updated 8/28/2007 11:20:47 AM ET 2007-08-28T15:20:47

Guests: Victoria Toensing, Rosa Brooks, Anne Kornblut, Rosa Brooks, Peter Odabashian

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show. 

To borrow Richard Nixon‘s famously poignant line from 1962, we won‘t have Alberto Gonzales to kick around anymore.  The attorney general of the United States has resigned after months of political pummeling from virtually every corner of Washington.

Here‘s some of the highlights from today in sound bites. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Yes, I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government service as attorney general of the United States effective as of September 17, 2007. 

Let me say that it has been one of my greatest privileges to lead the Department of Justice. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons. 

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  It will be up to the White House to choose a replacement who is, above all, a professional.  Not a partisan, not a pal.  Unlike the last time, he needs to pick the best person, not his best friend. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Speculation about the timing of Mr. Gonzales‘ resignation and about his successor began the moment the story broke, around 8:00 a.m.  We‘ll engage in that discussion in just a moment.

The other news from the American judicial system today was former NFL star Michael Vick‘s guilty plea in Richmond in a federal court this morning.  Vick plead for forgiveness in a mea culpa press conference shortly afterward.  It turns out that dogfighting—that quarterback has found Jesus.

We‘ll have the highlights of his path to redemption. 

We begin with the big, if not very surprising, news of the day, the resignation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. 

Joining us from the view from the executive branch is NBC News White House Correspondent Kelly O‘Donnell, who is traveling now with the president. 

Kelly, what‘s the latest? 

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, good evening, Tucker.

Really what we‘re watching now is a lot of assessment about why did Alberto Gonzales make this decision now?  And people close to the White House describe it as important for Gonzales to do it in a time of his own choosing.  And by that, they certainly acknowledge he‘s been under the gun for months.  A lot of criticism about the way he has handled a number of things. 

But the president has been a fierce defender, as you know, and has always said that it is the White House‘s view that Gonzales had never done anything wrong.  Certainly his critics say he lacked credibility and was not a good manager at the Department of Justice.   And what they didn‘t want to have happen was a cause and effect right after an appearance in front of one of the committees up on Capitol Hill or right after an event that brought some question about Gonzales. 

They wanted to give it some space.  Advisers say that Gonzales and his wife spent about the last month talking about this.  They wanted to do it during the recess when Congress was out of town.  And the president, who was certainly disappointed personally, because Gonzales has been a friend for a very long time, did accept it, did not try to discourage him from making this choice—Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Kelly, what are you hearing about a successor to Mr.

Gonzales?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, of course that‘s the next big thing we‘re all watching.  And advisers that I‘ve been talking to say they have a list that is working right now.  They say it numbers more than two, fewer than five.  And there are names being floated about, but at this point they say that the president has not been given any recommendations from his top advisers. 

We are hearing a range of names that go from Michael Chertoff, who is currently the secretary of Homeland Security, to Ted Olson, who had previously been solicitor general for the United States, even Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah.  A bunch of names are out there, and it‘s a process now where Josh Bolten, the president‘s chief of staff, Fred Fielding, his White House counsel, those senior people in the White House review, talk to these candidates, and then the president will at some point do some interviewing, have some conversations. 

Officials say that hasn‘t happened yet, even though they have been aware for months that Gonzales was under scrutiny and this day could come.  But it‘s possible we‘ll get an answer by the end of the week.  They want to move quickly, but they also say they want to make a very careful choice—

Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thanks a lot.

Kelly O‘Donnell, traveling with the president. 

I appreciate it. 

Senator Larry Craig off that list, by the way. 

There are political and historical questions to begin answering about Alberto Gonzales, and to start that conversation we welcome Victoria Toensing, former deputy assistant attorney general.

Victoria, thanks a lot for coming on. 

VICTORIA TOENSING, FMR. DEPUTY ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Yes, all the way from St. Michaels.

CARLSON:  All the way from St. Michaels.

I want to play you—I was so struck by the announcement of this, Mr.

Gonzales‘ own announcement this morning, mostly for what it didn‘t say. 

Here is a quick sound bite.  Let me read it to you.  This is the attorney general.

“I have lived the American dream.  Even my worst days as attorney general were better than my father‘s best days.”

Basically, his announcement was all about himself and his personal journey.  Kind of your classic baby boomer, “it‘s all about me” take on the situation.  And I was reminded of the essence of Alberto Gonzales.  As far as I‘m concerned, not evil, but mediocrity.  The guy never seemed up to the job to me. 

Do you think he was? 

TOENSING:  Well, he made some gross mistakes.

CARLSON:  Yes.

TOENSING:  So, I mean, really, what he did was best for the White House.  And probably everybody except the president was giving a sigh of relief at the White House.  But it was also very good for the Department of Justice and its war—its legal war on terror. 

CARLSON:  But he was good for...

TOENSING:  No, no, no.  It‘s best—his resignation is best for that. 

CARLSON:  Well, so do you think that the political ruckus around the attorney general prevented the department from doing its work in fighting terrorism?  Is that what you‘re saying?

TOENSING:  Absolutely.  And I don‘t fault him for what the Democrats scream about, like he was too tough on terror, because I‘m pretty tough on terror.

CARLSON:  Yes.

TOENSING:  But here is where he lost the support of the people inside the Justice Department.  When the U.S. attorneys were replaced—and they weren‘t—“fired” is really not the right word.  They just didn‘t have their four years extended again.  It‘s like getting ready of a cabinet person.  Nobody screams and yells that they were fired.  It‘s a constitutional right that the president has.

But you do it and you thank them, just like the president thanked Alberto Gonzales.  You know, he was honorable, he was wonderful, thank you for your service.

What did they do?  What did the Justice Department, which Gonzales and deputy Paul McNulty do?  They said, oh, well, there were performance issues, so we had a problem.

