updated 8/14/2007 11:28:16 AM ET 2007-08-14T15:28:16

Guests: Stephanie Cutter, Tony Blankley, Jack Jacobs

PAT BUCHANAN, HOST:  Republican presidential politics dominate the day‘s news.  I‘m Pat Buchanan, in for Tucker Carlson.

America awoke this morning to the news that President Bush‘s closest political adviser, Karl Rove, will resign his White House post, effective August 31. 

Late morning saw an emotional farewell from one of the most polarizing figures in national politics.  Here‘s some of that news conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘ve been friends for a long time.  And we‘re still going to be friends.  I would call Karl Rove a dear friend.  We‘ve known each other as youngsters and have served in our state, and worked together so that we could be in a position to serve his country. 

And so I thank my friend.  I‘ll be on the road behind you here in a little bit. 

KARL ROVE, BUSH POLITICAL ADVISOR:  Mr. President, I‘m grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve our nation.  And I‘m grateful for being able to work with the extraordinary men and women that you‘ve drawn into this administration, and I‘m grateful to have been a witness to history.  It has been the joy and honor of a lifetime. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Speculation emerging from Rove‘s resignation has centered on the future of the Bush administration, Rove‘s possible testimony before the United States Congress, and the possibility that Rove could center politics again as an advisor to a Republican presidential candidate. 

On the ‘08 front, the Iowa straw poll brought at least one important surprise.  Mitt Romney spent enough to win the poll, but the second-place performance of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appears to give Huckabee his first burst of political momentum of the 19 -- of the 2008 campaign. 

Here with his analysis of Karl Rove‘s departure from the White House, the results of the Iowa straw poll, and the possibility that the two events may intersect somewhere down the road is NBC political director, Chuck Todd. 

Chuck, thanks for coming over.  Appreciate it.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  You got it.  You got it.

BUCHANAN:  Give me your—give me your take on the legacy of Karl Rove.  Here‘s a guy that put George W. Bush in the governorship twice, put him in the White House once, got him reelected.  He‘s got to be a success as a political advisor. 

TODD:  That‘s right.  I mean, if you just look at, when you look at a baseball guy and the guy hits 500 home runs, it doesn‘t matter what he did in certain instances, you know.  He‘s got the statistics to put him in the hall of fame.

And if there were a political hall of fame, two presidential victories, two gubernatorial wins in Texas at a time—that was the first time that had ever happened, a Republican winning back to back. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.  Right.

TODD:  People forget that.  That was a big deal.  He basically helped build the Republican Party in the state of Texas to a juggernaut. 

So look, there are a lot of positive legacies politically for Karl Rove, but it‘s been a shaky two years.  It‘s—he has sort of whimpered out, as you say. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.

Well, the Democrats would say he got those 500 home runs on steroids there.

But let‘s take up...

TODD:  Five hundred and thirty-seven, actually, of them in Florida. 

Right?  Sorry.

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  All right.  Let‘s take a look at the—look, in 2006, George Bush lost both houses of Congress.  Republicans lost both houses of Congress, and—just like Clinton did in ‘94.  And that seems to tarnish what Rove hoped to be his legacy, building up this, basically, a second new Republican majority, does it not?

TODD:  I think it does.  And I think, you know, particularly if 2008 brings—where Democrats have a trifecta: the House, the Senate and the White House.  If that happens, then it definitely tarnishes the legacy. 

So I think that that‘s why he is leaving now, in some ways. 

Look, I think that there‘s a chance that this thing turns into a positive for the president and for Rove in this respect.  Rove now is going to be on legacy duty.  And legacy duty—don‘t forget: his legacy is tied to George W. Bush‘s legacy.  It‘s sort of the—why you want loyal staff members. 

I think Rove is always going to be loyal to the president, and I think his job now is going to figure out how to fix the president‘s legacy.  And the president‘s legacy at this point is getting a Republican elected to Bush‘s third term. 

BUCHANAN:  So you think Rove will be active in the politics of 2008? 

Probably not up front?

TODD:  I think he is going to be—that‘s right.  I mean, it‘s not going to be a good thing to be up front, because that‘s not good for the president.  But I have a feeling that anybody that wants a back channel is going to get him as a back channel.  And he‘ll be—he‘ll be more involved than people realize.

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Let‘s talk about that Ames, Iowa, straw poll, which I thought was—is really pregnant with meaning, that in the Mike Huckabee, 2,500 votes for Huckabee when he doesn‘t have much money, was a very, very impressive showing.  18 percent to Romney‘s 32 percent. 

Do you think Huckabee has a chance of winning the Iowa caucuses in January?

TODD:  Look, historically, you would have to say yes.  The guys who have finished first or second in the straw poll, I think going back now to, I think, statistics going back to ‘79, you know, whoever finished first or second has figured out how to win the Iowa caucuses.  So if history is correct, then yes.

Huckabee still is at an enormous organizational disadvantage.  I mean, the second-place finish, to me, was impressive, because not only, you pointed out, he didn‘t spend any money.  He had zero buses.  And granted, there was a third party organization that was somewhat helpful to him, but not like what Brownback and Romney were spending.

