ought to pay for the primary school education of children in other countries, wouldn‘t that be a headline if someone else said it? 

ARMEY:  I am sure it is a big headline in Africa, but I would think the average American voter that he should be talking to is a little bit more interested in what are you going to do to help educate my children, to get some quality efficiency, effective caring for the education of my children in my community, where I am paying taxes and where the schools are failing my kids? 

Quite frankly, I would guarantee that the average American voter is going to put the education of their children in Ames, Iowa ahead of the education of African children in Africa. 

CARLSON:  I would be willing to bet you are right.  Dick Armey, thanks very much.  A.B. Stoddard, I appreciate it.  Well, Ron Paul did not make the cut in the latest A.P. poll, but he appears to be gaining steam in his run for the White House, at least according to the money he has on hand. 

Plus, what does Homer Simpson have in common with a fertility god? 

Stick around, our chief cartoon correspondent Willie Geist has the answer. 

This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Democrats running for president want to start pulling American troops out of Iraq immediately.  Republican candidates, meanwhile, almost unanimously back President Bush‘s plan to stay the course.  But not Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.  Paul opposed the war from the start.  He voted against the original war authorization back in 2002.

What does Ron Paul make of President Bush‘s comments that al Qaeda will fill the void if America pulls out?  And what about today‘s national intelligence estimate that says al Qaeda is more poised than ever to strike us here at home?

Joining us now to discuss all of this is Ron Paul himself. 

Congressman, thank you for joining us. 

REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS:  Thank you, nice to be with you.

CARLSON:  Thanks.  Before I ask you about those matters, we saw these FEC reports, including those from your campaign, and were amazed to learn that Barry Manilow has given to your campaign.  I know last time on the air we talked about getting a celebrity supporter.  It looks like we have.  Do you know Barry Manilow? 

PAUL:  No, I do not.  I was very pleased to find that out. 

CARLSON:  Are you a fan?

PAUL:  I found out about the time you did. 

CARLSON:  Do you like his music? 

PAUL:  I really like it now, I will tell you that. 

CARLSON: You are a fan of convenience, good for you.  So we‘re learning what we already knew, which is that much of the threat we face from extremists abroad originates in the northwest territories of Pakistan, Waziristan.  If you were president, what would you do about that? 

PAUL:  About dealing with al Qaeda in Pakistan? 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

PAUL:  Well, you‘re not going to deal with much until you change foreign policy.  But I did vote for the authority to go after Osama bin Laden in that area and we sort of backed away.  There‘s a problem there.  Now it‘s compounded by the fact that al Qaeda now has an incentive for growth.  We had no al Qaeda in Iraq, and now it is growing by leaps and bounds.

This idea that if we leave, al Qaeda will come in—exactly the opposite will occur.  They weren‘t there until we went in.  So, I think we should deal in a very, very targeted way to go after the leadership of al Qaeda and go after Osama bin Laden, and do it with as much permission as you can get, you know, from the governments involved, which is really Pakistan.  But Pakistan doesn‘t permit us to do it. 

Here we are sending them money.  They‘re a military dictatorship, and they‘re protecting Osama bin Laden, which is a reflection of a foreign policy that is really flawed. 

CARLSON:  Why would we—if we faced an imminent physical threat, verifiable threat from elements within Pakistan and the Pakistani government declined to do anything about it, why wouldn‘t we just ignore their wishes and do something about it anyway? 

PAUL:  I think we have the right to do it if there‘s an imminent threat.  But the odds of al Qaeda launching a nuclear weapon at us—the president does have that authority.  Imminent threat or a threat, the president doesn‘t need permission from the Congress.  He should get permission for a declaration of war and we would not be in this mess that we have. 

But no, if it was an imminent threat, he does have the authority.  But even in a targeted sense, you can get permission to get limited authority, like we did, to go after the al Qaeda.  Unfortunately though, the president took this authority and got into nation-building.  Now we‘re in the process of nation building in two countries over there.  Neither one is going very well. 

At the same time, we are threatening to go in and start bombing Iran.  That is the kind policy that I think is so detrimental and dangerous to our country. 

CARLSON:  There has been great a great hesitance on the part of every president I am aware of in America to deal with regimes that are genuinely bad.  The idea is we are above that.  We are tainted by their evil if we make common cause with them.  Are you bothered by that?  Is there any regime that we should not deal with because they‘re morally repugnant?   

PAUL:  Well, basically, you try to avoid that attitude because you really want to talk to as many people as possible and trade with people.  I mean, we dealt with the Chinese and that wasn‘t a bad idea.  We trade with them now.  And we are very much less likely now to have a war with China.  So I would say you deal with these people. 

We talk to the Russians, so why can‘t we talk to the Iranians.  It makes a lot of sense to me that we should talk to them if we talk to these other regimes.  It‘s this attitude that we should isolate ourselves from the world and just be belligerent and threaten them and put on sanctions.  Right now, the more sanctions we put on, the more harm we do to the dissidents that are in Iran. 