And then when they were asked about it, they said, well, we couldn‘t remember who was on the list, who wasn‘t on the list.  I‘m not sure why they were on the list, I don‘t do what their problems were.  You don‘t do that to your generals on the ground, which is what most attorney generals call their U.S. attorneys. 

CARLSON:  It almost seemed designed to alienate them.  I mean, rather than just saying, you know, it‘s our prerogative to replace them for whatever reason...

TOENSING:  Right.  We loved what they did.

CARLSON:  Exactly.

TOENSING:  We loved them.

CARLSON:  To imply that they were incompetent and then not explain how is to guarantee these people hate you. 

TOENSING:  Well, what you‘ve done, because these are lawyers, of course, is you‘ve ruined their reputation.  They—many of them come in as a financial sacrifice, when they come into be a U.S. attorney.

CARLSON:  Of course.

TOENSING:  But they care.  Just like Gonzales says he cared about his job and then to...

CARLSON:  Why do they do that?

TOENSING:  To trash them—I don‘t know.  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s a violation of manners, but there doesn‘t seem there would be anything in it for Gonzales.

TOENSING:  Oh, no.

CARLSON:  Was it just ineptitude, or was this part of a plan or...

TOENSING:  It doesn‘t look like it was part of a plan.  I have no idea

why he did it, but what he did was lose his generals on the ground, his

U.S. attorneys, because not only were the eight or nine replaced, but then

and you know it came out leaking three or four people were on the list and then they were taken off the list. 

So what he—if you‘re a U.S. attorney out there and all of a sudden your local paper is saying, well, he was on the list, we don‘t know why he was on the list, then law firms around the place begin to say, well, I‘m not sure I want that person to come back, because, look, he was tarnished by Washington.  So, they really did a disservice to people that served just as admirably as he did. 

And why is that important?  Because we have this war on terror.  I think it‘s the greatest threat that has faced our country in many years. 

How do we deal with it?  Well, we‘re going to deal with it militarily, but you also have to deal with it legally. 

What do we expect from our government?  We expect them to stop any attack before it happens, right? 

CARLSON:  Of course.

TOENSING:  But I have been in the criminal justice system for a good many decades now.  All of our protections, all of our legal rights for defendants are based on the crime already happened, we are in the middle of an investigation. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

TOENSING:  You know, we‘ve just arrested you, you have the right to remain silent.

CARLSON:  The system reacts (ph) by definition, yes.

TOENSING:  Do we really want to tell somebody—have told somebody on September 10, 2001, how do you do, Mohammed (ph), but you have the right to remain silent? 

So, right now, the Justice Department has to figure out how to balance constitutional rights and yet build some kind of new legal paradigm so that we can thwart these attacks before they happen.  And yet...

CARLSON:  And Gonzales couldn‘t pull that off?

TOENSING:  Not with the whole situation that he was in.  You couldn‘t pull it off. 

CARLSON:  Well, do you—I mean, I think this is significant because it speaks to what sort of manager the president is—do you buy the White House line that Mr. Gonzales just decided to resign at the hour of his own choosing?  I mean, that can‘t be...

TOENSING:  That may be what the president thinks, but I think that there might have—you know what?  This president played a role for his father.

CARLSON:  Yes, of course.

TOENSING:  We‘re told that he went in and told people, you know, it‘s probably time you should leave.

CARLSON:  He was the X man.  That‘s right.

TOENSING:  So I‘m not sure who played that role for him, but I would bet somebody helped the attorney general along. 

CARLSON:  But you have been here for a long time in Washington.  Why do they always pretend?  I mean, what is this kind of, you know, allowing the guy who screwed up and disgraced his boss to get out in this way that makes it look as if he wants to spend more time with his family?

TOENSING:  Well, first of all, that‘s one way you‘re supposed to do it, with some kind of grace.  It was not done by Gonzales for the U.S.  attorneys who were replaced.

CARLSON:  Right.

TOENSING:  But I would think that probably this president really did not want him to go and felt sort of a kinship, a father-son kind of relationship.

CARLSON:  Right.

TOENSING:  But everybody around him in the White House who has to make this system go probably went, whew, oh, we got that done in August.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  Bigger than ideology, this was, as far as I can tell. 

Victoria Toensing, thank you very much.

TOENSING:  Yes.

CARLSON:  I appreciate it. 

NFL star Michael Vick publicly apologizes today for his role in a federal dogfighting ring, but will the public and the NFL accept his apology?  Is Vick‘s reputation redeemable despite the fact he now has a friend in Jesus, according to his own account?

Plus, Republicans believe that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination for president, and they can‘t wait for her to be on the ballot.  Will Republicans have a better shot at keeping the White House with her on the ticket?

This is MSNBC, the place for politics. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Alberto Gonzales finally gave in to the pressure today, stepping down as attorney general.  So now the political jockeying begins. 

Among the immediate questions, who replaces Gonzales?  Will the Congress approve the president‘s choice without a political fight?  And what effect, if any, will this resignation have on the public opinion of the president, the Congress and the ‘08 campaign?

Here to tell us, we welcome “Los Angeles Times” columnist Rosa Brooks and “The Washington Post‘s” Anne Kornblut.

Welcome to you both.

Rosa, why—I mean, I‘m not defending Gonzales.  I just attacked him.  I thought he was mediocre.  I thought he was one of the baby boomer (INAUDIBLE) talking about himself and his stupid personal journey and he‘s doing better than his dad, like we care.  I don‘t care.

However, the guy is actually kind of liberal.  He‘s kind of inoffensive.  You know, of all the people you could attack in the Bush administration, like, I get why the lefties—Karl Rove.  But this guy...

