updated 8/2/2007 10:49:41 AM ET 2007-08-02T14:49:41

Guests: Adam Smith, Dan Gerstein, Bill Press, John Ensign

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome to the show.  Like the kid who has had sand kicked in his face one to many times, Barack Obama announced to the world he is no weakling when it comes to foreign policy.  Obama laid out his vision for a new and more effective war on terror during a speech this morning in Washington.

For more than a week the Hillary Clinton campaign has derided Obama as soft on foreign affairs.  Well, it‘s going to be a lot harder to make that claim now.  If anything, Obama‘s speech erred on the side of hawkishness, most notably on his calls to send American troops if necessary into Pakistan, a sovereign nation that he referred to more than once as, quote, “a battlefield.”

The senator went on to explain as president, he said he would push for free elections in Pakistan, send additional forces to Afghanistan and station American troops in vicinity of Iraq to fight the al Qaeda factions he now acknowledges exist in that country.  In short, he sounded like a neocon, at times coming off as more bellicose than the president he wishes to replace.

In the space of a day, Obama the weak has become Obama the fierce.  Does he mean it?  Do his ideas make more sense now than when the Bush administration proposed a lot of them and is it really a good idea to invade Pakistan?

Joining me now is someone who was at this morning‘s speech here, Obama supporter and chairman of the Armed Services Terrorism Subcommittee, Democratic Congressman from Washington State, Adam Smith.

Congressman, thanks for coming on.

REP. ADAM SMITH, (D) WA:  Thanks for having me.  I appreciate it.

CARLSON:  So we are invading Pakistan now.  Is that really wise?

SMITH:  He didn‘t say that.  In fact, I think the link to the neocons is a little bit misstated.

CARLSON:  Wait, he said, I have it right here.  We are going to send troops whether they like it or not if we need to.

SMITH:  No.  What he said was if we have to.  If we cannot get cooperation from the Pakistan government.  What he said was common sense.  If at the end of the day the only choice we have is to protect American interests is to act unilaterally, we will do so.  But there was a lot of that speech that talked about diplomacy.

CARLSON:  Right.

SMITH:  We talked about winning hearts and minds.  We talked about working with the rest of the world.  The neocons that you referenced .

CARLSON:  Talked about all those things, too.

SMITH:  No.

CARLSON:  They did.  They went to the UN, they talked about diplomacy and in the end they moved unilaterally in someone else‘s country and it was an invasion.

SMITH:  The cornerstone of their philosophy was that unilateral action was better because you get to do what you want, first of all, and the rest of the world sees that they have to do what you want.  You have to go back and study that.

CARLSON:  Wait a second.

SMITH:  They did not talk about diplomacy.

CARLSON:  Let‘s talk about the practical effects here.  Pakistan is a sovereign country, it‘s our ally.

SMITH:  Yes.

CARLSON:  It is also a country with nuclear weapons that is filled with crazies who want to hurt us run by a man who is not necessarily democratically elected, General Pervez Musharraf who has a very tenuous hold on power.

So if you were to send American troops into the country without his permission you could in effect topple him, giving the country over to a bunch of crazies.  That‘s pretty dangerous.

SMITH:  It is.  What is more dangerous is having al-Qaeda and bin Laden have a safe haven while they are planning attacks on us.  But Obama was specific to say that he wants to work with Pakistan, he wants to talk with them, he wants to make sure that they step up and do more to prevent terrorism.

But he said, and I would ask you, let‘s say he does all that.  Let‘s say he does the diplomacy, the stuff the Bush administration didn‘t do.  They were dragged kicking and screaming to the UN, by the way, you have to go back and look at ...

CARLSON:  They mouthed the word.

SMITH:  It was not their first choice.  But let‘s say you do all of that as Senator Obama said that he would.

CARLSON:  Right.

SMITH:  And I‘m confident that would work and at the end of the day, you know there is a terrorist cell in northwest Pakistan, you go to Musharraf and say we have to do this, he says no.  What do you say to the American people, that‘s it, we are not going to protect America?  That‘s all the Senator was saying.

CARLSON:  That‘s not all - and here I think he is actually parroting Bush.  He actually stole this from Mike Gerson, the speechwriter.  And we must not turn a blind eye to elections that are neither free nor fair.  Our goal is not simply an ally in Pakistan, it is a democratic ally.

SMITH:  Yes.

CARLSON:  What would happen if there was a democratic election in Pakistan right now?

SMITH:  I think Musharraf would probably win.

CARLSON:  If not?

SMITH:  If he didn‘t we would work with whoever did.  Keep in mind Pakistan .

CARLSON:  We would work with the Islamic nutcase who would then have nuclear weapons aimed at India and us?

SMITH:  You assume they would win that election.  Certainly, we couldn‘t work with them.  But that is not the situation.

CARLSON:  We had free elections in Palestine.  Look who got elected.  There was elections in Lebanon and Hezbollah ends up having a huge bulk of the legislature.

SMITH:  Ask the question differently then.  If Islamic extremists were elected in Pakistan, would we work with them?  That would be a much more difficult situation.

CARLSON:  Why invite that scenario?  That seems reckless and crazy. 

That seems like something Bush would do.

SMITH:  I don‘t think it is reckless and crazy.  Because I don‘t think that Pakistan would elect those people.  Historically - they have had free elections not that long ago.  They elected Benazir Bhutto, they elected a man named Sharif in the ‘90s.

CARLSON:  Right.

