updated 8/22/2007 11:26:18 AM ET 2007-08-22T15:26:18

Guests: Brian Baird, Rosa Brooks, Mort Zuckerman, Al Sharpton

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show, coming to you live from Los Angeles.

Just eight months ago, just about everybody outside the White House seemed to agree that a troop surge in Iraq was bad policy at best, dangerously bad policy at worst.  Well, all of a sudden, that has changed.  On Capitol Hill, some longtime opponents of the war conceding that maybe the surge has not been a failure after all. 

No less did Hillary Clinton herself give a speech yesterday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in which she sounded if not supportive, then decidedly open-minded about the president‘s policy. 

In a moment, we‘ll talk to one Democratic congressman who voted against the invasion but who after a recent trip to the region, appears to have changed his mind about what to do next.

Also today, Barack Obama makes bold predictions about his ability to bring black voters to the polls on Election Day.  We‘ll ask the Reverend Al Sharpton if Obama is right. 

Plus, Rudy Giuliani, they said he was too liberal for Republican voters.  But if that‘s true, how come Republican primary voters haven‘t figured it out yet?

But we begin with the troop surge in Iraq.

Brian Baird is a five-term Democratic congressman from Washington State.  He voted against the invasion of Iraq and has maintained his opposition to the war ever since.  That‘s a stance popular in his district.  And yet, after his latest trip to the Middle East, one of five, his opinion appears to be changing. 

Congressman Baird joins us now to explain.

Congressman, thanks for coming on.

REP. BRIAN BAIRD (D), WASHINGTON:  Great to be with you again. 

CARLSON:  So how has your last trip to the region changed your view? 

BAIRD:  Well, you know, this was my second trip in four months.  And while there I visited throughout the region, went to Israel, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Egypt.  And I have to tell you, I think we are making progress. 

When I spoke with the generals and the troops on the ground, and Ambassador Crocker, there‘s still a lot of challenges.  But noticeable and important progress, and I think we need to try to work together to make this thing a success. 

CARLSON:  I just want our viewers to be clear on one thing.  At least my understanding is, you are not a raging neocon.  You have not supported this war.  You were against it from the beginning and you were, until recently, for a withdrawal of American troops right away. 

Is that right?

BAIRD:  Well, not quite right.  I believe, frankly, that the invasion of Iraq was one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in the country, and I still believe that.  However, once we had made that commitment and were on the ground, I pretty steadfastly opposed a timeline for withdrawal. 

Recently, our party put forward a resolution really aimed at trying to make sure that preparedness of our soldiers and equipment was not sacrificed to this war, and I did support that.  But I really believe what we need to do now is stop looking at backwards and look at where we are today. 

The fact is, this country is trying to rebuild from very difficult circumstances.  Their police were disbanded, their military was disbanded.  The civil government was taken apart.  The infrastructure was destroyed, and the borders were left open.  To expect any country in three brief years to rebuild from that is, I think, really not realistic. 

We have a strategic interest in seeing that this mission succeeds.  We have a moral responsibility to the Iraqi people and the region.  And I think we are seeing signs of progress, and it is worth letting Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus have the time and breathing room to move their project forward. 

CARLSON:  Well, I agree with you completely.  I think this was a tragic mistake from the beginning and the Bush administration‘s fault, but I don‘t want to see it get worse.  I‘m not a Democrat, though.  So I can say that without fear of getting howled off the stage.

You, by contrast, are presumably beholden to Democratic voters, and they disagree with you, you know, strongly. 

BAIRD:  Well, I‘m not sure all do.  And I think the thing I would say to them is, look, what happens if we pull out?  A couple of things happen.

One, the Iranians, I think, expand their influence in the region.  I don‘t think most Democrats like the notion of a fundamental theocracy running rampant in the region. 

The extremists on the ground in Iraq are the people who cut heads off of civilians and stone women to death for going to school.  We don‘t want to leave that country to these people either. 

This is difficult.  And one of the frustrates is that I don‘t think the administration or others have really fully leveled with the American people. 

I know painfully well that if we decide to keep more troops on the ground for a longer period, it will mean more American casualties and more lost U.S. dollars.  But I believe the outcome if we pull out precipitously would be far worse.  And because of that, I think the right course is to keep the presence on the ground, probably through until next spring, and then begin a gradual withdrawal.

And I think it‘s also important to note that what we say and do here have real consequences on the ground in Iraq in terms of how we impact their efforts to resolve things politically.  And we need to be very careful with what we do. 

CARLSON:  Of course.  I mean, I think you‘re absolutely right in every particular. 

Why is it considered verboten for Democrats to concede that the surge is going OK?  You‘ve seen some movement on that.  Hillary Clinton conceded that yesterday.  Carl Levin in the Senate said it, I think, last week.  But by and large, Democrats don‘t want to admit that there has been some progress. 

Why? 

BAIRD:  Well, I don‘t know.  I mean, I think things have changed.  And I think if more people could go to the region as I have recently, a couple of times, and meet with the soldiers on the ground—you know, when you visit a unit that says, “Look, Congressman, a few months back, we were taking incoming every day, and every time we went out on the perimeter we were hit and hit hard.  That has stopped in recent months,” and when they tell you that the sheikhs and others who used to side with the insurgents are now siding with our side, and you meet those sheikhs in a public market they embrace openly our military personnel, you have got real signs of progress on the ground. 

