updated 8/21/2007 10:54:51 AM ET 2007-08-21T14:54:51

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Jack Jacobs, Marcus Mabry

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Karl Rove has to turn in the key to the executive washroom in just two weeks, but his tour of the Sunday morning talk shows sounded a lot like a political strategist still on the job. 

Welcome to the show, live today from Los Angeles. 

We‘ll also recap the latest Democratic television debate which saw Barack Obama defending his bona fides with his most effective weapon in the Democratic primary, his stance against the war before it began. 

And John Edwards tries to make his hedge fund experience feel right, but the inconsistency between his business and personal practices and his image as a man of the people continues to dog him.  Should it? 

Plus, a group of active duty Iraq veterans write an editorial in “The New York Times” that paints the troop surge and the debate in Washington in a most unflattering light.  Are soldiers the best source for war reporting?  Is it good for the country when they weigh in on political debates? 

We begin with the soon to be former presidential adviser Karl Rove, who appeared on three separate Sunday morning political talk shows yesterday.  Among the notable areas of conversation were Rove‘s dismissal of the notion that he is a genius.  “I‘m not,” he said. 

His claim, that he was only doing the talk shows on the orders of his superiors.  “They asked me to,” he claimed.  His defense of the 2006 election was nearly the lopsided rebuke that Democrats claim it was. 

Plus, a theme he has hammered since stepping down last week, Hillary Clinton.  Here‘s a sample of his jabs and of her reply. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, SR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER:  She enters the general election campaign with the highest negatives of any candidate in the history of the Gallup poll.  It just says people have made an opinion about her.  And it‘s hard to change opinions once you‘ve been a high profile person in the public eye as she has for 16 or 17 years. 

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t think Karl Rove is going to endorse me.  That becomes more and more obvious.  But I find it interesting he is so obsessed with me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well, does Karl Rove want Hillary Clinton to be the nominee? 

And is that sound strategy for his party? 

What about Mrs. Clinton‘s aw-shucks response?  Well played, or is she getting played? 

Joining me now, Jonathan Alter.  He‘s a senior editor at “Newsweek”.

Jon, thanks for coming on. 

JONATHAN ALTER, SR. EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hey, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  There is something—clearly something going on here, but I think I agree with Hillary Clinton on this one thing, that Karl Rove does seem obsessed with her.  This is not the first time yesterday that he has brought her up.  He apparently has been saying this for sometime to anyone who will listen, that she‘s going to be the nominee. 

There‘s got to be a strategy here.  What is it, do you think?

ALTER:  Well, I think it‘s one part irrational obsession with the Clintons, which, you know, Rove has been part of for a long time.  Remember back in the Clinton years, people thought they didn‘t have any legitimate claim on the presidency, or he didn‘t, and that she was trouble.  And they got so obsessed about it that they took the country through impeachment, and he was part of all of that. 

But I think on the other—on the other hand, he‘s also a very shrewd and very rational political thinker, and he knows that she would be the easiest to beat of many of the Democrats because she has the highest negatives, as he said.  That means she has the least margin for error in a general election. 

CARLSON:  So this—you think this could be a kind of “Don‘t throw me in the briar patch” strategy, where he says, you know, whatever you do, don‘t please—as Karl Rove as the embodiment of evil on the Republican side, don‘t nominee Hillary Clinton, hoping that Democrats will respond and nominate her? 

ALTER:  Of course.  He knows exactly what he is doing. 

You know, this was what they did in 2004 with John Kerry.  They were very afraid that John Edwards would be the nominee and that he would have a much better shot of unseating President Bush.  They were less worried about Kerry.  So, in the primaries, the Republicans turned their firepower on John Kerry, knowing that that would create a reaction where people rally around him and he went on to win the nomination, just as they hoped. 

CARLSON:  And yet, I would—I guess I would argue just as a matter of political analysis, that John Edwards was never going to be the nominee in 2004, just as Hillary Clinton is legitimately the front-runner now.  I mean, just looking at the numbers, maybe Karl Rove‘s analysis is just, you know, looking at the facts on the ground and reporting back what he sees. 

ALTER:  Well, surely, she‘s the favorite now.  There‘s no doubt about that.  But it is interesting to me that most of the people who say this is over, she can‘t be stopped are Republican pundits. 

They don‘t know the Democratic Party that well.  They certainly don‘t know the history of the—you know, the fluidity of Democratic races.  Or if they do, they are ignoring it.  And I get the idea that on the part of people like Dick Morris, it‘s a little bit of wishful thinking. 

If Hillary is not the nominee, those Republicans don‘t have nearly as much to work with.  She is the playbook that they know and they are prepared to run against. The other candidates are blank slates.  They‘d have to go back to the drawing board. 

With Hillary Clinton, they know exactly what to do, exactly how to take her apart.  And those are factors that Democrats have to consider. 

CARLSON:  It does seem to me if Karl Rove is obsessed with Hillary, then Hillary is certainly obsessed with Karl Rove, as is probably a great percentage of Democratic primary voters.  I mean, Karl Rove is this kind of mythic figure in the view of many liberals.  They hate him.  And I wonder who they‘re going to focus on now. 