But he actually had—the Club for Growth was running a negative attack ad in Iowa against Huckabee, calling him a tax raiser, comparing him to Bill Clinton.  That‘s no way to—you know, to usually win Republican votes. 

Yet Huckabee—so the showing is impressive, but how is he going to -

still got to raise a decent amount of money.  He hasn‘t even raised a respectable amount of money yet.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

TODD:  And he—you know, he needs to raise $1, $2, $3 million.  And it‘s been surprising to me that he has had trouble raising this money.

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Well, look, it seemed to me his problem, real problem was he and Brownback are splitting that Christian, pro-life vote, which can deliver a victory.  And if Brownback dropped out, I would think Huckabee would have an excellent chance of winning the thing. 

TODD:  I think that‘s right.  But the X-factor here is Fred Thompson, because Fred Thompson wants that vote, too, Pat.  I mean, he wants to get a piece of what Huckabee—and you almost wonder how many of those Huckabee voters would end up Fred Thompson voters if they think Fred Thompson ends up as the, quote unquote, “conservative alternative.” 

BUCHANAN:  Let me ask you—Fred Thompson...

TODD:  The big loser here is—by the way, is Brownback.  Because he spent—he spent the second most amount of money, so he should have finished second.  And he finished third.  That‘s not good. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, well, let me ask you something.  Do you think Fred Thompson will go into Iowa?  Because look, I mean, Huckabee has got momentum, Brownback is going to fade to a degree.  Romney is still very, very strong.  And I‘m really wondering, if he really decided not to run up the score. 

Do you think Thompson and/or Giuliani and/or McCain will play in the Iowa caucuses in January?

TODD:  It‘s interesting.  I don‘t see why you don‘t, because what‘s—

the thing that Romney has done by winning the straw poll by, still, a very

big margin, and by the poll lead that he has, is that he‘s now made—it‘s

it‘s a given that Romney is going to win Iowa.  What does that mean?

Well, second place now is—is the contest.  Well, if you‘re Giuliani, so now if you only have to play for second, that makes coming to play a heck of a lot easier. 

I think Giuliani, Thompson, I think these guys play for second.  And frankly, this is the problem Romney has got, Pat, is that I think whoever finishes second in Iowa might steal the victory from Romney if he‘s not careful. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  We‘ll talk to you more about that.  Thanks very much, friend.

Coming up more analysis on the past and future of Karl Rove and the Bush administration.  Who are the leading candidates to fill the role at the White House for the next 17 months?

And Karl Rove and the Republican candidates speak publicly as if Hillary Clinton will be the opponent in November 2008.  How likely is a different scenario, and is Hillary the Democrat against whom the Republicans would most like to run?

This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  On paper Mitt Romney won Iowa‘s straw poll.  But some say the real winner was Mike Huckabee.  When we come back, who really won Saturday‘s battle at Ames?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Mitt Romney walked away the undisputed winner of this weekend‘s Iowa straw poll, but it‘s the under-financed underdog and surprise second-place finisher Mike Huckabee who‘s got the political world buzzing.  We‘ll get to that in a moment. 

But first, it‘s the end of the Rove brain era in the White House.  Joining me now, our Democratic strategist, Stephanie Cutter, and editor of the “Washington Times” editorial page, Tony Blankley. 

Let me take—start with you, Tony.  If you talk about Rove, frankly, as a political figure, just a straight political advisor, it‘s hard for me to think of a more famous political advisor since Jim Farley for FDR, going all the way back to the ‘30s.

TONY BLANKLEY, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “WASHINGTON TIMES”:  Yes, and I think you have to put him on the very short list of any presidential political advisor, just as far as the sheer confidence is concerned.  I mean, whether it‘s Karl Rove, Ed Rollins.  I mean, go back and think through the lists.

O‘Donnell and his time...

BUCHANAN:  Harry Dent (ph).

BLANKLEY:  ... with Jack Kennedy.  Clearly, what everyone thinks about the politics of it, Rove is at a superb legacy.  Two presidential elections, a congressional election in 2002 and, of course, the two governorships.

BUCHANAN:  You‘ll have to agree with that, won‘t you?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, having been on the other side, I definitely agree that he knows how to win elections. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  Well, he did a great job for George W. Bush: governor twice, two presidential elections.  And I don‘t think you can blame him for the problems Bush has with immigration, the war.  Those are all Bush decisions, you know.  I mean, unless—unless you think he‘s the dominant... 

CUTTER:  You have to give him credit if you‘re going to also give him blame. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, you give him credit or blame for the elections he‘s won and lost, but for the big decisions on war and peace and stuff like that.

BLANKLEY:  You know, I mean, if he‘d been a close advisor to a top politician, nobody except the two of you may really know who was arguing for or against a particular issue.  Whether it was Kissinger, Nixon, who was leader, you know.  Whether it was Morrison and Clinton.