SMITH:  They did not elect the Islamic extremists.  I don‘t know of any experts - people told you in Palestine that Hamas would probably win that election.  You will not find an expert that Islamic extremists will win that election in Pakistan.

CARLSON:  Why is it important for us in our interests?

SMITH:  Here is why .

CARLSON:  Musharraf is may be not a great guy but he is on our side. 

And the alternatives are very scary.  Why do we want to jeopardize that?

SMITH:  Because it would make him, it would make the government of Pakistan stronger.  What is happening in Pakistan, you have got the crazies, the Islamists who want to attack him but then you‘ve got as lot of middle class people, these were the rioting lawyers from a month ago .

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

SMITH:  . who were very upset at the lack of democratic institutions.  And what you are creating is you are creating a situation where just like in Iran in the late ‘70s, you get the Islamic extremists connected up with the democrats and that creates a problem.

CARLSON:  The lawyers were for the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

SMITH:  You have got to bring the democrats in.  The ones who want free elections who don‘t support the Islamists.  That‘s why Musharraf met with Bhutto here recently.

CARLSON:  You don‘t think the lesson of the last six years is democracy is not the highest goal?  That democracy as an abstract goal may be great but it doesn‘t always serve our interests?  It may be better to have a strong man?

SMITH:  I think the lesson of the last six years is check out the facts and circumstances in each individual situation.  Don‘t assume that one applies to the other.  In Pakistan, if we had a situation like you described, if Musharraf was generally holding back the Islamists from winning the election and taking over, you would be right.  But that‘s not the situation we have.

CARLSON:  Oh boy.  Going back to the Iran—This is all very boring to a lot of people.  But I think this really matters.  If you go back to the—it‘s not a problem for me.  I think this is the big question of the next 10 years.  If you go back to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, all sorts of revolutions, they are supported by the bourgeoisie, by intellectuals, right and by secular people who support religious nut cakes and in the end it‘s bad for us.

SMITH:  I want to make a point about Obama‘s speech.  Just quickly.  The problem was those people never were given voice.  They never had an opportunity.  They never had democracy.  That‘s what created the problem.  So you‘ve got to try to bring them into the system.

But the important thing about Senator Obama‘s speech today, two things, one, he said, let‘s focus on al Qaeda.  Let‘s focus on the group that hit us and threatens us first and foremost.  And change our policies .

CARLSON:  Which he acknowledges is in Iraq.  He says, he acknowledges that, which seems a big deal to me, we want to leave a country where al Qaeda is strong and then he says we are going to move to the region so we can go attack al-Qaeda in Iraq.  What other country are we going in to from which we will launch these attacks into Iraq?

SMITH:  We have a number of allies, Kuwait is perhaps the biggest one.  But Senator Obama said that he would leave enough forces there to deal with al-Qaeda.

CARLSON:  Does the base know this?  It‘s not really a pullout.  Does the Democratic base, get them all out caucus know that he wants to leave guys in Iraq?

SMITH:  That‘s what we voted on in the House.  Congressman McGovern who had what was the gold standard bill for what the out of Iraq caucus wanted had a provision in there that said we will pull out the forces but we will leave enough forces .

CARLSON:  Someone should tell the Daily Kos this.  I think they are going to be upset when they find out.

OBAMA:  I think they already know.  I think Senator Obama made the strong point, also on diplomacy, let‘s win hearts and minds.  Let‘s not just win the military piece of it.  And that part of the speech hasn‘t got enough focus.

CARLSON:  And I wish we had more time because that was an interesting

again, I thought he was parroting Bush.  But unfortunately I‘m being told we have a commercial break.  Congressman, I appreciate you coming on.

SMITH:  Thanks for having me.

CARLSON:  Great spokesman for the senator.

Hillary Clinton gets all the credit for having lifelong political ambition.  But there is new evidence Barack Obama had his eye on the prize for a long time himself.  Is Obama‘s accidental politician routine an act?

Plus Dick Cheney admits to underestimating the enemy in Iraq.  There is the understatement of the year.  But he is still predicting success there in the end.  We‘ll discuss that when we come back.  You are watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  After the initial hype of Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign, cries arose for more substance.  Pundits salivated for detailed plans from the senator.  Well, today, Obama delivered some meat, outlining what he would do as commander and chief.  Fans and foes looking for an unfiltered look at Obama‘s personal side will no doubt snap up “Obama, from Promise to Power.”  That is a new biography due out this month.  The author is a “Chicago Tribune” reporter who has covered Obama for years so what more to know about Obama and his political ambitions?  Plenty, it turns out.

We welcome now to discuss it Democratic strategist and the founder of the political blog “Dangerous Thoughts”, a fairly dangerous thinker, Dan Gerstein and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press, and officially one of the hottest men - actually, the hottest man in Washington.  Is that true?  The hottest man in Washington?

BILL PRESS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  I must admit yes is the answer but I succeeded you.  And I‘m proud .

CARLSON:  Bill, we worked together for years and if I had a dime for every time I thought to myself, God, he is hot, I would now have a home in Aspen.

PRESS:  I am proud to walk in your shoes.

CARLSON:  Congratulations.

PRESS:  I hope I can live up to your reputation as the hottest man for a year.

CARLSON:  Now, Dan, you‘ve worked .

PRESS:  Dan is also pretty hot.

CARLSON:  Stunningly hot.  This is getting very—you worked for Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut of a long time, a noted neocon, and not an insult but I think a statement of fact, or someone who is associated with the neocons, someone who has supported .