I mean, with Karl Rove gone, it‘s got to be kind of a letdown, wouldn‘t you think?

ALTER:  Yes, he clearly was a useful boogie man for Democrats.  I thought Hillary handled it beautifully, you know, the way she deflected with a smile Rove‘s attacks.  Pretty much, she‘s had perfect pitch on that, and she knows that the more Rove attacks her, the more Democrats are going to come to her defense. 

CARLSON:  Well, wait.  Hold on.  But he wasn‘t—I mean, just to be -

just to be fair to Karl Rove, unless there was a program I didn‘t see, I don‘t think he was exactly attacking her.  He was pointing out that she has very high negatives, which she does, something you just pointed out, and that she‘s likely to be the nominee. 

I mean, it seems to me, Rove understands what smart people understand, which is attacking Hillary only makes her stronger.  She‘s like one of those Japanese movie monsters. 

ALTER:  Right.  Right.

CARLSON:  You know, you can‘t—you know, you don‘t get anywhere by attacking Mrs. Clinton because women feel sorry for her...

ALTER:  Exactly.

CARLSON:  ... the whole Oprah syndrome, and they like her more. 

ALTER:  Exactly.  And that‘s something that Democrats who want to work the angles here a little bit need to think about—why—why has Rove consistently over the last week trained his fire on Hillary Clinton? 

You know, he could dodge the questions if he wanted to or come up with a platitude.  He‘s going right at her, and I think he sees her as the only hope that the Republicans have in 2008. 

CARLSON:  Just sum this up for me really quickly.  If you‘re Barack Obama, who I think we‘ve got to believe is the one man in the field who is most likely to beat her if anybody can on the Democratic side, how would you go at Hillary Clinton?  I mean, you can‘t hammer her directly and say she is scary, because that only gives her more sympathy from Democrats. 

How do you—how do you attack Hillary without seeming to attack her? 

ALTER:  It‘s a real problem for Obama, and it may be why he doesn‘t make it in the end, because he is caught between his own rhetoric, which is the politics of hope and, you know, don‘t go negative, and the need to change the dynamic and take her down a couple pegs.  If you can‘t do it, if the status quo continues for the next few months, he is going to lose. 

So, he‘s got some hard tactical decisions to make.  Right now he is just trying to sharpen it as a change versus experience argument, which he thinks he can win.  Whether that‘s enough or whether he has to go at her judgment in a more direct way in order to chip away at that experience advantage that she has, we are going to find out. 

I think if he doesn‘t sharpen it a little bit more, he‘s not going to make it. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Well, he fell into that Mr. Nice Guy trap at the beginning.  Very foolish. 

He should have called me.  I would have told him, don‘t make promises you can‘t fulfill. 

Jonathan, I‘ll see you in just a second.

We‘ll soon  be getting a progress report on the troop surge in Iraq.  Some in Washington say it‘s working, others here say it‘s not.  But what do the soldiers themselves say? 

That‘s next.

Plus, the Democrats face off in the all-important state of Iowa.  Iraq still a top issue, but the big debate there, experience versus change.  Or put another way, Hillary versus Obama.

The latest next.

You‘re watching MSNBC, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  A group of U.S. soldiers is weighing in on the politics of Iraq, but these are not retired generals, not the ones you see on television.  These are active members of the 82nd Airborne Division, fresh from a tour of duty in Iraq. 

They were in an op-ed in yesterday‘s “New York Times” and disputed talk that the U.S. is getting that country under control.  The group pointed to the fragile alliances American forces have had to form to quell violence there and an Iraqi army in which thousands are loyal to their militias.  Caught in the crossfire, they say, are the Iraqi people, citizens fearful of the terrorists and insurgents and growing wary of a continued American presence there.

What should we make from an assessment from enlisted servicemen?

Well, let‘s ask MSNBC military analyst, retired U.S. Army colonel, Jack Jacobs.

Jack, thanks for coming on.

COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Good evening.

CARLSON:  So what do you make of this? 

JACOBS:  Well, it‘s unusual, to say the least. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

JACOBS:  I can‘t remember a single time when this sort of thing has happened.  We‘ve heard a lot, as you suggested, from retired generals and little midget retired colonels like me from time to time castigating the administration and the chain of command for doing what we think should be done and not doing what they should be doing.  It‘s the first time we‘ve heard from serving enlisted men on the subject, and in my experience, I think it‘s unique. 

CARLSON:  Well, it just seems to me—I‘m a little—I mean, let me just speak for myself.  I‘m a little bit uncomfortable with it for two reasons. 

One, there has traditionally been, as you‘ve alluded to, the separation between, you know, active duty military and politics in that the, you know, service members kind of act out the policies of the U.S.  government, right or wrong, but they don‘t comment upon them because you want civilian control of the military and that has always been our tradition. 

And two, I wonder if weighing in on a political question such as this doesn‘t squander the awesome moral authority that these guys already have. 