And so what were the ideas that Rove said, “Please don‘t go there, Mr.  President,” but the president went there any way.  Then he invested to make it work.  I mean, was—was investing in Social Security for six months in the beginning of ‘95, was that a Rove decision?  Was it a Bush decision?  Was it a collegial one?  We don‘t know, and we may not know for years. 

CUTTER:  I don‘t think Bush made him the head of policy, you know, one of the top aides in the White House if he wasn‘t listening to him.  And of course, we don‘t know whether Bush or Rove made the final decision, but I don‘t think anybody can underestimate the significance he had in the White House in terms of how they govern... 

BUCHANAN:  I thought that was a real mistake when he made him the deputy for policy or something like that.  Somebody who‘s strictly, who‘s obviously your political advisor, and marrying the two totally, yes.

CUTTER:  Yes.  And then to run his campaign. 

But the White House was not operating as a governorship—I mean, as a government institution.  It was operating as a permanent campaign.  And that‘s why, I think, the decisions were made the way they were.  And that‘s why the president has the problems he has.

BLANKLEY:  Always policies, you know, come so closely together.  Take somebody like Jim Baker, Reagan‘s chief of staff.  I mean, he technically wasn‘t a policy guy.  I mean, he was making the trains run on time.  But by gosh, Jim Baker and his people were deep into policy, saying, “We‘re not going to get into this.  We‘re going to shape it that way.” 

So you always get more of a marriage in reality between politics and policy than what you get just on paper. 

CUTTER:  That‘s absolutely—absolutely true, but in politics you never negotiate, and you never admit wrongdoing.  And what is this president best-known for?  Not negotiating and never admitting a mistake.  So it was—it was a permanent campaign being operated out of the White House.

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Let‘s go—let‘s go to the Iowa straw poll.  A big win for Huckabee.  Certainly a win, good win for Romney, but Huckabee has really gained ground.  He‘s moved ahead of Brownback with the Christians and pro-lifers.  Do you think he can win the Iowa straw poll?  I mean, the Iowa caucuses?

BLANKLEY:  I mean, I suppose it‘s possible.  I have trouble—I think the world of Huckabee.  I have met with him.  We had him in the paper a few months ago.  We talked with him, and he‘s a very impressive guy. 

I just don‘t see how he can get beyond the vice presidential nod, in his contract (ph). 

BUCHANAN:  Maybe not.  Here‘s what I see him doing.  I think he presents a tremendous—he‘s a great hope for Rudy Giuliani.  He‘s the only hope those guys have got of knocking Romney off in Iowa. 

BLANKLEY:  It‘s a wonderful marriage to have a Giuliani-Huckabee ticket.  Because Huckabee‘s so strong on the social issues in the south, and he would be the heir apparent.  He would make all the social conservatives very comfortable with voting for Giuliani at the top of the ticket.  Huckabee‘s a young man, and he could be the heir apparent.

BUCHANAN:  All right, but look.  Let me tell you got in just—take a look at the calendar, is from Christmas day until January 5, which is when the Iowa caucuses are going to be held, the whole world press is going to be out there.  I think there‘s a possibility that McCain and maybe Giuliani aren‘t even in the state campaigning. 

CUTTER:  Not competing in Iowa?

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  I mean, look, they got wiped out there.  They have nothing.  They‘ve got no organization.  They alienated the whole place out there by not going to the straw poll.  And now they‘re going to go out and build an organization, get in a fight and risk getting beat, not only by Romney but Huckabee?  So I think those guys got a real problem. 

BLANKLEY:  So are you predicting—you‘re predicting therefore...

BUCHANAN:  Huckabee has got to beat—Huckabee has got to beat Romney for them. 

CUTTER:  Huckabee takes an edge out of Romney, it certainly slows Romney down. 

BLANKLEY:  But do you think Brownback is going to drop out?

BUCHANAN:  No, I don‘t think he‘s going to drop out, but I think he‘s going to recede.  Because look, all the attention—we‘re giving him.  Everybody is giving Huckabee—he‘s the man of the hour.  Frankly, he‘s got more attention now than Fred Thompson. 

BLANKLEY:  But it‘s August.  You know.

He‘s getting a lot of attention.  He deserves it.  He‘s—he made a good run there, but this is August. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.

BLANKLEY:  I would think that—that if Brownback doesn‘t get out—and I can‘t imagine he wouldn‘t, at least after Iowa...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

BLANKLEY:  ... that Romney has the advantage of a split field. 

CUTTER:  Splitting Brownback and Huckabee. 

BUCHANAN:  The Christian pro-lifers. 

(CROSSTALK)

CUTTER:  I wondered when Huckabee was going to get noticed, though.  He is a solid performer in all of these debates.  He‘s a true conservative in the race. 

BUCHANAN:  I‘ll tell you, I didn‘t know he had—I mean, to get the 2,500 people out there to an Iowa straw poll in 100 degrees days, it‘s—it‘s tough going. 

CUTTER:  Without much money being spent.  Without $1 million.