ROSA BROOKS, “LOS ANGELES TIMES”:  Liberal and offensive?  This is the guy—this is the guy who brought us torture.  This is the guy who brought us goodbye rule of law, goodbye checks and balances.

CARLSON:  No, but it was around even before Alberto Gonzales.

BROOKS:  Oh, he was the handmaiden of torture.  Let‘s put it that way.  This is the guy—I mean, come on.  You‘re right.  You‘re right, he was too mediocre.

CARLSON:  I asked you that question just so you would use that phrase “handmaiden of torture”.

BROOKS:  Because you knew I had it waiting.

You know, this is—you‘re right, he is too mediocre to actually bring it to us.  But this is the enabler, this is the guy who made it all happen.  This is the guy who was just waiting for somebody smarter than he was to say, go out, make the evil deeds come true. 

And he said, oh, sure, what do you want me to do?  No problem. 

Torture?  OK.  I‘ll pave the way.

CARLSON:  Just for interest‘s sake, do you think that the Bush administration tortures people because...

BROOKS:  Because they love it.  They enjoy it.

CARLSON:  Yes.  Because they love it?  They like it?

BROOKS:  It just tickles the heck out of them.  That‘s why they do it. 

Yes.

CARLSON:  I just wanted to make sure.

BROOKS:  In case you were wondering.

CARLSON:  Did he have any friends, Anne?  Was there anybody apart from the president himself standing up for Alberto Gonzales?  He didn‘t seem to have any.

ANNE KORNBLUT, “WASHINGTON  POST”:  At the end there?

CARLSON:  Yes.

KORNBLUT:  No, not that I could see.  I mean, the president honestly was his best friend.  And by the time—the time he was done, he seemed to be the only one issuing any statements of regret that he was leaving.  Don‘t you think?

CARLSON:  Why are the president‘s friends so mediocre?  I mean—no, I‘m serious.  No, that‘s actually...

KORNBLUT:  Well, Tucker...

CARLSON:  Some of them—Karl Rove, whatever you think of Karl Rove, not a mediocre man.  Maybe a bad man, maybe a good man, but not mediocre.

Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzales, kind of sweet, kind of slow, kind of simple.

BROOKS:  Because the president is mediocre.  Let‘s face it, the president of the United States is a mediocre man. 

CARLSON:  Well, how did he get to be president then?

BROOKS:  Because...

CARLSON:  Because the public is stupid?  Is that what you‘re saying?

BROOKS:  Because Dick Cheney and Karl Rove are not stupid.  Yes, you‘re right.

CARLSON:  So the public is dumb. 

BROOKS:  They are not stupid.  The public—well, the public is not dumb.  The public made a pretty unwise decision this time around. 

CARLSON:  Twice.  Twice in a row.

BROOKS:  We‘ve got a serious case of—you‘re right.  No, no, we made the right decision the first time around, Tucker, actually.

CARLSON:  OK.

BROOKS:  But we‘ve got a pretty serious case of buyer‘s remorse, I think.  You know, I think that we were fooled into thinking the second time around that a mediocre guy could still make good because his advisers—well, we were going to give them one more chance.  They weren‘t stupid.  And it turned out that, no, they weren‘t stupid, but they sure were wrong and they sure were evil (ph). 

CARLSON:  It‘s just a lot of kind of, you know, I don‘t know, C students from Texas wound up running the administration.  It‘s just a weird thing.

Who‘s going to succeed him, and can—who would you have to be to get through the Senate at this point? 

KORNBLUT:  Well, I mean, at this point, I mean, there were lots of names being floated today.  And we don‘t know who is going to succeed him.

Obviously there‘s talk about whether it might be Michael Chertoff.  I‘ve heard the rumor Fran Townsend, but, you know, she‘s apparently not interested in the job.

At this point, I think the Democrats are going to have to be careful that they don‘t reject just anybody out of hand.  They‘re not going to get a Democrat.  I would—I would wager right now that although some might suggest that the president, with his approval ratings where they are, might not go...

CARLSON:  Yes, nominate Jackson Brown or something like that. 

KORNBLUT:  Yes, exactly.  That‘s not going to happen.

CARLSON:  Harry Belafonte.

KORNBLUT:  I think they will—they‘re going to—they‘re going to draw this out.  They‘re going to fight a little, at least.  And we‘re going to see them try and make the most of it.

BROOKS:  It‘s not going to be—it‘s not going to be good for either party, frankly.  I mean, it looks bad for the Republicans because it already looks bad because Gonzales has been disastrous. 

CARLSON:  But the hysteria.

BROOKS:  Because they‘re going to look at obstruction as they always do. 

CARLSON:  Here is the John Edwards for President campaign—“Write your own goodbye note to Alberto Gonzales.”  And then in his...

BROOKS:  All right.

CARLSON:  The ultimate hander to the public.  It says, “You did it,” as if the outcry from Edwards‘ voters did it. 

BROOKS:  Bye.

CARLSON:  Bye.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNBLUT:  I would point out that the Edwards campaign was very proud of the fact that they were the first to release a statement.  It was the Gonzales primary today.  Every candidate releasing a statement on it.

But in a sense, he is not wrong.  This was partly due to public outcry, which lead to Congress outcry.  This was not because Bush felt like getting rid of Alberto Gonzales.  He didn‘t. And this is a rare example of this president buckling to public pressure. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  You‘ve got to be able to talk.  Like, this president‘s problem at root is partly his inability to convince people through speech.  The same with Gonzales.

BROOKS:  But you know, that‘s what—but this is something that‘s actually been kind of puzzling me. 

You know, very early on, I remember when Bush was first running against Gore and I would listen to him and I thought, I don‘t like this guy, I don‘t like his politics, but he sounds sincere, he seems like he connects emotionally with people.  That‘s gone.  I feel like that just disappeared somewhere.  And now everything he says sounds so hollow, and one of the things...