One of the other things that‘s very important is people have felt—and myself included—that we needed to at least talk about withdrawal to put pressure on the Iraqi government to solve their political problems.  I have come to believe after visiting with many people in the region that putting that pressure is important, but not in that manner.  We need to help the Iraqis solve their political problems, but I believe talk about withdrawal actually makes it more difficult, not easier, and more urgent for them to do so. 

CARLSON:  What do you make—and we‘re going to talk about this in a minute, but what do you—I‘d be interested to know what you  make of Hillary Clinton‘s apparent position that, yes, the surge is working—she said as much yesterday—but, no, we should not remain in Iraq, we ought to bring the troops out anyway. 

Does that make sense to you? 

BAIRD:  Well, I‘ll leave Ms. Clinton, Senator Clinton to describe her own position.  My own belief is that we are making progress and that Ambassador Crocker, General Petraeus and the troops on the ground need time and breathing space to make this mission work. 

I think they‘re doing admirable work, and I think some of it has to be quiet and behind the scenes.  You can‘t do some of this political work in the glare of American presidential politics.  You have to do it quietly, behind the scenes, with delicate work with the Iraqi leaders and politicians themselves.  And I hope we can all, on all sides, stop throwing political bombs at one another and try to say, what‘s the right thing to do under the circumstance?  I think that right thing for moral and strategic purposes is to stay through probably early next spring, then begin a gradual withdrawal while we train up the Iraqi forces and try to bring in other international players to help the mission. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Congressman, you are being, as we speak, denounced in very personal terms on moveon.org.  So congratulations on that.  And thanks for joining us.  I appreciate it.

BAIRD:  My pleasure.  Thank you very much.

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton tells a group of war veterans she believes the troop surge in Iraq is working, but she also says the U.S. can‘t win this war so the troops ought to come home right away.

What exactly is her position?  We‘ll tell you.

Plus, Barack Obama says you don‘t need experience to become president of the United States, it‘s all about change.  Or is it?  What is his position?

This is MSNBC, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Has Hillary Clinton taken yet another position on Iraq?  Well, listen to what she told the Veterans of Foreign Wars yesterday about the troop surge. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it‘s working.  We are just years too late changing our tactics. 

We can‘t ever let that happen again.  We can‘t be fighting the last war.  We have to be preparing to fight the new war. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Those comments come after the New York senator again refused to apologize for voting for the Iraq war in the first place, though she did concede that, “I regret giving George Bush the authority that he misused and abused.”

What are voters to make of where she stands now? 

Joining us, Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of “U.S. News and World Report” and chairman and publisher of “The New York Daily News,” and Rosa Brooks, columnist for the “Los Angeles Times”.

Welcome to you both. 

Rosa, how can you believe, how can you—it‘s almost a Zen question.  How can you fit into your head these two propositions—the surge is working, we ought leave immediately?

How does that work? 

ROSA BROOKS, “LOS ANGELES TIMES”:  Oh, God.  God help me, Tucker.  I‘m going to  defend Hillary Clinton here for a second. 

CARLSON:  OK.

BROOKS:  It doesn‘t come naturally, so bear with me. 

CARLSON:  All right.

BROOKS:  It actually seems to me that you can defend this.  We could pour an infinite number of troops into Iraq, and I don‘t have the slightest doubt, given the capability of our troops, that if we poured an infinite number of troops, we could do a tremendous amount to bring stability to Iraq.

Here‘s the problem: we don‘t have an infinite number of troops.  Here‘s the other problem: it‘s kind of like the Whac-A-Mole game.  Your kids have that game.  You know, you whack the mole down, it pops up somewhere else.  You make progress in one area, you know, the insurgency pops us somewhere else.

We can do this for a really long time.  Even the White House basically acknowledges you need a political solution to this problem.

The surge could be working.  It could also be the case that keeping it working could have such high costs that the nation just frankly can‘t afford them.  So, I don‘t think there is—I don‘t think that‘s an inherently contradictory statement. 

I think the way it came out didn‘t sound so great.  But I think it‘s not inherently contradictory.

CARLSON:  Well, I wonder, Mort, what you think the political calculation behind admitting it in the first place is.  I mean, Hillary Clinton—you know, anybody running for president doesn‘t make a statement like that without a reason for making it, a political reason for making it. 

Why would she announce to the Veterans of Foreign Wars yesterday that the surge is working?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  Well, I think the fact is that, by far, the consensus is that the surge is working.  So I don‘t think she just can deny that. 

I think the other part of that, which is the operative part in political terms, is her contention that the troops ought to be withdrawn.  This is where I think it gets to be much more problematic.  And she has changed her views over time. 

I just heard her speak a couple of weeks ago, and she said, if we do withdraw our troops, it has to be done very responsively and very carefully.  And I take that to mean that it isn‘t going to be a precipitous withdrawal, because if anybody thinks that that is going to be without enormous costs to this country, then they‘re very naive about what the consequences of that kind of action are.

So, it‘s really hard to parse that out, but I think she is still playing politics to the Democratic Party and the politics to the nomination of that party, which is hardly a surprise. 

