updated 8/29/2007 1:07:23 PM ET 2007-08-29T17:07:23

Guests: Melanie Sloan, Jim Moran, Pat Buchanan, A.B. Stoddard, Michelle Shinghal

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  This is the August lull in Washington.  President Bush makes a fiery defense of his Iraq war strategy today in Reno and rumors swirl about possible successor to Alberto Gonzalez as attorney general. 

But today‘s big story is Senator Larry Craig of Idaho, who in the last hour and a half defiantly denied every last salacious allegation about his private life.  There have been many. 

After the story Senator Craig‘s bathroom pandering came to light yesterday, this morning‘s “Idaho Statesman Newspaper” published a lengthy article that suggested that Craig has a long history of homosexuality.  Late this afternoon, leading senate republicans called for an ethics investigation of the senator.  The executive director of the Idaho values alliance called for his resignation. 

But at a news conference about 90 minutes ago, Senator Larry Craig proclaimed his innocence of any crime and defiantly declared his heterosexuality.  Here are his words from Boise, Idaho. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG ®, IDAHO:  For eight months, leading up to June 11, my family and I have been relentlessly and viciously, viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman.  If you saw the article today, you know why. 

Let me be clear.  I am not gay.  I never have been gay.  I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport.  I did nothing wrong, and I regret the decision to plead guilty, and the sadness that decision has brought on my wife, my family, friends, staff, and fellow people of Idaho.  For that, I apologize. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  As we have said, several political organizations have jumped to the conclusion that Senator Craig is at least guilty of public pandering.  His hometown newspaper has implied that he is a hypocrite for allegedly hiding his repeatedly denied homosexuality. 

Joining me now to discuss this story is the head of an organization that has called for a Senate ethics investigation. 

Melanie Sloan, Director of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.  Melanie, thanks for coming on. 

MELANIE SLOAN, DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN

WASHINGTON:  My pleasure. 

CARLSON:  Why should we care?

SLOAN:  We should care because Senator Craig committed a crime.  And as a senator, he was sworn to uphold the law.  And here he is violating it. 

CARLSON:  This is - I mean people commit crimes all the time.  I am offended by people having sex in men‘s rooms.  I think it‘s common and I think they should knock it off right away.  But is that your position?  Do you really think it is a major problem when men have gay sex in restrooms?

SLOAN:  I think it is a major issue when senators violate the law, and then particularly when Larry Craig comes out and then even though he pleaded guilty, comes out and say I pleaded guilty but I did not really mean it, as if you can plead guilty and then all of a sudden the innocent the next minute. 

CARLSON:  I agree.  It is ridiculous.  I think is very clear that Senator Craig was lying to the rest of us and worse, asking us to believe his lie, become complicit in that lie.  I would not defend that and won‘t and I was offended by it.  But my question remains to you, is it a big deal?  Does it hurt society when men have a sex in restrooms?

SLOAN:  I think it certainly can be harmful when men, or if there were women, having sex in public rest rooms. 

CARLSON:  But they‘re not.  They‘re gay men having gay sex in men‘s rooms and it‘s just interesting when the liberal groups get upset about gay sex, does it make you queasy?  Why is it such a bad thing? 

SLOAN:  I have no problem with gay sex.  We actually filed an ethics complaint against David Vitter as well for engaging in heterosexual sex.  What we have trouble with is senators engaging in sex crimes and not being held accountable for their actions.

CARLSON:  He pled guilty, he was fined.  His political career is over.  Presumable his family is going to be effected if not destroyed.  He‘s going to slink away in disgrace.  He‘s being held accountable. 

SLOAN:  Well, the senate has a long policy of having members of congress held up to senate rules, as well.  There‘s a senate rule that‘s specifically provides that members shall not engage in improper conduct that reflects poorly upon the senate.  And here what conduct could ever reflect poorly upon the senate if not this conduct, disorderly conduct for which you are convicted of a crime and then the senate should, therefore, hold you accountable.  He should be censured, by the way as should David Vitter who committed a crime by soliciting a prostitute.

CARLSON:  Mr. Craig, Senator Craig, has also been accused anonymously of having gay sex outside of men‘s rooms, presumably in circumstances that do not constitute a crime.  Would that behavior discredit the senate?

SLOAN:  I think if there were proven evidence that Senator Craig were engaging in lewd conduct in restrooms, which whether or not he was caught by an undercover officer in the other circumstance, would still be a crime. 

CARLSON:  What he if he was just having extramarital gay sex? Would that reflect poorly on the senate?

SLOAN:  In my book, senators should careful of being hypocritical about calling for family values on the one hand, and then having extramarital sex of any kind.  I don‘t think the gay sex here is the issue. 

CARLSON:  OK.  So it‘s only wrong for conservative senators to have extramarital sex. 