JACOBS:  I think there is some detriment to the moral authority you‘re talking about it.  I think these soldiers think that they were doing a—performing a public service by making the public aware of what is—they see as happening at the lowest possible levels, because, of course, we only see a broad brush of the strategy.  We don‘t see very much of what happens tactically. 

And so I think that they thought that they were performing a big public service.  And in a certain respect, they are.  But this is—don‘t forget we‘re in an environment now where you can get information in a wide variety of ways. 

No longer do you have to tune into the news or listen to you and me.  I mean, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who are sending dispatches from the forward edge of the battle area all the time on the net, and photographs and movies and so on.  And so, it‘s extremely difficult to police.

Back in the old days, it was easy to police because the dissemination of information was difficult.  Now it‘s tough to police because it‘s very, very easy. 

The attitudes that we see in this op-ed piece may have been the same kinds of attitudes we might have had 40 years ago in Vietnam, but you didn‘t hear about them 40 years ago.  You hear about them—you‘re hearing about them today because the method of dissemination of information is very much different. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  See, I‘m not sure what to think. 

Like most Americans, I instinctively respect people who are currently serving, who are, you know, in a war zone, absolutely.  And I‘m not sure whether the surge is working or not.  I honestly don‘t know and I‘m not taking a position because I don‘t have the information. 

But I do know I instinctively distrust sentences like this.  And this is from the op-ed from these seven members of the 82nd Airborne.  “A vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force.”

Now, when every—the president uses phrases like that, “The vast majority of Iraqis” want this or don‘t want that.  My first thought is, well, how the hell does he know?  And that‘s my first thought here.  These guys may be fighting the war, but they don‘t have access to the opinions of the vast majority of anybody in Iraq. 

JACOBS:  Well, that‘s absolutely correct.  They are looking at the world through a straw.  They see only what they have seen. 

They may have been in an area where in fact the surge is not working, or there isn‘t a surge, or their tactics are not working.  There is a lot of fighting among Shia, for example, between Shia and Sunni that‘s not controlled by the American military, where the Iraqi army perhaps is not up to snuff. 

We do know that there are areas in which the surge is working, where are strategies are working.   And we hear about that all the time. 

We do hear reports, obviously, of places where things are not working well, and that‘s particularly in areas inside Baghdad.  But you raise a significant question—to what extent are we supposed to listen to or believe anybody‘s estimate of what‘s going on in an environment where almost nobody knows what he is doing or what‘s going on? 

CARLSON:  Right.

JACOBS:  We do have to take everybody‘s comments with a grain of salt

these included. 

CARLSON:  Well, especially subjective assessments of people‘s opinions.  I mean, it seems to me you can measure how many people are killed, how many explosions occur in a day, but to tell the American public this is what the majority of this population believes seems to me a stretch for anybody, for the war or against the war. 

JACOBS:  Well, there are two things about that.  The first is, I think

if things had been going much better, if, in fact, we were talking about

going home when we had already been successful, the Iraq army was taking

over, there was a real coalition, a real unity government, I don‘t think,

A, you would have seen any publication like this at all.  And B, if there -

if there were something like this in that kind of environment, nobody would pay any attention to it whatsoever, which meant you wouldn‘t be able to—you wouldn‘t be seeing it because “The New York Times” wouldn‘t publish it. 

The second thing to keep in mind is that we have heard a lot from higher ranking people, literally castigating the president of the United States, which, by the way, is contrary to the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 88.  And even retired commission officers can be prosecuted for saying really nasty things about the chain of command if it‘s specific enough. 

And by the way, there is no such preclusion for enlisted men.  So, enlisted men, oddly enough, can say anything that they want and not get prosecuted.  But I think if we had been much more successful in Iraq than we are today, if it looked like the end were in sight and it would be a successful end, I don‘t think you would see this article published at all and we wouldn‘t be having this conversation. 

CARLSON:  No, that‘s right.  And this is just the beginning of decades of finger pointing that we are going to live through, I think.

JACOBS:  It is just the beginning, I agree.

CARLSON:  Jack Jacobs.

Thanks a lot, Jack.  I appreciate it.

JACOBS:  Good to be with you. 

CARLSON:  How much experience do you need to be president of the United States?  It‘s a question Barack Obama has thought quite a bit about, of course.  He says change is more important than experience.  Will voters buy that?

And speaking of change, John Edwards changes his investment strategies radically, pulling millions from a fund that invested in those dreaded subprime mortgages he has spent so much time denouncing.  But has the political damage already been done?

You are watching MSNBC, the place for politics. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.

Time to check “The Obameter”.

In case you missed it, there was yet another presidential debate over the weekend, the 800th in the last six weeks.  This one was from Iowa.  From the start, it was Obama versus his fellow Democrats. 

Listen to the debate‘s very first question. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, MODERATOR:  Democrats across the country are struggling with these questions.  It comes up in the dialogue between your campaigns. 

And the first one is, is Barack Obama ready to be president, experienced enough to be president? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well, what followed was five minutes of piling on Obama and his resume.  He stayed above the fray and seemed to get some momentum from all the attention.