CARLSON:  Wouldn‘t it—wouldn‘t it Rosa—wouldn‘t it be smarter just as a political matter for Democrats to come out and say again and again, almost as a boilerplate statement, “I want us to win.”

BROOKS:  Right.

CARLSON:  “I want the best thing for the United States.  I don‘t want this country to be humiliated.  Here is what I think we ought to do going forward”?

I don‘t think I have ever heard, ever heard a Democrat running for any office say that.  And I wonder why not. 

BROOKS:  Why do you expect politicians to do the smart thing, Tucker? 

I never expect them to do the smart thing.  But... 

CARLSON:  Well, how about the noble or the honorable thing? 

BROOKS:  ... every now and then I‘m pleasantly surprised when by accident they do the smart thing.

I mean, everybody—Mort is absolutely right, everybody is playing politics.  But here‘s the irony.

You know, you just did an interview with Representative Baird, who came back from Iraq, a Democrat who came back, antiwar Democrat, and said, you know what?  I think that actually the surge is making progress and we need to give this a little bit more time.  But when you get down to the details of, well, what does that mean to him, what he said was, let‘s give it to early next year, and then start redeploying them. 

What is Hillary Clinton saying?  What is Barack Obama saying?  What is anybody saying?

Actually, they‘re all saying pretty much the same thing.  And recently, the White House has started sounded like they‘re saying pretty much the same thing. 

We‘ve got a situation which is incredibly complicated.  Everybody agrees with that.  You know, it‘s a mess.  Everybody agrees with that. 

We cannot yank the troops out tomorrow no matter what MoveOn would like.  Everybody basically knows that.  And we can‘t keep them there for every, and everybody knows that.

Everybody is actually coalescing about pretty much—around pretty much the same set of options, which aren‘t great options.  Nobody wants to admit that they‘re all coalescing about the same set of options because they want to please all sorts of different constituencies, but that‘s where we are. 

CARLSON:  I think—I think you‘re—I think you‘re absolutely right.  I guess what I‘m confused by—Mort, maybe you know the answer to this—where does the constituency come from, the one—the “I don‘t really care about the consequences” caucus?  You know, the pullout tomorrow, who cares what its effect is group. 

Where does that impulse come from and why is it so prevalent on the Democratic side? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I think it‘s prevalent not just on the Democratic side, but amongst a lot of people who wouldn‘t describe themselves as Democrats.  I think there‘s just a feeling of dismay and disgust, which, in fact, is in part the cumulative compounding of terrible pictures on television day in and day out of the human tragedy that‘s going on there, and the sense, frankly, that we have incompetently managed this war, which I think is widely, widely shared as an assessment of the way it‘s being done.

We finally seem to have the right kind of strategy and the right kind of military strategy, and I think the big wildcard here is whether or not it‘s going to be possible to imagine any kind of political compromise within the various factions in Iraq itself. 

Maliki now, according to both John Warner, the Republican, and Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee—Warner being the ranking Republican—Maliki himself is somebody who is just not up to that job.  And we have got to do something about it and do something about it as soon as we can to get somebody who can do something about making the kind of political compromises there.

If you get that happening on the ground, then I think the pressure to withdraw our troops in political terms would be considerably modified and we might see political progress, as well as military progress. 

CARLSON:  I hope—I hope you‘re right.  I hope people would respond rationally and that some people just don‘t want to get out for its own sake.  But I hope you‘re right. 

ZUCKERMAN:  But even still, if you look at the mood of the country, I think as the media has reported and others have reported, that there has been military progress, the intensity of the opposition to our presence in Iraq has abated somewhat.  So, I think if you can get more military progress and political progress, I think, you know, as long as the American people feel that we are really making progress and we are winning, even if it‘s slowly...

CARLSON:  Right.

ZUCKERMAN:  ... there will be more support for extending our stay in Iraq. 

CARLSON:  I think you‘re absolutely right. 

BROOKS:  I...

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry.  We‘re going to take a quick break.  We will be right back. 

Barack Obama says he has more experience in public service than Hillary Clinton and John Edwards both.  But wait.  Can he run both as an outsider and an insider simultaneously?  Maybe he can.

And can his candidacy get out the black vote?  Obama says, oh, yes. 

We‘ll ask Al Sharpton if he is right.

You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Barack Obama has decided to take a new tact on the question of experience.  After months of attacking his rivals for being in politics for too long, he‘s now trumpeting his own years in elected office.

So, which is more important, experience or a fresh perspective?  And can you run on both?

Joining us again, Mort Zuckerman and Rosa Brooks.

Rosa, here‘s the exact line from Obama, which I think is factually true but really interesting.  He says, “I‘ve been in public office longer than Hillary Clinton has.  I‘ve been in public office longer than John Edwards has.”

Isn‘t that kind of hard—which I think is probably right—isn‘t it kind of hard to argue that while at the same time arguing that, you know, you‘re the breath of fresh air, the voice of the people, you know, the change agent, et cetera? 

BROOKS:  Not necessarily.  I think that he is drawing a distinction between his experience in a form of public office that‘s obviously very much outside of the beltway. 

You know, he was a state level elected official for a long time.  And had a pretty impressive track record. 

When he ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, the “Chicago Tribune” was pretty taken with him.  You know, endorsed him, praised his very significant legislative achievements, particularly reaching out across the political aisle, taking on issues that were not sexy, were not hot issues, and doing really solid work, bringing a fresh approach. 