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Coming up, the Democrats sound less and less likely to demand a complete troop withdrawal from Iraq.  What effect would their evolving position have on the war and on the 2008 election?

Plus Tom Daschle was the Democratic Senate leader until three years ago.  Now he‘s back.  Stay tuned to see find out which presidential hopeful Daschle has signed on with. 

You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Americans from all walks of life across our country may be invisible to this president, but they‘re not invisible to me, and they won‘t be invisible to the next president of the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Morning in America. 

That was part of Hillary Clinton‘s new television ad.  It‘s the first of her campaign, and she is predictably running against President Bush‘s last seven years. 

But increasingly, Mrs. Clinton and her fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls are setting forth plans for Iraq, which fall well short of total U.S. troop withdrawal. 

Why are the leading Democrats backing away from an immediate end to the war?  And will their blurring of the line between their policy and the Bush policy hurt them politically?

Back with us to assess it all, are Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter and editor of the “Washington Times” editorial page, Tony Blankley.

Let me start with you Stephanie.  All of each of the three major candidates—Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Obama—intend to leave troops in the area.  And two of them—I guess Obama and Hillary—are going to leave troops in Iraq. 

CUTTER:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  What is going on?

CUTTER:  I think that it‘s what they have been saying all along.  And it‘s what I have said on the show before, is changes the policy on Iraq doesn‘t mean abandoning Iraq.  It means taking our troops out of the middle of a civil war, changing the mission and redeploying to where we need troops in the war on terror in Afghanistan. 

BUCHANAN:  You‘re going to take a whole lot of them out and leave a smaller number there?

CUTTER:  To security, to protect the borders, move into a security function instead of a combat mission. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, the Brits are doing that.  The Brits are doing that in Basra at the airport.  And they‘re getting rocketed and shelled and killed, because the enemy wants to have it known that the Brits are leaving because they drove them out. 

CUTTER:  Well, who exactly is the enemy?  Is the enemy...

BUCHANAN:  Yes, I think that the idea here, and there is broad support for this, is that, unless we change our mission, we‘re going to be fighting a civil war for decades to come.  And changing the mission, getting our troops out of the middle of the civil war, and putting them to their security force and changing their mission and redeploying to the war on terror and fighting the real enemy, al Qaeda, we‘re going to be in this morass for years to come. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Tony, talk to the strategy of that and the politics of it.

BLANKLEY:  Well, look, I‘m going to try not to be too nasty and partisan, if I can possibly restrain myself.  But—but the Democrats clearly have played into the seeming loss in Iraq.  They played that hand, you know, either cold and cut and run, or just cold we‘re going to withdraw.

But clearly their rhetoric, particularly from the hill but increasingly from the candidates, Hillary has been moving more antiwar, quicker out, starting from last—this January.  More and more, playing to the reality the war is becoming unpopular and people think they couldn‘t win. 

Now suddenly, they have sort of second thoughts, because beginning reports of the surge seems to be working.  I‘m not going to predict victory, because all I‘m saying is that, politically, the “New York Times” did an editorial.  They did a big story over the weekend, saying that we can‘t leave quickly, which is a change in tune for the “New York Times”. 

My suggestion is the Democrats are in danger of being sort of the Duke of York, up the hill and down again.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

BLANKLEY:  And first they said we‘re getting out.  Now they‘re sort of saying, well, it‘s going to take a long time.  We‘ll have to be there in some capacity.  They have invested politically very heavily. 

CUTTER:  I think...

BUCHANAN:  Let me—Stephanie, let me just bring up something else now.  Hillary Rodham Clinton, clearly everybody agrees, has run an outstanding campaign, almost flawless.  She‘s doing very well.  She looks like the pre-emptive favorite, if—especially if she wins out.

Let‘s take a look at the national poll that Gallup came up with.  And this was just most recently. T his is—the entire American people.  Unfavorable 49 percent; favorable 47 percent. 

Now when we—I was in politics for a while.  If you come in with those numbers, a guy asked you, “Why are you running?” 

You know, you‘re going to run for president of the United States.  You‘ve already got half the country has an unfavorable view of you.  And Democrats are talking about a real possibility that, with her at the top of the ticket, down the ticket, they could really have a wipe-out. 

CUTTER:  Well, you both have been involved in presidential campaigns for years.  And have you ever come across a Democrat that doesn‘t have about half the country against them come election day?

Hillary Clinton, I think you would agree, is the most well-known person that nobody knows anything about.  The right wing—no offense—has been talking about Hillary Clinton now for 12 years. 

BLANKLEY:  And Obama (ph).

CUTTER:  Great. 

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s let Tony...

CUTTER:  For 12 years they‘ve been talking about Hillary Clinton.  They‘ve been defining Hillary Clinton.  And that‘s the definition that people are making their judgments on. 

The poll last week that you didn‘t bring up is the Pew poll that shows her being the only person beating Giuliani in some key battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  And don‘t our elections always come down to Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania?

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead, Tony.

BLANKLEY:  Look, I—I think the high negative numbers that we see for Hillary and others is kind of a sign of the times.  Numbers that 20 years ago would have been killer numbers, aren‘t killers.  This is a deeply divided country. 