DAN GERSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Hawkish on national security .

CARLSON:  Hawkish on national security matters.

You watched this speech today and you heard Barack Obama call for sending troops to Pakistan.  This is a departure from what you think of as liberal orthodoxy, is it not?

GERSTEIN:  I think the most telling thing about today‘s news is not the speech itself but the reaction to it.  People are shocked that a Democrat would talk about the use of force to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists who want to kill us.

I read the whole speech.  It is not that of a hawkish of a speech.  It‘s a smart speech.  It is very much consistent with a lot of the stuff Obama and a lot of Democrats have been saying.  But it mixes in some tough talk about circumstances where he will use force to hunt down terrorists and protect America‘s interests.  That‘s what Democrats should be talking about.

CARLSON:  I absolutely agree with you.  If they did that more, I would be more comfortable about the idea of one of them leading this country.

Here is what he says about Iraq, Bill, he is against the war.  He really goes after Congress for authorizing the war in a fair way.  Then, he says Iraq is a training ground for terror.  Then he makes reference to al Qaeda in Iraq.  Those are the two key arguments for keeping troops in Iraq.  One, it is a training ground for terrorists and two, that al Qaeda is there in force and concedes both of those in his speech.  Once you have conceded those points, how can you call for a full withdrawal?

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think what he is saying is we are never going to solve the problem of violence in Iraq if we leave American troops there caught in the crossfire between the two and we‘ve got to stop pulling back troops and as we do, I think the violence will subside, I think he is saying the violence will subside.  I think that‘s why he is supporting pulling the troops back.

But I have to come back to the speech today, Tucker, I agree with Dan, I don‘t think the speech is as hawkish as it has been made to sound.  At the same time .

CARLSON:  Do we just going invading sovereign countries?  That‘s hawkish, isn‘t it?

PRESS:  No.  That‘s the point I want to make.  I think at the same time, to even suggest that we would send troops into a country that is our ally, which has nuclear weapons when we are already occupying Afghanistan and occupying Iraq, I am not sure we want to occupy a third country or we‘re in any position to.  So there is a dangerous suggestion there that I think is going to cause him a lot of trouble.

CARLSON:  I am not even arguing against it.  I think it is fair if you think that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan to go kill him whether the Paks like it or not.  I just don‘t think it‘s a liberal idea and I think the base that loves Obama would be stunned - they would drop their lattes .

PRESS:  I think we had a great opportunity and we should have pursued him from Afghanistan into Pakistan when we were there and we were on his track and we didn‘t.

CARLSON:  Add it to the list of things we should have done.  I mean, it‘s a long list.

PRESS:  My point is now the situation has changed.  And to send in troops today with a different political situation I think would be very dangerous.

GERSTEIN:  But I think what he is doing is making an important statement which I think Democrats have to emphasize, which is that George Bush and the Republicans missed the chance to take out Osama bin Laden when they had a high probability to do so and that Democrats are going to win the war on terror.  And most importantly, they are going to make capturing and killing Osama bin Laden a priority.  So he is saying, if I absolutely have to, I know I have a clear shot to take out Osama bin Laden.

CARLSON:  Does anybody think that killing Osama bin Laden anything more than a, I believe important, symbolic victory.  No.  The war is being fought in Iraq right now.  I hated going in.  It was a huge mistake.  But that is the center of the war on terror right now.  There is no way of getting around that.

GERSTEIN:  Well, it is a center.  It is a front.  But to take out - I think it would be more than a symbolic act.  When you take out the head of the most dangerous terrorist organization .

CARLSON:  I am for killing the guy, slowly.  Very quickly, Bill, I am sorry, we teased this, we have got to get to it.  David Mendel, “Chicago Tribune” reporter writing a book on Barack Obama has him saying this, after Harvard he said, quote, “maybe I can be the president of the United States.”  Another supporter says the second he got to Chicago he was talking about elective office.

Is it harder to make the case he is an accidental politician now that we know he has been plotting his ascent all these years.

PRESS:  I hope he is a man of ambition.  I hope he is a man who is driven.  I hope he is a man who wants to be president of the United States. 

BFD.

CARLSON:  I agree.  I am not endorsing Obama for president but do you know what a solipsist you have to be to run for president?  You have to think I am the most qualified person in a country of 300 million.  You have got to be a different kind of have dude.  I agree.

PRESS:  Good for him.  We are for ambition.

CARLSON:  We are winning.  If you listen to Vice President Dick Cheney, we are winning.  It‘s not even September yet and the vice president is singing the praises of the troop surge and America‘s occupation of Iraq.  He‘s beating the president to the punch there.

Plus, he spent eight years in the White House as commander and chief, now, Bill Clinton is imagining what it could be like to be the first gentleman if his wife wins the presidency.  It could be time for the rest of us to imagine it too, as much as we don‘t want to.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT:  I think my estimate at the time, and it was wrong.  It turned out to be incorrect, was the fact that we were in the midst of holding free elections in Iraq, electing an interim government.  And then ratifying a constitution and then electing a permanent government.  That they had significant success.  We had rounded up Saddam Hussein.  I thought there were a series of these milestones that would undermine the insurgency and make it less than it was at that point.  That clearly didn‘t happen.  I think the insurgency turned out to be more robust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was Vice President Dick Cheney admitting mistakes he made with the Iraq War.  But Cheney also says that things are getting better in Iraq now and General David Petraeus will prove that assertion in his September progress report to Congress.  Cheney‘s is the second positive report we have heard on Iraq at least.  The first came from Brookings Institution analysts Michael O‘Hanlon and Ken Pollock.  With that now infamous quote about the insurgency in its death throes still ringing in our ears, how credible is this week‘s limited but certain optimism about the war.  Back again, nationally syndicated radio talk show and famously hot guy Bill Press and Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein.