Then the senator from Illinois turned the experience question against the questioners.  Will it work? 

Here to tell us, Marcus Mabry of “The New York Times” and Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek”. 

Welcome to you both. 

Marcus...

MARCUS MABRY, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Hey, Tucker.

CARLSON:  ... here‘s—I want to play for you Obama‘s response, which is—you know, it has very much the feel of something that he and a bunch of guys sitting around a table thought through, but it‘s a pretty good line. 

Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Nobody had more experience than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, and many of the people on this stage that authorized this war. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Is that enough?  I mean, is his claim was essentially not to take it too literally.  But it appears to be, you know, too much time in Washington makes you a bad executive? 

Is that a convincing argument?

MABRY:  Well, whether it‘s a convincing argument or not, it‘s all he‘s got.  I mean, this is the one thing he‘s got to use against the rest of the Democratic field.

Is it enough to work?  I don‘t know.

I think the good thing about—the good thing for Obama, rather, from this debate was the fact that we actually got to see a little bit, how does he actually deal under pressure?  The key questions about an inexperienced person like Obama is a question of, can they deal when the going gets tough? 

It may be Obama‘s advantage that there was a pile-on at the beginning of this debate, and it‘s because right now he‘s leading in some polls in Iowa.  So, whoever is in front, that‘s the guy you‘re going to pile on. 

Obama gets to stand up against that and actually show voters that maybe he actually has a tough enough backbone to stand up against virulent critics.  That would actually play in his favor if he can do it.  I think we have four or five months to see how he holds up under this kind of, you know, barrage of attacks. 

CARLSON:  It seems to me, Jonathan, that Joe Biden has already answered the question does experience matter in this race.  If it really mattered, Joe Biden, who‘s been in the Senate since he was, I think, 30 years old, one of the most experienced people in Washington on foreign policy, he would be the front-runner and he‘s—he‘s not, to put it mildly.  Voters don‘t seem to care. 

ALTER:  Well, in the past, Tucker, they have not cared about experience.  There is always this time.  You know, things change in politics.  But if you look at match-ups in past presidential elections, it‘s really hard to think of one where somebody was elected or even won the nomination because they were seen as having more experience. 

Having said that, it is a potent issue for Hillary Clinton.  You hear it from voters frequently when Obama‘s name comes up.  And I am actually puzzled by his decision to pull out of some of the these 800 debates. 

I think the more debates, the better for him.  The more they beat up on him, the stronger he looks, as Marcus points out. 

So, the only way that he chips away at the experience issue is to make it seem like he‘s got a lot of mileage on them.  And the only way to make it seem like he‘s got a lot of mileage on them is to be in all of these debates and have people come at him. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  That‘s sort of the strategy for the far-and-away front-runner.  And that is not whatever else he is.  That is not Barack Obama right now. 

It seems to me, Marcus—I detect a kind of strain of butt kissing here at these debates.  The other candidates all seem to be sucking up to Hillary Clinton, who, of course, is the beneficiary of their attacks on Barack Obama.  They all seem to be vying for vice president.  It‘s nauseating. 

Do you notice that?

MABRY:  No.  You know, I think there are—I don‘t think they are vying for vice president yet.  I think they are vying to be seen as the alternative to Hillary.

CARLSON:  Right.

MABRY:  And to do that, they have got to eliminate Obama first... 

CARLSON:  Right.

MABRY:  ... who is the most obviously alternative to Hillary and the guy who comes in second nationally in the polls.  And so they try to take him out so they can then fill the spot of being the alternative to Clinton.  So if she implodes during the Democratic primaries, they are there to pick up the mantle. 

ALTER:  Exactly.

CARLSON:  Boy, that‘s—I just—why not attack her?  I mean, she is, by every measure—Jon, tell me quickly.  She‘s—I mean, she is the front-runner.  I don‘t want that to be true, but it is true. 

Why not just go after her directly?  That seems to make sense.

ALTER:  I think Marcus nailed it.  You know, they all see themselves -

and when you talk to their people, they will say this—they want to be the alternative to Hillary Clinton, and to do that, they have to get Obama out of the way. 

I don‘t think they‘re going to be successful in doing that.  You know, he doesn‘t seem to be willing under these attacks. 

In fact, after the last debate, there were some focus groups that showed him the winner.  So, I don‘t think it‘s going to work for those other candidates, but it‘s also not yet working for Obama.  And he has got to figure out a way to chip away at her.

And I think he‘s going to try to rely on paid media, ironically, which, again, is something that usually the front-running, well-financed candidate uses.  In this case, Obama is going to have the most money to spend when the primaries start.  He is going to use them with ads that will be fairly important this time in trying to make him seem like he‘s got a record. 

CARLSON:  We‘ll see.  We‘ll be right back.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has Karl Rove.  John Edwards has Ann Coulter. 

If you‘re running for president, it helps to have a whipping boy or girl.  Ahead, the politics of demonization. 