And any credible big name Democrat is going to—immediately have 45 percent negative.  Any big name Republican is going to have 45 percent negative.  And the rest of it is within the margin of error.

So I mean, we‘re not going to see, I don‘t think, a 60-40 election.  A big win would be a 55-45 election.  So I—this number—I mean, I‘m sure the Democrats are a little nervous when they see that 49 number, but this is a very plausible—she‘s a powerful candidate who‘s going to be very competitive. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Let me just ask you a question.  The Democratic Congress, there are 40 000 more troops in Iraq then there were when the Democratic Congress was elected.  There‘s no deadline for withdrawal.  They‘ve got the warrantless wiretap bill—thank you very much—no immigration bill. 

And this is the Democratic—and the Democratic Congress‘ numbers are half of what Dick Cheney has got.  Why?

CUTTER:  I don‘t think people distinguish between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.  Nor do they distinguish between Congress and the president.  People are against Washington right now. 

But what you didn‘t list there is that we got the minimum wage done.  We finally implemented the 9/11 recommendations.  We‘re lowering the cost of college for millions of American school kids.  We are cleaning up government, the culture of corruption that‘s been prevalent all over Washington for the past decade.

All of those things are going to take time to get out there, but when they do, you know, if you look at the underlining of that poll and you separate the Democrats and Republicans, they‘re still more trusted to handle Iraq and other priority issues. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Tony.  We‘ll get back to you after the break here. 

Coming up, our so-called war czar says re-instituting the draft is an option that‘s always been on the table.  The Pentagon says that is nonsense.  Where does the truth lie, and would a draft be good for the country?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

BUCHANAN:  With no end in sight, the U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, George Bush‘s so called war czar, General Douglas Lute, told National Public Radio on Friday that reinstitution of the military draft should be considered and has always been an option on the table.  A Pentagon spokesman firmly rejected the idea today, saying that the military is giving the idea, quote, absolutely no consideration, unquote. 

But is it time to revive conscription for the first time since Richard Nixon?  Back to discuss are Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, and editor of the “Washington Times” editorial page, Tony Blankley. 

Tony, just in the political year, nobody is going to recommend a return to the draft.  But is the draft a good idea or is a partial draft a good idea?  We have 5,000 troops in the Army.  It is breaking, according to the Army chief of staff, on the basis of two small gorilla wars.  Is the U.S. Army big enough and strong enough to handle all the commitments this country has got?

BLANKLEY:  It is not going to happen on Bush‘s watch, because it is not time for that debate to occur.  But the military is clearly not big enough to do the job that is required of it in a world that we live in today, and into the foreseeable future.  As you say, two small wars and we‘re almost tapped out, as far as troops are concerned. 

You have a real split in Pentagon, because they really believe in the volunteer forces.  I know a lot of people are in it and the quality and the esprit de corps that comes from being volunteers is of tremendous value.  In a high tech Army, you want people who are committed to a career, at least for many years, not just draftees coming in. 

So there‘s a huge argument for keeping it volunteer.  Except, you can‘t get to the numbers.  And I know there are some people—I talked with some—who are talking about the day is going to come when, as wonderful as our volunteer force is, we are going to have to supplement it with a conscript army. 

BUCHANAN:  Do you agree with that?

CUTTER:  I don‘t know whether or not the day is going to come.  I do agree that it would take an enormous amount of political will to get this done.  It will take an enormous amount of time to build that political will.  But we are facing a crisis, in terms of a troop shortage, and how we‘re going to get more troops at the places where we need them. 

BUCHANAN:  Let, me say, look, I don‘t think it‘s going to happen for this reason—Tony‘s point, I think you draft—you draft them.  Say 10 percent of them are malcontents, don‘t want to be in Army, don‘t like it, want to be out; what kind of Army do you have there?  This is not the 1950‘s.

And secondly, I don‘t think the American people are willing—they‘re not willing to do battle.  They don‘t want to lose this war in Iraq, but they are not willing to do battle endlessly for democracy in Iraq.  And you take a look at the commitments we have all over the world; I‘ll tell you, push is coming to shove between those commitments and that small Army. 

BLANKLEY:  Obviously, the politics isn‘t there for it.  But if we have some future disasters and we‘re not up to being able to defend the oil fields or we have other major problems, and we simply can‘t field the sufficient forces, then the politics might change.  I agree with you, we have—One of the big problems is the percentage of young men who are too fat to be drafted.  It‘s a huge problem.  Obesity disqualifies I think 40 some percent of the guys who are volunteering. 

So there would be a lot of people screened out.  It would be a huge problem to get us all urban couch potatoes.  It is not like the young men we were drafting half a century ago.  But I think it is going to come. 

BUCHANAN:  I‘ll tell you—and I have a different view.  I think it is time we start shedding some of these Cold War commitments.  The idea that we have an Army sitting there in Korea to defend South Korea, which is twice as populous and 40 times the economy of the North; why? 