GERSTEIN:  I‘m so intimidated.

CARLSON:  I am too.

PRESS:  Enough.

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry.  I will stop there.

This is—I feel the consensus changing a little bit on Iraq.  I don‘t think that there is a groundswell of support for the rationale for the war.  I think most people recognize we shouldn‘t have done this.  But I also think that conventional wisdom is changing and people are beginning to accept that actually maybe defeat would be a disaster, A, and, B, the surge is showing positive effects.

PRESS:  I don‘t think so.  First of all, I think Cheney has zero credibility on this.  I mean, Cheney to admit a mistake?  One mistake.  That‘s a good start.  How about the fact that we‘re going to be greeted as liberators?  Maybe he should admit that that was a mistake as well.

Tucker, here is what I think is happening.

CARLSON:  Shouldn‘t we celebrate the truth when we find it?

PRESS:  I am not sure we heard the truth last night on LARRY KING LIVE from Dick Cheney about anything, about Alberto Gonzales or about the war in Iraq.

But I think what‘s happening is the White House has sold to enough Republicans, this hit the pause button and give us another shot until September.  Now, they are already telling us what we are going to hear in September, we are going to hear that militarily we are making some progress.  Politically, we are making almost no progress.  Therefore, we need more time.

And I think that‘s built on the premise that there is a military here which is a false premise.

CARLSON:  I am not sure - it depends what you‘re striving for.  I am not sure there is a military solution.  You often here there is only a political solution.  OK, fine.  The threat is of humiliation.  The humiliation of this country that would weaken our country and make the world more dangerous and hurt us pretty dramatically.

And there seems to be some promise we can avoid a terrible humiliation.  That‘s kind of the best we can hope for.  Doesn‘t that seem closer to within our reach at this point?

GERSTEIN:  I have to agree with Bill.  Trotting out Dick Cheney to talk about progress in Iraq just is another indication that the Bush White House is still living in an alternative reality.  He has zero credibility.  He has been thoroughly discredited.

Far more effective was this “New York Times” op ed by the Brookings Institution experts Ken Pollock and Michael O‘Hanlon who while known to have been advocates for the war, know what they are talking about and actually came back from ...

CARLSON:  Actually were passionate critics of the war after their advocacy of the war.

GERSTEIN:  The execution of it.  Yes.

CARLSON:  I know the leftist are jumping down Ken Pollock‘s throat like he was always a cheerleader.  That‘s a crock.  They‘re illiterate.

GERSTEIN:  Well, it‘s just like John McCain.  John McCain has been thoroughly critical of the administration‘s handling of the war but he doesn‘t back down saying its was the right thing to do.

PRESS:  But Pollock did start out supporting the war and urging the war.

CARLSON:  He actually wrote a book about it.  But he is not a lap dog. 

I don‘t care what the Daily Kos says.

GERSTEIN:  I think the indication that the ground is shifting is the intense reaction that op ed has stirred on the left.  They are attacking it nonstop.

CARLSON:  Why?  Because it‘s so outrageous that someone would suggest that maybe it‘s not a disaster in Iraq?  Why do they have a vested emotional interest in seeing this fail?

GERSTEIN:  Because they are so convinced that this was such a horrific mistake.

CARLSON:  I am too.

GERSTEIN:  And I agree.  I think it was a mistake the way it‘s been executed and the decision going.

At the same time, they don‘t really care about the facts on the ground.  And I think that‘s a dangerous ground for Democrats to be occupying, regardless of your stance on the war.

CARLSON:  Right.

GERSTEIN:  Because it will come across as rooting for America‘s defeat.  The Republicans are already picking up on that.  They are going to try and use that politically as an attack trope against the Democrats.  I think you can be critical of the war and you can advocate for responsible pullout but you can‘t be a cheerleader for defeat.

CARLSON:  Exactly.  You can be, as I am, furious for Bush for doing this, saddened by what its done to our country and still terrified by the consequences of a ignominious defeat.  And still, trying to wrack your brain, what can we do not to fail?  Why aren‘t liberals doing that?  I don‘t get it.

PRESS:  Tucker, you also have the situation of a war without end, which is all George Bush is promising us.  Here is - forget the Democrats.  Here‘s the problem.  Here‘s what‘s going to happen.  They are going to come in in September and they are going to say, as I said, OK, we are making some progress here, we need more time.  It‘s the Republicans who are going to be up against it.  They cannot go into 2008, all of these people who are up for reelection, particularly the senators, unless George Bush changes direction here.

CARLSON:  I totally disagree.  I think .

PRESS:  You watch.  The votes are going to change.

CARLSON:  I will tell you why.  We are standing at the precipice of something new and unknown and reckless and that scares people.  You say, look, Bush is a dummy, fine, but pulling out will make the world more dangerous.  Do you want that?  No you don‘t.

PRESS:  Let me tell you, these people across the street there, they are not going to risk their seats and their political careers for George W.  Bush, who is a dead duck, or Dick Cheney, who is a dead duck, or a war that he‘s had five years to pursue and can‘t win.