SLOAN:  I think extramarital sex is a problem, but I think it would it be a problem to starting sitting in judgment of the personal life of every politician because I think few could withstand that scrutiny. 

CARLSON:  OK.  So only of conservative politicians.  I‘m just confused as to whether you are upset that he violated the law or upset that he is a hypocrite?

SLOAN:  I am upset that he violated the law.  It is a crime in to engage in lewd conduct in a restroom which he‘s admitted to doing and he pleaded guilty to that.  He should be held accountable by the senate as he was in the Minnesota court. 

CARLSON:  What do you think of his hometown newspaper, the “Idaho Statesman?”  Apparently it‘s spent a year looking into allegations, if you can call them that, that he is gay.  They interviewed I think 300 people who‘ve come into contact with Senator Craig, spent a lot of money on this, a lot of time on it.  Why would a news organization spend that much time looking into whether someone is gay?

SLOAN:  I am not privy to what the “Idaho Statesman” is thinking. 

CARLSON:  But based on the facts I just gave you.

SLOAN:  Well, I can only imagine it is because Senator Craig has taken very strong stances against homosexuality and has recorded votes against gay issues and if he‘s a hypocrite on those issues, that would be worth noting. 

CARLSON:  Wait a second. 

SLOAN:  But on the other hand, I agree with you that whether or not he is engaging in gay of sex on his own time isn‘t really any of our business.

CARLSON:  I could not agree with that more.  I think I have a consistent libertarian view on this but so in other words, if you are against gay marriage, you are not allowed to have gay sex.  Is that the point?

SLOAN:  I think it is a problem if you‘re a senator voting against issues that affect gay people and at the same time you‘re having gay sex. 

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  There are a lot of liberals who are against gay marriage, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards.  They‘re all against gay marriage.

SLOAN:  I do not think it‘s just a gay marriage vote.  I think Senator Craig has a long record against all gay rights issues. 

CARLSON:  Named three others. 

SLOAN:  I think that he has been opposed to expanding and discrimination against gay people and I‘m not familiar with his entire voting record but from what I have read ... 

CARLSON:  He just seems like a right-winger and he‘s affiliated with the NRA.  I guess that is a stereotype.  I think you‘re operating off a stereotype.  Here‘s the argument I would make, and this is not on behalf of Senator Craig who I think ought to go away and never come back after his disgraceful performance today in which he insulted the rest of us suggesting we believe that after being accused of having gay sex in men‘s rooms for all these years, he‘s caught doing it, and somehow it is a coincidence.  So I am fed up with him. 

However, it does seem to me that you ought to be allowed to have divergent views.  You ought to be allowed to be against a public policy position, despite the condition of your own personal life.  Obama smokes cigarettes.  He is still against smoking.  Is that OK?  Of course it is.

SLOAN:  I actually have to say that I think it is a problem to be publicly critical of other people‘s conduct, but if you are engaging in that conduct yourself. 

CARLSON:  Huh.  Do you think that you would hold Hillary Clinton to the same standard?  For instance, she‘s got a gay outreach division of her campaign.  And yet, she is taking a stand against the rights of gay people, acting against their interest, their rights as you just described them to get married. 

SLOAN:  Well I think she is in favor of civil unions, however. 

CARLSON:  What does that mean?  That doesn‘t mean squat.  She is against gay marriage.  She‘s against the fundamental right to marry.  And yet, nobody jumps on her case. 

SLOAN:  I do not think it is true that nobody jumps on her case. 

CARLSON:  Well who does?  Liberal groups don‘t.  They suck up to her because they want to be president.  Because they hate Bush. 

SLOAN:  I think some gay rights organizations do get on Hillary. 

CARLSON:  I‘ve never heard a single one.  They all say every time I talk to them they say well you know she‘s fundamentally on our side.

SLOAN:  But this is not my issue.  We are not a gay rights organization.  I can‘t tell you every politician‘s position on every issue effecting gay rights.  I can talk to you about ethics. 

CARLSON:  I guess the only point I want to make is generally, we ought to leave personal lives alone, and allow for inconsistencies in the personal lives. 

SLOAN:  I think what we can‘t allow for though is for senators to go commit crimes and not pay a price for it, not be held accountable. 

CARLSON:  I agree for with that.  And this guy‘s life is over.   So he‘s paying the price.  Thanks a lot Melanie, I appreciate it.

President Bush gave a ringing endorsement of Iraq war today.  Will he give the same endorsement?  Don‘t hold your breath.  We will ask him next. 

Plus, Alberto Gonzales will leave the justice department in just a few weeks.  Who‘s going to replace him?  We will tell you who the possibilities are. 