CUTTER:  Especially when we can move troops so quickly now, and the type of warfare has changed.  I don‘t know if that means that we should be removing our bases from South Korea.  But something has to change. 

BUCHANAN:  Top Daschle is going to work for Barack Obama.  Are you surprise by that?  Is that any kind of negative—is that a slur on Hillary Rodham Clinton?  He never served with Obama and he served in the Senate with Hillary Clinton.  What does that say? 

CUTTER:  He has been with Barack for quite a while.  I think—in his statement where he came out for Barack, he was very careful to say that he is doing this because he is personally inspired by Barack, but not because he is campaigning against other people.  Daschle doesn‘t come to decisions rashly.  He came to this with a lot of thought and foresight. 

BUCHANAN:  I‘ve debated Tom.

BLANKLEY:  I mean I don‘t know the inside gossip on the Democratic side.  I would assume two factors; one, he probably thinks Obama is a fairly admirable candidate.  Two, he can probably have a bigger role in the Obama campaign than in the Hillary campaign.  It is not just him.  Typically those are the reasons why people affiliate with one campaign or the other, in either party. 

BUCHANAN:  Republican question; Mitt Romney is going at Rudy Giuliani again and again and again on the immigration issue, specially Rudy‘s sanctuary city.  New York is a city where the cops are not allowed to ask arrestees and suspects whether they out to be in the country.  We had this horrible situation, execution over there, I guess, in New Jersey of the three African American college kids, and a fourth one shot, by someone who apparently is in the country illegal and was let go.

And there was a question whether he was asked if he was supposed to be in the country. 

BLANKLEY:  Here‘s what I think Romney‘s about: Giuliani, clearly, he inherited Mayor Koch‘s policy and he endorsed it.  So he is going to have to be more conspicuously flip flop than he has so far.  Giuliani opposed the immigration bill—Bush‘s immigration bill.  He is right on the immigration issue now.  He was wrong before.  And I think Romney is trying to force him to make so clear that he is flip flopping, because Romney himself is vulnerable to the flip flop charge.

So this will simply highlight it.  But Giuliani has obviously come down on the right place, as far as you and I are concerned at least, on the immigration issue.  But he has to pay the price of showing that he flip flopped and that‘s what Romney‘s up to.   

BUCHANAN:  Do you think he will abandon the sanctuary policy? 

BLANKLEY:  My sense—I can‘t speak for Giuliani‘s people, but my sense is that they have made the judgment that this day and age, you‘ve got to be very tough on immigration and illegal immigration.

BUCHANAN:  I think it looks like to me Romney feels he has a hook in this fellow. 

CUTTER:  Well, I think it does look that way.  Romney has his own problems.  Like Tony said, he has flip flopped on immigration.  As governor, he was very supportive of the first McCain/Kennedy bill. 

(CROSS TALK)

CUTTER:  Yes, as a former resident of Massachusetts, I‘m very familiar with Romney‘s record.  So the best way to go at what perceived negative of yourself is to make that other person appear where the badge of flip flopper, and I think that‘s what he‘s trying to do.  It will be interesting if it works.

BLANKLEY:  Giuliani is a pretty authentic character.  He seems to be able to take—change position like a man.  He says I was this way and now I‘m here—or not changing, as he did on abortion.  And so while he will pay a small price for being conspicuous, I think Giuliani will pull off the switch pretty well. 

BUCHANAN:  He has certainly done an outstanding job, quite frankly.  I mean, he has been hit and hit and hit.  He comes down.  He does a good job in those debates.  You‘re right.  He takes a punch.  He is very calm at those debates when they come at him.  He has handled it very well.

Who—if you had to pick now who you think—just from observing where they‘re at and what their strengths are, who do you think would be the Republican nominee? 

CUTTER:  I think Romney. 

BUCHANAN:  You think the momentum from the first two will run him straight through.

CUTTER:  I think Romney has the combination of perseverance and organization and message on this.  And, you know, I think there are a lot of people in the Democratic party planning for Romney to be the nominee.  I Giuliani would be much harder to beat, but I think the way things are going right now, Romney will probably take it. 

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s force the “Washington Times” to comment here.  OK, if you had to put your money down—or you had to set the odds on who was going to be the nominee, whose odds would be the shortest, most likely to be the nominee in your judgment? 

BLANKLEY:  Speaking only for myself and not for my paper—and I have no confidence in this judgment—I nonetheless think that if I had to bet on a candidate, I would bet on Giuliani.  I think it is sort of the quality of the political horse flesh, if you will.  You can look at a lot of different issues that Romney looks good on. 

I just think Giuliani has an authenticity to him that is going to pay dividends throughout the campaign. 

BUCHANAN:  What do you feel—Thompson is a conservative, authentic conservative, well liked.  He is lining up—pretty authentic—he has lined up the evangelicals.  From everything I hear, he‘s done a great job on that. 

BLANKLEY:  He will be formidable.  But he is going to bite into the conservative vote that Romney has a stake on. 

BUCHANAN:  Giuliani has evangelical votes as well. 