And so I think—I think the point he‘s making is he‘s saying, look, I have been down there in the trenches, I‘ve been in public office doing the hard work, while you people were sort of, you know, squandering (ph) around in the limelight, if you can mix those metaphors together, you know.  And that‘s one kind of experience that maybe it‘s not so great to have too much of, but I‘ve got the good kind of experience. 

CARLSON:  But do you wonder—do you every wonder, Mort?  I mean, I always feel like Hillary Clinton has hired Barack Obama and John Edwards to run.  Edwards, so she can appear moderate by contrast.  Barack Obama, so she can appear experienced by contrast.

If Obama weren‘t in the race, wouldn‘t we be asking, what exactly are Hillary Clinton‘s bona fides?  I mean, she was the president‘s wife, that‘s great, but come on.

ZUCKERMAN:  Barack Obama‘s comment reminds me of the old line about the many people who have drowned walking across the river where the average depth is four feet.  I mean, the fact is, he has had experience in public office, but executive experience, which is critical to the presidency, has not exactly been the hallmark of his career. 

CARLSON:  Right.

ZUCKERMAN:  I take nothing away from his career.  I‘m just saying that if you want to talk about experience, what really is critical is executive experience.  And on this particular criteria, even Hillary Clinton doesn‘t exactly have that much executive experience, although she lived in the White House, as we know, and did get at least a bird‘s eye view of what the role of the executive is.  And I think that does give her an advantage which, frankly, Barack Obama does not have. 

But executive experience, the ability to hire the right people, as we saw with the Bush administration, which was supposed to be sort of the MBA kind of administration...

CARLSON:  Right.

ZUCKERMAN:  ... frankly, he didn‘t find the right people and didn‘t hire the right people for much of what he wanted his office to carry out.  You know the famous line about, “You‘re doing a heck of a job, Brownie” will forever haunt his history. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s right.  And deservedly so.  He did hire some deeply mediocre people. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Right.  So, it is very important that you get an executive in that office and somebody who can know how to manage that office, know what kind of questions to ask your national security adviser before you go into Iraq. 

CARLSON:  Right.

ZUCKERMAN:  Et cetera, et cetera.  That, it seems to me, is the essential criterion.  And on this grounds, I‘m afraid that Barack Obama‘s experience is quite limited. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  But I just do think Hillary Clinton is getting a pass, Rosa.  She absolutely is.

BROOKS:  She‘s absolutely getting a pass, sure.  Yes.

CARLSON:  She hired a magazine to run the health...

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERMAN:  I agree.

CARLSON:  You know what I mean?  It‘s like, nobody ever points this out.  Everyone‘s like, oh, she‘s got the experience.  Since when?

BROOKS:  I mean, I would pick up on one thing that Mort said and disagree with another thing.  I mean, I think that, obviously, one of the most crucial things—we have got three candidates who are the frontrunners in the Democratic race, none of whom frankly have executive experience. 

It would—it would be nice to have somebody who had that kind of solid firsthand executive experience.  We don‘t have somebody in that position.

Second best, I think you get somebody who is good at listening and asking the right questions and putting the right people in place.  It‘s not particularly clear to me that Hillary has shown that she can do that.  Perhaps—you know, perhaps she will do a better job.  We hopes so if she becomes the president. 

Obviously, Barack Obama, we don‘t know yet either.  But as Tucker said, you know, you could have a lot of experience and you can—and that can be—and that can be a bad thing, because when you think you know everything, and so you stop asking questions, you stop listening to opposing views, that‘s when you really, really screw up.

CARLSON:  We‘ll be right back.

Experience, change, does any of that really matter?  Or is it all about voter turnout? 

Barack Obama is predicting that black voters will storm the polls if he‘s the nominee.  Is he right?

We‘ll ask the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Plus, Rudy Giuliani says he spent a lot of time down at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11, but did he really?  Or was he spending more time at Yankee Stadium?

We‘ve got the numbers.

You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, Senator Barack Obama promises to change the landscape in Washington, and he‘s not just talking about policy.  He says he can redraw the political map. 

How‘s he going to do it?  Al Sharpton joins us in a minute.

But first, here‘s a look at your headlines.  

(NEWSBREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Barack Obama describes himself as an agent of change; change in policy, change in tactics, and, as of yesterday, change to America‘s voting demographics.  Speaking to Democrats in New Hampshire, Obama said this, quote, I‘m probably the only candidate who, having won the nomination, can actually redraw the political map.  I guarantee you African-American turnout, if I‘m the nominee, goes up 30 percent around the country, minimum.  Young people‘s percentage of the vote goes up 25 to 30 percent.

Well, if Barack Obama is right, the implications, especially in the south, would be enormous.  That would change the map.  Is he right? 

Joining me now with his assessment is a man who ran for president himself and knows a lot about the map, founder of the National Action Network, the Reverend Al Sharpton.  Rev, thanks for coming on.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK:  Thank you.  Good to see you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You know, since you‘re in this business, those are huge numbers.  Are they realistic? 