You‘re watching MSNBC, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  President Bush‘s political campaign for his military campaign in Iraq continued today in Reno, Nevada, where he delivered an impassioned defense of his war policy to the American Legion.  Last week, Mr. Bush compared the American experience in Iraq to the Vietnam War.  Today, he said the progress on the ground there raised the spectra of nuclear holocaust and once again drew comparisons between that country‘s present and our country‘s history. 

Here‘s some of the president‘s speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  Our troops are carrying out operations day-by-day to bring the terrorists to justice.  We‘re keeping the pressure on them.  We are forcing them to move.  Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are working to cut off terrorist financing and disrupt networks.  Our diplomats are rallying our friends and allies to share intelligence and to tighten security to route out of the extremists hiding.  In the midst of security challenges, Iraq‘s leaders are being asked to resolve political issues as complex and emotional as the struggle for civil rights in our own country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Despite last week‘s dismal political news for the president‘s strategy there, those in congress such as anti-war democratic Brian Beard who now believe the troops surged strategy deserves more time.

Joining me now another congressman who has opposed the Iraq war from day one and demanded troop withdrawal.  He is just back from a trip to Iraq.  He is democratic Congressman from northern Virginia Jim Moran. 

Congressman Moran, thanks a lot for joining us. 

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  It‘s always good to be with you.

CARLSON:  Did it change your view, going to Iraq?

MORAN:  I guess President Bush can relate to being on an all expenses paid, free scholarship for four years, and producing nothing but failing grades.  But it seems to me the American people deserve a higher standard than that. 

That is what we have been doing.  We have been pouring in of $100 billion per year into Iraq and all we‘re getting a failing grade in terms of what matters, which is political reconciliation and long-term stability.  The military is doing a terrific job.  But, to what avail? 

You can have the best automobile in the world driving at the maximum speed, but if you have the wrong road map, you‘ll never get your destination.  That is the problem here.  What we‘re going to wind up with a Shia theocracy that‘s going to suppress its women, that‘s going to suppress human rights, and that‘s going to align itself with Iran.  Why is that worthy of our sacrifice?

CARLSON:  It is not worthy of our sacrifice.  I would say the condition of the government is an insult to every American. 

However, the president‘s argument, as I understand it, is it may have been bad, yes, they screwed up, but a withdrawal, a defeat for the United States would a, enable Iran to increase its influence even further into Iraq and b, give a victory to the religious extremists who hate us.  And both those things are true. 

MORAN:  No, they are not.  They are not. 

CARLSON:  So withdrawal would not empower Iran in Iraq?

MORAN:  Well for one thing, we are empowering Iran right now.  We are funding the Iraq police force, which is using our money and our arms to ethnically cleanse Baghdad.  Baghdad used to be about 50/50.  It is now 75 percent Shia and that‘s largely because of a corrupt police force which we have funded.  They tell me if you go into the ministry of interior which runs the police force and a Sunni steps off the wrong floor, he‘ll be killed. We are funding this thing.

CARLSON:  I‘m taking everything you say at face value and I was never for giving the Iraqis self-determination of their own government.  I am completely opposed to that and have always been.  However, address my question period is about the future.  Is that your position, they‘re not capable of governing themselves?

MORAN:  No, but I think we should let them govern themselves.  That is not happening today.  The current government does not include the Sunnis.

CARLSON:  And you think it‘s going to when we leave?  You think when we leave they‘re going to have a multi-ethnic government, with power sharing and sharing of oil revenues that secures its own borders and keeps Iran out?  You know that‘s not going to happen. 

MORAN:  I think they‘re going to have to reconcile with the Sunnis.  Today, the Sunnis understand we are on the side of the Shia.  And they‘re seeing the results of that.  I was going to say, there‘s 20,000 people that have been arrested, 85 percent of them Sunni even though Sunnis only comprise 20 percent of the population.  Only 1800 are al Qaeda.  Most of are picked up without charge by the police forces.  This is part of this ethnically cleansing that we are supporting.  Of the 4 million people that have been displaced, two million of them have left the country, they are almost all Sunni middle class and that‘s what we‘re creating.  It is a government that we cannot be proud of.  If that is what we are currently supporting, then it seems to me that if we try a different tactic, if we require them to reconcile with the Sunnis, to work with the Sunnis, then we‘re going to get a little more representative there.  They‘ll probably come in to vote and one of the first things they will do of course is both of them are going to turn on al Qaeda.  Neither of them what al Qaeda there. 

CARLSON:  That is my final question.  You believe that somehow, when we pull out sooner rather than later, Sunnis and Shiites, who have hated each other for millennia, who hate each other now, they‘re killing one another as you pointed out, are going to come together, a unified, against al Qaeda somehow?

MORAN:  I do think there will come against al Qaeda.  Well think about this.  There is only about 1200 al Qaeda in the country in a country of 26 million.  Where the al Qaeda get established, they put in this talibanization of a community.  For example, they think smoking is a sin.  They cut off the figures of people who smoke.  Every Iraqi smokes.  Do you think they will accept that kind of stuff?  That is why Sunnis are turning against them. 