BLANKLEY:  He does.  Yes, actually the same percentage as non-evangelicals.  I mean, it could be anyone.  As I said, I don‘t have a lot of confidence in it.  But I just—if you just bet on the quality of the horse flesh, I think Giuliani‘s looks like the quality flesh of the season. 

BUCHANAN:  How do you think Thompson will do?  Do you think the train has left the station?

CUTTER:  I don‘t think the train has left the station.  I think there

is plenty of time for a solid candidate to get in, I just don‘t think Fred

Thompson is a solid candidate.  If you want to talk about flip flopping or

BUCHANAN:  -- in the Senate, did you know him up there? 

CUTTER:  Not personally, no.

BUCHANAN:  But you followed him? 

CUTTER:  I have became aware of his record. 

BLANKLEY:  You‘ve been briefed.

CUTTER:  I‘ve been briefed.  And I think the idea of him is much better than the reality of him. 

BLANKLEY:  As Hillary becomes more likely to be the candidate, the Republicans—whoever can beat Hillary is going to have real claim.  Giuliani brings New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota—

CUTTER:  In a general.

BLANKLEY:  In a general, even California.  New York—they all—it forces the Democrats to spend in so many of their own states. 

BUCHANAN:  Republicans don‘t vote on that basis. 

BLANKLEY:  I know they haven‘t in the past, but the prospect of Hillary might teach them to vote a little tactically in the primary.

BUCHANAN:  Perhaps.  OK, Stephanie Cutter and Tony Blankley, thanks very much for coming over.  Appreciate it. 

Upcoming, President Bush‘s war czar says—here‘s the case: President Bush‘s war czar says he is considering a return to the draft.  The Pentagon says forget it.  We‘re not.  We‘re going to talk to Jack Jacobs, medal of honor winner and MSNBC military analyst, when we come back. 

Plus a man walks into McDonald‘s and orders a hamburger.  He gets a cheeseburger instead.  He is a allergic to cheese, but he eats the burger, then gets violently ill.  Now he is suing McDonald‘s for 10 millions bucks.  Is the plaintiff a big baby or is McDonald‘s in big trouble.  Willie Geist will set the story straight for us.  You are watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  After 35 years, since the days of Richard Nixon‘s presidency, is it time to bring back the draft?  According to the president‘s newly appointed war czar, General Douglas Lute, it is worth considering.  According to the Pentagon it is not even on the table.  Whether a draft is not or is a good idea is one thing, but the fact that the Pentagon and the war czar are not on the same page is something else altogether. 

Joining me with his insights is MSNBC military analyst, retired U.S.

Army Colonel Jack Jacobs.  Jack, good to talk with you again.

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Good evening Pat, how are you?

BUCHANAN:  Good.  Tell me, is General Lute on the—he got the wrong song sheet here or what? 

JACOBS:  I think the whole purpose of having General Lute in that position is that he is not supposed to be on the same sheet of music as the Pentagon.  He is there in the White House specifically for the purpose of theoretically keeping the military information that comes from the Pentagon to the White House honest and maybe that‘s what he‘s trying to do. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Jack, let me ask you—look, we have two small gorilla wars, relatively small; we have lost close to 4,000 men in Iraq—that is about the same number of men that we lost in the Philippine insurrection.  We have an Army chief of staff—the Philippines insurrection is not even considered a major war.

You have an Army chief of staff who says the Army is breaking.  Is the United States capable, with an army of 500,000 men and women, of meeting all the commitments we have around the world, plus fighting these two wars? 

JACOBS:  Absolutely not.  As a matter of fact, I would argue that it doesn‘t have the capability, with that number of people, to meet our capabilities without Iraq and Afghanistan.  The world is a very dangerous place and it is getting more and more dangerous.  There is no doubt about the fact that we need more people in the armed services, but particularly the army, which has sustained not only a lot of casualties, but is also organizationally in very bad shape.  No, we don‘t have enough people in the Armed Services, but particularly the army. 

BUCHANAN:  If you go back to a draft—you spent a lot of time in Vietnam.  If you go back to the draft, we wound up with a lot of draftees in the old LBJ jail, didn‘t we?   

JACOBS:  Yes, we did.  Talk of the draft, of course—you discussed it earlier—is not politically feasible.  We have got a really big problem in this country.  When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, a place where most people in the United States didn‘t know where it was, the next day, on December 8, 1941 people rushed out to join the military service.  On 9/11, where more people were killed than on Pearl Harbor, on 9/12 -- this is in New York—there wasn‘t a big rush to join the service. 

We have to organize ourselves to defend ourselves and we do not have -

I don‘t think we have the mettle to go ahead and do it.  We certainly need a way to defend ourselves.  We are not prepared to do it, I don‘t think. 

BUCHANAN:  You know, Jack, you make a very good point.  In the 1950s, everybody got their draft card.  Everybody new they had to be drafted.  There was little or no protest until almost around the mid 1960s.  We are not the country we were in the 1950s, in terms of common beliefs, and common sentiments about what is worth fighting, what is worth dying for, whether we ought to be fighting around the world.