SHARPTON:  I think if he were the nominee, he probably would get a huge turnout among African-American voters, because of the history of it, in him being the first nominee of a major party, African-American.  I think that the challenge will be the turn out to get to be the nominee.  I think that other campaigns would argue—I‘m sure Mrs. Clinton would argue that if she were the nominee, she would get a huge women turnout because she would be the first woman nominee, or Governor Richardson the first Mexican American.  So I don‘t think that his statement is an outrageous statement at all. 

CARLSON:  Well, I‘m not saying it‘s outrageous.  I‘m not sure.  But I am confused by the logic behind it.  If his nomination would energize black voters, then why are not black voters more energized behind his campaign right now?  Why are so many black voters saying they‘re going to vote for Hillary Clinton?

SHARPTON:  Well, I think there‘s a different thing that kicks in.  If he becomes the nominee, then it‘s the question of having the first nominee of African American decent and a lot of people would vote for pride, would vote for the history of it.  As I said, they would do it if it was a Mexican American or a woman.  I think that‘s natural.

I think in a primary, where it‘s not a given that one is going to be the victor, you don‘t necessarily have the same pride and the history kick in.  He is not the first African-American to seek the nomination.  He would be the first to be the nominee, as in the case in point with Kerry, with Mrs. Clinton with women, and Governor Richardson with Latinos.  It‘s a whole different kind of energy that would cause a different kind of traction. 

CARLSON:  Well, I‘ll tell you the number that I absolutely don‘t believe is his prediction that his nomination would get turn out among young voters to spike 25 to 30 percent.  Every election we hear these politicians promise that young people are going to get out and vote and they never do.  They never do vote.  Why would Obama be any different? 

SHARPTON:  I think he has shown some appeal to young voters.  We will see how many come out in the primaries and we‘ll see whoever the nominee, whether it is he or someone else, what would happen.  I think part of the thing that I would say that has surprised me about all of the candidates, not just Obama or Clinton, is I have not seen any intense concentration on voter registration among young voters or any voters. 

What we heard a lot of in 2004 from Howard Dean and me and others, and others going back, was to register a lot of new voters.  We are not hearing registration.  So, whereas you have a lot of people talking about new voters, they don‘t seem to be creating the apparatus to make new voters. 

CARLSON:  Whatever happened—I can‘t resist asking—Whatever happened to Howard Dean?  He was this kind of big deal and then he got so embarrassing I guess people made him be quiet.  I know that the Clinton people despise.  Have they told him to not get out and talk in public?

SHARPTON:  He is the chairman of the party. 

CARLSON:  He‘s like invisible. 

SHARPTON:  He was the chairman of the party in the 2006 elections, where the party did well in the Senate and Congressional races.  And I think that as long as you get the job done, it doesn‘t matter whether you‘re high profile or low profile.  He has probably been one of the more successful chairmen.  As far as what the Clintons told him, I‘m not privy to the Clinton or to the Dean meetings.  So I wouldn‘t know. 

CARLSON:  If she gets the nomination, he is out of there in about 20 seconds.  That is my strong impression.  Back to Obama.  Obama said a couple of months ago, if I‘m the nominee, and if I subsequently become the president, the day I am elected America is going to look at itself differently.  We will have turned the page in some important way in our history. 

Do you agree with that?  And do you think it‘s going to be—I mean, America—it‘s going to be harder to claim that America is a bitterly divided place if Barack Obama is elected.  That‘s his contention.  Do you agree with that?

SHARPTON:  I think that if he is elected, we could say that some Americans have turned the page.  I don‘t think that the election of any one person will remove the problems of division or race in this country.  I think that we‘ve seen the first in many areas, and the first is always a step forward.  But it certainly doesn‘t erase a lot of the institutional problems. 

So I think yes, at one level, it would give a different perception, particularly to the world.  But I think it‘s naive to think it would change institutional bias that‘s going to take a whole lot of institutional change in order for it to be a different America. 

CARLSON:  I think you‘re—you‘re not going to change 400 years of history with one election.  On the other hand, my whole lifetime—I‘m 38.  You hear people kind of dismiss the United States as a racist country. 

That‘s just what it is.  We know that about America.  It‘s a bigoted place.  It is going to be kind of hard to just dismiss the country as a racist country if he is elected, don‘t you think? 

SHARPTON:  Again, a lot of people thought with the first black secretary of state, that it would change the perception world wide about race in America.  There was some progress, but clearly it didn‘t change the world view and it didn‘t change a lot of what happened in terms of world policy.  So I think we should be always striving to make it an equal and better America.  But I don‘t think we ought to be naive that any one particular achievement is going to roll back what was a societal problem.  It was not just a president problem of race.

CARLSON:  When can we start caring what the people of Luxembourg think about us?  Maybe we should just accept that they‘re always going to despise for their own reasons of envy and small mindedness, and care more about how we feel about ourselves. 

SHARPTON:  I think that might be true.  I think the problem is how we feel about ourselves  I don‘t think will drastically change with one election.  I think we may feel a little better about ourselves, but I don‘t think the majority of African-Americans would think that it‘s all over, that we are now, all of a sudden, equal and free with one election.

I think that we would feel that we have an opportunity.  And I would endorse anyone in this race.  I think we would feel opportunities increase.  But that‘s like saying that if Hillary Clinton is president, all women feel sexism is gone.  I think the perception of sexism has been tilted, but I don‘t think women would start running down the streets, saying now we are equal to men.  The reality is they would still make 70 cents on dollar whether she was president or not.