CARLSON:  Wait.  Wait.  Could it be your ability to see it disappeared? 

BROOKS:  Well, no, I don‘t think so. 

CARLSON:  You lost your decoder glasses somewhere along the way? 

BROOKS:  Well maybe I lost my magic decoder glasses, but one of the things that struck me as so weird about the whole Gonzales thing is that everyone else, as you said, in the entire world, Republican and Democrat alike, said something along the lines of, you know, it was time for this guy to go.  He couldn‘t function.

You know, he was bad for America.  And Bush acted as if he never heard a word against him. 

CARLSON:  Maybe we should get—Harriet Miers could be the perfect choice.  You know what I mean?  I don‘t know, he‘s got other friends.  We‘ll see. 

NFL star Michael Vick apologized today for his role in a dogfighting ring by saying he is immature, ashamed, totally disappointed in himself, but now committed to Jesus.  What are the Atlanta Falcons saying about the situation? 

Plus, is someone trying to shut John Edwards up?  He says someone is, but he declares he is unwilling to be silenced. 

Who exactly are these sinister people?  What exactly are they doing to stop the voice of the people? 

This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL VICK, SUSPENDED NFL QUARTERBACK:  And I offer my deepest apologies to everybody out there who was affected by this whole situation.  I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to bettering Michael Vick, the person, not the football player. 

I take full responsibility for my actions.  For one second—not for one second would I sit right here and try to point the finger and blame anybody else for my actions or what I have done.  We all make mistakes.  It‘s just I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was Atlanta Falcons quarterback and dog killer Michael Vick, referring to himself in the third person today as he publicly apologized after entering a guilty plea to federal dogfighting charges.  Vick says he needs to grow up and that he has found Jesus.  He also admitted to being less than truthful with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

After his prison time, which is expected to be up to a year, will Vick return to the NFL?  That will likely depend on the rehabilitation of his public interests, which Vick surely hopes began today.

How did the apology go over and what happens next?

Joining me now with an update from Richmond, Virginia, NBC‘s Kevin Corke.

Kevin, what is the latest? 

KEVIN CORKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, good evening to you. 

Here is how it‘s going to play out from here.  December 10th, Judge Henry Hudson will have a sentencing hearing.  At that point, he will sentence Michael Vick.

Today, by the way, he said, “You‘re taking a chance here.”  He warned Vick, “You‘re going to have to live with what I decide.”

So, while the prosecution has recommended that Vick serve between 12 and 18 months behind bars, Judge Hudson will make the determination on December 10th.  But it‘s also interesting—keep in mind that Michael Vick has agreed to assist prosecutors in the discovery of other criminal activity.  Now, what that means is, if he does a lot, say, between now and December 10th, they could come back to the judge and say, yes, we know we said between 12 and 18 months.  Now we‘re requesting or recommending, say, maybe nine months to a year. 

So, a lot could happen between now and then—Tucker. 

CARLSON:  He is not necessarily going to be prevented from coming back to the Atlanta Falcons.  Is that the way that you understand it? 

CORKE:  Absolutely.  And I have said this from the beginning, I think Americans in general are a forgiving people.  And I think Michael Vick‘s attorneys, in particular Billy Martin, are very crafty and very careful to make sure that the language didn‘t say in the plea agreement, for example, that he gambled. 

And that‘s going to be important, because, ultimately, if Roger Goodell, the NFL‘s commissioner, decides that, look, Michael Vick has paid his debt to society, I‘m satisfied with the suspension, that he has been contrite, that maybe he can play again.  And the Falcons owner today, Arthur Blank, said he wasn‘t ready to completely dismiss the idea that Vick could possibly come back to the organization. 

CARLSON:  I‘m so struck, Kevin.  You have covered sports for a long time.  This is probably not surprising to you, but the public is outraged by the idea that Michael Vick had a hand in torturing dogs.  The NFL is concerned about the potential that he was involved in gambling. 

That is—their focus is totally on gambling, am I understanding that?

CORKE:  You are correct.  You are correct.  But here is the real issue.

When they are talking about gambling, the NFL is very specific in their code of conduct that says, look, you cannot gamble.  However, I think there‘s a tacit understanding that gambling happens, so long as it‘s not gambling on sports, it‘s not gambling on football, it‘s not gambling against what you do as an operation.

That said, Michael Vick‘s attorneys were careful to make sure that this was not a part of what he would ultimately agree happened in this circumstance.  He did bankroll it.  That‘s going to be tough.

Plus, he lied to Roger Goodell.  And he was very, very disappointed, Roger Goodell was, that Mike Vick liked to his face.

It‘s going to take some time, it‘s going to take some real work to convince Roger Goodell that this is a guy who can come back and play in the NFL.  I‘m not convinced though that over time he won‘t relent and allow him to play again. 

CARLSON:  Kevin Corke from Richmond.

Thanks a lot, Kevin.  I appreciate it.

CORKE:  You bet, man. 

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton says Iraq‘s prime minister should step down.  But he disagrees.  In fact, there‘s mutual disdain between the prime minister and the senator from New York.

Stay tuned for Maliki versus Clinton, round one. 

Plus, John Edwards believes somebody is trying to muzzle his campaign for America‘s poor.  Who is he talking about and what are these sinister, unseen forces doing to derail the Edwards campaign? 

This is MSNBC, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, Senator Hillary Clinton is getting some unexpected support from the Republican Party.  Some believe she‘s the GOP‘s best chance of holding onto the White House.  Are they right?  We‘ll get to that in just a minute, but first here‘s a look at your headlines. 

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I‘m Milissa Rehberger.

There is late word a police officer has died after crashing his motorcycle while riding in President Bush‘s motorcade in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The president was there for a fundraiser.