CARLSON:  I think there is a reality here that is bigger than politics.  And the reality is this could be more harmful to our country than it has already been which is saying a lot.  Let‘s try to avert that.

GERSTEIN:  Which is exactly why the Republican senator—has held for as long as it has.  They‘re privately furious at the administration.

CARLSON:  Everyone is furious at the administration.

GERSTEIN:  It‘s not just the politics.  They are - and I think this is where you are dead on.  They are deeply afraid about the consequences of a precipitous, a rapid withdrawal.  I will say this.  I think Bill is on to something.  They are going to try and save their skin.  I think what will happen in the fall is there will be a compromise, a bipartisan compromise that is built from the center out that will be a change in direction, it will be a shift in strategy but it will not be with a deadline.  Because I don‘t think Republicans are going to support a deadline.

CARLSON:  He says he rides the subway to work.  But is New York‘s Mayor Michael Bloomberg really the man of the people he claims to be?  Or is he kind of phony.  Stay tuned to find out what riding the subway means in New York City these days.

Plus all those people who want immigrants to learn English might be singing a different tune when they find out how much it costs to teach them all English.  You are watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  With the first presidential primary still months away, the only really quantitative gauge in the candidates, how they are doing, are their war chests and the polls.  Ah yes, the polls.  NBC News and the “Wall Street Journal” released parts of their latest survey tonight.  The poll shows Hillary Clinton opening up a 21 point lead over Barack Obama.  But that is a national measure. 

Is Hillary the choice on a state by state level?  Another new poll shows the two senators tied in New Hampshire.  They each have 31 percent of the votes.  Could there be an Obama surge taking place beneath the notice of the national press? 

Joining us now to decode what‘s really going on, Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press.  Seems to me we spend—we are definitely guilty on this show—too much time talking about the national polls, when, of course, it is not a national election.  The process of getting the nomination is state by state. 

They are tied in New Hampshire.  Other polls have them close in other states.  Who knows how reliable those polls are.  But they don‘t show the divide you see in the national polls.  What is that? 

GERSTEIN:  I think it is a reflection, in part, that this is where the candidates are campaigning.  They are spending time, people are hearing them, so they know them better.  I think a national poll is going to be much more reflective at this point of name ID, superficial recognition.  Obama is just not as well known as Senator Clinton.  So I think, you know, these state polls—I don‘t put that much stock into them because it‘s so early.  But Obama has been in the news a lot. 

He challenged Senator Clinton in the YouTube debate.  He had this sparring back and forth.  Now he has given this big speech.  I think it is probably a very temporary phenomenon where he has got a little bump out of being that much more active and noticeable. 

CARLSON:  She is not inevitable.  I guess that‘s the headline here.

PRESS:  I think that is a headline.  But I don‘t think you can totally discount the national poll.  I think the fact that she—look where John McCain is today.  Hillary Clinton started out number one.  She has been consistently number one.  I don‘t remember seeing a 21 point advantage.  I think, if anything, her advantage in the national poll is getting bigger.

It doesn‘t mean it is inevitable.  But you cannot totally discount it.  You are right, Tucker.  I think the important polls are the state by state polls.  I don‘t understand this poll, necessarily.  Last week, Tucker, you and I were talking, had the “Des Moines Register” poll showed John Edwards up in Iowa.  This ARG poll shows Hillary Clinton up in Iowa.

Edwards has been there campaigning.  I‘m more likely to believe that poll.  But what‘s happening in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina is how effective these candidates are at getting to the first voters, and those are going to be, as we know, critical, in terms of what happens on February five in the rest of the country.   

CARLSON:  If you break down some of these polls into more specific questions you find a trend.  Voters think Hillary Clinton is smarter and more experienced than anybody else in the field.  But they are not necessarily wild about her as a person.  They think that she lacks warmth and empathy.  Does that even matter now? 

Those used to be important gauges in the 1990‘s, when we weren‘t at war.  The likability factor was huge.  I am not sold on the idea it is still huge. 

GERSTEIN:  It‘s going to be hard to say.  On the one hand, there is an argument it is not that important, in large respect because George Bush has made competence such a premium among the presidential candidate right now.  If you have the experience and you know what you are doing, you can get the job done.  That‘s a big advantage.  I think that‘s a big part of Hillary‘s lead over Obama nationally. 

At the same time, I wouldn‘t discount it.  I think the Democrats have learned a valuable lesson that in a divided country right now, a candidate‘s ability to connect, setting aside the issues on character, on values, on likability matters a lot.  John Kerry, with all due respect, was a thoroughly dislikable candidate.  I think it cost him dearly. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t think you can emphasize thoroughly enough.  He really was.  In person, John Kerry—anyone who has ever spent time with him—he is not thoroughly unlikable in person.  He is kind of likable.  But it did not convey.  I completely agree with that. 

Let‘s just say Hillary Clinton does get the nomination and then, god forbid, she becomes president of the United States. 

PRESS:  Tucker, get used to saying it. 

CARLSON:  I already am. 

PRESS:  You can say it again. 

CARLSON:  I am just kidding.  She is leading in theoretical match ups against Republicans.  She is beating everybody.  She is the giant killer.  If she is elected, you have this inevitable and very uncomfortable question of what to do with her husband, Bill Clinton.  Bill Clinton went on ABC the other night, talked to Kate Snow.  Here is what he said about what he will do as first gentleman.  Bill Clinton. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I

wouldn‘t mind actually doing some of that work, some of the more social work. 