CARLSON:  Right, and they will still have all the power.  Anyway, that‘s an entirely separate conversation, Rev, that we will have to have maybe over dinner.  Thanks to the Reverend Al Sharpton.  I appreciate it.

SHARPTON:  Good to see you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks.  Barack Obama made more news today than simply his bold predictions about his effect on voter turnout.  In an editorial in the “Miami Herald,” the senator from Illinois outlined his policy approach to Cuba.  The piece, entitled “Our Main Goal, Freedom in Cuba,” asserts that Cuban Americans ought to be granted travel and remittance privileges to the island, both as a humanitarian gesture, and in order to decrease the dependence of Cuban citizens on the Castro regime. 

Well, beyond its practical merits as foreign policy, his position will certainly affect the important Cuban American voting block in Florida, but how?  Back to assess the Obameter as it stands, we welcome Mort Zuckerman, editor in chief of “US News,” and chairman of publisher of the “New York Daily News,” and Rosa Brooks, columnist for the “L.A. Times.”

Welcome back.  Here, Mort, is what Obama said, part of what he said in that op-ed, quote, “if a post Fidel government begins opening Cuba to Democratic change, the U.S. is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades.” 

It seems to me it‘s not the embargo that‘s defined our relationship with Cuba.  It‘s Cuba‘s relationship with the former Soviet Union and its anti-Americanism, which its whole reason for being, the Castro government.  In other words, it‘s not our fault.  It‘s Castro‘s fault.  I don‘t think Obama gets that.  Do you? 

ZUCKERMAN:  I have to say I‘ve been to Cuba many times and I have interviewed all their political leaders, and I do agree with you.  It is their political system that is a big problem for us.  And while I happen to support the idea of easing the travel restrictions and the remittances back to Cubans, I don‘t think we are going to change what is essentially a totalitarian system in Cuba.  And I wish that were to be the case. 

We are very long away from that, even if Fidel Castro dies, even if Raul Castro dies.  The next generation of people who have grown up entirely within that system, and who are actually now in a place now—in a country now where they have accepted that there is not going to be very much political change there at all. 

To go back to the earlier issue of his voter appeal, I agree with the Reverend Sharpton.  This country is not going to dramatically change.  Just as with President Kennedy, it did bring out the Catholic vote to a greater degree.  But it also brought out the anti-Catholic vote to some degree. And I think the same thing will happen if Obama is the nominee. 

That is something that is not going to go away with one election, as Reverend Sharpton puts it.  We have a long way to go to get to a point where race is no longer an issue, or sexism is no longer an issue.  It‘s just going to be a part of our evolution as a country.  And we are evolving, I might say, in the right directions, as evidenced by the fact that he is a credible national candidate. 

CARLSON:  Yes, the second we get to a place where race is no longer an issue, a lot of people are going to be out of a job.  So there are a lot people rooting against that, it seems to me.  Rosa, back to Cuba, do you think Obama -- 

BROOKS:  Tucker, I want to talk about your assessment with Liechtenstein.  What do you have against --  

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  It‘s also Belgium.  It is. 

BROOKS:  Small, unobjectionable countries. 

CARLSON:  But it‘s this obsessive concern on the part of the left with what other people think of us.  It‘s for the sake of appearances.

BROOKS:  It‘s the coalitions of the willing.  Every now and then we need them.  Every Liechtenstein counts.  (INAUDIBLE) -- shrink, get as tiny as they‘ve been getting.

CARLSON:  I‘m just annoyed by—here is what ties that conversation to this one.  I am annoyed by the underlying assumption that everything is our fault.  The problems with our relations with Cuba is we‘re unreasonable and afraid of communism.  The problem with our relations with Europe is we‘re just too much like John Wayne.  

BROOKS:  Here‘s what I think.  I think we should stop worrying so much about what is our fault and what is somebody else‘s fault.  This is not a constructive approach to policy.  This is my position as a parent.  Let‘s get over this, you know, forget it.  Who cares?  Everybody agrees that engagement is not a panacea.  It is not going to miraculously solve everybody‘s problems. 

But just as economic and cultural engagement with China have clearly -

we still have lots of debates about precisely the right amount and so forth—but quite clearly it‘s led to very significant opening and improvement in lessening of repression in China.  I think it‘s really hard to argue that increased engagement, political, cultural and economic, with Cuba in longer run isn‘t going to make a difference. 

CARLSON:  I think we could topple that government with Starbucks.  And I think we ought to. 

BROOKS:  A couple Starbucks and it could be all over for Castro. 

CARLSON:  I agree.  Wal-Mart would send that place --  I‘m for that.

BROOKS:  This is why we need to end the embargo on Belgium and Liechtenstein and so forth. 

CARLSON:  We need to erect on embargo. 

BROOKS:  But going back to the other issue about Obama and the black vote and so forth.  In some ways it is the same issue.  Symbols actually matter.  Symbols aren‘t everything, as Reverend Sharpton said.  Getting a black president does not end institutionalized racism in America.  It doesn‘t end poverty.  It‘s not magic.  It doesn‘t do any magic trick. 