Officials say the cause of the crash is not known right now.  It is the second such accident in the past year.  A Honolulu police officer was killed in a motorcycle crash during a presidential motorcade last November.

The military reports four more U.S. troops were killed in combat in Iraq, two soldiers and two Marines.

Officials in Greece say at least 63 people have been killed by wildfires in southern Greece over the past four days.  Helicopters and buses were used today to help evacuate more than two dozen villages. 

Dozens of fires are burning, fueled by strong winds and parched grass and trees.  Officials suspect an orchestrated arson campaign. 

And a new study shows Americans aren‘t getting any thinner.  The study found obesity rates continued to climb in 31 states last year.  No state showed a decline.

Now back to Tucker. 

CARLSON:  On his resignation from the White House two weeks, Karl Rove described Hillary Clinton as the most likely Democratic nominee.  He did not seem entirely upset by that idea. 

Well, perhaps following Rove‘s lead, some of the country‘s leading Republican strategists seem to believe that Clinton‘s nomination would be a good thing for the GOP. 

So reports the Politico.com‘s Jonathan Martin writes this morning that the talk at the Republican Leadership Conference in Indianapolis has had a lot to do with the promising possibility of running against yet another Clinton. 

Are the Republicans whistling past the graveyard, or does Mrs. Clinton give them their best chance to retain the White House?  Here to tell us, “L.A. Times” columnist Rosa Brooks and, from the “Washington Post”, Anne Kornblut.

Anne, is this real?  I mean, Jonathan Martin‘s piece are always real.  However, is this something that you have seen in your reporting, that Republicans are looking forward to running against Hillary?

ANNE KORNBLUT, “WASHINGTON POST”:  I would say at this point they‘re split.  The ones who have actually run against her before, Republicans in New York, think that this is really—that they are under estimating her ability as a politician. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I agree.

KORNBLUT:  The ones who haven‘t run against her before say look at her negatives.  She‘s so polarizing.  There are people who are never in a million years going to consider voting for her.  She‘d be a gift.  Obama would be dangerous, or even Edwards, possibly.  But not so much.

But I think at this point the jury is still out.  And I‘m not sure where I think Karl Rove really is on this.  I‘ve heard him describe it both ways in the past, both that she‘s a really formidable candidate and knows how to beat them, as they saw, all throughout the ‘90s, but also that she is so negative.  So I think at this point, it‘s too soon to tell where they...

CARLSON:  Yes, but I think Karl Rove‘s rationale for saying that is probably so complex that we will never understand why exactly—exactly why he said it. 

I am firmly in the former camp that Anne just described.  I believe that Hillary Clinton can easily be president.  The country is more than half women.  Women are going to vote for Hillary, because she‘s a woman.  I believe that.  The polling bears that out. 

You, I think, are one who may disagree, but she could absolutely beat the Republican.  Absolutely.

ROSA BROOKS, “L.A. TIMES”:  You know, look, it‘s long been a fear of many Democrats that Hillary, if she were the nominee, would be a very polarizing candidate, that she could win the Democratic nomination but then lose the general election.

It‘s been very interesting watching the polling, because at this point, quite clearly, you know, in the straw poll she beats the Republicans.

CARLSON:  Yes.

BROOKS:  Does that remain true, you know, a year from now?  We don‘t know.  But certainly, I think that, you know, a lot of—I don‘t know that she has lost her negatives, but others have a chance to gain their own negatives.  And America is the land of second chances.  People are pretty forgiving.  So things could change.

I think that what I—there‘s a different question, though, which—separate from the question of whether she could beat any of the Republican challengers, if she were the Democratic nominee, which is the question of, you know, what kind of president would she be?

Would she be a divisive president?  Would we continue to have a country that is very, very, very divided?

CARLSON:  Right.

BROOKS:  Is there a different candidate who could bring people together more?  That‘s, I think, a much tougher to answer question. 

CARLSON:  I think that‘s a deep and real question...

BROOKS:  You think?

CARLSON:  ... that every Democrat ought—really, I think every Democrat voting in the primaries ought to ask himself, do we want...

BROOKS:  Or herself.

CARLSON:  ... him being the stand-in pronoun for him or her, a more elegant way, I think to express the same idea.

BROOKS:  OK.

CARLSON:  Ask himself, “Do I really want to have a third term—a third Clinton term?  And is this really good for the country?  And why not vote for Barack Obama?  But Democrats don‘t listen to me.

She hasn‘t made any mistakes that I can see.  That most recent, so-called mistake, admitting that a terror attack would help Republicans, how is that a mistake?  The other campaigns jumped on her for that.  Is that a mistake?

KORNBLUT:  They certainly won‘t concede that it is.  The other campaigns say, “Look, you‘re playing into the GOP playbook, which is what you‘ve always accused other Democrats of doing.  You can‘t concede that Republicans are automatically stronger on terror.”

But at the end of the day...

CARLSON:  It‘s true.

KORNBLUT:  Perhaps—well, we don‘t know.  2006, I think, proved that it maybe isn‘t true.  We saw the House and the Senate both go Democratic.  It wasn‘t—it wasn‘t just by default true.

But I don‘t think this, at the end of the day, is going to be a major mistake.  It‘s a mistake, perhaps, with the left, the far left and certainly among Obama‘s and Edwards‘ supporters, but it doesn‘t seem to be moving mountains for her yet. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  What do you make of her argument with Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq?  She says he ought to go.  Here‘s his response.

This is—this actually the prime minister of Iraq addressing, weighing in on the presidential election.  “There are American officials,” says al-Maliki, “who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages.  For example, Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin.  They should come to their senses.” 

Is she kind of a patronizing ethnocentrist who isn‘t allowing for the Iraqi people to kind of give up on self-determination?