CARLSON:  I wish we wouldn‘t accept it.  When Hillary Clinton says she wants to ban smoking in the country, don‘t you think we should take a cue from the brave Iraqis and stand up to these fascists who want to prevent people from exercising their personal liberty with tobacco?  You make an excellent point.

MORAN:  I enjoy your facetiousness. 

CARLSON:  I‘m actually serious.

MORAN:  But more so when I‘m watching it than when I‘m participating in it. 

CARLSON:  It is always a profound pleasure to have you on.  Thank you.

MORAN:  Be with you Tucker.  Thanks.

CARLSON:  Senator Larry Craig declares he is not gay.  He has never been gay not even a tiny bit gay.  His only mistake he says was not fighting those lewd conduct charges him, in fact admitting them, pleading guilty.  Can he be an effective leader?  Will he be forced to resign? 

Plus, Fred Thompson, who is not gay either, is expected to announce his presidential candidacy soon, just a couple months later than originally expected.  Is he still considered the republican savior?  We‘ll tell you. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

CARLSON:  Idaho Senator Larry Craig came out swinging today.  The republican shot down claims that he took part in lewd acts in a Minneapolis airport and that he is gay.  He tried to anyway.  Senator Craig sounded like a man determined to clear his name and stay in office.  Could it be too late?  Questions continue to swirl around why he pled guilty? Was he tortured, was he blackmailed?  How could he have done that?  He has already resigned from a post with Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign and today, Romney distanced himself from Senator Craig.  Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Very disappointing.  He is no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine.  It reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton.  I think it reminds us of the fact that people who are elected to public office continue to disappoint.  And they somehow think that they vote the right way on issues of significance or they can speak a good game, that we will just forgive and forget.  We have seen disappointment in the white house, we‘ve seen it in the senate, we‘ve seen it in congress.  And frankly, it is disgusting. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Will Senator Craig survive?  Joining me now is an MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan.  Welcome to you both.  OK Alexandra.  Senator Craig says he is not gay, not even a smidgen gay, not even a little dollop gay.  Yet, we have tape that may prove otherwise.  This is from “Meet the Press,” 1999.  This is Larry Craig talking about Bill Clinton.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy, a naughty boy.  I‘m going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Nasty, bad, naughty boy, that is the single gayest thing I have ever heard a senator say ever.  That is redolent of gayness.

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  It is like watching a bad movie, something x-rated.  The pleasure you took in the sentence is very disturbing. 

CARLSON:  Why couldn‘t he just have come out today and why couldn‘t Bill Clinton for that matter, have done the same thing, I am not going to comment on it, it is in the public record, and I‘m not saying any more.  Why did he have to lie to us like that?

STODDARD:   That was the only way actually for him to quiet this down was to say you‘ve read in the paper what happened, I do regret my guilty plea, I had my reasons at the time, but you know all you need to know, and leave it there.  Trying to begin a war against the “Idaho Statesman” and actually he really incriminated himself more I thought today by saying, I was panicked.  We all know he took a two-month period of reflection before coming in August after this incident on June 11 and pleading guilty.  It was not a snap judgment.  He kept this a secret from his family and friends.  A secret is a secret.  No matter how much he tries to blame the eight month investigation by the paper, he had time to calmly think this through.  He pleaded guilty. 

CARLSON:  It is ridiculous. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I read that Idaho paper.  That is really thin stuff.  You have one guy who has a militant attitude about, I can give you a senator who apparently dropped the dime on him when the union station thing happened.  There other one is they have some guy at a fraternity 35 years ago said he looked at me in a funny way and I knew it and others were cruising and they talked to 300 people, the “Statesman” did.  They produced very thin gruel.  If this guy is an active homosexual, they sure weren‘t able to validate it in my judgment. 

CARLSON:  He has a pretty crummy love life, I agree with that completely.  But why is it even within the scope of journalism to get into this guy‘s private live?  I‘ll never forget Arianna Huffington came to me in the mid 90s and tried to get me to write a piece about how someone was gay, who was a Republican Party official.  But she was pushing this pace.  I remember thinking, I‘m not an ethics major, but I do not want to get into this.  Why is this a legitimate topic?

STODDARD:  “The Idaho Statesman” began the investigation for legitimate reasons.  There was this blog item last October.  He is their senior senator and if they were going to find something and they were going to come up with evidence, it was probably worth the 300 interviews and all the money spent on it.  They had to publish it today because of the other piece. 

BUCHANAN:  It is personal morality.  There is an element of hypocrisy.  They were going after the guy because he is a conservative republican, a family values-type.  They thought they had allegations of him sinning in public or something like that.  So they were outing him, basically.  The peg they got Tucker is the misdemeanor guilty plea. 