Plus, NFL star Michael Vick admits the charges in the gruesome dogfighting case against him.  Is it the end of his career, is it the beginning of a prison term? 

We‘ll have the latest next.

You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  John Edwards makes a pretty compelling case that he above all others, maybe in the world, is the people‘s candidate for president, the hero of the forgotten, the poor and the downtrodden.  He spent a lot time in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.  He even announced his candidacy in a work shirt there just after Christmas. 

Then there his record.  The are the silly gaffs lick his 400 dollar haircut.  But there are more significant issues, like his record at Fortress.  That‘s a hedge fund that paid the former senator nearly half a million dollars for part-time consulting, and in which Edwards has invested 16 million of his own dollars. 

Now it turns out that Fortress lent money to home buyers after Katrina and has foreclosed on at least 34 hurricane victims, the most down trodden of the down trodden.  On Friday Edwards responded, saying he didn‘t know about the lending practices.  He announced he was pulling his money from Fortress, and he vowed to, quote, help those people who faced foreclosure. 

Will that be good enough or has John Edwards been exposed, this time for good?  Back with us, Marcus Mabry of the “New York Times” and Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek.”  Marcus, this seems to me—I think this is significant because the Edwards campaign has essentially been based on the idea of John Edwards as a good man, as someone who cares, as someone who is more compassionate than, for instance, you and I are, who really, really in his heart cares about the poor.  And time and again he has gone after these so called predatory lenders.

To find out that he is making money from these predatory lending practices, that‘s beyond the irony into something deeper. 

MABRY:  I feel like this is certainly an embarrassment for the Edwards campaign, and I think no doubt for John Edwards personally.  At the same time, I think there two issues here that might mitigate the damage politically.  First, I would say if you asked most of us—what‘s in your wallet is a popular advertisement—we don‘t know what‘s in our portfolios.  That‘s one issue.  A lost us may be invested in subprime mortgage companies. 

The fact is subprime has been all over the place.  That‘s why we have seen what we have seen in the markets in the last few weeks.  We have seen the Fed cut the rate between banks that they charge banks to lend money overnight, all because of the damage of subprime mortgages and how this stuff has actually been all over portfolios that had nothing to do with subprime mortgages. 

CARLSON:  But, hold on.  He worked there.  Just to make it clear there.  He is not just an investor.  He took a half million bucks from these people.  He was in the business.  You don‘t think he should have known? 

MABRY:  Not necessarily, because I think what other holdings did they have and what were the total holdings?  What percentage of the holdings were occupied, for instance, -- were made up by these subprime lenders?  I think that‘s the first question.  The second question is usually, politically speaking, these things reverberate only with voter when it actually fulfills some kind of a pre-conception that voters already have. 

For instance, with Swift Boats, with John Kerry with flip flopping, those charges stuck because there was a sense that Kerry was kind of squishy in the middle.  There is not yet a sense that Edwards is a hypocrite.  Even with the 400 dollar haircut thing, these things keep piling up, then you might get this preconception that John Edwards is a hypocrite. 

Right now, that is not his problem.  Right now I don‘t think this kind of political damage is going to stick long term. 

CARLSON:  I think you are absolutely right about preexisting

suspicions being confirmed.  That‘s when it does hurts.  Once the narrative

is confirmed, that‘s right.  I wonder, John, he has said—former Senator

Edwards—that he wants to help.  Pretty simple solution would be to give

I don‘t know, he pulled 16 million out Fortress.  He‘s got I think more than 10 million more.  Why not just give that money to hurricane victims?  What‘s the argument against giving a lot of his fortune away to help the poor if he cares so deeply?  I don‘t think that‘s a dumb idea.  Do you?

ALTER:  I think he could get more.  I think a lot of people could give more.  I think he made a bad mistake in not severing his ties to Fortress some months ago when the complications that arose were already clear.  He made a mistake there.  I don‘t think it‘s a crippling mistake.  I don‘t think that Democrats require that those who care about the poor walk around in cloth and ashes and give away all their money. 

Look at somebody like Franklin Roosevelt, who invested in a lot of fly by night schemes.  He worked for a bank before he ran for president in 1932, and then attacked banks.  Nobody seemed to care in the Democratic party.  I think that continues to be the case.  And I think it‘s actually the right position. 

Why shouldn‘t you be able to still argue for social justice and believe in capitalism at the same time? 

CARLSON:  Nobody is arguing that. 

ALTER:  A lot of people are arguing that.

CARLSON:  That‘s not what I‘m arguing.  I‘m not arguing that rich people can‘t care about the poor or that you have to be anti-capitalist to be for alleviating suffering.  Of course not.  I am merely saying that if you are making the case that you are more virtuous morally than the rest of us, that‘s the case he is making. 

ALTER:  Not really.

CARLSON:  I think you need to concede that giving away other people‘s money is not virtuous.  If I go to you at gun point and take your money and give it to someone poorer than you, that doesn‘t make me a good person.  Nor does it make me a good person to take tax dollars by force and give them to poor people.  That doesn‘t make me a morally superior person, does it? 