BROOKS:  I mean, given—well, two things to be said.  I mean, given

he‘s weighing in on the American presidential election, since she was weighing in on his political future in Iraq.  That seems fair enough. 

But—but I think the other point, let‘s keep in mind that Maliki didn‘t get to the leadership position he occupies now in Iraq simply through a free and open democratic process. 

To a very significant extent, the United States—the Bush administration, to a specific extent, engineered his getting into the position. 

CARLSON:  I hope so.

BROOKS:  Right.  And obviously, you know, for better or for worse, as we know, the Iraqi—the future of Maliki is bound up with U.S. policy in Iraq, very much bound up with U.S. domestic politics.

It‘s clear, I think, appropriate to the extent that George Bush has continued to say, “Oh, I am with this guy Maliki.” 

CARLSON:  He‘s a good man. 

BROOKS:  He‘s a good man, et cetera.  So it would be just like Alberto Gonzales. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

BROOKS:  You know, he‘s my best bud.  Clearly, it‘s appropriate for Clinton criticize him.  I understand why Maliki doesn‘t like it, but...

CARLSON:  Well, he‘s a good guy, and she should just layoff.

BROOKS:  Right.

CARLSON:  Those are my views right there.  The head strategist for the

one of them for the Obama campaign, David Axelrod, said—this is a very interesting line—said Hillary Clinton is obsessed with the right-wing attack machine.  She‘s constantly talking out—I thought it was another way of saying she really is living in 1997. 

Is that a way of saying that?  That if you want the politics of the ‘90s, vote Clinton?

KORNBLUT:  They love the caricature of Clinton as the paranoid one who invoked the images of the vast right-wing of the vast right-wing conspiracy. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

KORNBLUT:  That is the Clinton that nobody want to remember.  And you hear both Edwards and Obama talking about, you know, you can wax on about the great times we all had in the 1990s but don‘t forget the bad times, too. 

Now, no one wants to come out and talk about the bad times in the ‘90s, because that‘s deemed unseemly at this point.  But they are starting to say come on it was not so great.  It was very partisan.  Nothing got accomplished.  Those are the years that Osama bin Laden was allowed to...

CARLSON:  They‘re right.  They‘re absolutely right.

KORNBLUT:  We‘re starting to see the campaigns.  We see Axelrod doing it in stead of Obama himself, because Obama is trying to, you know, stay above the fray. 

CARLSON:  He‘s above that.

KORNBLUT:  Right.  Of course.

CARLSON:  He‘s never had a negative thought.

KORNBLUT:  Never.

CARLSON:  Politics of tomorrow.  Come on.  No time to hate, barely time to wait. 

BROOKS:  But then, to be fair to Hillary Clinton, you know, there is a right-wing attack machine.  There is also a left-wing attack machine. 

CARLSON:  Whatever happened to the right-wing attack machine?

BROOKS:  It‘s still out there.  It‘s still out there.

CARLSON:  I‘m off their e-mail list.  I don‘t know what happened to them.

BROOKS:  I‘m on their e-mail.  You‘ve got to get on the right list. 

I‘m on both the left wing and the right wing...

CARLSON:  You know, I think the vaunted right-wing attack machine is covered with rust.  It‘s basically inoperative now.  It‘s like huge parts of the Midwest now, it‘s—you know, no one is using it. 

John Edwards is trying to speak out on behalf of America‘s poor, the people without a voice.  He‘s trying to be their voice.  And unfortunately, moneyed interests are trying to stop him up.  He‘s been making this point.

BROOKS:  Sad.

CARLSON:  Yes, it is sad, that they‘re trying to stop him from talking. 

We have a sound byte from last month, him saying, “I just want”—he‘s been saying this recently.  Should get a sense of what he‘s saying.  Here‘s John Edwards. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, I‘m out there speaking up for universal health care, ending this war in Iraq, speaking up for the poor.  They want to shut me up.  They will never silence me, never. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:            Why can‘t he just say, you know, some people disagree with me?  The implication always is if you disagree with me you‘re taking money to disagree with me, you‘re profiting from disagreeing with me.  Can‘t you have an honest disagreement with John Edwards?

KORNBLUT:  All these guys love to play the victim.  For some reason it works well.  They‘re trying to be silenced.  They‘re trying to be muffled.  As if he couldn‘t buy them off himself if he wanted to. 

I think what we‘re seeing Edwards really do is try to be one of the people, to relate...

CARLSON:  Right.

KORNBLUT:  ... I was out with him this past weekend in New Hampshire, and what he wants to do is to present to the people, I‘m one of you.  You‘ve been forgotten; I‘m here to talk for you. 

CARLSON:  What did you eat?  Because you can always tell—I‘m serious.  Because rich people don‘t eat like the people.  The people eat really crappy, bad food.  I eat a lot of it, too.

BROOKS:  I wonder what brand of bottled water he was...

CARLSON:  Exactly.  I bet he didn‘t—I bet he didn‘t eat one of those like red hot dogs, you know what I mean?  He‘s not going to eat a lot of mayonnaise. 

Between three days of the Iowa state fair and then two days with the Evers‘ (ph) in New Hampshire.  I did see that entire family eat a lot of red meat and hamburgers.  So I can—I can vouch for them there.

CARLSON:  Yes, but did they eat processed bread product?  I mean, did they wake up to Captain—peanut butter Captain Crunch?  I bet they didn‘t.

KORNBLUT:  I didn‘t get that level of access, but next time out.

CARLSON:  OK, OK.  But I‘m just telling you, if you want to be of the people, you‘ve got to eat like the people. 

And speaking of people, people can often be found in men‘s rooms. 

Larry Craig...

BROOKS:  Some of the people.