CARLSON:  This is bad for the Republican Party.  I know everyone‘s jumping on the republicans.  They‘re all hypocrites but actually you know it is bad.  That opinion will solidify in the mind of the public. 

BUCHANAN:  Well you know you keep hammering the Vitter thing and that and all these other things.

STODDARD:  The Stevens story is too hard to comprehend to most people. 

The Mark Foley incident and the Larry Craig story are the easy things. 

BUCHANAN:  I understand that.  I don‘t understand the money and things like that.

CARLSON:  How about let‘s just knock it off in the men‘s rooms.  I mean I actually think that is a point worth making.  I think that is a totally obnoxious thing to do in public. 

BUCHANAN:  You just did a foot move there, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I was tapping your foot under the table.  It was totally innocent.  Trust me. 

Senator Larry Craig could be on his way out of Washington following in the footsteps of attorney general Alberto Gonzalez.  President Bush has not yet named a replacement for Alberto Gonzales yet.  Who is on the short list? 

Plus, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, the whole country could go up in smoke or shall we say smokeless.  She‘s against it, smoking that is.  This is MSNBC, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Well, a day after the revelation that Alberto Gonzales resigned as attorney general, speculation centers on his possible replacement.  Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff dominated the early rumors.  The speculation list is far longer at this point.  The normally cautious “Wall Street Journal” annunciates the possibility of former solicitor general Ted Olsen, Utah Senator Orin Hatch, Homeland Security Advisor Francis Townsend, and FBI Director Robert Mueller, amongst others. 

Who is the most likely choice, and how important is that choice, given the rapidly expiring tour of potential duty?  Here to tell us, associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

Pat, it seems to me the president could go—and second term presidents do go one of two ways; either they harden their resolve, become tougher, more ideological, dig in their heels.  Or, as Republicans almost always do, they collapse completely and give everything away. 

BUCHANAN:  Reagan gave the attorney generalship to George Bush‘s choice.  I think he called up George H.W. and said, who do you want in there, and the Pennsylvania governor he put in there.  We had trouble with Elliot Richards, the problem with him.   

CARLSON:  We being the Nixon administration. 

BUCHANAN:  We had to put in someone who had to swear all sorts of fealty to the Senate before he got confirmed.  But I think—You have some good names there.  I think Mueller would be a good choice.  Everything I know about him, he‘s a good fellow.  I think they‘ve got some good names in there.  I think it might not be—he can‘t put in a Texas crony or a crony, or someone who is perceived too close to him.  You don‘t want someone who is not with you, but you want someone who is high up and who is also a solid loyalists. 

CARLSON:  So Karl Rove is off the list.  Orin Hatch makes sense.  He leaves—Hatch the Senate.  You have a guaranteed replacement as a Republican.  And he gets confirmed. 

STODDARD:  But if you‘re Orin Hatch, you only get to do it for a little while. 

BUCHANAN:  He wants the Supreme Court, Tucker.

STODDARD:  He has wanted that his whole career. 

BUCHANAN:  If he got a quick Supreme Court appointment, I would not be surprised to see Orin get it, because --  

CARLSON:  For the exact same reasons. 

STODDARD:  It has to be a safe, solid pick that Democrats really cannot devour.  You really can‘t pick a lightning rod.  It is better for them to take a while to find that person.  It is surprising that after all these months that they have not.  That is really strange.  They need to pick a safe pick so they don‘t come into another battle.   

BUCHANAN:  You need someone that at least the center will say, that is a qualified guy.  Don‘t hang him up for political reasons, Leahy.  Let him go through, like Gates.

CARLSON:  Gates, I agree.  I bet—my suspicion is it will be someone we have never heard of.  It will be like Alito.  Who?  Sam Alito, I have never heard of him before.  Right, from Newark, exactly.  There was a fascinating piece today by Jonathan Martin in “The Politico” about the Thompson campaign that suggests that maybe they still have not gotten their act together.  Maybe the early promise of Thompson as a presidential candidate really isn‘t panning out, which is kind of a nightmare scenario for a lot of Republicans, honestly.  There are not too many options here. 

Do you think that is true? 

STODDARD:  Thompson said in the interview he still thinks he has a shot, although he is coming in so late in the game.  There has been criticism.

CARLSON:  Those exact words, I still think I have a shot.   

STODDARD:  He said, I clearly still have a shot. 

CARLSON:  Is that you phrase it?

STODDARD:  It was really striking I thought about that piece was his

slight irritation at all the questions, his lack of passion and enthusiasm,

he is getting really close to the starting gun.  Republicans who support him and are interested in his candidacy keeps saying, he has a real small window. 