And normalizing economic relations with Cuba doesn‘t magically end repression, doesn‘t end Castro government‘s repression, doesn‘t get rid of Castro, doesn‘t get rid of Castro‘s heirs and the institutionalized repression he put into place.  That said, you know, whether we are talking about having the first black president potentially, or whether we‘re talking about normalized relations, they are symbols.  They are important.  They send a message.  They could make a difference. 

CARLSON:  I‘m for them.  We‘ll be right back.  Rudy Giuliani is coming under fire for his actions after 9/11.  He says he spent as much time at Ground Zero as the rescue workers did.  But the record shows not true.  He was somewhere else.  We‘ll tell you where.

Plus, yesterday we told you yet another endorsement Hillary Clinton got from the porn community.  Wait until you hear who Ron Paul has cheering him on.  Impressive.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Rudy Giuliani has stayed atop of polls of Republican voters thanks largely to his image.  Americans think they know Rudy Giuliani.  They see him as a mayor who stood tall after 9/11.  But could he be overplaying his hand when it comes to those tragic days?  Possibly.

First, Giuliani had to back track after comparing himself to rescue workers that toiled at Ground Zero.  Now we learn from the fervently left wing, but occasionally accurate, Salon.com that Giuliani actually spent more time cheering on the Yankees than he did at the World Trade Center site.  He even crossed the country to watch them play. 

Does it matter or should Giuliani‘s polished persona—could it possibly lose its luster?  Here to tell us Mort Zuckerman and Rosa Brooks. 

Mort, you‘re from New York.  You run one of the city‘s biggest newspapers.  Do you think his image as the leader of your city after 9/11 can ever be tarnished or is it just set in the public mind? 

ZUCKERMAN:  If there ever was a charge that is total nonsense and despicable, that is the one.  Let me just say to you, in the first place, the time he spent does not include the first when they calculated.  So he spent a lot of time there.  Be that as it may, he went to every funeral of every fireman that he could.  He went to all the police funerals.  He was all over the city.  And as far as I‘m concerned, he did a phenomenal job, in terms of rallying not only the city, but in fact the country. 

He was the General Grant of 9/11, the only hero to emerge from it.  I think this is a ridiculous charge.  And as far as the Yankees are concerned, people forget, the Yankees kept on coming back in game after game after game, and it was a symbol of what was happening in New York City, where the city felt just like the Yankees, that New York was going to come back.  They were an absolute essential part of the recovery of the morale of the city of New York, as was Rudy Giuliani‘s brilliant leadership during that period. 

There are many criticism of Rudy Giuliani.  But his performance on 9/11 on this ground is absolute nonsense and the kind of thing you see in a political year that really makes me disgusted. 

CARLSON:  In this case you saw it right in the “New York Times” though Rosa.  I don‘t know, it sounds kind of like a hit to me.

BROOKS:  I agree with Mort that this is little bit unfair, because I‘m sure he spent more times doing lots of things than being at Ground Zero.  He probably spent more time combing his hair and clipping his fingernails. 

You could take any random thing and he probably did more of it.

ZUCKERMAN:  He doesn‘t have that much hair. 

BROOKS:  It‘s probably a wrong thing.  I‘m a Yankees fan too.  I think it was good that he was at Yankees games.  Often he was at Yankees games with families of 9/11 victims.  So what, it‘s a stupid comparison. 

What I do think—the area where I do think he is vulnerable, and he made himself vulnerable, so he sort of deserves his fate here, is that he has repeatedly made statements like, I spent as much time or more there as the post-9/11 rescue workers.  And he said this in the context of saying things like, you know, therefore, if there were any diseases that you might have gotten form from inhaling the debris, I was as exposed as any of them, because I was there as much or more than they were. 

That is clearly false.  These are people who logged hundreds upon hundreds of hours there in the immediate aftermath, and thereafter.  It‘s quite clear that this is a wild exaggeration.  And I think that‘s the kind of exaggerations politicians make at their peril.  And I think, as one commentator has already pointed out, if you want to run on the claim that you‘re a war hero, you better make sure that you‘ve got everything in order, because people are going to scrutinize that aspect. 

CARLSON:  On the other hand, 9/11 was one of those events that was so widely televised and the aftermath.  My own view is that voters can make up their own mind.  They remember what Giuliani was like on television.  They can decide whether or not he was effective. 

I think he is more vulnerable on the question where he is being hit from Mitt Romney in a new ad, which I don‘t think we have time to show.  But, Mort, I am interested to know what you think of Romney‘s attack on Giuliani for making New York, in effect, a sanctuary city for illegal aliens?  The city policy, you know, people are there illegally, we don‘t do anything about.  Romney‘s hitting him on it.  I think it hurts.

ZUCKERMAN:  In today‘s context, I suppose there is some minor validity to that charge.  No mayor of any city that I know of in those days was trying to return illegal aliens back to wherever they came from.  So, in today‘s context, I really think this is just sort of grasping at straws.  This was something which was totally alien to the way anybody conducted the mayoralty of any major city in this country, never mind major businesses in this country.

It was a very, very different environment.  The whole issue of immigration at that point was really irrelevant to the way we were trying to conduct the city—the administration of any city.  I really don‘t think that‘s a valid charge either. 

CARLSON:  All right, Mort Zuckerman, Rosa Brooks, thanks very much.  I appreciate it.  Barack Obama says he is upset about the Internet sensation Obama Girl.  Upset about what?  If he can‘t handle Obama Girl, how is he going to hold up against Hillary Clinton?  Willie Geist has the answers to that pressing political question when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  You have waited 56 minutes for this moment. 