ALTER:  Well, first of all, I don‘t think that he is conveying the snugness of moral superiority.  His argument is that he was born poor and that understands the struggles of poor people and working class people and that it‘s important for somebody in American politics to stand up for the poor, even though they don‘t vote in great numbers.  I give him credit for that. 

And I don‘t agree with you that somehow he is at gun point making everybody give their money to the poor.  We do not give huge sums of taxpayer money to the poor.  Most of it goes to the middle class, honestly, in entitlement programs. 

CARLSON:  I‘m merely saying that tax dollars are taken by force.  John Edwards—that‘s something we pretend we don‘t know.  But it is true.  If you don‘t pay your taxes, you get put in jail at gun point.  The money is taken from us by force.  That‘s just the fact. 

Marcus, what do you make of John Edwards‘ descriptions of Ann Coulter as a, quote, she devil?  Do you think she is a she devil?  Is that a pitch to religious voters?  Where does that come from?

MABRY:  Tucker, I don‘t know how to answer that question.  I think she is say human being.  I don‘t think she is literally a she devil.  John Edwards is not alone in that opinion.  It‘s not even a opinion I think is relegating completely to the left or to the Democrats, actually.  Centrist Republicans and moderates have said the same. 

CARLSON:  A lot of people don‘t like her.  You‘re right.  That‘s true.

MABRY:  I have to assume she‘s a human being.  I believe she is a human being.  But I don‘t think she is literally a she devil.  I‘ll leave it at that.

CARLSON:  Do you think, John, that if she were a she devil, that she could be healed?  Someone cast out her demons?  What is the implication here?  

ALTER:  Somebody in the Republican party, on the conservative side, on your side of the field, Tucker, should try to make her heal, because she is not doing your team any good.  I will tell you that.  Every time she opens her mouth, she converts people to the Democrats. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not a team player by any definition anyway.  Speaking of teams, Mitt Romney now in third place.  I don‘t know if we have these numbers, but I want to tell you what they are.  This is the latest Gallup Poll; Giuliani 32 -- this is national—Thompson 19, Romney 14, McCain 11.  You can see that Romney is way up and McCain is down.  Is it over for John McCain? 

MABRY:  I think John McCain is such a seasoned politician, I think in many ways a hero to lots of American voters and, again, across the political spectrum.  I think it‘s kind of like incredibly sad at this point, five months before the first caucus vote, to say that the guy is totally out of it. 

At the same time it certainly appears like he has a huge hill to climb in order to remain competitive.  To some extent, I think we have to say about Mitt Romney, look, the guy has been leading the money race from the beginning amongst the Republicans.  So, to some extent, given what he has spent already on this pre-campaign campaign, it‘s surprising that it‘s taken him this long to get to third place nationally. 

CARLSON:  I kind of agree with that.  I know that national polls—

Jonathan, we always say on this show and it remains true—national polls are not predictive of how candidates are going to do in the primaries.  State by state are much more significant.  On the other hand, they are not without significance.  And you would expect Romney, after raising all this dough, getting on the air with paid advertising, to be above third place, wouldn‘t you? 

ALTER:  I think Romney is actually doing pretty well in this horse race so far by any standard.  I think the reason is because he will basically say anything to be president.  That works in American politics.  He is promiscuously promising and flip flopping and doing the other kinds of things that get you elected a lot of the time.  I give Romney a good shot at getting the nomination. 

I don‘t think McCain is out of it.  I have just covered too many of these things, Tucker, to be categorical.  John Kerry was down and out at a much later date than this four years ago.  He bounced back.  Strange things happen. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that.  And I think that all the time, and yet John Kerry was acceptable to the base of the Democratic party.  I‘m not convinced John McCain is.  Bill Clinton, who was always acceptable to the base of the Democratic party—even feminists, amazingly enough—has had to this to say—He said this, the AP is reporting, “every single political leader I talk to around the world says I hope your wife wins.  We want the world to be like America again.”

He said this in Lake Tahoe.  I wonder, Marcus, if Bill Clinton is talking to world leaders and they are, essentially, in private, endorsing his wife.  Shouldn‘t he tell us who they are? 

MABRY:  Well, I think Bill Clinton is always talking to world leaders.  He has a huge foundation that actually does lots of stuff with world leaders.  That‘s not surprising.  It‘s also not surprising that he is going to say they are endorsing his wife.  Maybe to him they are endorsing his wife. 

That‘s not the same as a real endorsement.  Saying I hope your wife wins is not the same as going on TV and saying, we the Republic of France back Hillary Clinton.  That‘s a different thing. 

CARLSON:  It must be pretty frustrating though if you are Barack Obama to hear Bill Clinton, who you can‘t really attack—If you are Barack Obama, you are not allowed to attack Bill Clinton.  He‘s a secular saint.  That‘s how screwed up the party is.  They worship Bill Clinton.  You‘re not allowed to attack Bill Clinton, call him out on that.  Are you? 