BUCHANAN:  People said on July 1st—my sister, frankly—and the folks.  In all the calls they were making around, Romney was strong and Brownback was strong.  But people were waiting for Fred.  They were really waiting for him in the Iowa straw.  They‘re not waiting.  A lot of them are not waiting anymore.  I think it really—a point of real diminishing returns has been passed here I think with Fred‘s delay and delay and delay. 

He is holding up in the polls, but I think the bloom is somewhat off the rose.

CARLSON:  When he comes out, he has to explode out of the box. 

BUCHANAN:  Huckabee had a good point; he said, Ronald Reagan could not live up to the expectations of the Ronald Reagan he is being portrayed as, if Fred is going to come out and explode, as you say.  And if he doesn‘t, it could Roman candle. 

STODDARD:  He did say in this interview recently with David Broder of the “Washington Post” that he was really going to ruffle feathers and it was going to be unconventional and he was going to do things a different way.  That was the only hint I‘ve seen that there is some Fred Revolution.  If there is, I think he will find a lot of support. 

CARLSON:  It better be good.  It better be like he communicate only by iPhone or something, like he has something so -- 

BUCHANAN:  He has to explode at the opening.  There is an opening.  He will have all the oxygen for awhile.  He has a historic opportunity.  He has to make a lot of it in the first two or three weeks, I think. 

STODDARD:  He is also going to have to start lighting up those crowds. 

You do not hear a lot about that. 

CARLSON:  People have said for 15 years almost that Hillary Clinton has these authoritarian instincts and she is a creature of big government and of the hard left.  You haven‘t seen much evidence of that recently, until her suggestion just the other day that she would have the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, regulate tobacco.  So your after dinner cigar would now be what, by prescription only. 

Have we reached a point on this issue that tobacco is so unpopular that nobody cares about principle, and Republicans are just going to go along with that? 

BUCHANAN:  You are getting there.  I think I saw Huckabee today say they are going to outlaw smoking in all these workplaces, or something like that.  It has really moved, Tucker, from the point where some of us used to defend smoking in the back of the plane, leave us alone back there.  To the point where people go along.  It‘s thrown out of all the bars, the Irish bars in New York, you can‘t smoke in a bar?

It‘s outrageous.  If you don‘t like it, if a guy wants to smoke in there, let the proprietor decide and don‘t go in there. 

CARLSON:  As far as I know, A.B., and I do know, the Bush administration has seriously considered going along with this.  There is serious talk in this so called right wing extremist small government administration --  of course it‘s none of those things—to regulate tobacco by the FDA. 

STODDARD:  I do not think that Republicans at this point—I agree with Pat—are ready to come out in defense of tobacco and back up the tobacco industry. 

CARLSON:  It‘s not defense of tobacco.  It‘s a defense of personal liberty? 

BUCHANAN:  Libertarians on the run, Tucker.

STODDARD:  Hillary Clinton has, for sure, with many Excel spread sheets, weighed the negatives and the positives of the cancer, the issue, versus the big government regulators. 

CARLSON:  If you ask people, are you sympathetic to the Libertarians?  Are you for personal liberty, they all mouth the words, absolutely, of course I am.  But when it comes down to it, should adult be able to make decisions that may lead to harm?  Seat belt laws, helmet laws, anti-smoking legislation—no.  Everybody is in favor of the nanny state, almost everybody.

BUCHANAN:  They move along and they accept it.

CARLSON:  They will accept anything, basically.  It is very distressing.  Hillary Clinton will accept huge amounts of money from people whose money that may not be, according to the “Wall Street Journal”—

BUCHANAN:  The Powell family. 

CARLSON:  The Powell family, a down on its heals family, that has donated 45,000 dollars to Hillary Clinton, father is a mailman in San Francisco.

BUCHANAN:  Two hundred thousand in the last couple of cycles. 

CARLSON:  Is this going to elicit FEC investigation?

STODDARD:  I don‘t know the answer to that, but I think that this is exactly the kind of thing that could take her down.

CARLSON:  I want to put a picture of the house on the screen, by the way.  This is the house of the donors. 

STODDARD:  -- one of her biggest hill raisers.

CARLSON:  That‘s the mansion that houses the tycoon that is helping to fund Mrs. Clinton‘s campaign.   

STODDARD:  -- who is a Hill raiser, who did a fund raiser in Los Angeles recently with Ron Burkle, who is the third spouse in the Clinton marriage.  He is a major Hillary fund raiser. 

BUCHANAN:  If his name was Smith or Jones, rather than Sue, they wouldn‘t be after him, playing the ethnic card.   

CARLSON:  It is racist to ask these questions.  I should have laid that out right there.  It is animated by anti-Asian bias.  That is so ridiculous, it‘s—that‘s unbelievable. 