Without further ado we introduce, from behind the curtain, Willie Geist. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, I was just trying to figure out, who do you think the bigger icons who have sat in this studio during the show is, Mort Zuckerman, the Reverend Al Sharpton or Willie Geist?  I don‘t know.  It‘s a tough call. 

CARLSON:  That is a pretty heavy duty triumvirate.  That is why people watch the show.  We have got it all. 

GEIST:  They brought me in third appropriately.  I take the bronze in that case. 

Tucker, let me ask you a question, is it me or are the Chinese trying to kill us?  First it was toxic toothpaste.  Then they sent over a batch of lethal toys drenched in lead for our kids to play with.  Then it was bad tires for our cars.  Now the evil Chinese regime is hitting us where we sleep.  A new study shows that some pajamas made in China contain levels of Formaldehyde 900 percent above what is considered safe. 

The discovery was made when pajamas worn by two different children in New Zealand and made in China, literally caught on fire.  So, if you are wearing Chinese pajamas right now, take them off slowly before you combust spontaneously. 

Tucker, I don‘t know.  I know your kids wear exclusively Chinese pajamas, so this one hits home for you. 

CARLSON:  Not only Chinese pajamas, but Chinese pajamas made by political prisoners about to be executed so their organs can be harvested.  Yes.

GEIST:  I don‘t know what‘s going on over there, but we may want to sort of dial back the imports before we sort out this stuff.  Don‘t you think?  

CARLSON:  You know how Americans are a little uptight about safety and wear your seat belt and wear a helmet when you go skiing, and all that stuff?  I just read yesterday that just this year 2,000 Chinese miners have died in coal mining accidents.  So there is a middle ground there. 

GEIST:  That have outstripped themselves a little bit.  When your pajamas are catching on fire, it is OK to say something.  Tucker, “The Sopranos” may be over for good.  But now, thanks to the good people at Satin Dolls Strip Club in New Jersey, you can own a piece of the show‘s lore, specifically the stripper polls from the Bada Bing Club where Tony and the guys hung out. 

Satin Dolls is the real life topless joint that was used as Bada Bing on the show.  The gentlemen‘s club is now auctioning off two 12 foot stripper polls among other memorabilia seen on “The Sopranos.”  The place is undergoing a renovation, so they‘re putting some of the old goods on eBay. 

Tucker, good news for folks in the Bergan County area.  Satin Dolls will remain open during the four month renovation.  I do not want to create the wrong impression that maybe you can‘t go to Satin Dolls anymore.  It‘s OK.  The lunch buffet is still good. 

CARLSON:  Right you—That is comparable to the great depression when there was a run on the banks.  There could be a run on the strip clubs in New Jersey. 

GEIST:  I know someone who grew up in New Jersey, and maybe, possibly some kids from a local high school used to go to Satin Dolls on their lunch period, I heard.  I don‘t know.   

CARLSON:  Someone who grew up around the Ridgewood (ph) area? 

GEIST:  Yes, vaguely that area.

CARLSON:  Wound up on television doing some offbeat pop culture stories. 

GEIST:  No, I am not talking about him, but people like him though.  Well, speaking of strippers, yesterday, we reported here that Hillary Clinton had all but locked up the Democratic nomination with an endorsement from former Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss.  Today we can report rumblings of support from the adult entertainment community on the Republican side for Ron Paul.  That‘s your guy, Tucker.

A blog survey conducted by a reporter shows that strippers are getting behind Paul, at least in part because of his libertarian live and let live philosophy.  There is even a guy on the web who is appealing to strippers and strip club owners to bundle money for Paul‘s presidential run. 

Now, I ask the same question I asked you about Hillary Clinton yesterday.  Is this a good thing, Tucker?  I think it might be.  Do not underestimate the power of a stripper over a man, for example, getting him to vote for Ron Paul. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  Plus, once you are a libertarian it is not like you have respectability to lose.  I say that with love.  Very quickly, if you are a working stripper, someone who takes their clothes off for a living, and you are supporting Ron Paul, we want to hear from you.  MSNBC, give us a buzz. 

GEIST:  We want you on the show.  I will yield my time.  That‘s how badly we want you no the show.  Tomorrow, for example.  Finally Tucker, Barack Obama not just getting heat from Hillary Clinton these days.  His six-year-old daughter is asking some tough questions.  Obama says his little girl questioned her daddy recently about the Obama Girl video that has made the rounds on the Internet. 

As Obama Girl rides around professing her love for Senator Obama, his daughter asked, quote, you have mommy, right?  Obama assured her that Obama Girl‘s love is unrequited.  He later told the press, quote, I guess it is too much to ask, but you do wish people would think about what impact their actions have on kids and families.  To that I say relax a little. 

Obama Girl was fun.  She does not think about the impact of anything on anyone. 

CARLSON:  I think Obama‘s claim had an audience of precisely one, Mrs.

Obama.  I don‘t believe him for a second.  Willie Geist from headquarters.  Thanks a lot Willie.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  As always, up next Mike Barnicle on “HARDBALL.”  We‘re back tomorrow.  Have a great night.

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

END   

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