KATE SNOW, ABC ANCHOR:  Open libraries? 

CLINTON:  If I were asked to do that, I would be happy to do it.  When someone you know and care about gets elected president, it should be all hands on deck. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  So he will be hosting the White House Easter egg roll. 

PRESS:  I was going to say, I look forward to tea and crumpets with Bill Clinton in the East Wing. 

CARLSON:  Clinton is saying, I love her, so I will force myself to socialize on her behalf. 

PRESS:  No, no, no.  Here is what he said, look—she has already said, by the way, that she is going to use Bill Clinton, as she should and will, as a global ambassador.  Look, he is the most popular person on the planet, Tucker.  Deal with it. 

CARLSON:  Troubled world, Bill.

PRESS:  He will be a great, great asset to her. 

CARLSON:  He is going to cause more problems for her.  It is going to be unbelievable.  Every single trip abroad—He is a lot more sophisticated than that.  He is a compulsive talker, with his own agenda that is not the same as hers. 

GERSTEIN:  But, Tucker, I think the campaign today disproves that point.  He has been incredibly disciplined.  And I think he understands better than anyone the political dynamic here.  I think everything he said up to this point, including in that interview, was spot on. 

CARLSON:  Yes, he has been incredibly disciplines.  I agree.  Can he sustain that for an entire presidential term?  No.  He has not been followed around by the press corps.  When he is the official envoy to Africa, as he no doubt will be if she is elected, you are going to have 50 reporters on the plane as he is sitting there playing hearts.  You think he is not going to say something that distracts from his wife. 

PRESS:  Tucker, it is Biblical.  She must increase.  I must decrease.  That‘s Bill Clinton‘s motto.  He got it from John the Baptist.  That‘s the way he is going to live. 

CARLSON:  Boy, this is a pretty serious atonement, as far as I‘m concerned.  Good for him.  Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, one of great non-ordained preachers of our time.  Michael Bloomberg is always telling you what you‘re doing wrong.  You‘re smoking cigarettes.  You‘re using too much carbon based fuel.  Whatever; he is a really morally righteous character, as you well know. 

He rides the subway every day, because he is a man of the people.  The “New York Times,” front page story today, reveals that, in fact, he is picked up at his house on 77th street, driven to the express train with a motorcade of two SUVs, burning all that fuel, polluting our planet, making it warmer here, killing penguins in Antarctica.  Shouldn‘t he stop lecturing the rest of us? 

GERSTEIN:  Classic understatement Tucker, no.  The reality is he does ride the subway.  People see him.  He does it regularly.  I don‘t think people are going to care.  To plagiarize bill, BFD.  I mean, this is a guy who—a lot of people in New York know this.  He takes his jet to Bermuda pretty much every weekend.  People accept that.  You know what care about?  They care about that the economy is doing well.  Crime is down.  The city is being run well.  That is why he is incredibly popular.

CARLSON:  Can he stop lecturing us.  That‘s all I ask.  He is.  He is always lecturing us about --  

GERSTEIN:  He was saying second-hand smoke was dangerous to people and he said I‘m going to protect people. 

CARLSON:  He is saying, I want to control your life to a much greater degree than I currently do.  I make better decisions than you do.  Shut up and obey.  He‘s also saying that you are spoiling the environment and I am not.  Yet he is.  So maybe he can be quiet. 

PRESS:  First of all, two cars is not a motorcade.  All right?  We know in this town—

CARLSON:  Two SUVs?  I am going to call Lori David and ask her what she thinks. 

PRESS:  In this town, we know what motorcades are.  Let me ask you, when was the last time you were on the Metro? 

CARLSON:  I can‘t remember.  I don‘t want to ride public transportation. 

PRESS:  Stop preaching—stop criticizing Michael Bloomberg. 

CARLSON:  Are you kidding?  I have never passed judgment on any person‘s mode of transportation.  You can go by camel, unicycle.  I don‘t care.  I am not up there lecturing people about how they‘re immoral because they drive an SUV. 

PRESS:  Does he take the subway every day, yes.  Does the man want to take the fast train, where have to get across town and change trains, no.  I don‘t blame him.

GERSTEIN:  He‘s not lecturing people on morality.  He is saying it is hurting the city economically to have our streets so congested.  So he puts forward a very smart policy solution that they are doing all over the planet.  How is that being vain and demoralizing? 

CARLSON:  Because, like so many modern liberals—OK, they are all secular.  It is not that they are invoking Jesus or god or anything.  They have replaced religion with this secular religion of environmentalism, of health, of safety.  It is always this pompous, from the mountain top, you know to change your behavior.  Why don‘t you be quiet pal if you are taking the SUV to the subway stop. 

PRESS:  That is a broad brush.  Look, --

(CROSS TALK)

PRESS:  I think he‘s been a good mayor of New York.  I think his ideas for the congestion pricing in New York are great ideas that environmentalist will applaud.  It‘s a great example.  Whether he takes the fast lane or slow train, who cares.  He takes the train and you never do. 

CARLSON:  I never take the train.  But I never push for anybody else to do it.  I think you have a God-given right to drive whatever car you want to without some pompous prick lecturing you about it. 

GERSTEIN:  He‘s not saying you can‘t drive your car.  He is just saying, if you are going to contribute to global warming and you‘re going to contribute to congestion, you have to account for it.  We have to use that money. 