(CROSS TALK)

STODDARD:  The problem is, this kind of feeling that Obama and Edwards are stoking among die hard Democrats.  Many people think she is the most capable or experienced, there is still a sour taste in their mouth about the financial transgressions of the Clintons, which have filled books and will continue to.  I think that this, if it turns into something, will be a huge problem for her. 

CARLSON:  The idea that she is a corporate Democrat. 

STODDARD:  That they cannot stop taking money from illegal sources. 

BUCHANAN:  That have to prove it.  It looks pretty close, to me.  Yes, I think it is a problem that Hillary‘s got.  It‘s one that obviously Edwards feels she does.  That‘s why he‘s hammering her.

CARLSON:  Do you know who does not have this problem?  Ron Paul.  In mere moments, we‘re going to speak to one of his most illustrious supporters.  Thank you both very much. 

Ron Paul is getting support from an unlikely voter base, strippers.  What is their attraction to this dark horse candidate?  We will go to the source to find out. 

And order was anything but in this Las Vegas court.  Why is the home of the quick wedding now claiming title to the ugliest divorce?  You‘re watching it right there.  This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  As any faithful viewer of this show knows, we are big fans of Ron Paul and not embarrassed to say so.  He is the libertarian running for the Republican nomination for the White House.  Ron Paul is no stranger to sensational headlines.  But when you combine the presidential race and strippers, that is why they invented cable television. 

The 2008 campaign has brought together politics and exotic dancing with our most unusual endorsement to date.  Michelle Shinghal is the author of the blog LibertyLady.com.  She is a former stripper.  She is also a supporter of the aforementioned Dr. Paul. 

Michelle joins me now.  Michelle, thanks so much for coming on. 

MICHELLE SHINGHAL, FORMER STRIPPER:  Thanks for having me, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Why Ron Paul? 

SHINGHAL:  Ron Paul is the only candidate running for the Republican nomination that actually supports government in its proper role.  He is the only conservative, if you will.  I am actual a Libertarian party county chairmen, but Ron Paul‘s message is a libertarian message.  It crosses party lines.  So, he is the only candidate for our nominations that I would support. 

CARLSON:  Amen.  Do you think you speak for other libertarians who are going to vote for Ron Paul rather than for a libertarian candidate this year? 

SHINGHAL:  I do.  In fact, one of our libertarian candidates, Steve Covey, who is seeking the libertarian nomination, has agreed to endorse Ron Paul if Ron Paul wins the Republican nomination.  So, I do know that in the libertarian circle, the support for Ron Paul is pretty big. 

CARLSON:  I am really glad to hear that.  I wonder, you read all the people who have endorsed Hillary Clinton.  You‘ve seen a lot of people from the adult entertainment business go for Hillary Clinton.  She is the candidate of government intervention.  I wonder why there are not more people like you that see the truth that Ron Paul is the candidate of freedom. 

SHINGHAL:  I think there are plenty of people like me.  Unfortunately, you know, they do not have a friend that writes a blog post that says Strippers for Ron Paul and links back to them.  You don‘t get to see them on TV.  There are many, many people who feel the way I do about small government.  They just have not had the stage to speak on. 

CARLSON:  Are there a lot of political dancers? 

SHINGHAL:  You would be surprised, actually.  I have not danced in almost 12 years.  A whole group of dancers just kind of convened in Ohio to do a petition to gather signatures for a petition for a ballot measure because this moral do-gooder, who was a self-described sex addict, has decided that we have to limit dancing in Ohio and actually just jump into their money.  They actually banded together, and they‘re pursuing getting signatures for a petition so they can fight that measure.  Sorry.

CARLSON:  How would America be different if Ron Paul were elected president?  Make your pitch.  I‘m an undecided voter and I want to know how Ron Paul is going to change my life.  Tell me.

SHINGHAL:  I think Ron Paul would change your life because you would actually be able to live your life for yourself without the government jumping into every decision.  I heard you guys talking about smokers, anti-smoking laws and that type of thing.  Really, your life would be so much better if you could actually control it yourself. 

CARLSON:  Why do you suppose that most people do not seem to care?  Most people look at the government and say, you know what, they take away my freedom, but it is for my own good, and for the good of my children and so I‘m for it.  Why are people so passive? 

SHINGHAL:  I do not think they are passive.  I think what it is that they are apathetic because they feel they can‘t change anything.  In my household, I agree with my husband on many things.  He agrees with me, but the man has never voted in his life.  He just says what is the point?  Nothing is going to change.

I don‘t think it‘s that people are passive in the sense that they want the government taking care of them, it‘s that they feel like they can‘t really make a difference. 

CARLSON:  Is your husband going to vote to this time? 

SHINGHAL:  I hope so.  I keep working on him.  I keep working on him. 