In that kind of situation, and with a lot of malcontents, who, frankly, don‘t like the military, would a draft—any kind of draft—be a good idea, if you are going to bring in those kinds of folks and put them alongside your volunteers? 

JACOBS:  You are talking to a guy who feels very strongly about universal service and it‘s not a—it‘s not selective service. 

BUCHANAN:  Universal military service, Jack?

JACOBS:  Universal service of some kind.  I believe, by the way, I think we can do—we can organize universal military service and get it right, as long as we get out of the notion of having everybody serve for two years.  If we have it short—but there is no doubt about the fact—

BUCHANAN:  Like a six month thing? 

JACOBS:  Let‘s say four to six months.  They go to basic and individual training.  And then they go home.  I think you would have to convene boards at the end of this short period of training to decide who can‘t go into service for a longer period of time, because you‘re going to have a lot of volunteers. 

I‘m concerned about not having any commitment, not just to the defense of the republic militarily, but some contribution to the republic.  You don‘t necessarily have to be in military service.  We need to do something about that general feeling that we are contributing to our country and we are just not doing that.  Unless and until we do that, we are going to be very unpleasantly surprised down the road, more so, I believe, than we were on 9/11. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Colonel Jack Jacobs, thank you.

JACOBS:  Good to be with you.

BUCHANAN:  So what was really behind Mike Huckabee‘s second place showing in Iowa?  One word, Freebird.  Willie Geist explains what that means when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Karl Rove and the Iowa straw poll are dominating the headlines today.  But we can always count on Willie Geist to look beyond the headlines.  He joins us now with the rest of the day‘s news.  Hello, Willie.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello, Pat.  Sometimes people say I go too far beyond the headlines.  Let‘s see how we do today.  As you may now, on this show, we wish only the very worst for the man who persists in his pursuit of a 54 million dollar lawsuit against the mom and pop dry cleaners that he says lost a pair of his pants. 

Roy Pearson, a D.C. area judge, lost the original judgment against the South Korean immigrant couple that runs his dry cleaner.  But he continues to push an appeal.  Well, the Chung family had hoped to make Pearson pay their legal bills from the absurd trial.  We have learned today that they raised enough money to cover the 82,000 dollar attorney‘s tab and expenses and now they just want Pearson out of their lives. 

But don‘t count on that, Pat.  Pearson says he still wants his 54 million bucks.  He will not let it go. 

BUCHANAN:  Didn‘t they rule that he had to pay the legal fees when that guy lost? 

GEIST:  They ruled he had to pay some of their expenses, but they wanted all of their legal fees paid.  Now they say, you know what, just get out of our lives.  They held a fund-raiser.  They raised 70,000 dollars because people sympathized with them.  Now they are free.  Hopefully, we can get this guy out of our lives. 

BUCHANAN:  He is a great judge.  

GEIST:  Well, another first ballot inductee into the frivolous lawsuit Hall of Fame was the one a few years back where the woman sued McDonald‘s and won three million dollars after she spilled hot coffee on her own lap.  McDonald‘s now has another one on its hands.  A man is suing Ronald, the Hamburgler and company for 10 million dollars, because he got a cheeseburger when he asked for a hamburger at a West Virginia drive-through. 

The man is allergic to cheese and he had a violent reaction when he bit into the cheeseburger, bad so that he had to go to the hospital.  McDonald‘s has offered to pay the man‘s medical bills, but the man‘s attorney says his client needs 10 million dollars to make a stand for all people who suffer from allergies.  Pat, you see, it‘s bigger than one man.  Allergies are bigger than all of us. 

BUCHANAN:  I think John Edwards is the man to handle this one for us there, Willie. 

GEIST:  That‘s just right up his ally, isn‘t it.  Pat, 10 sheriff‘s deputies stranded over the weekend while searching a remote part of Washington state for illegal marijuana plants.  They found the marijuana and it turns out that is why they were stranded in the first place.  Some of the deputies became disoriented and dehydrated during their annual sweep of marijuana growing operations, and had to be rescued.  No word if they were eating Doritos and giggling at long stories that had no point. 

Pat, we‘re not implying that they smoked the marijuana, but they were clearly influenced by the fumes they were walking through.

One more for you, you‘ve been talking today about Mike Huckabee‘s impressive second place showing at the Iowa straw poll over the weekend.  The Republican candidates say he did well because people are now buying into his vision for America.  I say America is desperate for a president who can play lead guitar. 

Not bad.  Huckabee rocked the Iowa State Fair on Saturday with his band, “Capitol Offense.”  He said his biggest hit with the crowd of potential straw poll voters was Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Free Bird.”  Pat, we talked to him this morning on “Morning Joe,” and he said they were actually holding up lighters and cell phones, calling for an encore.  That is how good Mike Huckabee is. 

BUCHANAN:  He‘s pretty good.  He had a great day.  Thanks, Willie.  We will see you on Morning Willie tomorrow. 

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

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