CARLSON:  Larry Craig, senator.  And I shouldn‘t mock him, because I always defend instinctively people who are embarrassed, who are ashamed.  Larry Craig, a conservative Republican from Idaho, arrested at the Minneapolis airport, charged with soliciting a man for an undercover officer for sex, a man, and he pled guilty. 

BROOKS:  It‘s very embarrassing.

CARLSON:  Here‘s his statement.  “At the time of this incident”—this is just released, Larry Craig—“I complained to the police that they are misconstruing my actions.  I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.  I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter.  I should not have pled guilty.  I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously.”

BROOKS:  And it never occurred to me that I shouldn‘t have pled kitchen to sexual—lewd behavior in a men‘s room.  It never occurred to me that would be embarrassing.  I needed a lawyer to tell me that.

KORNBLUT:  That‘s a really hard one to reconcile.  I mean, he is a law maker, you know, and most people—have you ever watching “Law & Order”?”  Pleading guilty is not something anyone does lightly. 

CARLSON:  Not usually to a sex crime. 

BROOKS:  No.  I thought there should be a quiet way to...

CARLSON:  You know, I always defend these guys, because I really do think that, you know, sexual conduct, no matter how weird, ought to be private.  Why a men‘s room?  Why is—knock it off in the men‘s room, OK?  Kids use the men‘s room.

BROOKS:  It is interesting that it never happens in the ladies‘ room.  You notice that?  In the ladies‘ room, people are always having, you know, interactions like my hair, how does my hair look.  Right. 

CARLSON:  It‘s a shame.  You know, I had all kinds of...

KORNBLUT:  It‘s interesting that this didn‘t come out until it happened in June, and we‘re only finding out about it now. 

BROOKS:  Right.

HANNITY:  Well, I suspect this is probably just the very beginning.  That‘s my prediction here on today‘s show.  I want to thank you both for joining us. 

KORNBLUT:  A short good-bye now to Senator Larry Craig.

CARLSON:  I kind of feel sorry for him.  Knock it off in the men‘s room. 

Well, if you thought Osama bin Laden was the only anti-American, think again.  Europeans by the numbers are voicing their  discontent with the U.S.  What is their problem?  We ill tell you next.

Plus, shocking allegations against Britney Spears.  Well, her parenting skills don‘t seem very impressive, but would you call it child abuse? 

You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  They say men are from Mars, women from Venus, but could the same thing be said about Americans and European?  Why do we have such a love-hate relationship with the British, the French and the Poles?  More to the point, why do they hate us?  We‘ll tell you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  America‘s standing in most parts of the world has taken a beating since the first bombs hit Baghdad in 2003.  Four years later, a new documentary on PBS tries to gauge where America stands now in the world? 

Frenchmen, Poles, Irishman, Brits, all weigh in on the subject, and the composite is a healthy dose of bewilderment and condescension with some awe and some gratitude mixed in.  A love-hate relationship.  Here are some clips. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why do are we so ungrateful to a country that has never threatened us?  That‘s one view. 

The other view is, why should we snuggle up to an imperialist warmongering power.

I love Bugs Bunny, the original Dixieland jazz band, New Orleans, the fall in Vermont, all these kind of things.  But I feel I‘m entitled to distance myself from the atrocity and the stupid atrocity that is American foreign policy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The commies would feed us a lot of bad things about American bad propaganda, and we are the rebels.  They feed you (expletive deleted).  You don‘t believe anything, even if there is some truth in it.  You‘re just rebel.  Oh, yes, America is bad?  We love it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

CARLSON:  Joining us, the documentary‘s producer, Peter Odabashian. 

Peter, thanks you for coming on. 

PETER ODABASHIAN, PRODUCER, DOCUMENTARY:  Thank you for having me. 

CARLSON:  They hated us before September 11, didn‘t they?

ODABASHIAN:  Well, we are the super power in the world, and we dominate the world economically, militarily and culturally, as well.  There‘s nowhere to hide. 

CARLSON:  How did you—I mean, as an American, how did you come away feeling after making this film?  Did you come away feeling like the United States really had more work to do?  Did you feel like our country is being blamed unfairly?  Did it change your views at all?

ODABASHIAN:  Well, you know, they don‘t hate us.  They don‘t hate you and me.           

There‘s this—it‘s how to deal with this huge power.  It‘s not an equal relationship.  You know, the way we think of France our lives aren‘t changed on a daily basis by what happens in France. 

But for a French man what happens here can affect their lives.  Many feel they should have a right to vote for our president because they have such powerful affect on their lives. 

CARLSON:  So it‘s just—it‘s the resentment of the weaker partner, essentially?

ODABASHIAN:  You know, it‘s a resentment.  It‘s just kind of—maybe more desperation now.  Well...

CARLSON:  Anywhere?

ODABASHIAN:  Where are we loved?

CARLSON:  Well, anywhere?

ODABASHIAN:  Well, the French certainly love American culture.  They love jazz.  They love film noir.  They love many things about American life and the—and the Poles are grateful, too.

Our film focused on—you know, in France for America‘s help in lib rating Poland from the Soviet block and we are loved.  It‘s just a complex relationship where—you know, people are really protecting their right to be who they are and don‘t want to become part of the great American cultural wave. 

CARLSON:  You often hear the claim sometimes it is explicit and often it‘s implied that, when this president leaves, and a new president, particularly a Democrat takes his place, America will be loved again.  Is that true?

ODABASHIAN:  Well, I think every time there‘s a change in American power, the Europeans have overreacted to it.  You know, when they—when Congress shifted power in the last election, the French said, “Oh, no everything is going to be different.  The policies are all change.”  And of course nothing changed right a way. 

So I think they will feel like if they have a change in president there will be a new day but I think things happen more slowly than they would like. 

CARLSON:  I think—I think you‘re exactly right. 