MABRY:  Well no.  Of course you can‘t because, look, Bill Clinton is a guy with experience, who actually most Democrats, and even, at this point, most American voters actually think highly of.  You can‘t attack him.  It is a disadvantage for Obama that Hillary Clinton is Bill Clinton‘s wife.  At the same time, that‘s the reality of politics.  If Obama can‘t deal with that reality on the political campaign, than he‘s not going to be able to deal with being president of the United States and have a much greater challenge.  It‘s a good one of these tests, where the campaign actually does test one‘s ability to lead. 

CARLSON:  I just think Bill Clinton should put up or shut up.  If he is really talking to world leaders and they‘re saying they want Mrs.  Clinton to be elected, he should say who they are or be quiet, don‘t you think, Jonathan? 

ALTER:  I think they are saying it to be nice, first of all.  To almost all of them, almost any of these Democrats would be acceptable and a huge improvement.  Where they have made a decision is that in world opinion, George W. Bush and the Republican party are extremely unpopular.  You could say convincingly that most of our allies would prefer we had a change of party in the next administration. 

I don‘t think that this hurts Obama because most people are not sitting there in the Iowa caucuses saying, well, I will decide between Clinton and Obama based on who the president of Switzerland favors.  I don‘t think people make that decision. 

CARLSON:  I think most people understand if the Belgians could vote, then Clintons would be in office forever.  Thank god they can‘t.  Thanks very much for joining us Marcus, Jonathan. 

Hillary Clinton not only has support from world leaders, but also leaders of prostitution rings, or the former leader of a prostitution ring.  We‘ve got details on that titillating story in a minute. 

Plus, Michael Vick will plead guilt to dog fighting charges against him.  He will spend time behind bars most likely.  Is his NFL career over?  We‘ve got details in a minute.  You are watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  NFL star Michael Vick could be going to jail.  The Atlanta Falcons quarterback will plead guilt to dog fighting conspiracy charges.  Why didn‘t Vick take his chances in court and will he ever play professional football again.  Joining me now from Virginia Tech, Vick‘s alma mater, is NBC‘s Kevin Corke.  Kevin, welcome.  What is the latest? 

KEVIN CORKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Here‘s what we know right now, Tucker.  Coming up on Monday, there will be a plea agreement hearing before Judge Henry Hudson over in Richmond.  What he is essentially going to do is look at the agreement between federal prosecutors and the defense team for Michael Vick.  At that point he will collect the evidence.  He has already had a briefing on what they have done.  And then he will move forward and invite Michael Vick to make a statement.  The he will end up making a ruling. 

Here‘s the other interesting thing here.  The plea agreement could be safe for a year in jail.  It could be safe for six months in jail.  But it doesn‘t mean that‘s what Michael Vick would end up doing.  Ultimately Judge Hudson has the final say.  So he could say you guys agree to six months, but I think jail time is ridiculous in this case, so you‘re not going to do it.  You will do community service and pay a massive fine.

Or he could go the other way and say no, you are going to spend a year in jail.  It‘s going to be interesting to see what he decides.  One more thing, Tucker.  If you look at the plea agreements that we saw on Friday for two of the other co-defendants in the case, it‘s going to be interesting to compare the statement of facts.  When I read the statement of facts in those plea agreements, incredibly damaging stuff, including allegations that Michael Vick hung at least eight dogs and participated in the drowning of some dogs. 

Now, if he agrees to that in his own plea agreement, you can expect him to face between—up to years, I should say, five years behind bars and you never know how the judge will weigh in on that. 

CARLSON:  That is—Not only is that legally significant—I mean, as you just said, spending years in prison is a big deal.  But that‘s career destroying.  Anybody who admits to killing dogs for fun in grisly ways will never have a career in public again.  Why wouldn‘t he take chances in court? 

CORKE:  You know, my sources said to me back on Friday and even this

morning, when I got confirmation, Tucker, that they had worked out a deal -

they have been working on the language for several days now.  The reason they felt like it was smarter to go ahead and move forward, if I may speak again in general terms—I don‘t want to give away everything.  But in general terms, based on what I understand, Tucker, is they felt like look, if you don‘t take the deal on the table, the deal we worked out over several days, you face not only the prospect of superseding indictments coming down, which means more changes, more potentially damaging testimony -- and I have heard some things that—if what I said already doesn‘t make you sick, I have heard even worse, if you can believe it. 

And you have to remember that Michael Vick could possibly have faced state charges, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state of South Carolina.  So I think, in total, they looked at it all.  They had to convince him, eventually, but finally they were successful.  And he is deciding to take his medicine. 

CARLSON:  That‘s amazing and thank you for pointing that out.  We will hear more details, probably, in the coming days.  But this is not just having dogs fight each other.  It‘s worse than that, if true, and very depressing.  Thank.  I really appreciate it.  Thanks for the update. 

CORKE:  Always a pleasure, man.  Take care. 

CARLSON:  Karl Rove is not the only one obsessed with Hillary Clinton these days.  The senator from New York has received yet another endorsement from the adult entertainment industry.  Our political porn correspondent Willie Geist has that story when we come back.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  After a long week away, I am proud to be reunited on camera live with my friend Willie Geist.  Willie?