CARLSON:  Just bring back religion.  It is so much easier than this kind of business. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  Not in a million years.  Very quickly, new study comes out and says that if we train the immigrants in this country to speak English who are hoping to become citizens—they have to pass a literacy test in order to do that, some literacy test.  It‘s going to cost 1.2 billion dollars a year to train immigrants to speak English.  Here is my question; if you want to be in this country, why should the federal government pay for you to learn to speak English. 

GERSTEIN:  Because there are millions of immigrants who come here wanting to learn English and there are not enough slots.

CARLSON:  But why is it our responsibility to pay for it?  I don‘t get that. 

GERSTEIN:  You are telling them—You have Republicans lecturing immigrants that you must learn English and then they want to go register for English classes and there are no slots for them.  This is putting your money where your mouth is.  If you think English is important, give people the opportunity to learn English. 

CARLSON:  These are taxpayers financed classes.  I‘m just saying that if you come here, why is it our responsibility to pay for your classes to learn the language?  I don‘t quite get that.

GERSTEIN:  Well, if they are not going to get the opportunity any other way, I think it benefits us socially and it certainly benefits us economically. 

CARLSON:  There are no private sector English classes? 

PRESS:  At the risk of surrendering my liberal credentials, I would have to say the most important thing that any person can do here—coming into this country is to learn English.  But I think it‘s your responsibility to learn English, and particularly if they‘re coming here and they‘ve got jobs, they ought to pay for their own damn classes.  As a tax payer, I don‘t think we should be paying for their classes. 

CARLSON:  Boy, you are a right wing crazy, Bill Press.  Not only are you stunningly hot, but you are a wing nut.  It‘s unbelievable.  Dan Gerstein, Bill Press, thank you both very much. 

Well, if the threat of prison isn‘t enough to shock Michael Vick back to reality, how about a major loss of income.  His endorsement deals are evaporating.  Protesters shadow every public appearance.  Could this be the end of his pro football career. 

And it‘s the question that people who watch daytime television have been asking for months.  Who is replacing Rosie on “The View.”  Most people will be relieved to know that Willie Geist has the answer.  You are watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  The dog days of August got a little hotter for Atlanta Falcons Star Michael Vick today after another sponsor decided to sack the quarterback—pardon the puns.  We can‘t control ourselves.  He has been indicted on federal dog fighting charges today.  Rawlings sporting goods has joined Reebok, Nike and Upper Deck in cutting all ties to the controversial Vick, who is not even being permitted to attend the Falcons training camp this year.  This story continues to shock many who have no idea that dog fighting is a growing problem around the country.

Joining me now is veterinarian and Republican Senator from the states of Nevada John Ensign.  Senator Ensign‘s Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act became laws three months ago and it targets the exact allegations in this case, the Michael Vick case.  Senator, thanks for joining us. 

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN ®, NEVADA:  Good to be with you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So, I was unaware that until recently, until your legislation became law, dog fighting was not a felony. 

ENSIGN:  Well, dog fighting in a lot of states was a felony.  What wasn‘t a felony was the transportation of the animals for fighting between states.  What was happening at a lot of these small local jurisdictions, they didn‘t have the resources to go after the people who were fighting the animals, even though it was a felony in those states.  And the other thing that was happening was people would set up a fight in one state and then basically make the escape, take the animals to another state. 

That‘s why we needed federal legislation to go after these folks, because in a lot of times these are literally large rings.  That‘s the kind of ring that Michael Vick is alleged to have not only been part of have, but actually have run. 

CARLSON:  OK, so that‘s my senator question.  Let me ask you my vet question. 

ENSIGN:  OK. 

CARLSON:  When these rings are broken up, there are a lot of animals still alive.  Can any of them be saved? 

ENSIGN:  Yes, it‘s very difficult.  You can save them, but the key is rehabilitating them.  And because the animals were bread for fighting, a lot of them can be very, very dangerous unless you have experts, and I mean highly trained experts involved.  These dogs are usually not good around either small animals or around children, because they are so powerful that if they do snap and they happen to go after a child—we see these type of incidents that are happening around the country. 

That‘s why dog fighting, in and of itself, is a brutal and a vicious thing.  It really is a despicable act, in and of itself.  But the danger that it shows to society, with these animals being bread, is very dangerous for children across America. 

CARLSON:  And it just destroys the relationship and trust between people and dogs, which is itself, I think, a very a really big sin.  Very quickly, senator, If Michael Vick is guilty, what do you think the penalty ought to be? 

ENSIGN:  I think he ought to go to jail.  A big reason for that, Tucker, is there are a lot of young people who look up to these athletes, who look up to somebody like Michael Vick.  I was a fan of Michael Vick, a tremendous talent.  But the problem here is that if he is involved in this animal fighting, a lot of gangs are getting involved in animal fighting in our inner cities.  And we need to send a strong message that this is not going to be tolerated, that it is going to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. 

The other problem we have with the animal fighting is a lot of them are involved in drugs and gangs and other illegal activities.  So this is a good way for us to go after those other problems, if we can‘t nail them on those charges. 

CARLSON:  Thanks for all you have done on this, senator. 