The film is “The Anti-Americans”, PBS.  Peter Odabashian, thanks you for joining us.  I appreciate it. 

ODABASHIAN:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Well, just when you thought beauty pageants couldn‘t get more compelling, oh, they have.  Stay tuned for an unforgettable performance from the Miss Teen USA won test.  Your day simply is not complete until you have seen this tape.

And that‘s not hype.  It is literally the truth. 

This is MSNBC, the place for politics, as well as for incredible sound bites from beauty queens from South Carolina.  More in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

Joining us now, taking a brief respite from his normal duties as vice president for primetime here at MSNBC, the great Bill Wolff. 

BILL WOLFF, PRESIDENT FOR PRIMETIME, MSNBC:  I don‘t do much all day, Tucker.  Don‘t overrate it.  Walking around, saying, “How you doing?”  That kind of deal.  Keep morale up, buddy.

CARLSON:  What a job. 

GEIST:  Well, it‘s a good gig if you can get it, and for the moment, I have it. 

Let‘s begin now with news of the extremely well mannered—Tucker, I know you love the well mannered.  So for that, we must leave our shores and travel to England, the home of bad food and impeccable decorum. 

Camilla Parker Bowles, the wife of Prince Charles, the step mom of princes William and Harry, has declined her invitation to attend a memorial this week marking the tenth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. 

Ms. Parker Bowles was touched by the invitation, graciously extended by the princes, but she sent her regrets in order not to draw attention to herself and away from the memorial to Diana. 

This, I will say, for the British: they are polite, and therefore, I respect them.  No matter how bad their food is, the teeth thing, there‘s lots of jokes about it, always polite, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You know, I kind of—I don‘t know much about it.  I know everyone hates Prince Charles and loves his former wife, but you‘ve got to kind of respect a man who marries an older woman, who I mean, I don‘t know.

WOLFF:  Absolutely.

CARLSON:  He‘s not—you know, she‘s not a stripper.  I kind of like her for that. 

WOLFF:  That we know of.

CARLSON:  That we know of.

WOLFF:  That we know of, Tucker.  Allegedly, she is not a stripper. 

And therefore, that‘s the story I‘m going with.

No, I respect them both and don‘t really care about the royals, but that was the story today breaking out of England. 

On the one hand, you have Camilla Parker Bowles, eschewing attention that might be paid to another.  And on the other hand, on our side of the aisle, it‘s Britney Spears. 

“Access Hollywood” reporting tonight that Ms. Spears is being investigated for possible child abuse.  TMZ also reporting the same thing.  They say that there was an unscheduled hearing today, featuring Britney‘s lawyer, a lawyer for her ex-husband and prolific baby maker, Kevin Federline, and a lawyer from the Los Angeles County Council.

TMZ.com says its reporters, or webporters (ph), I suppose, have been told that the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services is in the midst of an active investigation. 

It‘s all part of the custody battle between Ms. Spears and Mr.

Federline over their two small boys, Tucker. 

Now, let me say this, and you know I‘ve been a defender of Britney Spears.  She‘s a dear friend, sweet girl.  She‘s misunderstood.  In my day, when my mom tried to whiten my teeth and gave me Shasta cola and partied with her backup dancers on rooftop pools, that was called good parenting.  OK?  Everybody back off Britney. 

CARLSON:  I kind of tend to agree.  Plus, I mean, there‘s nothing that Britney Spears has ever done or will ever do that you couldn‘t have predicted from day one, so it‘s not like we can seem surprised. 

WOLFF:  Yes, mamas and don‘t let your babies grow up to Mouseketeers. 

Does not end well.

Now, Tucker, some of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination appeared in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and right here on MSNBC, the place for politics, today.  The Live Strong presidential forum, where Lance Armstrong and our own Chris Matthews focused the candidates‘ attention on health care and, specifically, cancer research and treatment. 

Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, he is not the front runner, but he is, by far, the most entertaining candidate in the field.  Here he is, with Mr.  Armstrong and Mr. Matthews, on the value of a healthy diet. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is why I happen to be a vegan.  OK?  I know—I know a little bit about this.  People want a president who‘s healthy, because if you‘re healthy you can think right. 

My diet helps strengthen my constitution, and we want to protect our Constitution, you know?  And...

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  Any you married a young woman. 

KUCINICH:  And I did.  And my—hello?  I mean, I‘m 60 years old.  I have a—my wife is 29.  You draw your own conclusions.  Diet helps. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF:  Diet helps, Tucker.  Now Saturday night, I happened to be at a barbecue place here in New York City and for dessert, I had a deep-fried Oreo, full of transfats and powdered sugar on there.  And I love my wife.  I don‘t know what to say. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I mean, it‘s—it‘s—I love Dennis Kucinich.  I admire the fact he‘s married a woman 31 years younger...

WOLFF:  Yes.

CARLSON:  ... than he is.  However, he does look like you could blow him over. 

WOLFF:  Maybe time—maybe time for him.

But we‘re going to do it quick.  Finally, the beauty pageant moment of the year, this from Miss Teen USA contest.  This is Miss Teen South Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upland.  She‘s the contestant.  One of the judges is the examiner, and the Latin phrase is res ipsa loquitur.

Let‘s roll that tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AIMEE TEEGARDEN, ACTRESS:  Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can‘t locate the U.S. on a world map.  Why do you think this is?

LAUREN CAITLIN UPLAND, MISS TEEN SOUTH CAROLINA:  I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don‘t have maps.  And I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa and Iraq, everywhere, like such as, and I believe that they should—our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S.—or should help South Africa and should help the Iraqi and Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF:  What can I tell you, Tucker?  Wonder what she thinks about Gonzo.

CARLSON:  Let‘s book her. 

Bill Wolff at headquarters.  Thanks, Bill.

That does it for us.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.  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.

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