I hope so.  I think with Ron Paul running for the Republican nomination, we are seeing something new in the whole—certainly you‘re seeing it on the Internet.  There is this grassroots support on the Internet that has sprung up organically, 700 meet up groups across the country, people spending hours and hours of time putting thousands of signs up in cities all over the country.  This is all separate from the campaign. 

CARLSON:  Good for them.  I think Ron—he is going to wind up being the folk hero of this election, with your help.  Michelle Shinghal, thank you very much for coming on.  I appreciate it.

SHINGHAL:  Thank you for having me. 

CARLSON:  Yesterday, we introduce you to Miss Teen South Carolina, the beauty queen whose rambling response is getting many of hits on the Internet.  Get ready, she is back.  No subtitles needed this time.  We have the tape.  This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We can‘t promise that anything that we ever do will be better or as good as Michelle Shinghal, the former stripper for Ron Paul.  We are going to try anyway.  Bill Wolff is here to help.

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  Tucker, who else is running for president? 

CARLSON:  I do not know. 

WOLFF:  It is all Ron Paul.  Why would I not vote for Ron Paul after that? 

CARLSON:  That is the question that millions of Americans are beginning to ask themselves. 

WOLFF:  Completely awesome, libertarian party.  Got you.  Tucker, Las Vegas is the home of many excellent things, the 99 cent jumbo shrimp cocktail, Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, and of course the quickie marriage.  It is not however home of the easy, amicable divorce, to which this brawl in Vegas divorce court.

The man causing the trouble on surveillance camera is former Marine Jeffrey Wells and he unhappy that his ex wife got custody of their two kids, really unhappy.  According to him though, he showed mercy on the bailiffs, saying at the fights end, quote, gang, believe me, it is not because they subdued me.  It is because I stopped.  If I wanted, I could have went right through them, end quote. 

He is in the pen this day, four felony charges of assaulting court bailiffs. 

This guys big problem is that he does not understand that Vegas is the home of the quickie marriage.  However, the home of the quickie divorce, Tucker, is Reno. 

CARLSON:  Reno?

WOLFF:  It is the biggest little city in the world and the home of that easy, no-fault divorce, just for future reference. 

CARLSON:  It is a rough little town. 

WOLFF:  Twice as friendly.  We have bad news for Las Vegas.  It no longer has the biggest, bestest Venice on the planet.  But it‘s good news for people who like water downed drinks, a windowless environment and the chance to flush hard earned after tax dollars down the toilet.  Yes, the largest casino in the world is now open for business.  It is the Venetian in the special administrative region of Macau.  The Venetian Macau Hotel Resort and Casino is 10.5 million square feet of unwholesome fun, including 550,000 square feet of gambling opportunity. 

Its owners claim it is the largest building in Asia and the largest casino in the known universe.  It is twice the size of the behemoth Venetian in Las Vegas and almost as big as Venice, Italy, with all of the canals and hotel rooms, and none of that pesky Renaissance history or the flocks of pigeons, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  That is good.  It is everything that you do not like about Venice, none of the redeeming qualities. 

WOLFF:  Precisely, plus you could gamble all night long and that is something I enjoy quite a bit.  Always to a good end too.  I am going to make it back.  Anyway, finally, we need an update on the best beauty pageant moment of all time.  You will remember Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss Teen South Carolina, and her cringe-tastic performance during the interview section of Friday night‘s contest.  Right?

Well, if not, here‘s a refresher because I am not a nice person sometimes. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Recent polls have shown one-fifth of Americans can‘t locate the U.S. on a world map.  Why do you think this is? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there and our nation do not have maps and I believe that our education—such as in South Africa and the Iraq and everywhere such as—I believe that our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or South Africa and should the Iraq and the Asian countries so that we will be able to build up our future for our children. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you very much. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF:  Yes, thank you very much.  Tucker, there are reasons why “The Today Show” has been the number one show in the galaxy for about 100 straight years now at last count.  One of the reasons is the guests they get.  This morning Lauren Caitlin Upton courageously explained her side of that situation on that fine program. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, everything did come at me at once.  I was overwhelmed and I made a mistake.  Everyone makes a mistake.  I‘m human.  Looking back on it, I am sitting here laughing at myself, because I feel like, is that really me answering that question?  It is like I am not in my actual body.  I would love to answer that question again. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Let me ask you the question again.  The question is recent polls have shown that one-fifth of Americans can‘t locate the U.S. on a wall map, why do you think this is, Caitlin?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, personally, my friends and I, we know exactly where the United States is on our map.  I do not know anyone else who doesn‘t?  And if the statistics are correct, I believe there should be more emphasis on geography in our education so people will know how to read maps better. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, I have to tell you, that was a perfect answer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF:  She is the comeback kid, Tucker.  Heartwarming stuff, buddy. 

CARLSON:  Amazing.  One correction.  Michelle Shinghall‘s website is LibertarianLady.com.  Bill Wolff and I signing off.  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.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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