ENSIGN:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  I think it‘s great.  I appreciate.  Thanks.  Coming up, a showdown at the North Pole.  The Russians planted their flag there today, but the US says, not so fast.  Are we headed for a cold war in the arctic?  And is the north pole really worth fighting for.  Willie Geist has the latest on a budding international incident when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  It is time—ladies, I‘m speaking directly to you—for that moment of the show you have been waiting for.  Willie Geist is here. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, sir.  Here I go to disappoint them.  Tucker, I‘ll tell you, as a New Yorker, we all take our motorcades to the subway.  I don‘t know what you‘re talking about.  That‘s common practice.  Picks me up every morning.  That‘s just how we do. 

CARLSON:  You and the fire chief and nine police detectives get in the SUV and go nine blocks.  You can take the express train. 

CARLSON:  It‘s just how we role in the big city, my friend.  So yesterday I brought you that story about vegans—the militant vegans who say you cannot sleep with a carnivore if you are a true vegan.  Well, our friends of PETA were watching the show and our criticism of that story.  They wrote in.  They said that is actually ridiculous. 

They say, quote, “We at PETA hope every vegan sleeps with a meat eater so that they can see the difference.  PETA actively promotes inter-dietary relationships.”

That‘s from Lisa Lange, who was a guest on our show a couple of days ago, wrote in and said, you know what?  It is OK.  It‘s OK; the vegans, the carnivores, we can all get together on this thing.  This is just sort of a fringe branch of the vegan movement calling for this. 

CARLSON:  Let me just say, I think Lisa is the most effective spokesperson PETA has ever had in its history.  She is a nice woman, makes you become a vegan.  But don‘t do it.  As I pointed out before, it will destroy your sex life.  In their letter, they called into question my assertion that it kills your sex life.  But ask around; ask your vegan friends.  Ask Dennis Kucinich next time you see him.

GEIST:  I don‘t have any, but if I find one, I will ask them.  Let‘s see PETA defend the animal in this story, Tucker.  Dogs never miss a chance to remind us that they are man‘s best friend.  But do best friends pull guns on their owners?  A Great Dane named King George shot his 21 year old owner in Memphis early this morning.  Police say the dog got excited when visitors came over to the house and knocked a loaded 22 caliber hand gun off the table.  The gun hit the ground, went off and the man was hit in the back. 

He is now in stable condition in the Memphis hospital, expected to do OK.  Here is my favorite line of the story; quote, police have ruled the shooting accidental, end quote.  So really, there‘s no evidence of premeditation.  Was he on extremist websites?  Did the neighbors hear any fighting over the last couple of weeks.  Of course, it was accidental.  It was a dog!  God, that‘s so good.

CARLSON:  Bill Wolff, the man who oversees MSNBC just said in my ear, Marmaduke gone bad. 

GEIST:  Before the anti-gun nuts go crazy.  Guns don‘t kill people. 

Dogs kill people.  I‘m for the waiting period for dogs.

CARLSON:  I am too.

GEIST:  You and I have burned plenty of cell phone minutes and midnight oil, Tucker, debating who should fill the seat vacated by Rosie O‘Donnell on “The View.”  Well, I owe you 100 bucks, my friend, because Barbara Walters announced this morning that Whoopi Goldberg got the permanent gig.  She will start after Labor Day.  That wise old sage Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who basically ran Rosie off the air, told Whoopi today, quote, just be yourself.

I am sure the 40 year show business veteran Whoopi really appreciated that from the girl who was in tenth place on Survivor.  That was nice of her to bring that up. 

CARLSON:  Is that where she came from?

GEIST:  Yes, she was on Survivor.  I think Whoopi‘s a good choice. 

She‘s fun, a little edgy.

CARLSON:  Yes, she‘s good.  I think now that Rosie‘s gone, people aren‘t going to watch the show as much.

GEIST:  It‘s true.  She‘s not going to be as controversial.  But she adds a little spice to America‘s breakfast table, as I like to call it.  Well, Tucker, is seems like the Russians are still a little bitter that we planted our flag on the moon before they did, because today they boldly flew their colors above the North Pole, as if it belonged to them.  Actually, they buried their flag at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean using a submarine, and that staked their claim to the North Pole. 

The area has been the subject of territorial dispute because of gas and oil deposits believed to be there.  Russia, the United States and Canada are among the countries who claim the North Pole is theirs.  One person who would like to know exactly what those countries think they are doing, this guy.  Santa and his insurgent elves said to be digging in to fight any potential occupying nation. 

So, Tucker, all these countries that have boarders facing the North Pole say it belongs to them.  There could be billions and billions of dollars worth of oil underneath there.  The fight is on.  The Russians want a scrap and they just might get it. 

CARLSON:  So, you have Russia, Canada, the U.S., maybe Greenland.  Let me just make one prediction; Canada won‘t win. 

GEIST:  I knew you were going to have something to say about that, so I didn‘t have to say it myself.  I want to point out one other political note.  Last night, you think the president and Nancy Pelosi don‘t like each other?  Wrong.  They shared dinner the two of them.  They got together for a little meeting and then later their spouses joined them for a nice little double date at the White House. 

The speaker came out and said, you know what?  We actually get along more than people believe.  They had a casual dinner and maybe they‘re friends after all, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I bet that was the most uncomfortable two hours either of them has ever spent.  Willie Geist from headquarters.  Thanks a lot Willie.

GEIST:  All right.

CARLSON:  For more Willie—and we know you can‘t get enough—check out ZeitGeist, his video blog, at ZEITGEIST.MSNBC.com.  That does it for us Thanks for watching.  “HARDBALL” is next with Mike Barnicle.  Have a great night.  See you tomorrow.

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

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