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I like this Tucker.  We just keep it on a TV relationship.  We catch up on the air.  How are the kids?  How‘s the family?  How was the vacation?  It‘s nice.

You know, I was just listening to you talk to Kevin Corke about the Michael Vick situation.  As a human being, it‘s disgusting what he did to the dogs.  I‘ll just say, as a sports fan it is absolutely shocking.  Michael Vick was the future of the NFL.  He was the first player drafted a few years ago.  He was supposed to revolutionize the position of quarterback. 

He hasn‘t exactly done that, but he remains a huge star in the league, and now he is going to jail for a year.  And in the NFL, in football, careers are very short.  By the time you hit 30, you are pretty well washed up, especially for a guy who depends on using his legs.  He is a running quarterback.  So if this goes—he goes to jail and then he is suspended for a year, he could be 29 or 30 years old before he gets back to playing football again. 

So the disgusting nature of the charges aside, which that is a whole other argument, from a sports point of view, this is also a stunning story, I have to say.   

CARLSON:  I don‘t think they can take him back.  The PETA people—and I‘m on their side with this—will hound him—pun intended—for the rest of his life. 

GEIST:  Absolutely.  And there is also another interesting aspect to this, if he was running gambling on the dogs there, that is a life time ban from football.  They don‘t mess around with gambling in professional sports.  So the NFL is conducting its own investigation.  If they dig up that he was running a gambling ring, he could be done.  His career could be over.

CARLSON:  People will destroy themselves.

GEIST:  But that was pretty heavy.  Let‘s get to some lighter stuff.  You know those people who say that Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are lost causes obviously haven‘t read the 1997 best seller “The Art of The Comeback” by Donald J. Trump.  Yes, the Donald believes in comebacks and he believes in second chances, as evidenced by his generosity towards Miss USA gone wild Tara Conner.

Trumps‘ latest projects are Britney, Paris and Lindsay.  Here‘s what he is going to do: he is going to save Britney Spears from herself by offering her a spot on the upcoming season of “Celebrity Apprentice.”  Trump told the “New York Post” that he is negotiating with Spears right now.  He also called her a bleeping mess.  Interesting negotiation tactic there.

He also said that Paris Hilton has expressed interest in doing the show.  But Trump will not be satisfied until he has all three members of the axis of evil.  He says he plans to call Lindsay Lohan this week to get her on the show too.  Oh, and Trump said of Lohan, she is another bleeping mess.  So that is how Donald woos these people.  He calls them messes on camera.

He was also asked if he would have Rosie O‘Donnell on the show.  He said probably not, although—this is a quote, I would like to fire her fat ass.  That was a quote from Donald.  So maybe he will extend the olive branch just to fire her. 

CARLSON:  My prediction he will have all three of those chicks singing at one of his cut rate Atlantic City casinos before long.   

GEIST:  It is so true.  They‘ll be in Harrah‘s in Atlantic City.

CARLSON:  So sad. 

GEIST:  It is pretty sad.  But the Donald usually gets what he wants.  So that show could be interesting.  Keep your eye on it.  Well, Tucker, you were talking about Hillary Clinton earlier in the show.  Her strong showing at the debates really starting to pay dividends.  Not only is her lead in the polls growing over Barack Obama, but she is solidifying herself as the clear-cut candidate of the adult entertainment community. 

Former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss tells a Los Vegas newspaper, quote, I‘m a big fan of Hillary Clinton.  Any woman whose smart, how could you not be?  Fleiss, who is running a coin laundry in Nevada, as she awaits approval to open a male stud ranch, isn‘t the first person who profits from sex to throw her support behind Senator Clinton.  Porn Star Jenna Jameson said earlier this year that she would love to see Clinton in the White House. 

She pointed out that the Clinton years of the 1990s were excellent for the adult film industry, pretty lenient, I guess.  Hillary also has the backing of D.C. Madame Deborah Jean Palfrey.  So to recap, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has locked up the endorsement of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, porn star Jenna Jameson and D.C. madam Deborah Palfrey. 

Tucker, you have been around Washington a long time; how important is the porn vote and should we just give Hillary the keys to the White House now after this news? 

CARLSON:  Let me put it this way, Willie, I‘m in Burbank, California in the San Fernando valley, at the epicenter of the adult entertainment industry right now.  This is the adult entertainment industry‘s own Hollywood.  So I‘m not going to say a bad word about the industry, other than to confirm what you just reported.  It supports Hillary Clinton.   

GEIST:  This is the fast track to the White House.  She just got a little push.

CARLSON:  America is out of control. 

GEIST:  It is.  I love it. 

CARLSON:  Willie Geist, thanks Willie. 

GEIST:  All right, Tucker.  See you tomorrow. 

CARLSON:  For more Willie, check out Zeit Geist, the video blog. at ZEITGEIST.MSNBC.com.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, HARDBALL with Mike Barnicle.  Have a great night.

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

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