So I would say that always backfires.  Yes, in general, you want to deal with people and talk to people as much as possible.  If there is hostility going on, even then you talk to people to try to end that.  Depending on force and war is the wrong way to go.  That should not be the American way. 

CARLSON:  OK, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, running for president and joining us again.  I appreciate it, thanks Congressman. 

PAUL:  Thanks a lot.

CARLSON:  So, does Harry Potter die at the end of the last book?  Most of you will have to wait until Friday night to read for yourself, but some people already know the answer.  How did they get their hands on the most coveted text since the Dead Sea Scrolls?  Willie Geist blows the lid on that controversy when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We have breaking news.  Details are sketchy.  Here‘s what we‘re learning now from the Associate Press: a plane carrying at least 150 people—other reports say 170 -- crashed into a gas station after landing at San Paolo Airport Tuesday.  It was a TAM Airlines, Airbus 320.  It‘s a big plane.  It skidded off the road and crashed into a gas station right outside the airport. 

That is what an airport spokesperson is saying.  You can see the live pictures right now.  It is on fire.  Apparently, the flight originated in the southern city of Puerto Allegra.  Now, there are no immediate reports on injuries or death.  We really know no more than that.  Reuters is saying it was carrying 170 passengers. 

Apparently there is a filling station right at the end of that runway.  It is not clear why that is the case.  It is also not clear whether weather played a role in this—what looks like a pretty bad accident. 

There have been a number of plane fires taking place on the runway, in which passengers have escaped.  There was one in Canada last year in which a plane, an Air France flight completely disintegrated by fire, nothing left but ashes, and yet every single person on the flight made it off.

Now, we are hearing that the state aviation agency has suspended all take offs and landings at the airport.  We‘re getting reports that sadly, there are people on the plane.  They are apparently on the plane right now.  Fire crews are attempting to rescue them.  From the looks of it, the flames have engulfed the entire aircraft. 

It‘s a little unclear from the shot there, but it looks like we‘re seeing a lot of the plane and apparently it is completely on fire, burning from the inside out.  There are no victims known yet.  Apparently we‘re going to get a statement on this fairly soon from the airport authority telling us exactly what happened. 

We‘re learning that it was a cargo building.  Apparently it was not a commercial gas station, but a filling station used for commercial aircraft and vehicles at the airport. 

If you are just tuning in, we‘re telling you that a passenger plane carrying apparently 170 people has crashed at Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  It was a TAM Airlines express commuter flight.  It touched down.  Apparently it was unable to stop.  We do not know if it landed long, if it missed its mark in landing, if there was some kind of mechanical failure. 

A witness heard the accident, we‘re hearing, didn‘t see it, and believed it was a turbine test, a test in which jet engines are revved up to a high RPM to see how they function.  That could be a sign that the pilot tried to reverse thrust, which is apparently pilots try to do regularly, and do at high RPMs when they can‘t slow down. 

Again, we don‘t know if it was a mechanical malfunction, if it was a function of weather.  We have seen a couple instances over the years in which planes landed during heavy rain and the tires lost traction on the runway and kept going.  That happened in Little Rock, Arkansas several years ago and resulted in the deaths of I think about half the people on board an American commercial flight.  So that does happen. 

The fact that we have a helicopter in the air filming this right now suggest that the weather is not terrible.  So again, we just do not know. 

We do know, just to recap, that that plane had about 170 people.  It is a TAM airlines flight, apparently a commuter flight.  You can see it right there, TAM Express.  It has crashed at the end of a runway. 

We‘re going to go now to Berkeley Wilson, who is an ABC News producer and he apparently spoke to an eye witness to this crash, which is in Sao Paolo, Brazil.  I believe these pictures are live.  I don‘t know why we are not identifying them as such, but I think this is happening right now. 

I believe we have Berkeley on the phone.  Berkeley, what can you tell us? 

BERKELEY WILSON, ABC NEWS PRODUCER:  What I can tell you is we have spoken to one of our Telemundo freelance reporters from Brazil.  He is watching global TV.  A TAM airliner overshot the runway down in Sao Paulo.  We‘re hearing reports that there were 170 passengers on board.  It skidded out of control.  We‘re hearing that it struck a building—across the roadway and struck a building. 

We have not seen or heard any reports of what the status of the passengers are.  We do not know what kind of plane it is.  We‘re working to confirm this information and track down just exactly what happened here.  There was one person—We had a report of one person who was a computer support analyst who was leaving work.  He heard the accident.  He did not see it.  He thought it was a turbine test, which regularly occurs at the airport. 

Again, a lot of conflicting information at this time.  But what I can tell you is we did see pictures earlier that it was on fire and had had run off the runway.

CARLSON:  All right, Berkeley, I sure appreciate that.  Thank you.

It looks to be - and we don‘t know this for certain - but it looks to be a tragedy in progress in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Thanks for joining us.  We appreciate it.  “HARDBALL” is next.  We‘re going to continue to cover this story.  We‘ll bring you the news as it comes in.

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

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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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